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Charlottesville recommends council keep state of emergency in place into October, impacting virtual meetings

Published: Aug. 2, 2021 at 11:16 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville city staff was on the verge of recommending the return of meetings at City Hall in the first week of September.

That’s no longer the case.

“Things have changed a lot, even since we have put this packet together,” said City Manager Chip Boyles during Monday night’s meeting.

The changes are crucial to public health: COVID-19 cases are rising nationally, and in the Blue Ridge Health District. Now, in-person meetings won’t resume until at least October.

At council’s next work session, the recommendation will be to keep the citywide state of emergency in place through October 19.

“At this time, we expect to continue current restrictions with only minor changes that may include some changes to our special events application,” Boyles said.

The city says it plans to use these weeks to get more staff vaccinated. Right now, about 70% of city employees have gotten a shot, according to city spokesperson Brian Wheeler.

“We feel like we have more work to do on that front,” Wheeler said.

The city says that ‘work’ could include having the Blue Ridge Health District’s Mobile Vaccination Unit come to City Hall.

“A year ago we were waiting for the vaccine, and that vaccine is here,” Councilor Heather Hill said. “And right now, every child under the age of 12 doesn’t have that option. I have 3 of them at my house. So the more people recognize that responsibility, I think the better.”

Mayor Nikuyah Walker added that finding ways to get through to skeptical, concerned, or reluctant people is also important.

“I’m hearing a lot of people blaming people instead of trying to figure out what is preventing them from being vaccinated,” she said. “Then, get the people they trust to get in front of them to answer their questions so they’ll consider it.”

One of the changes city council hopes to make to its meetings when they do return to an in-person format is allowing a virtual option for public comment. It would allow up to four of the 16 speakers to comment through Zoom.

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