3 Supervisors Ask to Reopen Leesburg, Western Loudoun, Contradicting Health Officials

Three county supervisors representing western and southern Loudoun, as well the Town of Leesburg, have requested the governor allow their districts to begin reopening despite warnings from health officials.

Supervisors Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin), Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) and Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam on Wednesday asking him to allow their constituents to begin phase one of his “Forward Virginia” plan.

“Loudoun is in a strong position medically, and a dangerously fragile position economically,” the letter reads. “Please let us start Phase One now. It is time for us to start taking small, careful steps toward restarting our economy. We need to give our residents and local businesses a fighting chance to rescue their livelihoods.

They were the same three supervisors who opposed signing a letter over the weekend requesting that Northern Virginia be allowed to delay its reopening, as the region still has limited testing, limited supplies of protective equipment and more infections per capita than the rest of the state. Northam granted that request with an executive order issued May 8, and while the rest of the state prepares for the first steps of a cautious reopening on Friday, Northern Virginia is still watching for signs that the virus is being brought under control.

Health officials and medical professionals have repeatedly warned political leaders that the virus that causes COVID-19 does not respect political boundaries, and with people commuting among the jurisdictions in the Washington, DC region, elected leaders and administrators have focused on a coordinated response. And while some supervisors argued Loudoun is in a different position than other Northern Virginia localities and should not be included, Loudoun County Health Department Director Dr. David Goodfriend said that’s not the case—while Loudoun is ahead of the region in some metrics, it lags behind in others, such as testing. That was discussed in conferring with other public health officials in the region.

“We didn’t think that Loudoun County was enough of a different experience to say that even though we’re charged with providing recommendations as a region, that I can make a case that Loudoun County was operating differently than the rest of Northern Virginia overall,” Goodfriend said.

Umstattd went farther than the letter in an interview, directly contradicting public health officials by arguing that social distancing has had no effect on the speed at which the virus spreads.

“I personally don’t view this shutdown as having prevented the spread of the virus, but what it has done is it has begun to destroy both livelihoods and small businesses,” Umstattd said. “I don’t think the shutdown is doing much good at all, if you look back at the original statements made by medical experts, they weren’t arguing that we could prevent people from getting the virus indefinitely. They were arguing that that we needed to spread out the number of patients of a longer period of time so as not to overwhelm the hospitals.”

That is a direct refutation of reports to the county Board of Supervisors by Goodfriend, who has repeatedly told supervisors that social distancing has had the desired effect in Loudoun of slowing the rate at which the virus spreads and preventing the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. During those reports he has also advised Loudouners to keep being cautious lest the rate of new infections increase.

“I don’t think it’s made a difference,” Umstattd said. “I think this virus is so contagious, it was going to get to people regardless, because there’s no way not to interact in some way with the larger community. You can have food delivered, but the virus is strong enough that it can last on boxes, et cetera.”

Asked if that means the entire region should reopen immediately, Umstattd said yes.

She laid the blame for the alleged failure of social distancing at the feet of the federal response, which she said has failed to provide adequate planning and equipment. She pointed in particular to the Trump administration’s decision in 2018 to disassemble the Global Health Security and Biodefense unit, which formerly oversaw pandemic preparedness. And she said that has led to state and local officials being unable to protect vulnerable populations, such as the elderly.

“When the federal government is incapable of insuring that we have enough medical equipment and enough tests, it is going to be perhaps impossible for the state and localities to fully contain the virus,” Umstattd said. “So that’s what you’re stuck with.”

She also downplayed the virus’ danger.

“What you have done is you’ve failed to protect the vulnerable, largely because of federal incompetence, and you are destroying the lives of people who are not at risk,” Umstattd said. “Even among the elderly, the vast majority are going to survive this if they get it, and then as you go through the younger age groups, a larger and larger majority survives. But they are not protected now, and yet everybody else who is not at risk is being terribly and permanently damaged financially.”

rgreene@loudounnow.com

5 thoughts on “3 Supervisors Ask to Reopen Leesburg, Western Loudoun, Contradicting Health Officials

  • 2020-05-15 at 10:09 am
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    Supervisor Umstattd is again a voice of reason.

  • 2020-05-15 at 5:58 pm
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    Simple question: What happens when May 29th comes around, and there is no change in Loudoun County? Well, it is clear that is going to be the situation at the end of May. No change. So what does Chair Randell. Supervisors Briskman, Turner, Glass, etc, do when that happens? Demand another two week shutdown, and then another two week shut down, and then another, and another, and another. More likely, they will begin the lie, that suddenly, at the end of May, all is so much better we can now reopen. Because that will be a lie. Reality is not a nice thing, is it, to those supervisors that want to destroy peoples lives by keeping with a shutdown that clearly is having no impact, at all. Maybe this news source should start posting the pictures of those people who have lost their jobs, their businesses, their homes.

  • 2020-05-15 at 6:48 pm
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    Ordinarily, I think Kristen Umstattd makes a lot sense, has her constituents interests always at heart…so, this moment where she aligns herself with two Republican know-nothings…well, it’s making me wonder what happened to her. Buffington is a known nothing and Caleb is one of those people who thinks Earth is only 7000 years old. They both get the “worthless as usual” pass. Go ahead, open things up…only the most stupid among us will rush to patronize these businesses. Is there a stupid shortage? No, but you can’t make a living off it (national leadership excepted).

  • 2020-05-16 at 4:09 pm
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    Supervisor Umstattd is clearly expressing the interest of her constituents LL. If you choose to cower in your home because some “expert” told a politician all is doom, and that dolt pol fell for it, so be it.

    While the other democrats and R on the worst board of supervisors ever, take glee in suppressing business owners, raising taxes, and coming up with the scare of the week, Umstattd looks at reality and comes to a different conclusion — people can get back to thriving with understanding and knowledge.

    Cast all the sleezy partisan slurs you’ve been trained to say from cable news, and stay home.

    I have many policy differences with Umstattd, but I’ve always recognized her as a dedicated public servant beholden not to ideology so much, but refreshingly, to the people she serves. You, like the original thought challeged robots on the worst board of supervisors ever, are woefully out of touch with the needs of The People.

  • 2020-05-18 at 5:39 pm
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    The Big Lie is now in. Loudoun can’t reopen until May 29th, but Gov Northan says its ok to go to the beach (Virginia Beach). ReallY?! Crowded beaches are now the safe place to be, but little ol’ Loudoun is the plague place?! Next, we will hear from Chair Randell claim that we in Loudoun County are now ok, and we are ready to open with a bang! Really?! Pressure got to both of them, and they fold. Clearly those two are worshipers of The Big Lie!

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