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Live local updates: Albemarle to adjust hours, in-person operations

This story will be updated throughout the day. For more coverage of the local response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, check this round-up of previous coverage.

Central Virginia office closures, cancellations and service changes continue in response to calls for social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Albemarle County said Wednesday that turnaround times on some services may be reduced and some public access to buildings will be restricted.

Visitor entrances at the McIntire Road County Office Building now are restricted to the main side visitors’ entrance and the Community Development North Wing Entrance.

Visitors will only be permitted on first floor of the building. Front desk personnel will call the appropriate department to have personnel meet the visitor and conduct business in the lobby.

Finance payments are strongly encouraged to be conducted online or by phone, self-service kiosk, or payment dropoff methods.

At the Fire Rescue Administration building, the visitor’s entrance will be shifted to badge-access only.

At the 5th Street building, police and social service visitors will be restricted to the lobby, except with escort.

At the elections office, business is encouraged by phone. If face-to-face interaction is required, an employee will meet the customer outside or in a well-ventilated room that allows social distancing.

Many services, such as dog licenses, filing a police report and applying for benefits can be done online.

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Wednesday, March 17 updates

The Charlottesville Police Department will modify its responses to non-emergency calls, the department said late Tuesday.

CPD will continue to respond to emergency calls, according to a spokesman, but will expand its Telephone Reporting Unit, which will now answer calls 24/7.

The following crimes can be reported online: annoying phone calls, credit card fraud, fraud-false pretenses, identity theft, wire fraud, larcenies, pocket picking, lost property, past suspicious activities, tows and vandalism.

The telephone unit can take non-emergency reports at (434) 977-9041 or (434) 970-3280. Residents can report all of the above crimes, past assaults, harassment, landlord/tenant/non-physical disputes and evictions and previous trespassing.

Non-emergency calls about the following incidents can be made to: (434) 977-9041. Residents can report animal complaints, traffic hazards, traffic complaints, parking violations with the exception of public safety hazards, open containers of alcohol, noise complaints and other non-emergency situations.

When in doubt, though, residents should call 911.

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The City of Charlottesville announced several adjustments Tuesday, including staffing changes and the decision to make the Charlottesville Area Transit system fare-free for the duration of the local emergency.

The city said it will only ask essential employees to report to work starting Wednesday, and will close most City Hall facilities to the public.

This staffing plan will be in effect for at least the next two weeks and will be reevaluated on March 29, according to a news release.

The public is encouraged to use all available online and telephonic options for conducting business at City Hall, as well as payment drop boxes at City Hall and the drive through drop box located between the City Hall Annex and the Key Recreation Center.

The Neighborhood Development Services team will be accessible to the public needing to conduct essential business with that department and through the Market Street entrance to City Hall only.

The office will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays (with permit intake until 11 a.m.). Customers can reach NDS at (434) 970-3182. There will be no one-on-one in person consultations at this time.

In effort to maximize social distancing and provide an additional layer of protection for drivers, CAT will eliminate front-door access on all buses. All users will be able to enter the bus through the rear doors.

City Manager Tarron Richardson has authorized a fare-free period until the state of emergency ends.

More information about schedule changes and office closures can be found on the city’s website, https://www.charlottesville.org/departments-and-services/departments-a-g/city-manager-s-office/communications/city-hall-updates-related-to-the-coronavirus-covid-19

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Albemarle County schools will be closed at least through April 10, the end of spring break, the division announced Tuesday.

Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered schools to close for at least two weeks until March 27 in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. The county schools’ decision to keep schools closed longer comes as states and communities are taking drastic steps to prevent the virus from spreading further and the Virginia Department of Education announced it was looking to cancel state SOL testing.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said late last week that closing schools for two weeks wouldn’t have much impact on containing a virus.

“We are continuing to closely monitor developments on the spread of COVID-19 and the most current health and safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and from the state Department of Health,” Superintendent Matt Haas said in a news release. “Based upon that information, it is clear that public meeting restrictions will not be lifted in the near future.”

Charlottesville City Schools has said it will be closed at least until March 27 and is following the governor’s guidance about school closures.

Haas said in the release that he is extending the closure to assist with the school division’s planning on how to continue to deliver services to students and families at home and to provide as much advance notice to parents as possible so that they have as much time as possible to make necessary child care arrangements.

The division’s spring break is scheduled to begin April 3.

Haas told students that teachers will be reaching out about ways they can stay engaged with learning and shared a webpage with resources.

The division also has extended its Wi-Fi access to the school parkings lots for students to use.

In a message to students, Haas said he too was disappointed that spring school activities have been canceled or put on hold.

“I am sorry about that, and I hope we will have a chance to make it up to you,” he wrote.

He also encouraged students to write an email or card to a family member and friend and to get outside.

“If you don’t already keep a journal, this time is a great opportunity to start one,” he wrote. “As I told a student last week, coronavirus now is a part of your life’s story and of our history.”

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Graduation ceremonies for Virginia’s community colleges, including Piedmont Virginia Community College, are canceled, Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the community college system, announced Tuesday.

DuBois made the decision following a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to cancel or postpone gatherings of 50 or more people over the next eight weeks, a guideline Gov. Ralph Northam echoed Tuesday morning when he said the state would ban gatherings of more than 10 people.

DuBois wrote in a letter that the colleges will honor the achievements of graduating students later when it it safe for students, families, faculty and staff.

“What’s difficult is that the very things that make these ceremonies meaningful also make them dangerous in this pandemic,” he wrote. “While it’s a celebration of individual achievements, it’s a community celebration. Many of the same family members who travel far and wide to attend are at particularly high risk with this virus. And the hugs and high-fives that come naturally to so many of us in that moment fly in the face of the social distancing practices we are asked to observe.”

PVCC decided last week to switch to online courses.

UVa has said it will make a decision about graduation ceremonies by April 15.

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At the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, staff members are still going to work but visitors are only allowed by appointment to limit the number of people entering the premises. The SPCA rummage store is closing for the next two weeks, effective Tuesday, and public spay/neuter services have been suspended, according to the organization

“Many people have reached out asking how they can help the animals in our care,” said Angie Gunter, chief executive office of the CASPCA, in a news release. “The most urgent need at the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA is for animals to get out through adoption or foster.”

The organization highlighted a World Health Organization statement that there is no evidence that dogs, cats or other companion animals spread the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“We hope that people will make an appointment to adopt or foster a pet to spend time with while they’re at home,” Gunter said.

For more information on adopting or fostering, go to http://caspca.org/.

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The Jefferson Area Board for Aging is suspending operations at its community senior centers and the Charlottesville Adult Care Center as well as closing its Charlottesville office to visitors.

The senior centers are stopping operations Tuesday along with meal operations. The adult care center will stop operations Friday.

For those who relied on the senior centers for daily meals, JABA said in its announcement that it’s working to arrange home delivery.

For more information about JABA’s operations and what older adults need to know about COVID-19, go to https://www.jabacares.org/covid-19-jaba-operations-update.

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The Charlottesville Police Department is suspending front counter services and is closing facilities to the public.

In-person requests for police reports, fingerprinting services and taxi cab license registrations will be suspended until further notice, the department said Tuesday.

Sex offender registrations and updates will continue.

During this time, members of the public can request police reports and crash reports by emailing RecordsTeam@charlottesville.org, calling (434) 970-3280, faxing (434) 970-3233 or sending mail to 606 East Market Street, Charlottesville, VA 22902, ATTN: Records.

Please call 911 to report an emergency, or (434) 977-9041 for non-emergency requests.

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Local Social Security offices, including the Charlottesville office in Pantops, will be closed starting Tuesday, but staff members will be available over the phone.

“This decision protects the population we serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” officials with the Social Security Administration wrote in a news release. “However, we are still able to provide critical services.”

For Social Security services, individuals can go online at socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices to apply for retirement, disability or other benefits and find more information.

The local offices will be still conducting business over the phone. The administration’s field office locator has information on how to get into touch with local staff members.

Calls might come from a private number, and the news release notes that Social Security employees will not threaten individuals or ask for any form of payment.

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Starting Wednesday, Charlottesville Area Transit’s Downtown Transit Station will reduce its hours of operation in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

CAT buses will continue to run their regular routes, though CAT staff are using CDC-approved cleaning materials to disinfect all high-touch areas on buses and in facilities.

The downtown station will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more updates, go to www.catchthecat.org.

Many local businesses, events, organizations and offices are changing their hours and offerings amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Please check with a location before you visit for the most up-to-date information.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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