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Mar 12

City Weekly Coronavirus Update 3

Posted on March 12, 2020 at 6:00 PM by Don Mann

I am writing with an update on our coronavirus preparation efforts and readiness levels. This situation may be different from the kinds of threats we’ve faced in the past, but we approach it with the planning and preparedness that we have developed for such situations. Communication is key in such instances, and I will be sharing information with you as this situation progresses.

Earlier this afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency related to the coronavirus. Like states of emergency called in advance of hurricanes, this declaration enables broader local authorities to manage the issue as appropriate to the individual locality.

First, I want to stress that all actions the city is taking is based on coordination with the Virginia Health Department (VDH). We are in contact multiple times a day with our local office, which keeps us posted on the facts related to Virginia and the Peninsula in particular. National news organizations are predominately and naturally focusing on the areas with the most cases as well as the steps national organizations are taking, but local conditions vary widely. Our responses are tied to local conditions, and our decision-making with be local based in response to VDH advice and recommendation. While I completely understand the natural reaction to hearing about the NBA’s suspension of games, or famous people contracting the illness, I do want to remind us all that — to date — all Virginia cases have been travel-related. We have not yet experienced broad community exposure.

Broader community exposure will eventually occur, so we are taking all prudent preparatory measures to ensure that we are protecting our workforce and community. This includes everything from reviewing our continuity of operations plans to doubling down on sanitation efforts.

Like the governor, we have been advancing telework plans should that become necessary/advisable and we are currently developing special COVID-19 leave guidance so that — if broader social distancing and/or isolation become recommended for our specific area — we will be prepared to help all of us comply with health department recommendations as appropriate. Also, like the governor, I have decided to limit all city non-mission-essential travel (including conferences, trade shows, trainings and other large gatherings).  Already scheduled travel should be canceled with refunds, credits, etc. sought — many airlines and travel companies are handling these in light of the public health declarations. All mission essential travel will need to be approved by department heads after consultation with my office.  I encourage you to consider web-based trainings and distance education opportunities as appropriate to meet your ongoing professional development needs. Regional and local meetings are not considered travel, and attendance can proceed as appropriate. 

As the VDH advises, we will take necessary steps to modify or cancel events, non-essential operations, etc. such as concerts, festivals, etc. With the Governor’s declaration, we are working through with VDH when to pull the trigger on each event. As we make such decisions, I will update you.

In the meantime, I urge you all to make individual preparation plans. This includes have sufficient supplies at home should there be a broader community based need for social distancing and/or isolation. While I have absolutely no indication that local schools will be closing, we do know that they, too, are preparing should that become necessary. Therefore, those of you who have school-aged children should also be making plans for how you might handle extended school closings if that were to become a reality.

For the time being, please try to remain calm about this naturally scary event. Health Department representatives have assured us that the coronavirus mimics symptoms and illness duration of the flu for most people. Those who are not elderly or do not have chronic illnesses are very unlikely to experience the most severe implications of the virus. While none of us wants to be sick for any duration or severity — and we should do all we can to avoid it by proper hand washing and surface cleaning — most of us do not need to worry about this illness impacting us in the most severe ways about which we naturally worry. The added precautions we are all taking are done to slow the spread of the disease so our medical systems are not overwhelmed in a way that inhibits their care for those who get sick. I refer you to the following sites for the most up-to-date factual information related to this virus:

U.S. Centers for Disease Control
http://www.coronavirus.gov/
 
Virginia Department of Health
http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/surveillance-and-investigation/novel-coronavirus/

One of my most important responsibilities is to help protect you and our great city. Please take comfort, as I do, in the talent and dedication of our excellent emergency management and health department officials to navigate us through this challenge.Please know that I am very confident in our emergency management team and our health officials. While I don’t want to make you unnecessarily concerned, your safety and security is very important to me, so I will continue to update you with new information as appropriate.

- Mary

Helpful links:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov
http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/surveillance-and-investigation/novel-coronavirus/
https://www.ready.gov/pandemic


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