Albemarle County ends COVID-19 emergency

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 2:30 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 16, 2022 at 2:31 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Albemarle County is ending its local emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The county announced Wednesday, March 16, that there are no further emergency actions related to COVID-19.

“On behalf of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, I would like to first and foremost thank our entire community for their diligence in reducing transmission of the virus throughout the course of the pandemic,” Albemarle Co. Board of Supervisors Chair Donna Price said Wednesday’s release. “To be clear, and as the Stealth Omicron BA.2 variant attracting significant attention demonstrates, COVID-19 is still present. Our ability to protect the most vulnerable through vaccination, mitigation measures, and treatment, however, has positioned us to manage COVID-19 as part of our regular operations. That being said, we must remain vigilant.”

Albemarle Co. Executive Jeff Richardson issued a Declaration of Local Emergency back on March 12, 2020. That declaration followed then-Governor Ralph Northam’s State Declaration of Emergency. At the time, there were 18 documented cases in the commonwealth and zero documented cases in Albemarle County.

The county says after 734 days of local emergency operations, there have been a total of 15,802 documented cases, 449 hospitalizations, and 147 deaths due to the virus.

“We still have a long way to go, but what this means is that we can begin to return back to some degree of normalcy,” Price said in an interview with NBC29.

That includes bringing some county meetings back to Lane Auditorium -- in-person, in a hybrid model. Albemarle County has identified three tiers of government bodies. Tier 1 -- the Board of Supervisors, School Board, and Planning Commission -- will meet in the auditorium starting April 6. Tier 2, involving any other decision-making bodies, is expected to begin hybrid meetings by June. And tier 3, the remaining advisory organizations, will remain fully virtual.

“When we have our public and we have the people in the audience, it gives us an opportunity to interact with them in a way you simply cannot do through a Zoom meeting,” Price said.

Meanwhile, Charlottesville is keeping its local state of emergency, but it did change what’s called the continuity of government ordinance -- the rules by which the government meets.

Its City Council voted to add the option of an in-person meeting into the ordinance, but did not set a specific date. The mayor and city manager would need to agree on safety parameters beforehand.

Meanwhile, Price says it’s crucial to keep a hybrid element because public participation has skyrocketed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I really see this as a positive coming out of the pandemic,” she said. “It’s just a horrible way to get there.”

The county has not yet said if in-person attendees will need to be masked or if they’ll need to show proof of vaccination.

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