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NEW: Fairfax County could end local Covid state of emergency next month

The Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

An end may be in sight for the local state of emergency that Fairfax County has had in place since the COVID-19 pandemic upended government operations and daily life in March 2020.

“A County Executive agenda item regarding ending the Local Emergency Declaration that was established to support response and recovery related to the COVID-19 pandemic will go before the Board of Supervisors at their next meeting on Tuesday, September 13,” Fairfax County Director of Public Affairs Tony Castrilli said in a statement.

The local state of emergency was declared on March 17, 2020 and expanded the county’s ability to adapt its operations, mobilize resources and apply for funding to address the public health crisis, which shut down schools, parks, and other public facilities just a day earlier.

In addition to enabling more virtual services and meetings, the declaration paved the way for the county to temporarily suspend its permitting requirements for outdoor dining and fitness activities with an uncodified ordinance first adopted on May 28.

Originally set to expire after 60 days, the ordinance was extended that July and then revised in October 2020 to allow closed tents with the weather turning colder.

As approved by the board on July 27, 2021, the eased outdoor dining rules will remain in effect until 12 months after the local emergency declaration ends.

Fairfax County will be one of the last Northern Virginia jurisdictions to lift its state of emergency, following in the footsteps of Loudoun County, Prince William, Alexandria, and Arlington.

With the vote still a month away, county staff are reviewing the details and implications of potentially ending the emergency declaration.

In Alexandria and Arlington, the return of pre-pandemic regulations for outdoor dining frustrated some restaurant owners, while the towns of Vienna and Herndon have developed new policies to permanently streamline their processes.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says he anticipates “minimal challenges” if Fairfax County ends its state of emergency:

For more than two years, the Board of Supervisors has worked nonstop to manage the County’s path through these extraordinary times. When the specifics of the recommendation to end the state of emergency are presented, we expect minimal challenges to implement should the Board decide to do so. I worked to have state legislation passed that allows Fairfax County to keep our uncodified ordinance in effect 12 months after the end of a local state of emergency, permitting for instance expanded outdoor dining to continue. We have also worked with County staff for many months to plan for this transition and ensure it is seamless, including proactive outreach plans for any impacted businesses.

Covid cases have been in decline for over a month now in the Fairfax Health District, which is averaging 249 cases per day for the past week, as of yesterday (Monday).

The district, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, had recorded a total of 10 cases when the county declared its local state of emergency.

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