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. The public health response has been coordinated by the Blue Ridge Health District with assistance from the UVA Health System. [1]

The state of emergency ended on June 30, 2021. [2] A surge of new cases began in the summer of 2021.

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 gave officials more flexibility to conduct business and resulted in the temporary halt of public meetings as well as the delay of the adoption of the FY21 budget in Albemarle County. [3]

Within a couple of months, government meetings shifted to virtual meetings in Albmarle and Charlottesville, though some outlying counties continued to meet in person throughout the duration of the state of emergency. [4]

Albemarle County

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. [5]

The county closed their office buildings to the general public early on. [6] The Board of Supervisors received a briefing at their meeting on March 17, 2020. [7]

Supervisors adopted a draft continuity of governance ordinance on March 27. [8] [9] Supervisors pioneered taking comment from the public remotely at their April 1, 2020 meeting. However, no one spoke at the only public hearing scheduled. [10] Albemarle will spend the month of April testing new public engagement techniques before resuming sometime in May. [11]

The Town of Scottsville followed Albemarle's plan. [12] They have declared their own local emergency. [13]

Budget

The Board of Supervisors delayed adoption of the FY2021 budget [13] [14] At a briefing on March 18, Supervisors extended the date to adopt a final budget to May 14. [15]

On April 1, Supervisors learned at least $6.24 million in cuts to general government and school budgets were needed in FY2020 to make up for lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [16]

Public safety crews altered operations on rescue missions, with additional call screening in place to ensure fire and rescue personnel are protected. [17]

Charlottesville

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

Charlottesville Vice Mayor Sena Magill was briefly in self-quarantine while awaiting results of a test [18]

The Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority announced a moratorium on all evictions. [19]

Charlottesville closed all indoor recreation facilities and park rentals, a situation that continues into 2021. They also canceled all public meetings until further notice except the March 16 City Council. The City Council meeting scheduled for March 16 continued and the city piloted a new way of allowing public input. [20] The closure was initially extended to at least April 26. [21]

The customer service window for the Charlottesville Police Department was initially closed. [22] The Police Department has also modified its responses to non-emergency calls. [23]

Charlottesville City Schools began distributing food to low-income students on March 17. [24] Weekday distribution of meals will take place between 10 am and noon at ten locations throughout the city. [25]

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. [26]

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. [27] [28]

UVA President Jim Ryan held a town hall on April 2 to update the University community. [29]

The University of Virginia converted Bond, Bice and Language Houses into temporary housing for healthcare workers. [30]

The UVA Hospital suspended in-patient visitation in late March in order to prepare for a surge in cases. [31] This had financial ramifications, and many personnel had to experience furloughs.

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. [32]

Researchers at the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University both developed tests that could detect the presence of the virus. [33] [34]


Virginia's response

In the last week of March, Virginia lagged behind many other nearby the states in the number of residents who had been tested. [35]

PPE

There was 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 lead an effort to start production of plastic boxes that allow medical workers to intubate patients more safely. [36]

Medical capacity

There were initial concerns that Virginia does not have enough medical beds. [37]

The Army Corps of Engineers investigated sites for potential military hospitals but that never occurred. [38]

In late March, a dormitory at Virginia Commonwealth University was converted to a temporary hospital, with student belongings transferred to storage. [39]

Unemployment

46,885 Virginians filed unemployment claims for the week ending March 21. [40]

In normal times, people had to actually be laid off or had hours reduced before they are eligible to apply for benefits. The initial maximum weekly benefit amount in Virginia is $378. [41]

Utility Relief

Attorney General Mark Herring asked the State Corporation Commission in an emergency petition to require utility companies to halt disconnects for non-payment. [42] Dominion announced the same day they would suspend disconnections. [43]

The State Corporation Commission has "directed regulated electric, natural gas and water companies in Virginia to suspend service disconnections until the coronavirus outbreak subsides." [44]

Virginia's public safety agencies announce a suspension of all visitation in state jails, cessation of prisoner transfers [45]

Price gouging

The Attorney's General Office also sought 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. [46]

School impacts

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. [47] Albemarle offered the same service at several locations throughout the county beginning on March 17.

Albemarle and Charlottesville delivered nearly 8,000 meals between March 17 and March 24. [48]

Albemarle County sought ways to move instruction online for the rest of the academic year. A decision was made to not use grades, however. [49]

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. [50]

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. [51] 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. [52]

City of Charlottesville's Economic Development Department initially retooled their grant programs to pivot towards resiliency efforts. [53]

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. [13] Others remained open for delivery. Governor Northam's Executive Order 55 provided clarity and allows for only essential businesses.

Adaptation

  • Ragged Mountain Running Shop decided to close effective on March 13 but the owners said they would continue online sales and delivery [54]
  • Milli Coffee Roasters began offering coffee to car service. [55]
  • 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. [56]
  • The cancellation of the Virginia Festival of the Book had a ripple effect on businesses such as New Dominion Bookshop, which had purchased additional stock for customers who will not be visiting Charlottesville this spring. [56]
  • 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.
  • 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. [57] University of Virginia libraries were open until March 18 [58]
  • Eltzroth and Thompson Greenhouses moved much of its operations to telephone and pick-up. [59]
  • 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. [60]
  • Monticello closed on March 16 and opened on June 13 under new health protocols. [61] [62]

Restaurants

By early April, all restaurants were 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 urged 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 and raised $63,991. [67]
  • 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] Blue Moon would open to curbside pick-up later in the month.
  • Brazo's Tacos had gone to curbside service but made the decision on March 20 to close indefinitely [69]
  • 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. [70] [71]

On May 15, several restaurants were prepared to move forward with outdoor dining as state restrictions were eased, 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]

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. [74] Others such as First Presbyterian Church have suspended all activities through March 27. [75] Other institutions such as the Church of the Incarnation held services but with precautions.

History and Timeline

2020

March

On March 12 people were asked to limit contacts with others to stop the infection from expanding to the point where hospitals would be overwhelmed. On that day, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency. Additional restrictions would be added over time, such as a stay-at-home order that was declared on March 30.

Statewide restrictions limiting gatherings to less 25 people or less went into effect on March 16. [76]

The first known case of COVID-19 in the area was in Charlottesville on March 16, 2020. The patient was a woman in her late 50's who is believed to have contracted the virus while traveling. [citation needed] Her test was processed by a commercial lab. The Women's Center at the University of Virginia was sterilized as this first patient was an employee.

In the early days of quarantine, one local ER nurse questioned in whether the hospital network is ready. [77]

One of the reasons why the social distancing protocol was been put into place was 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. [78]

Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital has 176 beds. [79]

Initial cancellations
March details

April

May

  • May 7 – National Guard begins first of two days of mask-fitting exercises for health care workers [115]
  • 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 [116]
  • May 19 – Elections will be held in Scottsville [117]
  • 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. [118]

June

July

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission administered the first round of a Rent and Mortgage Relief Program. [121] The state government would took over administration of the program in mid-December.

July Details
  • July 1 – Albemarle County Board of Supervisors agrees to plan on how to use $9.5 million in funding [122]
  • July 13 – Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker holds press conference to remind people of seriousness of the pandemic [123]
  • 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 [121]
  • July 21 – City Council considers support for Frontline Workers Fair Treatment Charter [124]
  • July 23Albemarle County School Board holds first of three town hall meetings on reopening schools [125]
  • July 24 – The elected bodies in both Albemarle County and Charlottesville met to discuss further restrictions [126]
  • 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 [127]
  • 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 [128]
  • 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.” [129]

August

September

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. [131]

The Charlottesville area experienced a spike in cases following the decision of the University of Virginia to hold in-person instruction beginning on September 8, 2020. Albemarle County Schools reopened on September 8 with virtual instruction for the vast majority of students. [132] [133] Charlottesville Superintendent Rosa Atkins also recommended an online start to the school year. [134]

On September 16, Albemarle County extended its COVID-19 restrictions through at least November 18. [135]

October

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. [136] On October 16. the Albemarle Education Association organized a rally to protest the move. [137] [138] After the Christmas break, Albemarle schools returned to hybrid education on January 11, 2021. [139] October 8 – Albemarle School Board votes 4-3 to begin in-person instruction for K-3 beginning on November 9, 2020 [136]

November

November 13 – Governor Northam announces a return to certain restrictions [140]

December

Charlottesville was to have decided in December whether to proceed with a plan to return to school in person. [141]

The Blue Ridge Health District announced plans in late December 2020 to build a temporary structure in the parking lot of the former KMart to provide mass vaccinations. [142] [1]

Vaccinations in the area began on December 15, 2020. [citation needed]

2021

January

Albemarle pushed back opening of county office buildings to the public to January 19 due to rising COVID cases. [143]

The University of Virginia Health System once again closed visitation beginning on January 13, 2021. [144]

May

Different communities received additional funding through the American Rescue Plan.

  • Albemarle County – $21,236,071
  • Charlottesville – $19,609,709
  • Fluvanna County – $5,296,878
  • Greene County – $3,849,608
  • Louisa County – $7,301,611
  • Nelson County – $2,899,977 [145]

September

Charlottesville City Hall is expected to reopen with no restrictions.[146]

November

A group anti-vaccination protestors held a demonstration protesting the UVA Health requirement that employees must be vaccinated.[147] The University of Virginia itself announced that all employees must be vaccinated by January 4, 2022.[148]

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