As of the first week of 2021, Amherst County has surpassed the 1,500-mark for positive COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began and has seen 10 deaths related to the virus, according to latest figures from the Virginia Department of Health.
Amherst County had 1,542 cases with 43 hospitalizations as of Jan. 5, according to the most recent VDH figures.
The Central Virginia Health District, which includes Lynchburg and the counties of Bedford, Campbell and Appomattox, has more than 12,300 cases overall as of Jan. 5. Lynchburg has reported 54 deaths related to the coronavirus, Bedford has 31, Campbell has 19 and Appomattox has 7.
Two neighboring counties, Rockbridge and Nelson, also have more than 1,000 cases and 10 deaths combined.
The pandemic caused a “hemorrhaging” of business income, which led the Amherst County Board of Supervisors and the county’s Economic Development Authority to offer $1.45 million in combined grants to the business community, said Victoria Hanson, the EDA’s executive director. The authority also has informed county businesses of other state and federal assistance available, such as Rebuild Virginia and the Payroll Protection Program.
“I give credit to our business community for hanging tough during an extremely difficult and tumultuous time,” Hanson said. “The business community has shown flexibility, resilience and tenacity. The community rallied around our local businesses and intentionally shopped local when possible.”
The service industry of retail, restaurants, salons and event venues have been hardest hit and are suffering, Hanson said.
“Business owners are used to some ups and downs but no one could have predicted or prepared for a pandemic,” Hanson said. “I do believe that businesses will be stronger. They will be better prepared, they will be diversified, learn new skills, and be educated on how to pivot their business as needed.”
The county’s combined grant efforts for businesses are through federal and state sources, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
“Every business in Amherst County is essential,” Hanson said. “It doesn’t matter if the business employs one person or 100, there is a family depends on that job. The community depends on these small businesses and they are crucial to the success of Amherst County.”