ROANOKE, Va. – Bedford County leaders are seeking permission from Gov. Ralph Northam to reopen the county.
During Monday night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, they unanimously approved sending ‘A Resolution Urging Governor Northam to Reopen Business’ to the governor.
Supervisor Bob Davis proposed the board go a step farther, but it declined to do so. The board feels as if they’re risking people’s financial health for public health.
“When we see the impact that it’s having on the county, I feel like it’s certainly something that we need to strongly consider, and I would encourage folks to open their businesses,” Davis said.
County leaders cited five main points as to why the county should be allowed to reopen:
- Bedford County and other rural Virginia counties are experiencing significantly less cases per capita than more densely populated areas of the state.
- In Bedford County, there is enough capacity in local and regional hospitals to treat coronavirus patients.
- For the county, the number of new coronavirus cases per day has reached a plateau. Bedford County has a total of 25 cases.
- Right now, thousands people in Central Virginia are out of work, including 3,175 people in Bedford County since March 14.
- Virginia residents and businesses are much more educated regarding health safeguards than when this public health crisis started and are therefore more prepared to safely open.
The board agreed that Governor Northam’s one size fits all approach was not beneficial for rural areas like Bedford County, and instead left small business hung out to dry while larger retailers continue to operate.
“I think our board and our small business, and our citizens, feel that is more of a heavy hand versus a helping hand,” county administrator Robert Hiss said.
Tina Gurley owns local favorite Clam Diggers and backs the board’s move. She sent a similar letter of her own to the state Attorney General earlier in the process.
“I say bravo, as a small business here in the community I’m excited about getting re-opened, I miss my customers, I miss my staff, and I miss my business," Gurley said.
Jim Messier is president of Arthur’s Jewelry. He said health needs to come first, but he is OK with the boards decision.
“I think we definitely need to be moving in the direction that people can make a living again, but we’re just going to be doing things differently," Messier said.
Along with the resolution, leaders also send a letter, as a one-page summary of what they are asking of Northam.
This comes as multiple states have loosened restrictions, while Virginia is looking at reopening “non-essential” business on May 8, with a stay-at-home order expiring on June 10.