County, City pass ordinances tightening coronavirus safety regulations

In back-to-back virtual meetings today both Charlottesville and Albemarle County moved to take emergency actions in opposition to current statewide coronavirus safety regulations. The Board of Supervisors, which met today at 3pm, voted unanimously to pass the new ordinances. City Council, during a 4pm meeting, also voted unanimously to pass the same ordinances. The ordinances go into effect on August 1 and expire on September 29 unless amended.

The City’s specific ordinance requirements and penalties can be reviewed here. The County's detailed ordinance is here.

From the Daily Progrees: "When asked if localities need permission from the governor to move back [to Phase 2] in regulations, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s spokesman Grant Neely said, “Most city and county charters give their governing bodies a mechanism to take emergency action at the local level, but I’m not aware that any has done so.”

The move comes amid concerns about the local spread of the virus, and the retun of UVA students, which Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker has called “a recipe for disaster.” According to Thomas Jefferson Health District data, since July 2 there have been 700 new reported cases of COVID-19 in the area (total: 1,648), 36 new hospitalizations (total: 133), and 7 deaths (total: 30)

These ordinances would not apply to the University of Virginia, despite UVA being located in the county, and would defer to any regulations put in place by county schools. The County says it plans to hire "ambassadors" to enforce these ordinances. City officials said they might also consider hiring "ambassadors" or use parks and recreation employees.

The County’s stronger face mask ordinance, now a Class 1 misdemeanor, is punishable by jail time, but as City Councilor Lloyd Snook, an attorney, pointed out "no judge would put anybody in jail for not wearing a mask," so the City stayed with the lighter Class 4 and 4 penalties. Also, UVA president Jim Ryan sent a letter of support for the County's ordinances.

City Councilors, concerned about First Amendment rights, also asked that additional language be added about restricting “expressive activities” so that spontaneous demonstrations would be exempt from the new regulations.

Here are the proposed modifications to Phase 3 adopted by the City and the County [these graphics prepared by the County]: