COVID-19 Emergency

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The COVID-19 Emergency is an ongoing crisis to contain the coronavirus that has impacted all aspects of life in the greater Charlottesville region and the world.


Ambox notice.png This article documents a current event. Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.

Starting on March 12, people have been recommended to limit contacts with others to stop the infection from expanding to the point where hospitals are overwhelmed. That was the day Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency.

A stay at home order was declared on March 30, 2020 but Virginia is now well into phase three of a gradual reopening plan called Forward Virginia. [1] [2]

The Charlottesville area experience a spike in cases following the decision of the University of Virginia to hold in-person instruction beginning on September 8, 2020.

The Next Six Months

Albemarle County Schools reopened on September 8 with virtual instruction for the vast majority of students. [3] [4] Charlottesville Superintendent Rosa Atkins also recommended an online start to the school year. [5]

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is administering a Rent and Mortgage Relief Program. [6]

The University of Virginia began to hold in-person classes on September 8. By the end of the following week, residents of four dorms were on quarantine. [7]

On September 16, Albemarle County extended its COVID-19 restrictions through November 18. [8]

The Albemarle County School Board voted 4-3 on October 8, 2020 to begin in-person instruction for K-3 beginning on November 9, 2020. [9] On October 16. the Albemarle Education Association organized a rally to protest the move. [10] [11]

The First Six Months

Local government responses

Albemarle County and Charlottesville declared local emergencies on March 12, 2020 in order to help coordinate public safety efforts to contain the spread of the disease. This gives officials more flexibility to conduct business. It resulted in the temporary halt of public meetings as well as the delay of the adoption of the FY21 budget in Albemarle County. [12] Since that time, government meetings have shifted to virtual meetings in most communities, though some outlying counties have continued to meet in person throughout the duration of the pandemic. [13]

Albemarle County

Albemarle County closed their office buildings to the general public early on. [14]

Albemarle supervisors received a briefing at their meeting on March 17, 2020. [15]

Albemarle County declared an emergency on March 12 and implemented a multi-phased plan to respond to the crisis. The Incident Management team is coordinating a response. [16]

The Board of Superiors delayed adoption of the FY2021 budget [17] Buildings are closed to the public for the foreseeable future. [18] At a briefing on March 18, Supervisors extended the date to adopt a final budget to May 14. [19] The Albemarle Board of Supervisors held a work session on March 17 and a regular meeting on March 18 but public attendance was restricted to watch from home [17]

On April 1, Supervisors were told there would need to be at least $6.24 million in cuts to general government and school budgets in FY2020 to make up for lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [20]

Supervisors adopted a draft continuity of governance ordinance on March 27. [21] [22] Supervisors pioneered taking comment from the public remotely at their April 1, 2020 meeting. However, no one spoke at the only public hearing scheduled. [23] Albemarle will spend the month of April testing new public engagement techniques before resuming sometime in May. [24]

Public safety crews have altered operations on rescue missions, with additional call screening in place to ensure fire and rescue personnel are protected. [25]

The Town of Scottsville followed Albemarle's plan. [26] They have declared their own local emergency. [17]

Albemarle County opened up parking lots for public wi-fi.

Charlottesville

  • The first known case of COVID-19 in the area was in Charlottesville on March 16, 2020. The patient is a woman in her late 50's who is believed to have contracted the virus while traveling. Her test was processed by a commercial lab. She is an

employee of the Women's Center at the University of Virginia and the facility was sterilized.

  • Charlottesville suspended tax collections for a the time shortly after the pandemic began [27]
  • Charlottesville Vice Mayor Sena Magill was briefly in self-quarantine while awaiting results of a test [28]

Charlottesville declared a state of emergency on March 12. (Charlottesville's declaration of local emergency from March 12, 2020)

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority has announced a moratorium on all evictions effective in [29]

Charlottesville has closed all indoor recreation facilities and park rentals, and has also canceled all public meetings until further notice except the March 16 City Council. The City Council meeting scheduled for March 16 will continue and the city will pilot a new way of allowing public input. [30] The city added further restrictions on March 16 and will only be open for essential personnel beginning on March 17. The closure has been extended to at least April 26. [31]

The customer service window for the Charlottesville Police Department is closed until further notice. [32] The Police Department has also modified its responses to non-emergency calls. [33]

Charlottesville City Schools began distributing food to low-income students on March 17. [34] Weekday distribution of meals will take place between 10 am and noon at ten locations throughout the city. [35]

The Charlottesville Economic Development Authority held a telephone meeting on March 31, 2020 and passed a resolution to retool several grant programs for resiliency efforts. [36]

University of Virginia

The University of Virginia closed shortly after the declaration of the emergency and remained closed all spring. Final Exercises (graduation) was not in person. [37] [38]

UVA President Jim Ryan held a town hall on April 2 to update the University community. [39]

The University of Virginia has converted Bond, Bice and Language Houses into temporary housing for healthcare workers. [40]

The UVA Hospital suspended in-patient visitation in late March. [41]

New space in a new tower at the University of Virginia Medical Center came online earlier than expected to serve as additional space for patients [42]

Virginia

  • Governor Ralph Northam urged Virginians on March 17 to restrict gatherings to ten people or less in order to halt community spread. Virginians over the age of 65 were urged to self-quarantine.
  • Virginia DMV offices were ordered closed by Governor Ralph Northam on March 17

Surrounding counties

Schools impact

The announcement of the closure of schools on March 13 created a need to provide to children for whom school lunches may be the only regular mealtimes. That is potentially thousands of young people in Albemarle and Charlottesville. The city and county school systems provided food resources throughout the school year and have continued to do so into the summer.

Charlottesville City Schools used volunteers to help distribute food beginning March 17. [43] Albemarle offered the same service at several locations throughout the county beginning on March 17.

Virginia sought and received a federal SOL waiver|url=https://www.suffolknewsherald.com/2020/03/20/virginia-to-seek-sol-waiver/%7Cauthor=Staff Reports|work=News Article|publisher=Suffolk News-Herald|location=Suffolk, VA|March 20, 2020|accessdate=March 22, 2020}}</ref> Albemarle expanded its meal distribution program on March 25. [44]

Albemarle and Charlottesville delivered nearly 8,000 meals between March 17 and March 24. [45]


Resources for parents

Albemarle County sought ways to move instruction online for the rest of the academic year. A decision was made to not use grades, however. [46]

Transportation impacts

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport reported an 85 percent decrease in passengers due to the pandemic, but the number began to increase as Forward Virginia continued to reopen the economy. [47]


Effects on local business

Early pandemic

Soon after Governor Northam issued Executive Order 55, some businesses began limiting the number of people who could be in the store. One of these was Trader Joe's. [48] As the pandemic continued into April, other stores such as Lowe's did not restrict the number of guests, but did install protective windows at sales counters. [49]

The City of Charlottesville's Economic Development Department have set up a resource page for affected businesses. They have also retooled their grant programs to pivot towards resiliency efforts. [50]

The Charlottesville Business Innovation Council published a list of financial resources on March 29, 2020.

Authorities called early for social distancing which immediately began to have an effect on people moving around the community but also prompted a debate over whether enough people are heeding the call. That began to change on Sunday, March 15 as restaurants such as Rapture and Zocalo closed in advance of potential government-mandated shutdowns. [17] Others remain open for delivery. Governor Northam's Executive Order 55 provided clarity and allows for only essential businesses.

  • Many businesses remained open on March 13 and March 14. While many office workers were told early to work from home, retail employees did not have that luxury. [52]
  • The cancellation of the Virginia Festival of the Book had a ripple effect on businesses such as New Dominion Bookshop, which purchased additional stock for customers who will not be visiting Charlottesville this spring. [52]
  • State Farm early evaluated the possibility of its staffers working from home as did CFA Institute. WillowTree is among the companies that have told their employees to work from home.
  • Ragged Mountain Running Shop decided to close effective on March 13 but the owners said they would continue online sales and delivery [53]
  • Many retail stores on the Downtown Mall began posting signs on March 15 saying they would close until further notice. [54] These include Blue Whale Books, O'Suzannah, Rock Paper Scissors and J. Fenton TOO.
  • The Jefferson Madison Regional Library closed at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 16, 2020 for further notice and operated on a limited schedule on Sunday, March 15, 2020. [55] University of Virginia libraries were open until March 18 [56]
  • Eltzroth and Thompson Greenhouses moved much of its operations to telephone and pick-up. [57]
  • Some businesses that had planned to open before the pandemic was declared experienced difficulties in getting support from the federal and state government, such as one shop owner who wanted to open at Stonefield. [58]

The Free Enterprise Forum release a report on July 13, 2020 that concluded tourism activity was down 58 percent in the second quarter of 2020. [61] [62]

Restaurants

By early April, all restaurants are required to be take-out and delivery only. [63] Some such as Petis Pois are putting an emphasis on serving as a showcase for local food, even selling products from some of them out of the restaurant. [64]

Sysco and The Catering Outfit teamed up to provide groceries and food for laid-off restaurant employees in a project called the Catering Outfit Helps Food Pantry. [65]

  • Charlottesville 29 urges people to order gift cards from restaurants to support them in the short-term [66]
  • A Go Fund Me account was launched to help local restaurant workers who will be affected by the shutdown of regular business [https://www.gofundme.com/f/charlottesville-restaurant-community/donate (Link to Go Fund Me Page) [67] This effort has also launched a Facebook page.
  • The owner of Rapture wrote in a Facebook post on the afternoon of March 15 that the restaurant would close indefinitely. "I am doing this because it is irresponsible to continue to offer a venue for people to interact socially and to therefore provide an environment for COVID-19 to spread. Its spread, the consequence for human life, and the economy, is inevitable. But each person needs to step up now, and begin to engage in the only behavior that will turn the tide on this: self-isolating."
  • Some restaurants remained open on March 16, but some began to close throughout the day. Blue Moon Diner opted to close that afternoon. [68]
  • Brazo's Tacos had gone to curbside service but made the decision on March 20 to close indefinitely [69] Blue Moon would open to curbside pick-up later in the month.
Churches

Many places of worship did not hold services on March 15 to help prevent the spread of the norel coronavirus. Those that meet in public schools already knew they could not hold services because of rules that prohibited meetings of up to 100 people. That included the Charlottesville Community Church. [70] Others such as First Presbyterian Church have suspended all activities through March 27. [71] Other institutions such as the Church of the Incarnation held services but with precautions.


First Phase of Forward Virginia

On May 15, several restaurants were prepared to move forward with outdoor dining, including Three Notch'd Brewing Company, Ace Biscuit & Barbecue, The Lazy Parrot, and Martin’s Grill. Most businesses on the Downtown Mall initially held off. [72] In an Instagram post, Citizen Burger Bar cited the limited patio space and the close exposure to public travelways. [73]

State response

Testing

There have been questions about the ability of the state to test enough people. The official number is reported by the Virginia Department of Health each day at 9 a.m.

Additional testing capacity comes from private companies. Results have been taking long to get back.

The University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University have both developed tests. [74] [75]

In the last week of March, Virginia lagged behind many other nearby the states in the number of residents who had been tested. [76]

PPE

There is a statewide call for manufacturers in Virginia to retool their assembly line to produce more PPE.

The president of the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians has lead an effort to start production of plastic boxes that allow medical workers to intubate patients more safely. [77]


Medical capacity

There are concerns that Virginia does not have enough medical beds. [78]

The Army Corps of Engineers is investigating sites for potential military hospitals. [79]

In late March, a dormitory at Virginia Commonwealth University was converted to a temporary hospital, with student belongings transferred to storage. [80]

Unemployment

46,885 Virginians filed unemployment claims for the week ending March 21. [81]

Relief for Virginians

Attorney General Mark Herring asked the State Corporation Commission in an emergency petition to require utility companies to halt disconnects for non-payment. [82] Dominion announced the same day they would suspend disconnections. [83]

The Virginia Employment Commission has prepared information for people who have been laid off or will be laid off in the coming weeks. A person has to actually be laid off or had hours reduced before they are eligible to apply for benefits. The maximum weekly benefit amount in Virginia is $378. [84]

  • The State Corporation Commission has "directed regulated electric, natural gas and water companies in Virginia to suspend service disconnections until the coronavirus outbreak subsides." [85]
  • Virginia's public safety agencies announce a suspension of all visitation in state jails, cessation of prisoner transfers [86]

Price gouging

The Attorney's General Office is seeking information on anyone taking advantage of the crisis to raise prices. The declaration of a state emergency triggered provisions "designed to protect consumers from paying exorbitant prices for necessary goods and services during an emergency." A hotline has been set up at 800-552-9963 or information can be submitted via online form. [87]

Timeline

March

  • March 16 – The PB&J Fund sought volunteers and donations to distribute food on March 16. [98] [99]
  • March 16 – Virginia Supreme Court declares a judicial emergency Order
  • March 16 – Charlottesville City Council meets and voted to amend a special use permit for the Haven that allows it to be an overnight shelter for the course of the emergency. [100]
  • March 16 – Thomas Jefferson Health District confirms first COVID-19 case in Charlottesville
  • March 17 – Charlottesville City Schools will begin distributing meals to children in bag lunches [35]
  • March 18 – University of Virginia students must be moved out of residence halls [101]
  • March 18 – Virginia Department of Environmental Quality suspends fieldwork for two weeks [102]
  • March 20Brazo's Tacos announces indefinite closure after having tried curbside service [69]
  • March 20 – Albemarle Police Chief Ron Lantz announces that a police officer tested positive for COVID-19 [103]
  • March 20Charlottesville Area Community Foundation announces more than $2 million has been raised [104]
  • March 24Greene County Board of Supervisors expected to meet to reaffirm local emergency [105]
  • March 27 – Albemarle County adopts continuity of governance ordinance [21]
  • March 27Collonades writes letter acknowledging presences of COVID-19 in facility [106]
  • March 31 – First fatality is reported in the Thomas Jefferson Health District [107]

April

May

  • May 7 – National Guard begins first of two days of mask-fitting exercises for health care workers [114]
  • May 8 – Executive Order 53 is set to expire, but could be extended again
  • May 18University of Virginia Board of Visitors meet virtually in open and closed session [115]
  • May 19 – Elections will be held in Scottsville [116]
  • May 20 – WillowTree CEO Tobias Dengell told the Albemarle Board of Supervisors that the company had lost a quarter of its clients due to economic impacts. The project did not qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program. WillowTree will ask for extensions of deadlines they need to meet to obtain local and state payments for new employees. [117]

June

July

  • July 1 – Albemarle County Board of Supervisors agrees to plan on how to use $9.5 million in funding [120]
  • July 13 – Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker holds press conference to remind people of seriousness of the pandemic [121]
  • July 15 – Albemarle Board of Supervisors considers sending a letter to Governor Ralph Northam requesting return to phase 2 restrictions, meaning fewer people at gatherings [6]
  • July 21 – City Council considers support for Frontline Workers Fair Treatment Charter [122]
  • July 23Albemarle County School Board holds first of three town hall meetings on reopening schools [123]
  • July 24 – The elected bodies in both Albemarle County and Charlottesville met to discuss further restrictions [124]
  • July 27 – Both Albemarle Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council vote to impose greater restrictions than those allowed under Phase 3 of the Forward Virginia plan [125]
  • July 30 – Both Albemarle and Charlottesville School Boards vote to proceed with online instruction, though Albemarle did vote to allow some students to return to in-person instruction if they don't have Internet or are ESL learners [126]
  • July 31 – University of Virginia Board of Visitors meets to discuss reopening plans and contingencies. Rector Jim Murray states that "this epidemic is going to be the ultimate test of our students and a test of what makes UVA a special place.” [127]

August

September

  • September 16 – Albemarle County extends COVID ordinance through November 18 [8]
  • September 18 – UVa tells residents of Echols and Kellogg residence halls they must be tested due to testing and wastewater surveillance [7]

October

October 8 – Albemarle School Board votes 4-3 to begin in-person instruction for K-3 beginning on November 9, 2020 [9]

Cancellations

Media Resources


Medical capacity

One of the reasons why the social distancing protocol has been put into place is to limit the impact on the medical system which could be overwhelmed if hospitalizations are required.

The University of Virginia Health System has 612 beds. [136]

Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital has 176 beds. [137]

In the early days of quarantine, one local ER nurse questioned in whether the hospital network is ready. [138]

Global resources

References

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