COVID-19 prompts protocol changes for city and county government
If you must go conduct business with Albemarle County in person, you won’t get very far. At the County Office Build on McIntire Road, only the main entrance and the Community Development wings are open. Once inside, visitors are stopped on the first floor and anyone you need to meet will meet with you in the lobby. At the Fifth Street building and at Fire Rescue Administration, you will be met outside or in a well-ventilated room.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Albemarle and the city of Charlottesville are adjusting to continue functioning while protecting its employees.
The city of Charlottesville late Tuesday afternoon updated its protocols in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. Effective Wednesday, March 18, only essential employees will report to work, a news release states. Additionally, City Hall, the City Hall Annex, the Parks and Recreation office in the Market Street Parking Garage and the Public Works office on Fourth Street Northwest are largely closed to the public.
Earlier Tuesday, the Charlottesville Police Department announced that it is suspending front counter services and closing its facilities to the public indefinitely. In person requests for police reports, fingerprinting services and taxi license registrations have been suspended, but sex offender registrations and updates will continue. Other city facilities also are closed.
“The public is encouraged to use all available online and telephonic options for conducting business at City Hall. This includes using our payment drop boxes on both sides of City Hall and the drive through drop box located between the City Hall Annex and the Key Recreation Center,” the city’s release states.
Neighborhood Development Services will remain open and will be accessible only through the Market Street entrance from 8 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays, according to the release. Permit intake will conclude at 11 a.m., and there will be no in-person consultations.
Like the city of Charlottesville, some Albemarle employees are still at their desks because of the intricacies of what they do and the challenges of doing it elsewhere.
“Our departments offer a wide range of services with different technology and physical location tied to them, so we don’t generally have a departmental approach for virtual work, but we’re looking at it now service by service,” said Emily Kilroy, director of communications and public engagement.
Some employees who are able to telework have been asked to do so and staff members who meet high-risk criteria from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — people who are over 60 and have chronic or other serious health problems — to stop reporting to their buildings, Kilroy said.
“Now, we’re undergoing an assessment of how to maintain our essential services with the resources we have,” she said.
CAT and UTS
Tuesday evening, Charlottesville Area Transit announced that passengers no longer will be able to access the front door of all buses. Exceptions will be made for passengers with mobility and accessibility issues. All bus rides are free until the state of emergency ends. The Downtown Transit Station also will reduce its hours of operation to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Buses currently still are on a regular schedule.
The University of Virginia’s University Transit System buses are operating under its holiday service protocols for the foreseeable future. The Northline Express, Early Inner Loop and Purple routes will not run. Additionally, UVa’s Safe Ride will operate its 10 p.m. service daily until further notice.