County Manager Ends Local Emergency in Response to COVID-19
Published on August 15, 2022
The Local Emergency for Arlington County, originally declared in response to the public health threat posed by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), ends on Aug. 15, 2022.
The declaration, which went into effect on March 13, 2020, was established to assist in the response and recovery efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It allowed the County to shift to virtual operations, including online permitting, appointments, remote inspections, County Board and Commission meetings, as well as public comment.
"The declaration has been an important tool offering the flexibility needed to better serve our residents, businesses, and visitors,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “The added authorities under an emergency, such as the ability to alter procurement, hiring and zoning rules has served us well. However, as we have learned to cope with a pandemic that will be with us for many months to come the need for these emergency authorities has dwindled."
Many of the new tools, strategies, and approaches borne out of the pandemic will continue as the County moves beyond the local emergency declaration:
Virtual and Hybrid Commission and Advisory Board Meetings
A new Virginia Electronics Meeting Policy goes into effect September 1, 2022, that will offer additional flexibility for hosting virtual and hybrid meetings. This new policy offers most of our Commission and Advisory Boards the option to conduct an all-virtual meeting two times (or 25 percent of all meetings) annually and allows for remote participation for the public and individual Commission Members on exception.
Temporary Outdoor Seating Areas (TOSAs) for Outdoor Dining
During the pandemic, the County stood up TOSAs as an emergency response to indoor dining restrictions and to provide an expedited process for new or expanded outdoor seating at restaurants. Many people have enjoyed outdoor dining with family, friends, and colleagues and these provisions have been critical to restaurant owners for business operations during this time.
Even with the ending of the state of emergency, the TOSA permissions continue under the Continuity of Government Ordinance for another six months through February 2023. Over the next six months, the County will be working to create longer-term solutions that apply the lessons learned from TOSAs to permanent zoning regulations for outdoor seating. The County Manager will provide an update to the County Board in November.
The County’s response to COVID-19 will continue as the declaration ends, including operating vaccination clinics at both Arlington Community Center and Walter Reed Community Center, and offering no-cost testing at four Curative kiosks.
Of course, the end of the declaration does not mean COVID-19 is no longer a threat; we encourage everyone to continue using layered prevention strategies — wear a mask, get tested if exposed or symptomatic, get vaccinated, follow isolation and quarantine guidance, and get COVID-19 treatment if and when necessary.