Dinwiddie prepares to reopen county buildings to public

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @DinwiddieMonitr
Posted: June 7, 2020 | 1:30 p.m.

Most county facilities closed in March due to COVID-19

DINWIDDIE – As Governor Ralph Northam continues to roll out his multi-phase Forward Virginia reopening plan as the Commonwealth adapts to the new normal brought on by COVID-19, Dinwiddie County is also preparing to slowly return to normal as it develops a plan to open public buildings to the community again. 

In an interview, Dinwiddie County Administrator Kevin Massengill confirmed he had developed administrative guidelines regarding a remobilization plan for the county last week that was being reviewed by the county’s workforce for feedback and guidance. He explained the plan is similar to that of the state and other localities, using phases to gradually reopen the county’s buildings.

He explained the county has been in its first phase since Governor Northam’s Executive Order 61 in mid-May, which eased restrictions and transitioned from a state-wide stay-at-home order to a “safer-at-home” directive. 

For the county, its first phase saw some buildings reopen, such as the Dinwiddie County Courthouse, Eastside Enhancement Center’s playground, along with the registrar’s office, landfill, and its manned waste disposal sites. Even still, some facilities remained closed to the public, such as Dinwiddie County Animal Control, the Dinwiddie Sports Complex, the inside of Eastside Enhancement and Ragsdale Community Centers, fire stations, and the Pamplin Administrator Building, home to Dinwiddie County Public Schools.

In regards to operations, Dinwiddie’s first phase of reopening continued teleworking initiatives aimed at maintaining continuity of government while reducing the potential exposure of employees to COVID-19. 

“At phase two, what we are planning to do is mostly open up to the public,” Massengill said, though he stressed conversations are still being had regarding how that will impact Dinwiddie Parks, Recreation, and Tourism assets. The timetable for entering that phase is roughly mid-June, in line with Governor Northam’s action to transition much of the state into the second phase of his reopening plan.

According to Massengill, employees will be required to check their temperature before arriving to work daily and monitor their health as COVID-19 continues to exist despite efforts to return to some form of normal. 

“I stated to my staff that I trust that they are not coming to work sick so, we are not going to require their temperature be taken at the front door prior to coming into the building at this stage,” he said. “If we see that to be a problem, we will do something later but, we are not going to start off that way. We are going to start at a position of trust with the employees.”

He said that a position of trust would extend to the visiting public as no temperature checks or pre-screening will take place when the community visits the Dinwiddie Government Center or other county buildings during the second phase of opening. In some communities, such as neighboring Prince George County, the reopening plan for their main government center includes no-touch temperature checks for all visitors and pre-screening questions before entry.

“We are not going to test the public’s temperature before they come into the building but we are still encouraging people to do that [before coming to a county building],” Massengill sail. “We will offer the public face masks. Our employees have been issued masks and it is our expectation, if we are working with the public inside this building, we will be wearing our face masks unless there is some type of sneeze guard or physical separation.”

In late May, Governor Northam issued an executive order requiring face coverings and masks inside public buildings, which extends to government facilities, while exceptions are made for those who have underlying health conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask. 

As Prince George prepares to reopen, their board of supervisors agreed the county will decline entry into the building to anyone who chooses not to partake in the temperature check, screening questions, or doesn’t wear a face covering. When asked if Dinwiddie is considering a similar measure, Massengill said they are not.

“For Dinwiddie, we are blessed that we have new office buildings, particularly the government center, where there are physical separations that are incorporated into the building’s overall design. There are some security measures in place and public spaces that are designed in such a way that gives physical security while also allowing health guidelines to be adhered to,” the county administrator explained.

“Based on the governor’s guidance on the wearing of masks, there are health exemptions that are allowable. We are going to offer people masks. If they choose not to wear their mask, we are not going to ask someone to leave the government center because they do not have their mask on,” he continued. “We are assuming they have a qualified health exemption and they are following the rules themselves.”

According to Massengill, the third and final phase would be a return to normal operations and would also follow in-step with Governor Northam’s reopening efforts.

“We would probably mimic what the governor does there but, that gets back into normal operating procedures prior to this event taking place,” he said, adding, no matter the phase, the county has a robust sanitation plan that addresses public spaces and regular spot cleaning in high-traffic areas. 

“Employee health and the health of the public are paramount here,” Massengill stressed. “We used the governor’s plan as a guide but we made it realistic for us, as well. All the best practices and guidance that have been issued in the various executive orders, we have taken those under consideration.”

For more information regarding reopening, visit the county’s website at http://dinwiddieva.us.

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