Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office

TAZEWELL, Va. — Tazewell County is cracking down on and dispersing gatherings at outdoor venues that defy social distancing orders.

The Board of Supervisors discussed the issue in a meeting Monday, said board Chair Charlie Stacy, and the board has asked law enforcement to patrol parks, playgrounds and basketball courts, where those gatherings have been seen.

“It’s been everywhere,” he said of the lack of social distancing in communities and other counties, with everyone working together to try to disperse crowds and stop basketball games.

“We asked our sheriff (Brian Hieatt) to be as aggressive as he can be in disbanding groups of 10 or more,” he said, and to remind them it is part of the Governor’s order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Stacy said he has also talked with officials in Bluefield, W.Va. on the issue and they are all on the same page.

In other moves to avoid the spread of the virus in the county, split shifts are being implemented for all county employees to avoid as much contact as possible.

Stacy said this is especially important with first-responders because if one person contracts the virus, other co-workers who have made contact would have to be quarantined.

“We received an update from the county administrator (Eric Young) on contingency plans for all departments and agencies that are vital to government functions,” he said. “They all have contingency plans in case an employee becomes sick.”

With the split shifts and staggered schedules, essential services can be staffed even if someone is ill, he added.

Supervisors also announced the courthouse will be closed to the public between 8 a.m. to noon on Monday and noon to 4 p.m. on Fridays to give the janitorial staff opportunities for deep cleaning and disinfecting.

The Miners Park in Boissevain has also been closed.

Stacy said the board is already tackling revenue issues as a result of the pandemic and slowdown in business.

Young requested authority to access a contingency fund to move money around to deflect a loss of revenue.

“We anticipate between a $400,000 and $800,000 reduction in sales tax revenue,” Stacy said. “So we are … moving money around to keep things going.”

The board also voted to give $20,000 to the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens for its meals on wheels program to make sure food keeps being delivered to the elderly shut-ins.

That money, he said, is left over from a fund that helped coal miners laid off after the closure of the Black Jewel Mine last year.

Stacy said he urges people to call elderly people who can’t get out not only to check on them but also to converse  and help them not to feel isolated and lonely.

One issue that has surfaced that impacts the government negatively, he said, is incorrect information spread on Facebook and other social media.

“We are encouraging people to please not treat social media as valid sources of news,” he said. “Any facts about Covid-19 (coronavirus) can be found on the Virginia Department of Health and the Center for Disease Control websites.”

“There is a lot of misinformation and angry threads out there,” he said. “Facebook has truly not been a friend of government during an emergency.”

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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