Last week, county administrator Scott Simpson had finished preparing a plan to be presented to Halifax County Board of Supervisors on the reopening of county offices to the public, but after an unexpected spike in COVID-19 cases over the weekend, he has decided to prolong the closure.
“I was prepared to tell suggestions on how to reopen to the public until this weekend happened,” Simpson told supervisors at their Monday evening meeting.
He was referring to a jump in coronavirus cases in Halifax County that increased by five over the weekend. Two new reports were added in Saturday morning’s data update by the Virginia Department of Health. Sunday morning’s update increased by three for a total of 37.
As of Tuesday morning, the Virginia Department of Health reported an additional case bringing the total to 38 cases for Halifax County including four hospitalized and one death. VDH data shows 111.4 cases per 100,000 population.
The health department’s website isn’t reporting any new outbreaks in the Southside Health District that encompasses Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties.
Mecklenburg added two new cases in Tuesday’s report and still leads Southern Virginia with a total of 231. However, Henry County’s caseload continues to mount and now stands at 210.
No new deaths have been reported in Southside.
Across the commonwealth, there were 55,331 cases in Tuesday’s report, an increase of 445 from the previous day. There are 1,570 deaths in Virginia attributed to the coronavirus.
Before this weekend, Simpson said the number of cases had levelled off in May, and he said there was only one active case on June 2.
Of the new cases from this weekend, Simpson said a couple of health care workers had tested positive for the virus, which was traceable to a contact.
But, he also said there is “community based exposure,” which he said is not traceable.
The county typically provides daily updates on COVID-19 cases on the county website, halifaxcountyva.gov. Listed on the county website are active cases, recoveries and deaths as well as total cases.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the website listed 38 total cases including eight active, 29 recoveries and one death.
County emergency services coordinator Steve Dishman explained Tuesday the lag is due to technical issues with the website. But, he did say it would be updated.
He receives his information and guidance for posting the material from the Centers for Disease Control and VDH.
However, the VDH is not reporting on individual cases for the public or the media as they had done in the past.
Dishman also explained that those who are considered “active” have tested positive for the coronavirus and are within the 14-day quarantine time frame. Once those 14 days are up, he said they move to the recovered category.
He said the only way someone would remain on the active case for more than 14 days is if they tested positive a second time, which he said at least one individual has.
Before this weekend, Simpson said there were two active cases but he said that increased to eight active cases.
Moving forward, he plans to monitor the VDH data, and as he determines when it’s safe to reopen county departments to the public, he said he would like to do it by department.
Some county buildings already are and have to be open to the public, said Simpson, but he said they’re following safety protocols as directed by Gov. Ralph Northam.
ED-8 supervisor William Bryant Claiborne brought up the fact that there was a softball tournament at the Day Complex in South Boston over the weekend.
Tory Nation held a softball tournament Saturday and Sunday that consisted of more than a dozen teams from Virginia and North Carolina.
Simpson, while recognizing Claiborne’s concern, said the county doesn’t govern those events.
The county administrator said he had his own concerns about the virus in the county because the county had levelled off, and now he said, they don’t know where the virus is coming from.
He also said as county residents continue to get comfortable in the community, the number of cases are going to continue to increase.
But, he said supervisors and employees are “leading by example,” by wearing masks to the meetings, requiring masks in the meeting room and checking the temperature of everyone before they entire the room.
He understands the virus is affecting the tourism industry greatly, especially with the closure of South Boston Speedway.
“Hopefully, we will have positive news in the next couple of weeks,” said Simpson.
Right now, he said they’re still not allowing individuals to rent the shelters at Edmunds Park or the county operated gyms.
They are, however, renting every other campsite at the Halifax County Fairgrounds. He said that was fine as long as non-family members aren’t gathering in large groups.
In the meantime, county offices also are getting creative in ways to meet and do business, said Simpson. He said online, fillable PDFs are available online for several needed documents, and they’ve met in “creative” spaces such as in the gazebo outside.
As he continues to monitor the situation in the county, the county administrator assured supervisors they’ll “reopen at the right time to protect county employees.”