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Albemarle supervisors adjust local COVID ordinance

Albemarle County’s COVID-19 ordinance now more closely matches the state’s.

Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced limits on public and private gatherings to no more than 10 people, a nightly curfew and expanded mask requirements.

During a virtual meeting Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors adopted an emergency amendment to the county’s COVID-19 ordinance, limiting gatherings and adding descriptions of which places are not public and other things that were in the state’s restrictions.

“In section six, we retain our face covering standards, which differ from the executive order in that we require written documentation from a healthcare professional to establish the basis to be excused from wearing a face covering,” said County Attorney Greg Kamptner.

Kamptner said some gathering size limits and face covering requirements that are not specified in the county’s ordinance refer to some businesses and activities to the governor’s most recent executive order.

A non-emergency version of the county’s ordinance is scheduled for public hearing on Jan. 6.

“What we have been doing is to have our ordinances be valid for roughly 60 days or so, so that we are keeping up with changes in the conditions of the pandemic,” Kamptner said.

Ryan McKay, senior policy analyst for the Thomas Jefferson Health District, told the board on Wednesday that Albemarle County had 87 cases of COVID-19 in the seven days ending Nov. 30, and that has more than doubled to 202 cases in the seven days ending Dec. 14.

“What we’ve been finding is that these cases are tied in large part due to social gatherings, many of them around Thanksgiving,” he said. “Others are not necessarily Thanksgiving, but events that have occurred in larger gatherings … ”

He said the health district now has larger numbers of contacts to trace, and that has “presented a significant challenge” to their contact tracing and case investigation.

“We continue to contact everyone that we can, [who] we’re able to reach,” McKay said. “We have implemented some abbreviated investigation protocols that help us get through the investigation a little bit quicker. But we are making all of our attempts to contact individuals and also let individuals know they may be considered a close contact.”

Some supervisors questioned hospital numbers, and asked about capacity and staffing numbers.

“As a locality, this has got to be part of the question and concern,” said board chairman Ned Gallaway. “We talk about cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations. Is there any cooperation at all about us understanding what our local capacity is in our hospital?”

Deputy County Executive Doug Walker said University of Virginia staff, and sometimes the health system, are on a weekly regional COVID-19 update call. McKay said the health district meets with UVa three times a week.

“I think they are concerned about the potential for capacity issues as cases continue to increase across Virginia, but I’m not aware of anything significantly today that’s of concern in terms of their current capacities,” McKay said.

Internally, the UVa Health System is providing a COVID-19 inpatient snapshot at the hospital about three times a week. When The Daily Progress asked for this information in July, it was told that it was a “leadership message” that is an “internal communication intended for our faculty and staff to keep them informed of news and events at UVa Health,” and that “it is not for public distribution.”

In screenshot images of the snapshots provided Wednesday by a UVa doctor, there were about 47 cases of COVID-19 at the hospital as of late Monday morning. That number had dropped to 38 cases Wednesday morning, with two people under investigation.

The supervisors postponed the meeting’s evening agenda items to its Jan. 6 meeting due to an ice storm that blanketed the region Wednesday.


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