Local emergency declared in Dinwiddie amid COVID-19 pandemic

By: Contributed Report | Twitter: @DinwiddieMonitr
Posted: March 17, 2020 | 12:42 p.m.

DINWIDDIE – As the number of coronavirus cases, also known as COVID-19 cases continues to rise across the Commonwealth and the country, Dinwiddie has moved to declare a local emergency and adjust its operations countywide.

Monday, as the local government remained closed to allow for cleaning of municipal buildings, county officials would publicly announce the county’s emergency declaration through a statement late in the day.

“This declaration aligns us with national and state declarations, and places Dinwiddie County in position to better respond to the pandemic.” Dinwiddie Fire and EMS Chief Dennis hale said Monday. “At this time, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Crater Health District and no evidence of community spread.”

Even though the county’s government center in the heart of Dinwiddie County reopened Tuesday, all Dinwiddie County Parks and Recreation facilities, programs, athletics, field usage, games, practices, playgrounds, picnic shelters, and activities, including facility rentals, have been canceled through March 27.

Facilities closures include: Eastside Community Enhancement Center, the Robert & Betty Ragsdale Community Center, the Historic Dinwiddie Courthouse, the Sports Complex, and the McKenney Gym

According to county officials, Eastside Enhancement Center along Boydton Plank Road is only being used to allow for curbside food distribution by Dinwiddie County Public Schools.

The move comes as the Centers for Disease Control issued a recommendation advising against gatherings of 50 or more people for the next eight weeks as the number of cases of COVID-19 in the United States enters the thousands.

Tuesday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and state health officials confirmed cases of COVID-19 have risen to nearly 70, while a second person has died from the disease.

As social distancing and directives against public gatherings, the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors modified their agenda for Tuesday’s regular board meeting, with only action items expected to be heard. Public hearings, along with departmental and outside agency reports will not be presented during Tuesday’s meeting.

During their meeting, county leaders are expected to act on and likely adopt a policy for remote participation in meetings by supervisors, as allowed by the Code of Virginia.

According to Virginia Code 2.2-3708.2, any public body, such as a board of supervisors or school board, may meet “by electronic communication means without a quorum of the public body physically assembled at one location” when the governor has declared a state of emergency, which Northam did last Thursday, provided that the emergency “makes it impracticable or unsafe to assemble a quorum in a single location” and “the purpose of the meeting is to address the emergency.”

The law requires public notice to the community be provided “using the best available method given the nature of the emergency” and should be given alongside the notice is provided to members of the board. They are also required to “make arrangements for public access” to the meetings.

The COVID-19 outbreak, the advisement of social distancing, and the CDC’s eight-week cessation of 50-plus-person public gatherings present challenges as, for many localities, it is the middle of the budget development season for the upcoming fiscal year, which often sees public hearings and work sessions throughout the spring through the eventual adoption of the FY2021 budget, which must be in place by June 30.

As of this report, it is unknown if the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors will follow suit with neighboring communities in canceling future meetings and work sessions.

County Administrator Kevin Massengill asked residents to utilize low-contact methods to do business with the county during this time.

“Citizens wishing to transact business with Dinwiddie County are encouraged to do so if possible by phone, through the website or by using curbside drop boxes located outside of the County Government Center,” he said ahead of the government center’s reopening Tuesday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Virginia Department of Health reported 67 cases of COVID-19, with nearly 1,030 people tested. Of those cases, there have been two deaths.

Roughly a dozen cases each have been confirmed in Arlington, Fairfax, and James City County. Closer to Southside Virginia, positive cases were reported in Hanover, Henrico, and Chesterfield County.

No cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Crater Health District, which includes the Tri-Cities, Dinwiddie, Prince George, Sussex, Surry, Greensville, and Emporia.

To lower the risk of respiratory germ spread, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages the following effective behaviors:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.

Information about COVID-19 is being shared as it becomes available on the following websites: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus or www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/. Also, consult www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirusfor the latest number of COVID-19 cases in Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Health has also activated a public information line, 877-ASK-VDH3, for questions from residents about the novel coronavirus situation.

Copyright 2020 by Womack Publishing
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