Nov 18, 2020

Virginia State and Local Action on COVID-19

For a complete look at federal and state action related to the coronavirus, visit MWC’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Facts and Resources website.

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Updates from Gov. Northam’s Press Conference

November 18

On Wednesday, November 18, Governor Northam made the following announcements on Virginia’s COVID-19 response:

  • Data: Virginia is doing well compared to other states. Virginia ranks 4th from the bottom of states for the rate of new cases. Virginia’s percent positivity is just above 7 percent. All regions are seeing increases in cases. Hospitalizations are also increasing. Virginia is averaging about 20,000 tests per day.
  • Mitigation Measures: Governor Northam reviewed the mitigation measures that he implemented on Sunday. Gatherings are limited to 25 people or fewer. Restaurants must stop serving alcohol at 10pm and must close by midnight. Children age 5 and up are now required to wear face coverings. Spectators at recreational events will be limited. Governor Northam said he meets every day with his team to look at the data, and he met Friday morning with his team and made the decision to implement new measures.
  • Budget: Governor Northam signed the budget. He said it includes provisions to protect Virginians from evictions and utility shutoffs.
  • National Guard: Governor Northam has asked the federal government to extend the Title 32 status for the National Guard through next year at 100 percent of the funding. 
  • Small Businesses: Virginia has received nearly 15,000 applications for the Rebuild VA program. More than $55 million in grants have been approved. Governor Northam said he is encouraging Congress to pass another stimulus package.
  • Flu Shot/Blood Donation: Governor Northam encouraged everyone to get a flu shot and donate blood, if you can.
  • Schools: Governor Northam said he doesn’t have numbers in mind for when he would intervene with schools. He said he will continue to let school districts make those decisions. He emphasized that one size does not fit all.
  • Travel Restrictions: When asked about other states’ implementation of travel restrictions, Governor Northam said everything is on the table, but thinks the current measures will work.
  • Vaccine: Dr. Norm Oliver gave an update on how a vaccine will be distributed in Virginia when it is available. Health care workers will receive the vaccine first. Virginia has identified cold storage facilities at -80 degrees that is necessary for the Pfizer vaccine.

November 13

Gov. Northam announced new measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These measures include limiting gatherings to 25 (down from 250), expanding the face covering requirement to children 5 years and older, strengthening enforcement on essential businesses, and initiating an on-site alcohol curfew. The new measures will go into effect at midnight on Sunday, November 15.

November 10 

  • Data: Governor Northam said COVID-19 cases are increasing in Virginia. The percent positivity is now 6.2 percent. There has also been an increase in hospitalizations. Governor Northam said he continues to be concerned about Southwest Virginia, where the percent positivity is around 9 percent. Governor Northam recommended Virginians take precautions, especially as we approach the holidays, to avoid spreading the virus.
  • Testing: Governor Northam announced contracts with 3 labs to participate in Virginia’s One Lab Network. These new contracts will allow Virginia to add about 7,000 tests per day by the end of the year. Virginia purchased 200,000 rapid tests through the Rockefeller Foundation testing compact, and they are being distributed to nursing home and long-term care facilities. Virginia has also distributed rapid tests from the federal government, which are being distributed around Virginia. The Health Equity Team has distributed PPE and hand sanitizer to communities all over Virginia.
  • Vaccination Plans: Governor Northam said Virginia is also planning for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine. He cautioned that any approved vaccine will take months to distribute. Dr. Norm Oliver said VDH is ready and organized to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available.
  • General Assembly: Governor Northam said he has concerns about executive restrictions put in place and his ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Governor Northam said there were changes to the Rebuild VA program that allowed more businesses to be helped. Governor Northam then reviewed how CARES Act funding has been allocated.
  • Corrections: Secretary Brian Moran gave an update on cases in correctional facilities. The state has performed over 47,000 tests in the facilities. There are currently about 200 active cases in correctional facilities.

>>Jump to Virginia Local Action

Virginia State Action on COVID-19 

April 28

Virginia General Assembly Permits Local Governments to Meet Electronically
The Virginia General Assembly recently authorized public bodies — including local boards and commissions — to meet electronically during the state of emergency declared by Gov. Ralph Northam in response to COVID-19. This clarifies and expands the previous authority for boards, authorities, planning commissions and other public bodies to meet and take action even when they cannot otherwise meet in person due to social distancing requirements.

April 10

Northam Quietly Signs Hundreds of Bills As Deadline Looms
Gov. Ralph Northam’s thrice-weekly press conferences on the COVID-19 pandemic have become a grim fixture of Virginia political life. But behind closed doors, Northam has quietly continued a more traditional duty: reviewing and signing legislation. He’s signed more than 800 pieces of legislation ranging from the symbolic, including a bill creating a “non-binary” gender option on driver’s license applications, to the obscure, such as a bill making it a misdemeanor to leave dead animals in churches.

Black Caucus urges Northam to sign wage increase despite pressure to hold off amid coronavirus crisis
Members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus called on Gov. Ralph Northam to sign legislation that would raise the minimum wage, protect the environment and fight racial disparity even as the cost of the coronavirus crisis pressures him to hold off.

GOP weighs options for 7th District convention
Under normal circumstances, Republican candidates across Virginia’s 7th Congressional District would be heading into the final stretch of campaigning in advance of their party’s April 25 convention, when delegates were scheduled to meet at the Arthur Ashe Center in Richmond and select a nominee for November’s general election. COVID-19 has turned that plan on its ear.

ACLU, others call for urgent prison and jail releases in response to COVID-19
The ACLU of Virginia is calling for the quick release of any jail or prison inmate who does not pose “a demonstrable, imminent threat of bodily harm to others,” in light of the threat posed behind bars by COVID-19.

State extends ban on utility cut-offs into June
The State Corporation Commission has extended an order barring utilities from cutting off electricity, natural gas, water or sewer service to non-paying customers during the coronavirus pandemic. The ban, which had been set to expire May 15, has been pushed back to June 14.

DMV turns shuttered weigh stations into rest areas for truckers
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles announced Thursday that truckers may use weigh stations as rest areas. All 13 of the commonwealth’s weigh stations were closed until at least April 23, but an increasing number of commercial drivers are delivering food and supplies where needed as COVID-19 continues its grip on the nation.

HRT temporarily suspends fares
Hampton Roads Transit says it plans to temporarily suspend all transit fares for HRT services effective Friday, April 10, 2020, according to a press release. The suspension will continue until June 10, 2020 unless modified or or stopped.

Area colleges and universities to receive more than $20 million in emergency grant funds
More than $6 billion will be distributed immediately to colleges and universities nationwide to provide grants to college students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Education. Area colleges and universities will see more than $20 million in emergency funding. Three local colleges and universities will see more than $1 million in funds: Liberty University’s total allocation is more than $15 million, University of Lynchburg will receive more than $1.9 million and Central Virginia Community College will receive more than $1.8 million.

Virginia medical providers want liability protections during the COVID-19 pandemic
A group of 19 Virginia medical associations sent a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday, requesting legal protections for their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter, signed by such major industry players as the Medical Society of Virginia and Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, includes a draft executive order and calls on Northam to declare “civil and criminal immunity to health care providers that act in good faith” while responding to the ongoing crisis.

Farm to table, via driver’s window: Drive-thru farmers’ market to open
On most weekends, a trip to the farmers market includes a leisurely stroll among vendors, sampling a just-picked-and-sliced apple or skewering a tiny piece of cheese with a toothpick, and going home with bags of fresh produce grown on local farms. But when a popular farmers market opens April 18 in Fauquier County, Virginia, business that’s normally conducted in a large parking lot on Fifth Street, in historic Warrenton, will be adapted to a drive-thru market, including a series of three parking lots along Main Street.

April 9

Nation’s only doctor governor offers sober voice on virus
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and his top aides were having a meeting about the coronavirus when the discussion turned to neckties. The governor said he had read a study in a medical journal showing that ties worn by doctors at hospitals can host harmful germs and help spread disease. So Northam issued an informal edict to his staff: Keep the ties in the closet until further notice.

Governor: Elections scheduled for this spring won't proceed as planned
Virginia elections scheduled for this spring won't proceed as planned, Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday. Local elections set for next month will be pushed to November, pending action from the General Assembly, Northam said. He is also pushing the June Congressional primaries back two weeks, from June 9 to June 23.

Northam recommends moving municipal elections to November
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that he is recommending postponing the May 5 municipal elections to November and delaying the June 9 congressional primaries by two weeks out of a concern about people voting in person during the coronavirus pandemic.

Virginia launches educational ‘VA TV Classroom’ teacher-led instruction
In Virginia, four public media television stations will soon air classroom instruction in response to social distancing and schools closing for the remainder of the academic year, according to a statement released on Wednesday. . . . The Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane announced that the Department of Education has partnered with Blue Ridge PBS, VPM, WETA and WHRO Public Media to make this possible.

Va. to allow takeout, delivery cocktails
Gov. Ralph Northam has directed the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority to allow businesses with mixed-beverage licenses, such as restaurants and distilleries, to sell mixed drinks on a takeout and delivery basis. The directive, announced Wednesday, goes into effect Friday.

April 8

Governor Northam Announces Plans to Postpone Upcoming Virginia Elections in Response to COVID-19
Governor Ralph Northam today requested the General Assembly move the May General Election and all special elections scheduled for May 5, 2020 to the November 3, 2020 General Election date to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The Governor is also exercising his statutory authority (§ 24.2-603.1 of the Code of Virginia) to move the June primary elections from June 9, 2020 to June 23, 2020.

Governor Northam Announces Additional Actions Providing Relief for Restaurants and Distilleries Impacted by COVID-19 Pandemic
Governor Ralph Northam today issued an executive directive authorizing the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) to defer annual fees for licenses and permits that would be up for renewal through June. The Governor also directed the Virginia ABC to allow establishments with mixed beverage licenses, such as restaurants and distilleries, to sell mixed beverages through takeout or delivery, effective at midnight Thursday.

Virginia Attorney General asks state to extend suspension of utility disconnection through June 10
Attorney General Mark Herring has asked the State Corporation Commission to extend its mandated suspension of utility disconnections for non-payment and suspended late charges through June 10.

Northam to postpone action on teacher raises, tuition freeze
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam plans to delay some long-sought Democratic priorities until more is known about the pandemic’s affect on the economy, pushing back decisions on whether to give teachers and state workers raises, freeze in-state college tuition, and implement other new spending in budget recently passed by lawmakers. Clark Mercer, the governor’s chief of staff, said Tuesday that too little is known about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Virginia Senate plans to convene at Science Museum conference hall during April veto session
To protect members and staff from COVID-19, the Virginia Senate will trade its clubby confines at the state Capitol for an airy conference hall at the Science Museum of Virginia when the legislature returns to Richmond for its spring session April 22. Unlike the House of Delegates, which announced last week it would convene outdoors, possibly on the Capitol grounds, the Senate will meet indoors.

Virginia schools will be able to keep millions in federal money
Virginia schools will now be able to keep millions in federal education money they would have had to give back with schools closed for the rest of the academic year. The change was granted under flexibility given to the state by the U.S. Department of Education.

Virginia Dems in Congress ask Trump for flexibility on relief money for state and local governments
Virginia Democrats in Congress have asked President Donald Trump’s administration for guidance to state and local governments that gives them more flexibility in spending an estimated $3.3 billion in emergency relief from the stimulus package signed into law in late March.

Amid widespread closures, clinics and health providers turn to telehealth
With state and federal regulations and recommendations against continuing routine checkups and elective surgeries, health practitioners are closing their doors — but some are offering different telehealth options to keep up with patients during the pandemic.

State Psychiatric Hospitals Work to Contain Coronavirus
State psychiatric hospitals are starting to see cases of COVID-19. As of Tuesday, these include one confirmed staff case at Central State Hospital in Petersburg, and one resident case at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation about an hour from Richmond in Burkeville, Virginia. There’s also one confirmed staff case at Western State Hospital in Staunton and two staff cases at Southwestern Virginia Mental Health Institute in Marion.

April 7

Governor to call 'timeout' on budget, suspend all new spending
Gov. Ralph Northam will suspend all new spending in the pending two-year, $135 billion state budget and divert planned deposits in the state’s reserves to pay for essential services in the public health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Virginia to get more protective medical gear via $27 million deal with a private supplier
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday that the state has reached a $27 million deal with the medical logistics company Northfield as part of an effort to relieve what he described as a “severe shortage” of personal protective equipment in Virginia and across the country. . . . Monday marked the first time Virginia officials provided details on their efforts to supply more protective equipment since the state’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by a new coronavirus, on March 7.

Northam recommends wearing masks to help prevent coronavirus spread
Following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control, Gov. Ralph Northam urged people to wear masks when leaving the house to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. At a press conference in Richmond Monday, Northam said wearing a mask doesn’t mean social distancing measures can be relaxed. “No one should assume that if they wear a face covering, they are safe and can go about their business as usual,” he said.

Booze delivered: Virginia ABC to allow distilleries to ship directly to consumers
The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority is now allowing distilleries to ship spirits directly to in-state consumers. The temporary change is an effort to help distilleries suffering from financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic. This change applies only the distilleries that have existing agreements with ABC to produce and sell their products at their site.

April 6

Virginia Uses Genetic Technology to Combat COVID-19, State public health laboratory is one of the first in the nation to do this work
Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the Department of General Services’ (DGS) Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) is one of the first public health labs in the nation to use genetic technology to help public health officials better understand and track the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic to strengthen prevention and response efforts.

Northam orders hiring freeze, agency heads to look for cuts
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is instituting a hiring freeze of state employees and is telling agency heads to look for ways to cut budgets in response to the coronavirus. Northam chief of staff Clark Mercer told agency heads in a Thursday memo obtained by The Associated Press that a recession is coming and the state revenues will be far below “even our most pessimistic forecast” from last year.

Democrats' call for vote-by-mail grows; ACLU warns against closing polls
A push to expand vote-by-mail in Virginia amid COVID-19 is gaining momentum among Democratic lawmakers and state election officials, but how far the changes should go is a source of debate. A growing coalition of Democratic lawmakers is advocating universal vote-by-mail in which virtually all voters would cast ballots from home in the May 5 municipal elections and June 9 primary elections.

State taps Greater Richmond Convention Center, two other sites, to become field hospitals
The Greater Richmond Convention Center is among three venues Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday announced as sites for field hospitals that would bring more than 1,800 hospital beds online as the state braces for a surge in COVID-19 patients. Northam tapped the Dulles Expo Center in Northern Virginia and the Hampton Roads Convention Center in addition to the Richmond site.

Dulles Expo Center selected as alternate care hospital site in northern Virginia
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Friday announced that the Dulles Expo Center in Fairfax County has been selected as an alternate care facility that may hold approximately 315 acute or 500 non-acute beds. Construction of the alternate care site is expected to take around six weeks. The governor said the site is intended to free up capacity at existing hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic.

Virginia House planning to convene outdoors for veto session, Speaker says
The Virginia House of Delegates will reconvene for a scheduled veto session on April 22 despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but when it does, it will likely be outdoors, House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Friday.

Virginia Board of Education clears hurdles for high school seniors to graduate this spring
There’s good news out of Richmond for high school seniors: The Virginia Board of Education approved two emergency measures on Thursday to waive temporarily certain rules that would otherwise prevent students from earning high school credits for courses interrupted by the extended school closures. These actions give Virginia school districts additional leeway to allow the class of 2020 to graduate on time and younger students to advance to the next grade.

March 30

Governor Northam issued Executive Order 55, a “stay at home” order
Importantly, Executive Order 53, which Governor Northam signed last week, remains in effect.

March 25

GOP candidate sues Virginia election officials, says coronavirus thwarted efforts to get ballot signatures
A candidate seeking the Republican nomination to run against U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D) has filed a lawsuit against Virginia election officials that argues the COVID-19 pandemic has made it too difficult to gather the petition signatures necessary to qualify for the June primary ballot. Omari Faulkner, a Navy reservist and former Georgetown University basketball player, filed the suit in the Richmond Circuit Court this week.

Northam splits with Trump on timeframe for recovery
Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday batted down a suggestion from President Donald Trump that the nation’s economy could be “open by Easter.” Hours later, the Richmond area reported its first two coronavirus deaths, pushing Virginia’s statewide toll to at least nine. “While it would be nice to say that this will be behind us in two weeks, that’s really not what the data tells us,” Northam said in a briefing with reporters.

Virginia offers flexibility so high school seniors can still graduate
Guidance from the Virginia Department of Education released after Gov. Ralph Northam ordered state schools to be closed for the rest of the school year provides leniency so members of the senior class can still graduate.

Courts are scrambling to address coronavirus
Courts across Virginia have been forced to rapidly escalate their planning and communication processes over the past two weeks in an effort to avoid public gatherings and therefore to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

Virginia ABC stores to cut operating hours effective Friday
Virginia ABC stores will open late and close early for a deep cleaning in response to the spread of coronavirus.

March 24

Northam cancels school year, orders some businesses closed
Virginia public schools will remain closed for the rest of the current school year and certain types of businesses, like bowling alleys, salons, gyms and theaters, must close in response to the coronavirus outbreak, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday.

Virginia may take $1 billion annual revenue hit in new budget
Virginia’s top finance official says the state is likely to lose $1 billion in revenue in each year of the pending two-year budget — and that’s the best scenario, assuming significant aid from the federal government for workers and business owners who have lost their livelihoods because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Governors Clamp Down as Trump Considers Easing Virus Plans
Governors and mayors across the U.S. issued orders to shut down normal human contact and commercial life even as the Trump administration debates dialing back guidance that officials fear is smothering the economy.

Staggered schedules, moving desks: How 109,000 state employees are working during coronavirus
While Gov. Ralph Northam is banning groups of more than 10 people from gathering, and encouraging people to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, more than 109,000 state employees are getting creative with their workspaces.

Northam orders some businesses to close as state's COVID-19 death toll reaches 7
Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday ordered bowling alleys, theaters, barber shops, gyms and spas to close in order to help slow the spread of the coronavirus that has so far killed seven Virginians and hospitalized at least 38.

A list of essential and nonessential businesses in Virginia, according to the governor
The following recreation and entertainment businesses are considered nonessential and must close to the public beginning at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, according to Gov. Ralph Northam: theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums and other indoor entertainment centers.

Virginia K-12 schools closed for remainder of academic year
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday ordered the state’s K-12 schools to remain closed for the rest of the school year. “School closures are necessary to minimize the speed at which COVID-19 spreads and protect the capacity of our health care system,” he said.

March 23

Virginia Governor Issues Executive Order Addressing Schools, Businesses, and Large Gatherings
Executive Order 53 closes K-12 schools for the remainder of the academic year, bans gatherings of 10 or more, and creates temporary business restrictions.

Northam: Prepare for coronavirus outbreak to last months
As health officials reported 67 new coronavirus cases in Virginia — bringing the total to 219, the biggest jump yet

As Va. jobless claims soar, economists expect hit to state's economy
Solid economic data is hard to come by so far about the severity and extent of damage to Virginia’s economy from the coronavirus outbreak, but anecdotal reports coming to economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond do indicate a sudden and major hit to employment especially for businesses such as restaurants and hotels.

Va. attorney general: Local governments must continue to meet in person during outbreak
Local governments scrambling to conduct board and council meetings while respecting social distancing and coronavirus safety concerns were provided little leeway by an opinion on the matter from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.

Region's legislators credit Northam for crisis response, see budget adjustments coming
Members of the General Assembly delegation for the Roanoke and New River valleys credit Gov. Ralph Northam for his coronavirus outbreak response, but remain unsure about how to balance protecting public health with keeping businesses afloat.

Virginia ABC allowing all restaurants with on-premises licenses to sell wine and beer to go
Any restaurant in Virginia with a valid license to sell wine and beer on-premises can now sell wine and beer to go and for delivery without applying for additional permits.

Virginia will cancel SOLs this year because of the coronavirus
Virginia students and teachers won’t have to worry about Standards of Learning tests this spring.

Virginia’s retirement plan for teachers and government workers says it is weathering market turmoil
Financial markets are in turmoil, but the retirement plan that covers Virginia teachers, state employees and most local government staff has just completed processing the payments to retirees it will be sending out April 1.

March 20

Virginia small businesses eligible to apply for coronavirus disaster loans
Virginia small businesses are now eligible to apply for financial assistance due to the impact of the spreading coronavirus.

Governor faces calls for special session, ‘bolder and swifter action’ on COVID-19
After adjourning a historic legislative session last week, a few Democratic lawmakers crossed Capitol Square to stand with Gov. Ralph Northam at a news conference about the state’s response to COVID-19. Then they left town and went home to their districts. Then the world changed.

DEQ suspends routine fieldwork but will continue pipeline monitoring through contractors
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has suspended all routine fieldwork, including regular inspections and in-person monitoring, for two weeks in the face of the continuing spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus.

March 19

Governor Northam Announces Additional Actions to Address COVID-19
Co-pays eliminated for all Medicaid-covered services, tax relief, small businesses can begin applying for low-interest federal disaster loans

Virginia to extend May 1 tax deadline for all individuals and businesses
Virginia will allow all individuals and businesses to delay paying their 2019 income taxes by 30 days, bumping the deadline to pay from May 1 to June 1

Insurers waiving testing, telemedicine fees
Virginia health insurers say members who need screening and testing to see if they are infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus won't be asked for the usual co-pay or other cost-sharing

Unemployment Benefits for Workers Impacted by Coronavirus in DC, Maryland, Virginia
Workers are facing financial hardship as businesses either shut down or reduce their hours over the coronavirus

VDOE seeks federal SOL testing waiver during coronavirus crisis
Amid statewide school closures due to the threat of coronavirus, the Virginia Department of Education has requested a federal waiver for students slated to take the Virginia Standards of Learning tests this spring

In letter to Northam, Fairfax offers suggestions to help fight coronavirus
Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax sent a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam voicing his opinion on what steps the state should implement during the coronavirus pandemic

Virginia officials asking law enforcement to avoid arrests when possible
Virginia state officials are asking law enforcement agencies to avoid arrests when possible, amid calls from civil rights groups about jail conditions amid the COVID-19 outbreak

Virginia GOP Delays Convention to Pick Trump as Nominee; The Republican Party of Virginia has postponed its upcoming statewide convention due to the coronavirus
The Republican Party of Virginia has postponed its upcoming statewide convention due to the coronavirus.

DMV shopping malls shut down amid coronavirus concerns
Simon Properties and Westfield stores have temporarily closed stores in Maryland and Virginia

March 18

Clearer picture arrives of economic toll of coronavirus
The economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic became clearer Tuesday as layoffs and furloughs in the hospitality and service industries continue to mount in Greater Washington

State allocates additional $11M to struggling transit systems
Commonwealth Transportation Board funds are aimed at helping transit agencies recover from ridership losses and other COVID-19-related operating expenses

Universities, colleges cancel graduation ceremonies amid pandemic
Public, private and community colleges have canceled commencement

Pentagon wants USNS Comfort ready to deploy to New York
The Defense Department wants the Norfolk-based hospital ship USNS Comfort to get ready to deploy to New York in an effort to aid civilian hospitals that may need to relocate patients who aren’t diagnosed with coronavirus

March 17

Governor Northam Announces New Measures to Combat COVID-19 and Support Impacted Virginians
Directs adherence to 10-person gathering ban, quarantine for high-risk individuals, worker and employer support

Governor Northam Declares Public Health Emergency

March 12

Governor Northam Declares State of Emergency, Outlines Additional Measures to Combat COVID-19
Governor issues guidance on large events and state workforce, activates long-term economic plan

Virginia Local Action on COVID-19

April 28

Virginia General Assembly Permits Local Governments to Meet Electronically
The Virginia General Assembly recently authorized public bodies — including local boards and commissions — to meet electronically during the state of emergency declared by Gov. Ralph Northam in response to COVID-19. This clarifies and expands the previous authority for boards, authorities, planning commissions and other public bodies to meet and take action even when they cannot otherwise meet in person due to social distancing requirements.

April 10

Fairfax County considers early release of jail inmates during pandemic
Fairfax County, Virginia’s top prosecutor took a bold step toward reviewing who needs to be in the county’s jail in hopes of reducing the number of people confined in a space that could easily become a breeding ground for the novel coronavirus.  Along with limiting the defendants coming into the system, Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said his office will review the case of every individual serving a sentence in jail on a case-by-case basis to determine if they are eligible for early release.

Richmond Council approves virtual meetings in response to COVID-19
The Richmond City Council will cease in-person public hearings and hold electronic meetings about business it deems critical through the COVID-19 pandemic. The council approved new guidelines at a special meeting Thursday so the city’s public bodies can continue meeting during the state of emergency.

County cuts proposed budget by $50 million
A planned November 2020 bond referendum is being put on hold, and several other capital projects have been delayed indefinitely as the Chesterfield County government marshals resources to fund operations in the face of a nationwide economic crisis fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hampton launches small business loan program, extensions on tax bills to those affected by coronavirus
For those hit hardest by the pandemic, Hampton is offering some people more time to pay their tax bills and a loan forgiveness program for small businesses. The Hampton City Council — voting unanimously during an electronic meeting Wednesday night — approved a loan and grant forgiveness program that will be managed by the Economic Development Authority, City Manager Mary Bunting said.

Williamsburg City Council addresses budget in light of the coronavirus
Along with the economic downturn brought about the coronavirus pandemic, local governments are finding themselves re-evaluating budgets as they continue to provide vital services to their residents. Take Williamsburg for instance. Despite creating a strong budget in January, the Williamsburg City Council finds itself reassessing its financial strategy for the end of 2020 and the entirety of 2021 to accommodate changes to the economy as a result of the coronavirus.

Closures raise concerns for Northumberland
While some counties are doing all right with recent state closures aimed to fight COVID-19, these closures have pretty much shut down Northumberland County. The school year is canceled, the courts are closed and public offices are closed to the public. Churches have canceled services and activities and public events have been called off.

April 9

Local governments in D.C. region revise budgets, halt projects
Alexandria officials have begun placing long-awaited projects such as a new Waterfront Park on hold. The D.C. government has frozen hiring and will forgo salary increases. And in Montgomery County, a proposal for a supplemental property tax increase is dead. The financial impact of the shutdown of businesses and organizations caused by the coronavirus pandemic is quickly coming into view.

Supervisor asks DOJ to investigate Riverside jail
A member of the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to initiate a civil rights investigation of Riverside Regional Jail. In a letter to Eric S. Dreiband, an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s civil rights division, Clover Hill District Supervisor Chris Winslow alleges “pervasive, open and egregious” violations of the civil rights of men and women incarcerated at the regional jail in Prince George County.

Local banks take 'all-hands-on-deck' approach to loan volume
As small businesses nationwide are applying for financial assistance during the coronavirus pandemic, local banks are working to stay abreast of guidelines and process applications quickly. Open season for loan applications through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — dubbed the CARES Act — along with the Paycheck Protection Program, was declared Friday. Business owners have flocked to their lending agents to find relief.

Virginia Breeze bus to suspend service between Blacksburg and Washington
The Virginia Breeze announced plans to suspend bus service Friday between Blacksburg and Union Station in Washington because not enough riders are traveling during the virus emergency.

Shenandoah National Park is now closed at the request of the state Department of Health
Shenandoah National Park was closed Wednesday and going forward by the National Park Service following a request from the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District of the Virginia Department of Health.

Deliberately coughing on someone now a crime in Virginia Beach
No one wants to be coughed on deliberately. But as the coronavirus pandemic swept around the globe the past several weeks, people started viewing such actions as potentially deadly. And in Virginia Beach and other locales, they are now considering it to be criminal, too.

Alexandria faces $100M budget gap because of coronavirus pandemic
The City of Alexandria is feeling a budget crunch from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, leaving officials in the Virginia city with no choice but to revise down their funding plan for the next fiscal year. Alexandria City Manager Mark Jinks announced revisions to his proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget in response to a $100 million gap amid the fallout to the coronavirus crisis.

COVID-19 Pandemic Drives Major Fairfax County Budget Changes
Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill is pitching major revisions to his budget proposal for fiscal year 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The revised budget eliminates a proposed three-cent tax rate increase and fee increases across-the-board in order to relieve pressure on the county’s taxpayers. Hill’s proposal also shifts spending to essential services only and removes all salary increases.

Loudoun County supervisors approve $3B annual budget, plan to freeze $100M due to coronavirus uncertainty
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday adopted a fiscal 2021 budget that reduces the tax rate one cent. The effect of the new budget on county homeowners remains uncertain given COVID-19's impact on the local economy. The county plans to freeze $100 million as a result of COVID-19.

Richmond City Council To Vote On Virtual Meetings During COVID-19 Pandemic
On Thursday afternoon, Richmond City Council will vote on new rules that would allow it to hold virtual rather than in-person meetings during the coronavirus pandemic. City council has had to cancel many of its meetings over the last few weeks, following Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order limiting public gatherings to 10 people or less. Richmond City Council’s new rules would require three days of public notice before a meeting and that it be live streamed online through its Legistar service.

Trash collection in Williamsburg is being done differently to protect employees from the coronavirus
The city of Williamsburg’s Public Works Department has changed how garbage is collected to protect its employees. Garbage truck drivers have started not manually picking up items outside of a resident’s cart. City spokeswoman LeeAnn Hartmann said typically, residents will place bags of debris and trash next to their garbage carts when they overflow and it causes truck drivers to have to get out of the vehicle and manually collect the extra bags.

Gloucester seeks help to boost broadband access as coronavirus demand for online service climbs
With Virginia students doing schoolwork at home, and hordes of adults trying to work from home, Gloucester County is putting out a call to businesses to open access to their wi-fi connections to county residents. The county itself is offering free, if limited, wi-fi access in the parking lots of the main library and its Point branch in Hayes.

Spotsylvania school officials work to expand internet access
Spotsylvania County Public Schools has made internet hotspots available for students who cannot access the internet at home. The division is also making computers available to students who do not have them.

April 8

Farm stands across Hampton Roads open early to sell fruits and veggies
John Cromwell’s farm stand In Virginia Beach usually opens in mid-May, when his fields are bursting with pea pods. Until then, he’s busy supplying local restaurants with his hardy winter crops — beets, kale and collards. But with eateries across the country cutting back or closing entirely as a result of the coronavirus, Cromwell found himself last month with plenty of ripe vegetables and no where to sell them.

Arlington Democrats go mail-in route for School Board caucus
The Arlington County Democratic Committee is switching to a mail-in election to select two endorsees for School Board, with results expected to be released in early June. The new process, devised in the wake of the COVID-19 public-health crisis, replaces the traditional Democratic caucus, which usually includes two or three days of in-person voting.

Virginia Beach City Council votes to suspend meal taxes to reduce takeout bills
Starting in May, anyone ordering takeout from a Virginia Beach restaurant will see a 5.5% decrease on the bill. During its second virtual meeting since the coronavirus pandemic began, the Virginia Beach City Council voted 9-2 on Tuesday evening to suspend the meals tax for May and June in an effort to encourage more people to support local businesses.

Peninsula localities adjust as they face unknowns with budget season approaching
For Peninsula localities and their budget cycles, the coronavirus pandemic has created a new level of unknown. City councils, county boards of supervisors and school boards must complete their spending plans in time for the July 1 start of their next fiscal year. Whether the virus and the hefty economic cost it imposes on some communities will be over by then is far from certain.

Chesapeake sheriff wants to use temporary building to house inmates in Hampton Roads
A temporary building at the Chesapeake city jail could be used to house inmates in the region who test positive for coronavirus. Chesapeake Sheriff Jim O’Sullivan has asked the state Board of Corrections for permission to use the building, which is vacant, to isolate sick inmates from the general population.

Roanoke to furlough some city workers
Roanoke City Manager Bob Cowell says that he and his staff are working on next year’s budget while picking up the pieces of this year’s. The Great Recession found Roanoke City Manager Bob Cowell halfway across the country. Cowell was director of planning and development services in College Station, Texas, and he was part of a team that had to implement furloughs during the 2008-2009 period.

April 7

Frederick County EDA takes steps to help businesses hit by virus
As the COVID-19 pandemic forces many businesses to temporarily close to prevent the spread of the virus, the Frederick County Economic Development Authority is ramping up efforts to help local businesses stay afloat. According to EDA Executive Director Patrick Barker, the EDA is trying to be a source of information about the coronavirus situation and its impact on the economy.

Forest Service, towns announce temporary closure of Virginia Creeper Trail
The Virginia Creeper Trail will be temporarily closed starting today at 5 p.m. in an effort to protect the public from COVID-19. The decision was made jointly by the US Forest Service and the towns of Abingdon and Damascus, according to a news release. “Recent overcrowding along portions of the trail, concern for increasing the burden on local Emergency Medical Services and the health and safety of all trail users were the driving forces behind this decision,” Matthew Crum, president of the Virginia Creeper Trail Conservancy stated in the release.

Arlington Democrats evaluating options for School Board caucus
The Arlington County Democratic Committee is formulating options to carry through with its School Board caucus in the wake of public-health concerns. . . . Democrats had planned two days of caucus voting at county schools in May, but it appears increasingly unlikely that will take place. Because the caucus is not a state-run political event, Democrats have a significant amount of leeway in setting up (and amending) procedures.

Hampton council to hold virtual public meeting
Hampton City Council will host a virtual public meeting Wednesday. The council’s public meetings scheduled for next week at city hall have been canceled due to coronavirus concerns. Instead, it will hold a meeting electronically at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Some members of council are expected to attend electronically.

Stafford supervisors seek virtual public comment at budget hearing
Stafford County supervisors have decided not to let residents offer on-site comments at a public hearing Tuesday on the proposed fiscal 2021 budget because of concerns about the coronavirus. Instead, residents can submit comments by completing an online form, which will remain open until April 21. All submissions received will be read into the public record.

City Council to vote on virtual meetings, tax relief
Fredericksburg’s City Council will hold a special virtual meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday to vote on several issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be broadcast on Cox Channel 84 and Verizon Channel 42. Public comments can be posted on Facebook Live during the meeting, but won’t be answered until the following day.

Roanoke City Council likely to give taxpayers extra time
Roanoke City Council is moving toward offering taxpayers short-term relief from coronavirus-driven economic hardships via deadline extensions and waiving late penalties. During Monday’s electronic council meeting, proposals to waive late fees for real estate taxes — due Monday — for 30 days and to extend the personal property by a month, to June 30, received broad support.

Danville Public Works implements new guidelines to protect workers
To reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, Danville’s Public Works Department is implementing new measures for residents to follow to protect the city’s sanitation workers. Rick Drazenovich, the director of public works, said residents are generating up to 20% more household garbage since the state's stay-at-home order was issued in March.

April 6

Park service closes section of Appalachian Trail including McAfee Knob
The National Park Service has closed 27 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus at the center of a worldwide outbreak that has sickened more than a million people and killed more than 65,000.

City of Alexandria could face nearly $100 million budget shortfall
The City of Alexandria, Virginia, stands to lose nearly $100 million through mid-2021 as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Under new budget proposals, the city is considering hiring freezes at the city government level and deferring city projects and employee compensation increases, it said.

Herndon Officials Rethink FY 2021 Budget Due to Economic Changes
As the U.S. experiences an economic downturn as a result of COVID19, Town of Herndon officials plan to revise the previously proposed budget for fiscal year 2021. Herndon Town Manager William Ashton II recently decided that the budget is no longer fitting for the town’s needs, according to a press release.

Chesterfield County cuts $50 million from upcoming budget, salary increases canceled
As localities continue to grapple with estimating the full economic blow of COVID-19, Chesterfield County released its revised budget Friday afternoon, and it’s almost $50 million short of County Administrator Joe Casey’s initial $773 million budget proposal and $10 million below the 2020 adopted budget.

Virginia Beach has started offering hotel rooms to homeless people to fight the spread of the coronavirus
Over the past two weeks, Virginia Beach has quietly offered 46 hotel rooms to homeless individuals, in the hopes that getting them off the streets would help prevent the spread of coronavirus. To the city’s surprise, Gov. Ralph Northam endorsed the idea on Friday — announcing $2.5 million in emergency funding for localities across the state to provide temporary housing for about 1,500 people without shelter. Virginia Beach expects to receive more than $124,000 from the state and possibly more from the federal government to help the homeless.

Possibly delaying the new high school by a year hints at the city’s tough financial decisions to come
Harrisonburg leaders are looking at a starkly different financial reality now than they were less than four months ago when the city council approved the $100 million needed to build and open a second high school, which has the Harrisonburg School Board considering a one-year delay of its construction. The school board will hold a closed session Thursday to discuss with the board’s attorney Kevin Rose the ramifications of altering the construction contract.

Roanoke Valley police, DMV make adjustments
The first day of April last week also brought with it the possibility of a missed deadline for some Virginia drivers — anyone whose vehicle’s state inspection stickers expired at the end of March. Depending on the circumstances, however, windshields still bearing a 3/20 might not necessarily prompt a traffic stop.

Montgomery County closes government center after second worker gets initial positive COVID-19 test
Montgomery County is closing its government center for two weeks after two workers tested positive for COVID-19, the county announced Saturday, the same day the county vaulted from one to six total reported cases. Many core government functions, such as public safety and others that operate from separate facilities, will continue, county spokeswoman Jennifer Harris said Saturday.

Washington County, Va., elections office closes
The elections office is now closed in Washington County, Virginia, due to a recent announcement by the Mount Rogers Health District that community transmission of coronavirus is now occurring.

April 2

Richmond Economic Development Authority Creates Small Business Loan Program

March 25

Lynchburg mayor denounces move to reopen Liberty as 'reckless'
With the threat of the coronavirus looming, Lynchburg Mayor Treney Tweedy sharply criticized Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr.’s decision to invite students back to campus, calling the move reckless and unfortunate.

March 24

Arlington Grapples with Community Transmission of Coronavirus
Like other nearby localities, Arlington has entered the community transmission phase of coronavirus outbreak.

Athletic Fields, Dog Parks, Playgrounds Closing in Arlington
All Arlington dog parks, fields and playgrounds are closing in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Dan River Region leaders react to executive order to close businesses
Many of the area businesses that had managed to remain open during the past few weeks now will be forced to close for at least a month as a result of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order.

March 23

Fairfax County COVID-19 Update
Fairfax County is still proceeding with development reviews, inspections and permitting, albeit with adjusted procedures. For zoning cases, the Department of Planning and Development is primarily working remotely and has adjusted to receiving electronic resubmissions.

Alexandria closes outdoor spaces due to coronavirus
Playgrounds, recreation centers and other outdoor areas have been shut down by the City of Alexandria in order to slow the spread of coronavirus, the city announced Saturday afternoon. The closures, announced in conjunction with Alexandria City Public Schools, target basketball and tennis courts, fenced-in fields and dog parks.

Arlington County Rethinks FY2021 Budget Due To Coronavirus
Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey called the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Proposal County Manager Mark Schwartz submitted in February "no longer very relevant" in light of the current coronavirus crisis

March 19

F.C. Declares Local Emergency in Response to Coronavirus
Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields, in an exclusive interview with the News-Press Wednesday afternoon, confirmed that the City and City schools are in full-scale mobilization to adhere with “social distancing” and other key elements aimed at stemming the spread of the deadly airborne coronavirus. 

LewisGale implements stricter policies as coronavirus cases in Virginia reach 77
LewisGale Regional Health System is implementing new procedures as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to increase throughout Virginia

Colonial Downs announces all Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums will close temporarily amid coronavirus

Richmond-area police departments prepare to enforce 10-person limit, while keeping eye on crime during pandemic
The Richmond and Chesterfield County police departments are giving targeted businesses a grace period to comply with Gov. Ralph Northam’s order limiting gatherings larger than 10 people.

Arlington Officials Scramble to Rethink Budget, Urge Additional Action from State
While reducing the human toll of the coronavirus outbreak is a top priority, Arlington officials are also trying to determine its impact on the upcoming county budget

Social distancing: Williamsburg City Council met via video, and the public participated

Hampton’s top prosecutor criticizes judges for hearings held amid coronavirus concerns
A jury trial in a Hampton gun possession case this week likely marked the last such trial in Hampton for quite a while.

March 18

Loudoun County board opposes sending letter to governor requesting closure of gathering places

With budgets to review, local governments seek legal help to balance COVID-19 precautions, public participation

As virus forces shutdown, rural Northern Neck library works to fill essential role for community

Virus threat pushes jail head, prosecutors to release inmates at Middle River Regional Jail
Middle River Regional Jail in Verona has started releasing some non-violent offenders in an effort to reduce the jail population as the threat of the coronavirus continues to grow

Amazon to hire 1,400 Virginians to meet order surge, donate $1M to Arlington nonprofits
The company will also add $2/hour to employees' current hourly rates through end of April

Arlington County residents get tested at drive-thru coronavirus testing site
As COVID-19 cases spike in Virginia and the D.C. area, Arlington County is stepping up its efforts to test those who are showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus

Central Virginia's First Drive-Through Coronavirus Tests Begin
More than 100 people were tested for the coronavirus disease at the first drive-through testing site in Central Virginia on Wednesday

Goodyear shutting down operations until at least April 3
Citing a sudden decline in market demand with the spread of the coronavirus, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is shutting down manufacturing until at least April 3, according to a company statement. Goodyear is Danville's largest employer with about 2,000 workers