To access Supervisor Boddye’s COVID-19 info: occoq.org/covid19
County Executive Chris Martino signed a Declaration of a Local State of Emergency for Prince William County in response to the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control to limit crowds of people to 50 or less to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The declaration is in effect as of noon today, March 16, and will allow the county to mobilize and prioritize resources, handle procurement issues, as well as assign and coordinate response activities to help promote and enforce social distancing.
It’s important to note that this declaration is not because we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of confirmed cases in Prince William County. As of right now, the county remains at three confirmed cases and we have no reason to suspect community spread. The Declaration also allows the county and organizations within it to begin drawing upon additional state and federal resources to assist our residents.
Generally speaking, County buildings, including libraries, are closed to most public access at this time. Events and meetings have been cancelled, and the majority of staff is working remotely. Please call or email an agency if you require assistance.
I’ll give a run down of some specific services that we have heard about the most. For a full breakdown, please visit: https://emergency.pwcgov.org/agency-operational-status/
Area Agency on Aging: The Adult Day Healthcare program will be closed starting Tuesday, March 17. Senior Centers are closed starting on Monday, March 16. The state has given permission that home visit reassessments can be made over the phone; new assessments are made using a screen tool before going into the home. Clients who regularly receive home-delivered and congregate meals will receive frozen meals.
Board of County Supervisors: Meeting on March 17 is cancelled. Looking into flexible ways to conduct county business without in-person meetings.
Community Services: Community Services is suspending group meetings and social rehab programs. They will be checking in on clients who do not display COVID19 or flu symptoms. Behavioral health home meeting and CS Board meetings cancelled.
Department of Fire & Rescue: The department is continuing normal calls for service and response. They are cancelling all training except for recruit school. All social activities at the firehouses are cancelled.
Department of Social Services: The department is cancelling public events and meetings. FAPT meetings are virtual. For public benefits, the department is requesting online applications, calling ahead for appointments and using drop boxes for applications. The homeless shelters are fully operational. The Juvenile Detention Center and Molinari Shelter for Youth is in full operation, with no visitation. Family Support, Foster Care, Child/Adult Protective Services and Pre-trial Supervision are fully operational, but will call ahead before home visits.
Finance: Application date for tax relief extended to May 15. Renewal applications can be submitted by Fax: 703-792-6775; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Mail: Real Estate Assessments Office, 4379 Ridgewood Center Drive, Suite 203, Woodbridge, VA 22192. Call 703-792-6780 or email email@example.com. Taxes can be paid online or via the phone: www.pwcgov.org/tax.
Library: Libraries are closed.
Parks & Recreation: All of the department’s fitness centers, community centers, and historic buildings will be closed to the public through 3/31. Permitted group activities such as use by sports leagues and rentals at the parks and centers will also be cancelled. Outdoor parks will remain open, but amenities such as the dog park, reserved pavilions, batting cages, driving ranges, golf courses, mini-golf, marinas will not be available. Trash pick-up and maintenance will continue in our parks as usual.
Police: The department suspended public education and outreach programs. The Animal Shelter is open and functioning normally.
Public Safety Communications Center: Normal operations.
Prince William County Public Schools: All Prince William County Public Schools will close to students effective Saturday, March 14, until April 14, This closure may be extended depending on the situation. The school system is providing to-go meals to all children under the age of 18, without charge. Information about the schools response to COVID-19 can be found on their website at www.pwcs.edu.
Questions from Readers:
1) The response for many is to socially distance and to support each other in order to reduce the cases that may increase the overcrowding of hospitals. I am concerned with the most vulnerable population while this is happening. The people who receive education services in the schools and the adult counterparts and other adults relying on the efforts of the community service board. Adults and children with disabilities are at risk for health complications due to the spread of this virus as well as especially vulnerable to the loss of jobs and services if they are unable to access their jobs and social supports. Are you considering the larger impact on this group of Americans while you socially isolate and telework? Will you continue to make significant budgeting decisions for this group of Americans, their parents, siblings, teachers, and healthcare staff working to create a safe environment? Who can families with individuals with significant needs call in order to help with supervision and support? Without school, 10% of the student population will have ZERO access to learning and routine that is necessary for health and growth. This is a fair estimate considering the students who access specialized services including education, therapy, and daily living/toileting supports. Without your support, adults receiving community services for mental health, employment support, and transportation support will have increased difficulty accessing their jobs and maintaining their status as needing those services. What is the plan?
Our most at-risk communities are always at the forefront of our minds. Families with unreliable access to internet, for example, were the reason that we initially delayed closing the libraries. School-aged children who are food insecure were among the first residents I thought about as soon as I saw the schools would close. As I stated earlier, while the group and social rehab programs have been cancelled, the CSB is continuing to monitor and stay in contact with the residents they serve, and will assist as much as they safely can. In terms of budgetary decisions, the declaration of emergency has granted the authority for us to allocate resources to where they are needed most, but we are also in the midst of budget season.
Taking things from the bottom-up, I have long advocated for additional resources for the CS, Human Resources, Social Services, and more emphasis on prevention. Two weeks ago, the Board of Supervisors received presentations from both the Community Services and Social Services Staff on their critical unmet needs, and the asks on what would fulfill those needs. We will continue our work on the budget and I want to make sure as much of those needs are met as possible.
I will leave it to Coles School Board Rep Lisa Zargarpur to speak to more of what the school division is doing, but I will say that I have been in close contact with them on how we can get meals out to those who do not have reliable transportation.
From a state perspective, I have been in contact with members of our Prince William delegation to Richmond. I have stressed to them the need for additional support from the state in order for us to build capacity to test and treat residents, as well as leniency when it comes to medications and other health services. Pre-authorization for prescriptions, emergency supplements, support for home healthcare workers have all been topics that we have discussed. In order for the General Assembly to take emergency action, Governor Ralph Northam would have to call a special session, and as of right now I have not heard that he will be doing so. He has, however, been utilizing the fullest extent of his executive authority to grant resources to state and local health departments, and recently signed onto a joint letter with the Governor of Maryland and the Mayor of DC to request resources for broader testing in the DMV region.
In addition, The Virginia State Corporation Commission has issued a 60 day moratorium on regulated utility disconnects.
On the federal level, Congress has been working on packages to give additional funding and aid across the board. Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and it was sent to the Senate. Included in that bill is additional funding for screening and Medicaid dollars. I sent a letter in support of the bill to Senators Kaine & Warner, and have stressed to them that additional relief is needed; this includes dedicated funding to our regional and state health departments to develop mobile screening and treatment units, resources for our transportation authorities to be more flexible and deal with worker shortages, and a study of best practices from across-the-board to ensure we are making evidence-based decisions and ensuring we are better prepared moving forward. A moratorium on evictions, federal loan repayments, and other relief efforts are all things I have also advocated for to our federal representatives.
As more resources are given to us on all levels, we will be coordinating with our emergency response personnel, healthcare professionals, community leaders, and our partners at the state and federal level to ensure we’re prioritizing our communities most in need. I encourage folks to reach out to their Delegates and State Senators on the state level, as well as our reps and senators on the federal level to advocate for those resources.
2) Will this affect taxes, when they are due etc.?
I have been in touch with our Department of Finance in relation to Prince William County taxes. Right now, the application deadline for tax relief has been extended to May 15th. In addition, we have shifted more of this staff to answer the phones and respond to email inquiries to incentivize residents to seek services online and over the phone. You may reach our tax offices at:
3) If EMTs and Firefighters and Police don’t have to work because of the federal government’s new bill, how will we be safe?
As things currently stand, there has been no direction from the state or local authorities to reduce the operations or staffing levels of our first responders. To my knowledge the current bills working through Congress would provide our emergency response agencies additional flexibility in terms of staffing and resources, but would not allow for a reduction in the level of service that is currently being provided. Any flexibility being granted by the new bills are aimed at ensuring first responders who may become infected do not risk infecting others, while also giving our agencies additional resources to fill in gaps that may result as a result of first responders that may need to pause to seek testing or other services.
4) What programs does the county have in place for people that aren’t working because of this crisis or who will be laid off? Are there plans to help people?
Our Economic Development Team is currently working with local and regional business partners on toolkits on how best to make themselves resilient during this crisis. Ideally, we would like to see employers take measures to keep from letting go of staff at all, and are working on strategies to accomplish that. In terms of county and school division staff (who are also county employees), we are currently working to ensure as many hourly employees are still paid during this period as possible.
More generally, http://www.unemployment-extension.org/prince-william-virginia-unemployment.html is a resource for anyone who is unemployed and seeking services.
5) When will services reopen?
Things are closed until the end of the month, and we continue to take our cues from the CDC, state and federal government on this. CDC guidance is to avoid gatherings of 50 or more people for the next 8 weeks. And due to the current lack of testing, we do not know true case numbers. However, if those residents have the ability to self-isolate for the next 14 days do so, and we don’t see new cases, perhaps we could see local reopenings sooner. This is an emerging situation, and my team and I will be posting updates as they come in. At the County level, we are reassessing our situation every single day.
6) Is there a place I can go to see what county buildings and services are open and closed in one place?
https://emergency.pwcgov.org/agency-operational-status/ has a snapshot and full list of all county agencies and their statuses. https://emergency.pwcgov.org/ has general information about what buildings are opened and closed.
7) We have older people in our family- is the county offering anything to them to help? Like if they can’t get medicine or something?
I have been advised that individuals with prescriptions – especially those in the aging community – should reach out to their pharmacies to request guidance on getting emergency medication. Insurance providers have been contacted by the state and federal government to loosen their restrictions on refilling medications. Additionally, https://www.pwcgov.org/aging has resources and a service finder tool.
The Adult Day Healthcare program will be closed starting Tuesday, March 17. Senior Centers are closed starting on Monday, March 16 – to visitation. The state has given permission that home visit reassessments can be made over the phone; new assessments are made using a screen tool before going into the home. Clients who regularly receive home-delivered and congregate meals will receive frozen meals.