Today City of Elkins received the below summary of measures taken against COVID-19 from the White House’s Intergovernmental Affairs Office: (more…)
Upon Mayor Broughton’s declaration of a citywide state of emergency on March 17, 2020, and based on recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control regarding minimizing infection risk during the coronavirus pandemic, Elkins Common Council temporarily suspended council and committee meetings.
This suspension was necessary because of the requirement, under the West Virginia Open Meetings Act, that the public must be able to attend any meeting of a city council or other governing body of a political subdivision in West Virginia. Because of the federal recommendation that people avoid gatherings of ten people or more, and because the City of Elkins did not yet have the capability to enable remote access to meetings, there was no way to proceed that was both legal and safe for the public and for city officials and staff.
After research and testing, city staff has selected the Zoom conferencing platform to enable remote attendance of meetings by city officials, staff, and members of the public. By using Zoom , anyone who wants to can join and listen to council and committee meetings by either dialing in (audio only) or by using the Zoom app or web platform.
Like many other West Virginia cities exploring remote meeting options, we have not found a satisfactory way to enable live public comment via this platform while still ensuring an orderly meeting. The best solution we can offer right now is that we will accept public comment submitted via email or telephone call/voice mail to the city clerk up to 30 minutes before the start of each meeting. Public comments received in this way will be read aloud at the meeting. (Please note that current council rules restrict each public comment to five minutes in length.)
Elkins City Clerk
Jessica R. Sutton
Phone: (304) 636-1414, ext. 1211
401 Davis Avenue, Elkins, WV, 26241
Mayor Broughton released this statement on Facebook today:
Wanted to check in with everyone since the State of Emergency got declared.
I can’t blame you if you’re feeling anxious. To be honest, I am too. We’ve had State of Emergencies before, for storms and floods. This is different, like nothing we’ve experienced before. There is a lot we don’t know about how this whole thing is going to turn out.
Here are some things I do know for sure. (more…)
Since the mayor’s declaration Tuesday, the City of Elkins has been and remains under a citywide state of emergency. (There are also national and statewide declared emergencies.) By themselves, declared states of emergency mainly enable streamlining of government operations and do not automatically impose restrictions on businesses or private citizens.
However, the governor of West Virginia has issued the following additional orders: (more…)
March 18, 2020
At 1 p.m. today, Elkins officials joined a White House COVID-19 Briefing Call, which included presentations by Vice President Mike Pence and representatives of the CDC, FEMA, DHHS, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, Homeland Security, USDA, the Department of Education, and other key agencies involved in the nation’s coronavirus (COVID-19) response.
Speakers made certain key points worth calling out here. (more…)
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Updated to reflect the president’s “15 Days to Slow the Spread of Coronavirus” recommendations. Visit coronavirus.gov to review the complete set of recommendations.
The nation, the state, and the City of Elkins are now under states of emergency. Barring additional orders, a state of emergency does not impose any mandatory restrictions on private businesses or on county or city governments.
However, last night, the White House issued new guidance for all Americans. (more…)
March 17, 2020
Mayor Van Broughton today declared a citywide state of emergency in Elkins in response to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. To further mitigate against this threat and to comply with federal recommendations concerning social distancing to protect the public and city staff and officials, the mayor has also cancelled all city meetings until further notice. A state of emergency does not impose any restrictions on the public, but it does enable the mayor to order restrictions if necessary. (The proclamation text appears at the bottom of this post.)
City hall remains closed to the public until further notice. All core city services and operations will continue to be provided, although steps are being taken to minimize non-essential contact between city staff and the public. The Treasurers’ Department will be operating and can receive phone calls, but all business must be transacted online, via the drop box behind city hall, or by mail. The Elkins Fire Department remains on duty but has closed its building to the public. The Elkins Police Department remains on duty, but officers may be wearing gloves or other protective gear when interacting with the public, out of an abundance of caution.
“I know that we are all deeply concerned about the threat COVID-19 poses to our city and nation,” said Broughton. “At this point, it is only a matter of time before confirmed cases are identified and the real threat of spread is upon us. We find ourselves as West Virginias in the unique and fortunate position of being able to take proactive measures against this worldwide pandemic, and that is why I have decided to take these actions.”
Mayors are granted authority for emergency declarations under West Virginia Code 15-5-1. The mayor’s emergency proclamation has been posted online and at city hall. It will also be transmitted to the governor’s office and to the office of the Randolph County Commission.
The text of the proclamation may be reviewed below. A scan of the signed proclamation may be viewed by clicking here.
The mayor has also issued emergency updates to the city’s personnel policy.
WHEREAS, as of March 17, 2020, the World Health Organization has confirmed 173,344 worldwide cases of the novel coronavirus (“COVID-19”), including 7,019 deaths; and,
WHEREAS, as of March 17, 2020, there are 1,714 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and thousands more pending or presumed, in the United States, including 68 deaths; and,
WHEREAS, as of March 17, 2020 West Virginia has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, however, every other state throughout the country does have confirmed cases of the virus; and,
WHEREAS, on March 13, 2020, the President of the United States declared a national emergency; and,
WHEREAS, on March 16, 2020, the Governor of West Virginia declared a state emergency; and,
WHEREAS, the State of West Virginia and the City of Elkins have the opportunity to take proactive and preventative measures to slow down or stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities;
NOW THEREFORE, I, Van T. Broughton, Mayor of the City of Elkins, do hereby proclaim pursuant to the authority granted in West Virginia Code § 15-5-1, et seq., and Elkins City Charter Sec. 20, et seq., that the spread of COVID-19 in the United States creates an existing and threatened state of emergency endangering the lives, safety, health and welfare of the people within the City of Elkins; and,
I HEREBY DECLARE to all persons the existence of this state of emergency and, in order to more effectively protect the welfare of the people within the City, effective upon the signing of this proclamation, I will be exercising the authority granted to me in West Virginia Code § 15-5-1, et seq., and Elkins City Charter Sec. 20, et seq., through the issuance of executive orders, emergency policies, and use and direction of City personnel, services, and equipment to perform acts necessary to the management of this existing and threatened state of emergency; and,
I FURTHER DELEGATE to the City Clerk the same authority granted to me in West Virginia Code § 15-5-1, et seq., and Elkins City Code Sec. 20, et seq., to issue such policies and direct City personnel, services, and equipment, to perform acts necessary to the management of this existing and threatened state of emergency.
Pursuant to the authority granted to me in West Virginia Code § 15-5-1, et seq., and Elkins City Code Sec. 20, et seq., it shall be unlawful for any person to violate any provision of any restriction imposed by the executive orders or emergency policies issued under the authority of this proclamation.
Upon execution, this proclamation shall be filed with the City Clerk and a copy shall be sent to the Randolph county Commission and the Governor of West Virginia. This proclamation and any executive order or emergency policy issued under the authority of this proclamation shall be available for public view on the City of Elkins website.
This proclamation shall be in effect until I issue a subsequent proclamation rescinding the existing and threated state of emergency.
DATED this 17th day of March at 1:30 p.m.
Elkins City Hall is closed Tuesday, March 17, and all non-essential city employees are excused. Essential employees must still report for work. During the day Tuesday, officials will evaluate whether to reopen city hall to the public on Wednesday or whether to implement modified procedures to reduce risk of coronavirus transmission. (Utility bills may be paid online or via the drop box behind city hall.)
This closure is the result of a policy adopted by Elkins city council several years ago–a policy triggered today by Governor Jim Justice’s declaration of a state of emergency for West Virginia and its 55 counties.
“For a number of years, City of Elkins has had a policy of closing in response to a declaration of a countywide emergency,” says Jessica Sutton, the Elkins city clerk. “This policy was clearly created with weather emergencies or perhaps catastrophic events in mind–situations when it both might not be possible for employees to travel to work safely and there might be difficulties calling them directly.”
Sutton acknowledges that the policy needs revisiting.
“Obviously, this policy is not a good fit for the kind of situation we face with coronavirus and the governor’s declaration,” says Sutton. “It’s easy to imagine that the governor’s state of emergency might be in place for quite some time. One good thing is that it does give us the opportunity to carefully consider how we can keep employees and the public as safe as possible from coronavirus.”
Thursday’s council agenda includes an item to consider updates to this policy.
Monday, March 16, 2020
According to West Virginia DHHR, there are still no confirmed coronavirus cases in West Virginia.
At a press conference this afternoon, Governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for West Virginia and all 55 West Virginia counties. Barring additional orders from the governor, a state of emergency does not impose any mandatory restrictions on private businesses or on county or city governments.
However, in the words of the governor, “let’s err to the safe side.” The City of Elkins suggests that area residents and business owners consider some of the ideas in the following list.
These are not orders in Elkins or West Virginia, but some of these steps have been ordered in states and cities across the country. Because of the possibility that such orders may be issued in West Virginia at some point, it may be helpful for everyone to give some thought to how they might be able to comply, and to consider whether it might make sense to take some of these steps now, voluntarily.
Please continue monitoring this channel and the news media for updates. This is a fluid situation and may change quickly.
- The CDC recommends canceling or postponing gatherings of 50 or more people, including church services, sporting events, social occasions, etc. Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing.
- Businesses can limit entrance to their stores to minimize the number of people present at any one time.
- Businesses with drive-through facilities can close their dining rooms and lobbies to the public, limiting customer service to drive-through only.
- Restaurants can restrict service to carry-out only (some at curbside).
- Businesses can follow the lead of all federal and state government agencies by eliminating non-essential travel.
- Businesses can implement flexible remote work policies and, where this is not possible, reduce staffing levels present at any one time. (Keep in mind that many parents now have no childcare options other than remaining at home themselves.)
- Businesses can institute temporary exceptions to current sick-leave policies. (If an employee tests positive for coronavirus, the current medical recommendation will be for the person to remain quarantined at home for two weeks—if they are not hospitalized.)