City offices, courts to close for extended period

Published 10:13 pm Monday, March 16, 2020

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City buses will still run and trash will be picked up, but most other city services and offices will be closed through at least March 27, and the Mills Godwin Jr. Courts Building will be closed through at least April 3 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that has swept the United States and the world.

This comes in the wake of the second death in the Peninsula Health District from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

“It is a sad day in our community as we learn that a local resident has died from COVID-19,” Dr. Steve Julian, acting director of the Peninsula Health District, said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to his family and friends. We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus.”

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COVID-19 continues to spread across the state, as the Virginia Health Department is reporting 51 cases as of noon Monday, up from 45 on Sunday, with clusters of cases reported in northern Virginia and in the James City County area. There have been four cases reported in Virginia Beach, but none so far in the Western Tidewater Health District, which includes the cities of Suffolk and Franklin, as well as Isle of Wight and Southampton counties. The state health department said on its website that 489 people had been tested.

Nationwide, positive COVID-19 cases have more than doubled since Friday, going from 1,621 to 3,487 as of noon Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has reported 68 deaths, with 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands all reporting positive COVID-19 cases.

Courthouse closed

The Mills Godwin Jr. Courts Building and related courts will be closed through April 3, with the exception of emergency matters, according to Suffolk Sheriff E.C. Harris, who said all civil, traffic and criminal matters, including jury trials, will be continued through April 3 with the exception of continuations that would impose on defendants’ right to a speedy trial.

He said any defendant with a speedy trial concern should contact their attorney and the court for further direction.

Harris said anyone who has a question or an emergency matter for any court should call the respective court clerk’s office before coming to the courthouse:

  • Suffolk Circuit Court — 514-7800
  • Suffolk General District Court — 514-4850
  • Suffolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court — 514-7790

Other questions can be directed to the Suffolk Sheriff’s Office at 514-7840.

The court closure comes after Donald W. Lemons, chief justice of the Virginia Supreme Court, issued an order declaring a judicial emergency Monday.

Some city services operating, many others not

Suffolk Transit and the Suffolk Executive Airport will continue to operate on their normal schedules. City employees will also report to work, and essential services, including trash pickups, will continue.

However, the city’s recreation centers, libraries and Visitor Center will all stay closed, as will the Suffolk Art Gallery, Suffolk Seaboard Coastline Railroad Museum and Suffolk Animal Care. The Treasurer’s offices and Commissioner of the Revenue’s offices at City Hall and their satellite offices at the North Suffolk Library will also stay closed.

All city-managed events are canceled, as are all scheduled meetings of City Council, the Planning Commission and other boards and commissions for the next two weeks. The Planning Commission was scheduled to meet Tuesday, while City Council was scheduled to meet Wednesday. The Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority has also canceled its March meeting.

The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts closed Monday and tentatively plans to reopen March 31. All performances, art exhibitions, Jester’s Gallery Shop, public programs, group tours, classes, meetings and events scheduled through that time will be postponed. The Della Mae concert April 4 with special guest Dori Freeman and Dempsey, as well as the April 26 concert with the Chowan University Choir have been postponed and will be rescheduled.

The Suffolk Public Library will be using its Facebook and YouTube pages to bring a virtual Storytime Rhymes and More at 10 a.m., 10:45 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.

Other closures and changes

The Suffolk News-Herald offices will be closed to the public. The paper will continue to publish on its regular schedule. (Click here for more information).

According to its website, the Western Tidewater Regional Jail has canceled visitation by family and friends. Attorneys are still allowed to visit.

Sentara Healthcare and Bon Secours has suspended all routine visits as of Monday until the transmission of COVID-19 is no longer a threat. It has also established a call center at 1-833-945-2395 which will operate from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and will direct callers to appropriate resources.

Sentara has also opened three COVID-19 drive-through screening locations — at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital in Virginia Beach, at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center in Williamsburg and Sentara Edinburgh in Chesapeake.

Its hospitals, including Sentara Obici Hospital, now have dedicated respiratory units for in-patients who have tested presumptive positive for COVID-19 or are awaiting test results. Only essential staff will care for patients, all while wearing full protective gear.

Dominion Energy, in addition to suspending disconnections for nonpayment, will be reconnecting residential customers who were previously disconnected for nonpayment.

Regal Cinemas, including the Regal Harbour View Grande in North Suffolk, will be closed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

School division food distribution schedule

Suffolk Public Schools will start distributing breakfast and lunch to students beginning Tuesday through March 27.

King’s Fork High School will serve as the division’s food distribution hub and will be open to distribute food weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon, according to a letter from Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III.

There will be 11 bus routes that will fan out to 37 locations throughout the city from 9 to 11:45 a.m.

The food distribution schedule is in response to the coronavirus pandemic that has closed schools at least through March 27. Most school division employees will work remotely, with only essential staff available to continue some of the division’s daily operations, Gordon said.

Parents or guardians listed on their child’s emergency card will also be allowed to pick up medications and/or treatment at the front office of their child’s school between 8 a.m. and noon Tuesday. They are asked to bring identification for verification.

Gordon said students are encouraged to use materials and instructional packets provided by teachers and staff. Secondary level students are encouraged to use the SPS Connect initiative to participate in learning activities through Google Classroom, the Google suite and additional resources that can be found at

No student work will be graded but will need to be completed. Parents and guardians are asked to email teachers for individual student questions and teacher office hours.

Gordon said no decisions have been made about altering the nine weeks’ marking period or Standards of Learning assessments.

In a conference call with the Virginia Department of Education Friday, Gordon said school divisions have been made aware that missed days will not count against them, and that the SOL calendar will be adjusted based on the total number of days missed.

Gordon also said no decisions have been made to alter spring break as of now.

The weekday food distribution schedule is as follows:

Route 1 – Bus 121

Temple Beth El entrance – 9 to 9:15 a.m.

Plummer Blvd. and Skinner Blvd. – 9:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m.

Bullock Mobile Park – 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Route 2 – Bus 414

Townpoint and Pughsville Road – 9 to 9:15 a.m.

600 Old College Dr. – 9:30 to 9:45 a.m.

Col. Fred Cherry Middle School – 10 to 10:15 a.m.

Route 3 – Bus 478

Chuckatuck Square – 9 to 9:15 a.m.

YMCA Godwin Blvd. – 9:30 to 9:45 a.m.

King’s Landing – 10 a.m.

Route 4 – Bus 495

Elephant’s Fork Elementary School – 9 to 9:15 a.m.

Pruden Center – 9:30 to 9:45 a.m.

Saratoga Park – 10 to 10:15 a.m.

Lakeside Park – 10:30 to 10:45 a.m.

Route 5 – Bus 425

Library Parking Lot, W. Washington St. – 9 to 9:15 a.m.

Peanut Park – 9:30 to 10:45 a.m.

Colander Bishop – 11 to 11:15 a.m.

Corner of Finney and Holladay streets – 11:30 to 11:45 a.m.

Route 6 – Bus 99

Kilby Shores Elementary School – 9 to 9:15 a.m.

Suffolk Station 9:30 to 9:45 a.m.

Nancy Drive (Autumn Ridge and Lynnhill) – 10 to 10:15 a.m.

Route 7 – Bus 411

Hoffler Apartments – 9 to 9:15 a.m.

Booker T. Washington Elementary School – 9:30 to 9:45 a.m.

Hollywood (Community Center Pool) – 10 to 10:15 a.m.

Route 8 – Bus 14

Pughsville – 9 to 9:15 a.m.

Creekside Elementary School – 9:30 to 9:45 a.m.

Bullock Mobile Park – 10 to 10:15 a.m.

Route 9 – Bus 115

Pioneer Elementary School – 9 to 9:15 a.m.

Holland Community Center – 9:30 to 9:45 a.m.

J & L Tackle Shop – 10 to 10:15 a.m.

Holland Ballfield – 11 to 11:15 a.m.

Route 10 – Bus 408

Lake Kennedy Park – 9 to 9:15 a.m.

Nansemond River High School – 9:45 to 10 a.m.

Route 11 – Bus 120

Wilson Pines – 9 to 9:15 a.m.

Heritage Acres – 9:30 to 9:45 a.m.

Magnolia Lakes – 10 to 10:15 a.m.