Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Coronavirus may be the scariest word on the planet right now, but state and local efforts are underway to reduce the fear and bring calm to an uncertain situation. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors held a nearly unprecedented emergency special meeting to adopt a resolution consenting to the declaration of a local emergency by the county’s Director of Emergency Management. In the esoteric legal structure for county government in Virginia, that meant the Board approved the declaration of an emergency by County Executive Bryan Hill. As with other emergency declarations for weather-related incidents, the County Executive, who also is the Director of Emergency Management, has the authority to declare an emergency, and the Board consents to the declaration.

A declaration of an emergency provides additional flexibility for the county to access potential federal and state emergency funds that may become available, as well as coordinating local actions “to prevent or alleviate the damage, loss, hardship, or suffering caused by the existence of” the coronavirus. The emergency declaration remains in effect until the Board takes a specific action to end the declared emergency, which may be weeks or months. For the first time that I can recall, the Board had to suspend its own Rules of Procedure to call the special emergency meeting. Under the Rules, notice of a special board meeting must be made at least five days before the announced meeting date and time, and served, on paper, to each member by registered mail or service by the Sheriff. Clearly, there was not the luxury of time to plan advance notice, as the situation changed almost hourly during the weekend.

Information about the coronavirus pandemic continues to change quickly. As the Board was in discussion, Governor Northam was holding another news conference to update Virginians about the virus. He urged folks age 65 and older to quarantine in place, and announced that Department of Motor Vehicles offices across the Commonwealth would close to allow DMVs to be used as virus testing sites when enough testing kits become available. The governor also extended for 60 days the validity of expiring drivers licenses, car registrations, and ID cards. DMV will continue to accept and process on-line applications and renewals.

In Fairfax County, residents facing difficulty relating to food, shelter, employment, health care, and other needs should call Coordinated Services Planning at 703-222-0880, between 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Assistance is available in multiple languages. Fairfax County Public Schools is providing grab-and-go meals at no cost for students at locations throughout the county. Adults may purchase breakfast and lunch meals for $2 each. Find an updated list of locations at www.fcps.edu/news/coronavirus-update-food-resources. Scroll down the page to find the updated list.

The county is providing meals to current Senior Center and Adult Day Health Care participants. Work continues to assess the opportunity for community child care programs to serve families whose parents also are deemed essential personnel. Tenant evictions at all county-owned properties are suspended. Courts are closed, and trials postponed, but real estate sales transfers, marriage licenses, filing of wills, and other routine business at the Clerk of the Court’s office will continue.

These are tough times for everyone, regardless of age, ZIP Code, education, or any of those data points we Americans like to calculate. Fortunately, in Fairfax County, we have the resources and the foresight to have plans to address and mitigate emergencies. Wash your hands, cough into your sleeve, stay home when sick and don’t panic!

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