Effective May 3, Nelson county departments will officially be open to the public following a monthslong closure as a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to County Administrator Steve Carter, county offices — which resides in the same building as the courthouse — have been closed for roughly eight to 10 months while courts have continued to operate.
“We have not actually turned people away but have sought the public’s cooperation in endeavoring to transact business with the County through means other than in person,” Carter said in a April 27 email.
Carter said the use of alternative means of contacting staff still is “strongly encouraged” to both protect staff and the public. He noted the decision to reopen county offices was difficult.
“The well-being of County employees and, of course, the public is of ultimate importance to me,” Carter said in the email.
Administration was forced to temporarily close department doors in December when a wave of COVID-19 cases and potential exposures swept through various offices.
The decision was influenced by ongoing vaccination efforts and access for all county employees and with the understanding that staff will continue to maintain current safety measures.
A notice posted to the county’s website states if an in-person visit is necessary, the public is advised to contact the department ahead of time and to schedule an appointment, allowing staff to ensure there is a limited number of individuals within the office at the time of the visit.
People should plan their visit ahead of time to minimize time spent for an appointment and the number of visitors should be limited as much as possible. Upon arrival to a department facility, other than the courthouse, the notice advises the public to remain in their vehicle and call the department to help staff better prepare.
Building personnel will screen any guests that enter the building, the notice states. Masks and maintaining a minimum social distancing of 6 feet are required. Refusal to wear a mask will result in the visitor being asked to leave the department and make other arrangements for assistance.
“All of the above measures are to protect both County staff and you from the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Whenever federal and state regulations and safety directives are amended to lessen the precautions against the virus so too will Nelson County,” the notice reads.
Although departments are reopening and vaccination efforts are ongoing, Carter said he does not want staff or the public to let their guard down when it comes to the virus.
“County staff are very capable of assisting the public in every respect without direct, in person contact,” Carter said. “However, if someone has to absolutely meet in person with County staff, then we will oblige them but with the understanding that we will and they must do so as safely as possible. It’s just that important.”
The public’s access to county departments does not include elected constitutional offices, which are responsible for decisions pertaining to their own offices, the notice states.
For more information or the contact information of various county departments, visit www.nelsoncounty-va.gov.