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Albemarle repeals local COVID restrictions

Albemarle County has completely repealed its COVID-19 restrictions.

On Wednesday, the county’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to repeal Albemarle’s ordinance and will now follow the state, which removed the mask mandate for people who are fully vaccinated and plans to end all COVID-19 gathering and capacity limits on May 28.

Local and state emergency declarations remain in place, with the state declaration remaining in place until “at least June 30 to provide flexibility for local government and support ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts,” Gov. Ralph Northam said.

Albemarle has had local COVID-19 restrictions in place since last summer, and recently began aligning its ordinance updates with the state’s changes.

According to the state, 63.2% of all Albemarle residents — including those younger than 12, who are not eligible to receive a vaccine — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 49.7% are fully vaccinated.

Doses administered federally are not included in those numbers.

As more people are vaccinated, COVID case numbers are declining. On Wednesday, only two new cases were reported in Albemarle County, among nine new cases reported in the Blue Ridge Health District, which also includes the city of Charlottesville and Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson counties.

“The incident management team recommended to the county executive that the ordinance be repealed, and the county executive is now recommending to the board that the ordinance be repealed,” County Attorney Greg Kamptner said.

Kamptner said the local emergency declaration will end when the director of emergency management, who is the county executive, ends it.

“As far as having meetings … in person, we actually have as of today six months to return everything to normal once the local emergency is eliminated,” Kamptner said. “There’s a new law which will take effect July 1 that extends that return-to-normal period to 12 months.”

Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said she is a fan of masks and that she hoped more board members wanted to do something to still require them.

“Removing the requirements of masks in my mind creates haves and have-nots or two different groups of people, some who are free to go live about their lives and do whatever they want without any obligation to protect others, and there are lots of people for whom vaccines will not or cannot be taken, due to health, age or something,” she said.

Kamptner said if case statistics reversed course, the board could consider a 60-day emergency ordinance, which would not require a public hearing. If supervisors then wanted to then extend it, they would need to have a public hearing.

Ryan McKay, the COVID-19 incident commander for the health district, said that based on 2019 population numbers, 73% of Albemarle residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 61% are fully vaccinated.

‘We’ve been tremendously successful … and we fully anticipate reaching our 70% goal by July 4, based on our projections,” he said.

The health district plans to close the vaccination clinic located in the former J.C. Penney store by mid-June, but is working with the county to identify a smaller space that would still provide a central hub for access to the vaccine but be more appropriate in terms of the demand, McKay said.

“We’ve really been focused on a lot of what we call place-based vaccinations, so we operate in different communities and neighborhoods where we’re providing access through known entities in neighborhoods that enable individuals to get access to the vaccine a little easier and more efficiently,” he said.

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