Accomack County’s small businesses and their employees suffered another blow last night when the Accomack County Board of Supervisors voted 5-4 not to move forward with Governor Northam’s phase one recovery plan. The lockdown will continue in Accomack County for another two weeks. Chincoteague the Town of Saxis and Northampton have agreed to proceed to Phase 1 earlier. The supervisors were given four options by County Administrator Mike Mason. The first option was to do nothing and let the Governor’s Phase 1 take effect. Option 2 would be to request a two week extension of the current restrictions which would end May 28. Option 3 would be to support the Governor’s Phase 1 easing of restrictions but have the EMS Director release an advisory statement urging residents to continue practicing protective measures. Option 4 would be to request a 7 day delay pending the release of further data by the state concerning Accomack County.
Northampton County voted Tuesday night to proceed with Phase One of Governor Northam’s plan, barring positive test results from the drive through testing being above 15%.
Jon Richardson of the Eastern Shore Health District told the Board that state data that is used by the Governor to determine if Virginia is meeting certain criteria has not been broken down to the local level and he doesn’t know if or when it will. The information collected by Perdue and Tyson is propriatary. It is not certain that the data Accomack wants will become available.
Richardson said that of the 1412 tests administered at Eastern Shore Community College, of the over 1000 results obtained so far, 3.51% tested positive. The tests were administered Friday and Saturday and the testing was open to anyone. It was not limited to Eastern Shore residents.
Supervisor Donald Hart stated that this wasn’t an easy decision for him but that Accomack County rates among the top six counties in the state in terms of. cases per 100,000 and ranked number nine in the entire state. Hart said that the county hasn’t received any results from testing conducted at the two poultry plants. Hart said he favored waiting two weeks to get more information. Governor Northam plans to institute phase two on March 28 and the county will have no other option but to go along regardless of what data the county receives. Northam is currently keeping Northern Virginia at phase 0 now.
Supervisor Billy Joe Tarr, whose district instituted Phase 1 plans Tuesday said he agreed with Hart and the additional time would help provide for the safety and security of our citizens.
Supervisor Vanessa Johnson said that opening up too quickly could result in needless suffering and possibly death and could possibly set the county back economically.
Supervisor Ron Wolf said that the difference on where we are right now and the Phase 1 lifting of some restrictions is really not that great. Wolf said that most restaurants do not have outdoor seating so the number that would benefit would be small. Wolf said that lack of numbers from the State make it difficult to make a decision. He said that the citizens would not be affected much if we extended the current restrictions. Wolf called the decision the most difficult he has had to make.
Supervisor Robert Crockett took a different angle. Crockett agreed that the difference between current restrictions and Phase 1 wasn’t significant. But Crockett said with Northampton and Chincoteague moving forward, Accomack County smaller businesses would be left behind. Crockett said that hair dressers in lower Accomack County can’t go to work but those in Exmore and Chincoteague can. You can go to a campground on Chincoteague and Cape Charles but not at Tall Pines, Crockett said that holding Accomack County back would put it in a tight spot between two communities who have already opened. Crockett said we already have a lot of numbers from Perdue and Tyson. He said we need to go to Phase 1 because the small businesses will benefit,
Supervisor Jackie Phillips said there is a lot of depression and anxiety and we have to take steps to get people back to work. He said it is possible to move forward if we do due diligence.
Supervisor Harris Phillips said that if the virus does spread it won’t matter whether we are at Phase 0 or Phase 1. Phillips cited Ocean City which opened the beach and the boardwalk last weekend.
Supervisor Muhly said he supports what the Governor is doing and while it is a small step it is very important.,
Chairwoman Renita Major said she opposed option 2 because we do not have the data. She said two more weeks won’t hurt. Major said it is a battle between people and profit.
Supervisor Crockett moved to adopt Option 3.
Supervisors Hart, Tarr, Wolfe, Johnson and Major voted no.
Supervisors Crockett, Harrison Phillips, Jackie Phillips and Paul Muhly voted yes.
The motion was defeated 5-4
The next motion was to continue the restrictions for two more weeks,
That was approved 5-4 with Hart, Tarr, Wolfe, Johnson and Major voting to extend restrictions.
Five members of the Board ignored a request by Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber of Commerce urging the Board to accept the Governor’s Phase One plan to allow employees of small businesses to return to work.
Governor Northam will have to approve the action taken by the Board.