The Leesburg Town Council looks to make masks an optional accessory in two weeks.
On Tuesday night, the council received an update from Emergency Management Coordinator Joe Dame on the latest COVID-19 statistics, the town government’s mitigation strategies, and the weekly testing program for employees who received a religious or medical exemption from the town’s vaccine mandate, which took effect Jan. 11. Fifty-six town employees are subject to the testing program, which began Feb. 7. The town will receive 100% reimbursement from FEMA for the testing program through March 30.
Although case numbers and the positivity rate in the community have dropped considerably, Dame said the number of cases per 100,000 people still indicates the county is an area of high transmission. As of Tuesday morning, using statistics from the CDC, Loudoun County reported 181.85 new cases per 100,000 people. By the end of the council meeting though, that number had dropped to 116 new cases per 100,000, and a 6.3% positivity rate.
Dame said he recommended heeding the advice of Northern Virginia’s health directors, who recommend easing mitigation strategies 14 days after the area is no longer reporting high community transmission, falling into the moderate or lower categories.
Town Manager Kaj Dentler said his prerogative would be to follow the 14-day CDC guidance, but that the council could direct him otherwise. That indeed may happen.
While acknowledging her ultimate preference to do away with both the mask mandate and the town’s requirement for staff members to be vaccinated, Nacy said “in a spirit of compromise” she wanted to offer an alternative solution—just dropping the requirement for staff and visitors to wear masks on town properties. Vice Mayor Marty Martinez and council members Ara Bagdasarian and Suzanne Fox also indicated support for that move, and a vote on that matter is planned for the council’s March 8 meeting.
Martinez said he would like to see a provision in the resolution allowing the town to bring back the mask mandate if COVID numbers again spike.
“What I don’t want to do is arbitrarily say no more masks … and then we have to go and restart everything over again,” he said.
Mayor Kelly Burk made clear her opposition to ending the mask mandate despite of CDC guidance.
“To change now when we’ve been saying the whole way along we are following data, and then to say we’re not going to follow data anymore doesn’t make any sense at all,” she said.
Nacy also indicated Tuesday her desire to drop the vaccine mandate and testing program by April 1 as long as numbers keep trending downwards. While a council majority did not voice support for that change, instead indicating support for continuing to follow CDC guidelines on that matter, Nacy said she plans to bring that back up at the March 8 meeting.