Sitting several feet apart, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted today (Tuesday) to declare a local state of emergency due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The declaration activates the county’s emergency plan and allows the county to expeditiously mobilize its resources. A number of local jurisdictions have adopted similar declarations, including Arlington County.
At the emergency meeting, board members sat roughly six feet apart in order to practice safe social distancing, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Chairman Jeff McKay noted that the spread of coronavirus poses a “public health threat,” but that the county is well-positioned to manage concerns.
“This is not something this is going to be resolved tomorrow,” McKay said, giving a nod to county staff that is working their “tails off” in this “unprecedented” public health crisis.
The declaration allows the county to pursue “coordinated local government to prevent or alleviate damage, loss hardship, or suffering” caused by the respiratory disease, according to the declaration.
Like similar declarations for snow emergency response, the motion also allows the county to apply for federal and state disaster planning funds and increased flexibility in operations.
The county executive will now have the authority to act on behalf of the board, but won’t be able to do anything inconsistent with state orders, McKay said.
“We don’t have as much authority as people think we do,” Vice Chair Penny Gross said, noting that D.C.’s mayor imposed new restrictions on businesses in the city.
“We’re also at the mercy of the governor,” Gross said.
Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency last Thursday. So far, the Fairfax Health District has 10 presumptive cases of coronavirus.
“We will make it through this,” McKay said. “We will have battle scars without a doubt.”
This story also appeared on our sister site Reston Now