In light of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the City of Fairfax on Tuesday declared a local state of emergency. It did so, March 17, during a special, emergency meeting of the Fairfax City Council.
At the outset, Mayor David Meyer made a statement to the residents – many of whom were watching the meeting on TV and other electronic devices – to both reassure them and discuss the City’s services.
“Your City government is continually monitoring this evolving situation and working closely with the Fairfax County Health Department – which provides public health services for our City – as well as the Virginia Department of Health, to ensure that every City resident is protected to the maximum extent possible,” he said.
Meyer said essential City services, including fire and rescue, police, and trash pickup, will keep being provided, and the work arrangements of other Fairfax personnel are being evaluated daily. For information about City events, programs and COVID-19, people may go to fairfaxva.gov/coronavirus.
He then gave them official guidance on staying safe and healthy, such as washing their hands thoroughly and social distancing. He also advised them to get accurate and timely information from credible sources.
“Most importantly, we advise all residents to remain calm,” said Meyer. “While this challenge is serious, please be assured that your City government is taking appropriate, active measures to keep you safe. Our greatest asset is our collective commitment to each other. We are a remarkably resilient community. We will get through this crisis, and we will get through it together. Continue to take care of yourselves and those you love.”
City Manager Rob Stalzer – who’s also Fairfax’s Director of Emergency Management – explained the reasoning behind declaring a local emergency and said it’ll be in effect until June 10 at 12:01 a.m. And he told the Council that the City has two, redundant teams that will be able to function “in all the various capacities we’ll need throughout the duration of this emergency, however long that is and whatever it is we face.”
He said the official declaration gives the City access to potential federal, state or other emergency funding sources “so that, when we reach the critical threshold, we can seek reimbursement for our actions and efforts. It also helps to streamline a number of the processes and rules we follow in government, primarily procurement.”
As a result, said Stalzer, the City will be able to obtain personal protective equipment and other critical supplies through a single ordering-point, as quickly and expeditiously as possible. “Because, in an emergency, time is of the essence,” he said. “This is a tremendous team effort and a tremendous opportunity to do what we do best – serve the City.”
Since the Northern Virginia region has more COVID-19 cases than do other parts of the state, Councilman Sang Yi said he wants this region prioritized for drive-through testing sites. Stalzer said he’d be happy to advocate for that.
In addition, Yi wondered if the City’s meals tax could be suspended during this time to help the small businesses, and City Attorney Brian Lubkeman said he could look into it.