County asks Governor Northam to allow local businesses to open immediately

Pulaski County is asking Gov. Ralph Northam to immediately allow “non-essential” and retail businesses in the county to open with practical COVID-19 health safety practices.

The county’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution Monday night officially requesting action by the governor.

“Different areas of Virginia have seen different levels of cases of COVID-19,” said Supervisors Chairman Joe Guthrie. “There have been a lot fewer cases in this region and in the New River Health District in particular. It makes sense to us to look at a faster reopening here – while still keeping in mind necessary public health and common-sense procedures.”

Guthrie said the board feels like areas such as ours that have seen fewer cases are more ready and able to reopen.

“The reason for a lot of the measures we’ve taken were to prevent an overwhelming of our healthcare system. So far that hasn’t been an issue for us in Pulaski County or the New River Health District,” Guthrie said.

County Administrator Jonathan Sweet said Monday night the county had experienced 11 cases of COVID-19, with no active cases at the time. He noted two of the 11 cases involved prisoners at the New River Regional Jail. “They are in isolation,” Sweet added.

Sweet said Pulaski County and other regional partners are asking the governor to reopen the state in a different phased approach, using the same metrics for health districts.

“The New River Health District has the hospital capacity, the testing capacity and a low case load. They talk about flattening the curve, Pulaski County hasn’t even experienced a curve to flatten,” Sweet said.

“We’ve had no hot spots. We’re really in a different position. We could be through phase two and three – but instead we entered into phase one along with the rest of the Commonwealth”

In the resolution, Sweet points out that the New River Health District – which includes Pulaski, Montgomery, Giles and Floyd Counties and the City of Radford – has an estimated population of 181,872.

The resolution states that, as of May 5, the New River Health District has had 80 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection, resulting in 12 hospitalizations and one death.

The resolution also states that – as of May 5 – there are 458 available hospital beds within the health district at LewisGale Hospital Pulaski, LewisGale Hospital Montgomery, Carilion Giles Community Hospital and Carilion New River Valley Medical Center.

Also, the resolution states that the health district has been operating a mobile drive through testing facility since March 31 and Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC has now been approved for and provides rapid testing capability for residents in the district.

The health district, the resolution states, is able to and has been performing contact tracing as needed.

Sweet said all partners in this effort are involved in the same mission – to keep everyone in the New River Health District safe.

“And that means reopening – because of the consequences of keeping us closed. We’re seeing an increase in all these other indicators as a result of isolation and as a result of a stymied economy.

“We’re concerned that the prevention of COVID-19 in Pulaski County and the New River Valley is posing more detrimental effects than the virus itself,” Sweet said.

“An expedient, safe reopening is what we’re requesting from the governor,” Sweet added.

Sweet noted that since March 14, localities within the health district has seen 17,633 new unemployment claims filed.

“Many of which are the direct result of Executive Orders by the governor that allow large retailers to remain open and profitable while small businesses who operate on minimal budgets are disproportionately forced to close and may not be able to ever reopen unless the current executive orders are modified quickly,” the resolution states.

By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot