DANVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — The Danville area and Lynchburg region administrators and other health officials spoke to the community today through a digital town hall in regards to their response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Many county and city officials relayed to the public that government business will continue to run with some minor adjustments in adherence to Governor Northam’s gathering bans and social distancing. The counties of Amherst, Bedford, Campbell, and the cities of Danville and Lynchburg have limited staff in government buildings, allowing non-essential employees to work from home. Deputy Director of the City of Lynchburg, Reid Wodicka, emphasized to the public that they are ‘open for business.’ The city continues to accept permits and building plans at City Hall, although Wodicka recommends this be done online.
“Our message to the business community is that city government is still in operation. If you do need to do business with the city for any reason, we are certainly here and we are certainly available,” said Wodicka.
The focus on small business and economy was a major talking point during both meetings.
Danville City Manager Ken Larking told attendees they want to support small businesses in the area by contributing local taxes to those companies and making it possible for vendors to deliver products curbside. Additionally, he emphasized a need to educate the public about the virus through their online resources, saying, “It was important for us as a local government to make sure that we are prepared.”
In regards to the budget, most administrators noted they are making adjustments as the area’s economy adapts in response to the crisis. Amherst County plans to delay their budget decisions for another two months, with the new tentative date set for June 2.
The counties and cities also indicated efforts of accommodating residents and businesses by delaying certain tax deadlines, opening up WiFi hotspots, and temporarily halting utility disconnections.
In the Lynchburg area’s town hall discussion, Attorney General Mark Herring summarized the efforts his office made in order to assist local governments. In addition to utility disconnections, they also stopped cases of price gouging in Virginia. He encourages anyone that knows of price gouging on services and products, such as hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies, to contact their consumer protection office. Herring said local government and business are making essential, yet tough decisions in response to the limitations, whereas many organizations had to temporarily close their doors. For any businesses unsure of whether or not their services are essential and in compliance with the governor’s order, they may email email@example.com.
In addition, health officials also discussed their efforts and changes amidst COVID-19 concerns.
Alan Larson, president of Southern Virginia Regional health (SOVAH) noted, “What you need to know as a community is that we are ready. We are doing everything we can to meet the need of these patients as they are identified.”
The SOVAH hospitals in Danville and Martinsville implemented a strict visitation policy. The only exceptions include situations involving the beginning of life, end of life, and pediatrics. The hospitals also rescheduled various elective, surgical, and radiological procedures deemed nonessential in order to preserve resources.
Larson tells the community they have taken extra measures to ensure hospitals are safe. In response to the current case at one of his facilities, he said the patient is doing “reasonably well.” Pittsylvania County Administrator David Smitherman also noted additional sanitation efforts made by the county in order to withstand the increased flow of waste that occurred during the health crisis.
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