COVID-19|

*If you wish Town police to conduct a welfare check on someone in Town, click here and complete the form.*

*For businesses that have registered with us that they are offer gift card/certificate, merchandise, or food ordering online or by phone, click here*

Resources

 

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July 1, 2020 – County Micro-Grant Program Still Open

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

The Prince William County Economic Development office has sent out a notice that their Small Business Relief Micro-Grant program is still accepting applications. Applications for “Round 2” will stay open as long as funds remain available.

How is this round different from the first? In addition to the businesses that were eligible for Round 1, if your organization is (a) a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, (b) home-based, or (3) employs between 1-50 employees, you may now be considered for a grant and the county is encouraging you to apply.

The Small Business Relief Micro-Grant Program provides financial grants of up to $10,000 to qualified Prince William County small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses in the Town of Occoquan are eligible to apply and this does not preclude such businesses from also applying for a grant from the Town’s program.

For more info and to apply go to https://www.visitpwc.com/dedresources/grants/.

Stay safe and healthy.

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June 29, 2020 – Preparing for Phase 3 and Town Budget

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

This week our area is poised to enter Phase 3 of Virginia’s public health emergency re-opening plan. The most prominent changes will include additional retail openings, full indoor dining, and the allowance of larger social gatherings. Note that Phase 3 still requires the wearing of face coverings in public indoor venues (except when eating or drinking) and social distancing. As you are probably aware there has been a surge of COVID-19 cases elsewhere in the country, which health officials attribute at least partly to noncompliance with social distancing and face covering recommendations. These surges have forced some jurisdictions to reimpose restrictions that were previously lifted. Please help us avoid a similar occurrence in our area by making a good faith effort to social distance, by wearing a face covering where required, and by always keeping such a covering handy in case you are unable to social distance in other settings. Avoiding a calamitous spike in infections and the resulting impact on the public health and economic security is something for which we all share responsibility.

At its last meeting the Town Council adopted the budget and tax rates for fiscal year 2021, which begins on July 1. All tax rates remain unchanged from the prior year. A summary of the budget may be found on the Town web site (www.occoquanva.gov). With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing the FY 2021 budget includes more uncertainty than is typically the case. As a result, it is also more likely than usual that it may require modification during the course of the year. We will, of course, work to monitor revenues and expenses carefully as we work our way through the challenges ahead.

Stay safe and healthy.

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June 10, 2020 – Phase 2 and Occoquan “Virtual” 5K

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

This Friday northern Virginia will enter Phase 2 of Virginia’s COVID-19 public health emergency reopening plan. Among the most notable changes is that restaurants will now be able to open up to 50% of their indoor seating capacity. I know everyone looks forward to increased flexibility in going out and we are grateful for the public support of Occoquan businesses to date. While shopping or dining, or otherwise out and about in Town as we enter Phase 2, remember that social distancing and the wearing of face coverings is still required. Please make a good faith effort to comply.

We’ve had a great response to the Occoquan “Virtual” 5K fundraiser, which has been ongoing since March. Our first finisher was Andrew Poore from just outside of Town way back on March 27, and since then folks have registered not only from Virginia, but from Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Alabama, Texas, and California. As a result of the interest, we are extending the date of the event through Sunday, June 14. To participate, register online and then walk, run, hike, bike, kayak, canoe, or SUP a distance of 5K (3.1 miles) on your own anywhere, including on a treadmill in your home, sometime between now and 11:59 p.m. on June 14, 2020. Once you complete the distance, report the date, start time, and end time. Registration for the Occoquan “Virtual” 5K is $25 and includes the event t-shirt, which will be available a few weeks after the 14th.

Thank you all for your continued patience and cooperation as we work through the issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay safe and healthy.

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June 4, 2020 – County Grant Program, Public Restrooms, and the Post Office

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

Applications for Prince William County’s Small Business Relief Micro-Grant program are still being accepted until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, June 5. Businesses in the Town of Occoquan are eligible to apply for these grants. For more information and to apply, please go to https://www.visitpwc.com/dedresources/grants/.

At its meeting on June 2 the Town Council announced that it will begin a partial reopening of the public restrooms in River Mill Park. These restrooms are currently scheduled to reopen beginning tomorrow, June 5, from noon to 4:00 p.m, will be unisex, and will allow only one user or family group (e.g. parents and children) at a time. Restrooms will be cleaned daily, hand sanitizer will be available, and appropriate signage regarding usage and social distancing will be posted. Please be respectful of other users.

Last, the increase in temperatures has made it impractical to continue to prop open the doors in the Town Post Office. Consequently, individuals going to the post office are advised to take the precautions they deem appropriate when entering and exiting.

Stay safe and healthy.

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May 29, 2020 – Town Grant Program and Traditional Decoration Day

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

At our special meeting last Tuesday, the Town Council approved allocating $30,000 of expected federal funding to a micro-grant program for Town businesses. Funds will be available some time in June and staff are currently developing guidelines and application materials. All businesses with a valid Town business license will be eligible to apply. This program is in addition to the County program announced in an earlier e-newsletter for which Town businesses are also eligible. Please stay tuned in coming weeks for additional information on this program.

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 30, is the traditional date for Decoration Day, established in 1868 and the precursor to Memorial Day (which was itself celebrated on May 30 until 1971 when it was moved to the last Monday in May). Forecasts call for pleasant weather. If you are out and about in Town I would like to encourage you to take a look at the Military Tribute Banners hanging throughout the historic district. These banners were erected just before Memorial Day last weekend through a program administered by Occoquan’s All-American VFW Post 7916. They will hang in Town throughout the summer and provide an opportunity for all of us to reflect beyond just Memorial Day on the sacrifices others have made on our behalf.

Stay safe and healthy.

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May 27, 2020 – Phase 1 and Expanded Outdoor Seating

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

The Occoquan Town Council held a special meeting last evening to plan for the lifting of certain restrictions when Prince William County later this week enters Phase 1 of Virginia’s COVID-19 public health emergency reopening plan. Our primary order of business was to provide for the expedited approval of additional outdoor seating capacity for Town restaurants. As mentioned in a prior e-newsletter, earlier in the month Virginia’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Authority issued guidance on an accelerated approval process for the temporary expansion of outdoor dining areas (the guidance may be viewed here), designed to go into effect when a locality enters Phase 1. Included among the Virginia ABC requirements was a condition that any applicant document the local jurisdiction’s approval of the expansion. To that end the Town has adopted a simple one page form that restaurants can complete and that the Town will attempt to approve within a matter of hours; this should be satisfactory documentation of the Town’s approval for purposes of a restaurant’s expansion application to Virginia ABC.  There is no Town fee for this.

Additionally, the Town Council also agreed to make available, consistent with any traffic safety concerns, parking spaces near restaurants for additional outdoor seating. Any restaurant interested in such an arrangement should contact the Town Hall staff.

Finally, the Town Council also directed staff to redouble grounds and maintenance efforts in the public areas of the business district in anticipation of the partial reopening associated with Phase 1.

This is but the first step in a longer and more extensive reopening process, but I know we all look forward to its progress. Thank you everyone for your cooperation to date and please stay safe and healthy.

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May 22, 2020 – Preparing for Phase 1 and Business Grants

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

The Occoquan Town Council is holding a special meeting on Tuesday, May 26, at 7:00 p.m., to plan for the lifting of certain restrictions when Prince William County is eventually authorized to enter Phase I of Virginia’s COVID-19 public health emergency reopening plan. Two of the items we will be addressing concern expansion of outdoor seating capacity for Town restaurants, while two additional items will address funding now available to the Town and Town businesses.

Outdoor Seating Capacity for Town Restaurants

As some of you might be aware, on May 13 Virginia’s Alcohol Beverage Control Authority issued guidance on an accelerated approval process for the temporary expansion of outdoor dining areas (the guidance may be viewed here). This is particularly relevant at this time because it is anticipated that Phase I reopening will allow restaurants to use a specific percentage of their outdoor seating capacity. The accelerated review by Virginia ABC requires the written approval of the locality where the business is located; developing a streamlined process for that in Occoquan will thus be one of the goals of the special Town Council meeting.

Some jurisdictions are also considering the closure of streets, parking lots/spaces, or other areas to increase capacity for restaurant outdoor seating. Such action is a more complicated issue that may require coordination with multiple parties, the adoption of new ordinances, and careful consideration of whether or not use of the space is counterproductive (e.g. removing scarce parking spaces may limit the customers the expanded outdoor seating is designed to accommodate). This too will be a subject of Tuesday’s meeting.

COVID-19 Funding Available for the Town and Town Businesses

This week the Prince William Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) voted to allocate to the Town of Occoquan $94,380 of the federal coronavirus relief funding it is receiving (funds are being allocated to jurisdictions on a per capita basis). These funds may be used for a variety of expenses related to COVID-19 and are expected to be received in June. The Town Council will be discussing this allocation at Tuesday’s meeting.

Last, the Town has confirmed that Town businesses are eligible for the Small Business Relief Micro-Grant Program offered through the Prince William Department of Economic Development and Visit Prince William. Once up and running this program will provide financial grants of up to $10,000 to qualified businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those businesses holding a valid business license from the Town are eligible for this program. You may find out more information by clicking here (https://www.visitpwc.com/dedresources/grants/).

Please enjoy Memorial Day weekend and stay safe and healthy.

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May 12, 2020 – Phase 1 Reopening for Northern Virginia Delayed

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

Today Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued an Executive Order delaying through May 28 Northern Virginia jurisdictions’ entry into Phase 1 of Virginia’s COVID-19 public health emergency reopening plan.  A reopening under Phase 1, which will will go into effect on May 15 for jurisdictions outside of Northern Virginia, would have permitted restaurants to open 50% of their outdoor seating capacity, retail stores and churches to operate at 50% capacity, and personal care businesses (e.g. hair salons) to operate with certain precautions for staff and customers.  The Governor’s action was taken at the request of various Northern Virginia governments and health directors and covers the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park, the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William, and all the towns located in those counties (the governor’s press release specifically lists some towns and not others apparently in part because the former submitted letters requesting a delay — although not mentioned specifically Occoquan is nevertheless covered by the delay for Prince William County).
You may access the press release from the Office of the Governor by clicking here, and you may read the full text of the Governor’s Executive Order No. 62 by clicking here.

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May 8, 2020 – COVID-19 Data by Zip Code and Phase I Reopening

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is now making COVID-19 case and testing data available by zip code. Currently the Town’s exclusive zip code (22125) shows no cases of COVID-19. While this is certainly very good news, it does come with some important caveats. First, only 12 tests have been reported for the Town zip code. Additionally, VDH notes that they do not have zip code data for every record. Most importantly, two large zip codes nearby, Woodbridge (22191) and Dale City (22193), have the most COVID-19 cases in the state. If you are interested in reviewing the VDH zip code level data it can be found by going to the following link: (https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-data-insights/#ZIP-code).

As some of you are also likely aware, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam today announced guidelines for what is being characterized as “Phase I” of reopening in Virginia to start at the end of next week. Although not available immediately online, the primary substantive changes most relevant to Occoquan businesses are as follows: (1) non-essential businesses, which up until now have been able to stay open provided they limit customers to 10 at a time with appropriate social distancing, will be allowed to open up to 50% capacity, (2) restaurants may open up existing outdoor seating up to 50% capacity, and (3) personal grooming services (e.g. barbershops, hair salons, nail salons) may open for appointments only, with strict social distancing and the use of face coverings. Governor Northam has indicated that Phase I will last a minimum of two weeks. Additionally, he noted that these requirements are a floor, and that local jurisdictions with pre-existing authority (in our case Prince William County) may impose more stringent requirements. At the moment we do not have definitive information on the extent to which County government is considering such restrictions.

I will do my best to disseminate updated information as it becomes available. Please stay safe and healthy.

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April 22, 2020 – RiverFest Merges with Fall Arts & Crafts Show

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

As many of you no doubt anticipated, the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to require that we make adjustments to the Town’s public events. Recognizing the restrictions currently in place and after careful consideration for the health and well-being of residents, patrons, businesses, and the local community, the Town has decided to reschedule our 2020 RiverFest event once slated for June 6 and 7. Originally designed as a substantial modification to our spring arts & craft show, the 2020 RiverFest will instead be merged this year with our fall arts & craft show and renamed the Occoquan RiverFest & Craft Show. Like the traditional fall show it will be held on the last weekend in September, which in this case will be Saturday, September 26 and Sunday, September 27.

Occoquan’s RiverFest & Craft Show will include an Artisan’s Walk where patrons will be able to browse juried art and craft vendors, as well as a vendor Marketplace dedicated to conservation and outdoor water sports. In addition to the traditional arts & crafts show offerings the event will also feature live entertainment, two food courts, a beer garden, a shrimp boil, river cruises, a climbing wall, and stand-up paddleboard and kayak slalom races. We are hopeful that the event will be a fantastic conclusion to the summer.

For more information on the Occoquan RiverFest & Craft Show visit https://www.occoquanva.gov/town-festivals/fall-arts-craft-show/ or contact Julie Little, Events and Community Development Director, at 703-491-2168 or at jlittle@occoquanva.gov. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

Stay safe and healthy.

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April 20, 2020 – Introducing the Occoquan Marketplace

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

Although a variety of businesses in Occoquan are still operating while complying with Virginia regulations associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, many are not equipped to sell merchandise online. In response to this challenge, a group of Occoquan businesses have collaborated to establish the Occoquan Marketplace, a new online market where Occoquan businesses can share their products with friends and customers. Established as a public group on Facebook, the Occoquan Marketplace enables customers to browse and purchase directly from Occoquan businesses, all from the comfort and safety of the customer’s couch.

To visit. join, and to browse or shop what Occoquan businesses have to offer go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/shopoccoquan/. Occoquan businesses who are interested learning more about how to participate in the marketplace should email occoquanmarketplace@gmail.com for more information.

A special thank you to Sarah Hitchcock Burzio of Hitchcock Paper Co and her collaborators for putting the Ococquan Marketplace together.

Stay safe and healthy.

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April 17, 2020 – Chamber of Commerce’s #BusinessStrong and Local Journalism

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

Earlier this week the Prince William Chamber of Commerce launched a new effort to provide to all the region’s businesses the messages and information they normally provide only to their members. This initiative, #BusinessStrong, allows anyone to sign up to receive the PWChamber Alert, a daily email update with business information related to the COVID-19 pandemic from the federal, state, and local governments. It also includes notifications and invitations to webinars and conference calls with information and resources to help businesses face the challenges of the pandemic. Membership in the Chamber is NOT required for this service. For more information and to sign up click here.

A number of individuals have contacted me about local news resources that provide information on the COVID-19 pandemic in Prince William County.  Two that provide daily summaries of COVID-19 case information specific to Prince William County are InsideNova, which has both weekly print and daily online editions and regularly covers Occoquan (they recently noted the hundreds of pounds of food donated in our recent food drive), and the Prince William Times (weekly print and daily online).

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April 8, 2020 – BPOL, Town Elections, and Flushing Wipes

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

In recognition of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town Council voted last evening to delay the payment date for its Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) fees to June 15, 2020. Please note that this deferral does not apply to meals tax payments, which as fiduciary taxes collected from customers and held in trust by the business separate from other funds are due on their normal schedule.

As many of you may have heard today, Governor Ralph Northam has requested that the Virginia General Assembly move all May 2020 local elections to November of 2020 in recognition of the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to take effect his request must be approved by the Virginia General Assembly, which comes back into session on April 22. This would, of course, affect the upcoming Town elections currently scheduled for May 5. At the moment, County Election personnel are proceeding as if elections will take place on May 5. We will provide substantive updates as they become available.

The Prince William County Service Authority (PWCSA) has asked that we emphasize to all customers not to flush sanitary wipes down the toilet, but instead to throw them in the garbage. Whether you are using wipes as a substitute for toilet paper or to disinfect surfaces, wipes are NOT “flushable” – even if they say so on the label. Wipes do not break down in the sewer system like toilet paper and often cling to grease inside sewer lines. If this scenario occurs too often, a blockage can form and lead to sewage backups. When that occurs, Service Authority field staff must put on personal protective equipment and remove them manually. For the sake of your plumbing, the sanitary sewer system, the environment, and the health of Service Authority workers, please do not flush wipes down the toilet — throw them in garbage.

Please stay safe and healthy, and if you have any questions do not hesitate to contact me directly at eporta@occoquanva.gov or on my personal cell phone at 571-276-8695.

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April 1, 2020 – Food Donation Drive (Saturday, April 4, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.)

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

As you are aware, during the COVID-19 pandemic local food banks are experiencing significant shortages.  On Saturday, April 4, the Town of Occoquan will again be operating a food drive from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to support the Good News Community Kitchen in Occoquan and the ACTS Hunger Prevention Center.  Food may be delivered to the cul-de-sac at the northwestern end of Mill Street in the Town of Occoquan between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.  Volunteers at that location may be wearing homemade cloth masks or face shields.  Please note that this does not mean those individuals have the virus.  For those who may not be following the discussion of masks on television or elsewhere, such homemade masks or face shields do not protect the wearer from getting the COVID-19 virus.  They may, however, prevent those individuals from inadvertently sneezing, coughing, etc. in someone’s direction.  In short, volunteers wearing such things are taking extra precautions for the safety of those dropping off food.  When making donations you may place them yourself in the area to which you are directed or volunteers will remove the food from your vehicle at your instruction.

Those who prefer can leave donations on their own porch, steps, walkway, or yard and have it picked up any time between now and 2:00 p.m. on the 4th.  If you choose this option, please complete this form so that we can schedule our pickup accordingly.

Items most in need are jelly, hot and cold cereal, rice, soup, tomatoes (sauced/diced/crushed), and frozen/canned/bagged beans and vegetables.

Thank you in advance for your support.

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March 30, 2020 – 4:00 p.m. (Virginia Stay at Home Order)

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam today issued a temporary stay at home order due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The order directs all individuals to remain at their place of residence except as provided for in the order. Acceptable reasons for leaving your residence are ones with which you are already likely familiar (e.g. obtaining food, seeking medical attention, taking care of others or animals, engaging in outdoor activity for fresh air and exercise, traveling to work, volunteering for charitable or social services, etc.). Restaurants are still permitted to offer carryout, pickup, and delivery; nonessential businesses may still stay open provided they comply with the 10-person limitations; individuals may engage in outdoor activity and exercise provided they practice the required social distancing. Please note, however, that the order specifically prohibits both public and private in-person gatherings of more than ten individuals and includes parties, celebrations, and religious or other social events, whether they occur indoor or outdoor (gathering of family members living in the same residence is allowed).

How will this change things in the Town of Occoquan? For the most part people in Occoquan have already been complying for some time with what is in today’s order. We would like everyone, however, to pay particular attention to the following issues, consistent with the emphasis of the Governor’s issuance. Our Town staff and police will be on the alert for activity that is not consistent with this guidance and will take action as appropriate.

  1. Those of you taking children outside for fresh air, please exert particular care to not let the children walk, run, or bike into other couples or groups. We know it is a difficult situation to manage children under these circumstances, but please take extra care not to let them inadvertently interact with others. And please note that bicycles are not allowed in River Mill Park and dogs are not allowed to be off leash.
  2. If you are getting carryout or takeout from a restaurant, please do not hang out afterward in groups other than your family at a restaurant’s outdoor tables or patios.
  3. Please continue to exercise social distancing in all outdoor spaces; in particular be conscientious at the Town Post Office.

Town Hall remains open for service four days a week. If at all possible please continue to do any necessary business by email, telephone, our website, or by dropbox. Staff will provide service in Town Hall speaking through our closed service window to address questions if necessary, but will not be accepting documents at the service window and will instead direct their placement in the drop box or another location in Town Hall.

Occoquan residents, business owners, and visitors to date have been overwhelmingly conscientious, cooperative, and compassionate during the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re confident everyone will continue to be so. Please stay healthy and safe. If you wish to see the text of the Governor’s order click please go to the following (https://www.governor.virginia.gov/media/governorvirginiagov/executive-actions/EO-55-Temporary-Stay-at-Home-Order-Due-to-Novel-Coronavirus-(COVID-19).pdf).

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March 27, 2020 – Noon (The Census and Your Mail)

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

While most of us are home bound one of the important things we can do is take the time to complete the 2020 Census online. By now households should have received a request in the mail from the Census Bureau asking us to do so by April 1, 2020. The mailing contains a Census ID number so that we can respond by going to my2020census.gov. As the Census Bureau notes, responding online helps conserve natural resources, save taxpayer money, and process data more efficiently. If you are unable to complete the census online it will force the Census Bureau to send out a paper survey for mailing, and then eventually to follow up in person to get a more accurate count — the latter will be particularly problematic if the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic are still in place.

Responding to the Census is required by law, but more importantly, undercounting will adversely affect our area’s ability to receive federal funds for schools, roads, and other public services, meet transportation and emergency readiness needs, and ensure appropriate numerical representation at State and Federal levels of government. Unfortunately, at the moment, our area is lagging the County average response rate, and the County in turn is lagging other jurisdictions.

Given the relative uniqueness of our situation within the Town of Occoquan (that requires all of us to obtain our mail by physically going to the Post Office) some of you may not have received your Census form because of concerns about going to the Post Office or about the transmission of the virus by mail. In response, authorities offer the suggestions and information below.

  1. Consider asking a neighbor or friend to pick up your mail for you, implementing whatever handoff precautions with which you are comfortable.
  2. USPS notes that current “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidance continues to indicate there is no evidence the virus is spreading through the mail. According to WHO, the likelihood of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low, and the risk of catching the virus from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures is also low. This guidance remains true for mail transport equipment.”
  3. Consider the following precautions to further minimize the risk of obtaining the virus from mail or packages:

(a) Studies currently indicate that the virus can last up to 72 hours on plastic, 48 hours on stainless steel, and 24 hours on cardboard, with the result that some sources simply recommend placing all mail in a particular location and letting it sit for 24 hours before handling it.

(b) Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth while handling and disposing of the mail and promptly afterward thoroughly wash or sanitize your hands and the surface on which you have placed any mail.

If you are unable to find someone to retrieve your mail for you in the Town of Occoquan please contact me by email at eporta@occoquanva.gov or on my personal cell (571-276-8695) and we can discuss arrangements to address your concerns.

In the meantime, if you have the Census 2020 request, please complete the Census survey online. It is important to the future well-being of our area.

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March 26, 2020 – 5:00 p.m. (Post Office, Social Distancing, and More Links)

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

Post Office

Since we received the recommendation approximately two weeks ago to practice social distancing and implement other measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Occoquan community has been overwhelmingly cooperative and conscientious. As you know, however, one of the relatively unique features of Occoquan is that our mail is not delivered to our homes or businesses, but must be picked up at our Post Office, which has the potential to bring all of us in closer contact than recommended. Post Office staff have informed me that people have to date been very considerate. I nevertheless want to remind everyone to continue to be so by not crowding more than two people inside the inner or outer lobby and to follow the instructions of Post Office staff.

Social Distancing

Health officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) down to our state and local officials, all recommend exercise, including outdoor activity such as walking, running, hiking, and biking, as part of the response to the pandemic in order to strengthen our immune systems, improve our mental health, and combat feelings of social isolation. That activity, however, comes with a caveat — maintaining social distance. This is relatively easy to do, but as the weather warms and the skies clear you are likely to encounter more people outside. Consequently, we are trying to make it easier for people to understand what the recommended appropriate social distance of 6 feet looks like.

If you are walking the streets of the historic district in Occoquan you will see on most curbs red dots. These are associated with booth spaces for our fall craft show and are each 10 feet apart. In our parks, we are following the policy of Prince William County, keeping them open for passive recreation and trail use only (restrooms are closed). Along the loop trail of River Mill Park we have placed signs directing people to maintain a social distance of 6 feet and have marked with blue paint on the adjoining grass distances of at least 6 feet (in most cases they are 7 feet or more) so that you can readily judge how far you are from others if walking the path (thank you to my friend Emily Guerrero for recommending this adaptation of something practiced in some grocery stores). If an area is too crowded to maintain social distance then it should be avoided.

More Useful Links

Below are some links you might find useful, some of which were sent out earlier and others of which were recently received.

FEMA Coronavirus Rumor Control (from Congressman Gerry Connolly)
University of Virginia: How to Protect Your Mental Health During a Quarantine (BOCS Chair Ann Wheeler)
COVID-19 Business Resources (PWC Economic Development and Visit Prince William)
COVID-19: Resources & County Response (Occoquan District Supervisor Kenny Boddye)

Please do not hesitate to contact me by email at eporta@occoquanva.gov or on my personal cell (571-276-8695) if you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns.

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March 23, 2020 – 8:00 p.m. (Closure of Non-Essential Businesses – Prince William Health District Call Center Now Open)

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced earlier today an order for the statewide closure of certain non-essential businesses and K-12 schools. Below is a general summary of the order as it relates to most of the businesses in the Town of Occoquan. Violations of the order are a Class 1 misdemeanor so businesses are encouraged to review the order themselves and seek legal counsel if uncertain. Relevant links to the order and FAQs produced by the Commonwealth are also included below. In addition to information for businesses, the FAQs include information for workers, children and families, on outdoor recreation, and on pets. The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

Public Gatherings

All public gatherings of more than 10 people are banned with limited exceptions.

Dining and On-Site Alcohol Establishments

Restaurants, dining establishments, bars, and the like must close to on-site public dining. They may continue, however, to offer delivery and/or takeout services.

Recreation and Entertainment Businesses

Among the recreation and entertainment businesses considered non-essential that must close in accordance with the order are beauty salons, barber shops, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other location where personal care or personal grooming services are performed that would not allow compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain six feet apart. Also covered by the order are arts and craft facilities, and public and private social clubs. Note that those who provide personal services (e.g. haircuts and styling) may continue to serve clients in the clients’ homes (see FAQ link below).

Retail Businesses

The order contains a list of 13 retail business categories that are considered essential and can remain open. Although it is quite unlikely that many businesses in the Town of Occoquan will qualify in any of these categories, it is nevertheless recommended that business owners review the list.

Several individuals have reached out to ask whether or not they may work in their store provided they do not allow the public to enter. Note that under the order any brick-and-mortar retail business not listed as essential may remain open provided it limits all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment, adheres to social distancing recommendations, sanitizes common surfaces, and applies relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities.

Other Professional Businesses

Professional businesses not otherwise listed in the order must use telework as much as possible. Where telework is not feasible, such businesses must adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing procedures, and apply relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities, including the CDC, OSHA, and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry.

Everyone interested is encouraged to read the announcement of the order, the full text of the order, and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) provided by the Commonwealth.

Prince William Health District Call Center Now Open

For questions related to COVID-19, the Prince William Health District has opened a call center at 703-872-7759.

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March 23, 2020 – 11:30 a.m. (Resources for Small Businesses)

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

In earlier postings we shared the website link offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for small business assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic (sba.gov/disaster).  Today, at 2:00 p.m. there will be a free webinar from the Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) on SBA disaster loans.  Click SBDC for all the information needed for participation.

Additionally, Town resident and business owner Jenn Loges of One Degree Capital has produced a series of free videos on information and resources available to small businesses related to the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Those can be accessed by clicking here.*

*Please note that the Town is providing these links for information only and cannot endorse any specific approach recommended by financial advisers regarding tax, loan, or other business strategies.

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March 22, 2020 – 7:00 p.m. (Registration of Business Offerings, Occoquan “Virtual” 5K, and Thank You)

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

Registration of Business Offerings

The Town of Occoquan recognizes that the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic create particular hardships for small businesses and their employees.  Accordingly, we are trying to encourage responsible patronage of Town businesses during this difficult time.

One initiative we are promoting is the online purchase of gift cards/certificates from Town businesses and the ordering of curbside pickup-to-go service.  To that end we ask that businesses offering such services consider clicking here to complete a form that we will use to update the Town business directory (we may set up a special page on the Town web site solely for this purpose).  Although suggestions of this type have been circulating broadly, we want to thank Dale Barnes for forwarding an illustrative example of another jurisdiction’s implementation of the idea.

Visit Prince William, which is sponsored by the County’s Department of Tourism, has a similar listing in which some Town businesses may participate.  At the moment that site currently only supports listings for restaurants, bars, and craft beverage producers.  If you wish to be listed on that site (which we encourage if you qualify) please go to the following link (https://www.visitpwc.com/princewilliamstrong/).

Tomorrow we hope to post more resources for small businesses seeking assistance.

Occoquan “Virtual” 5K

As a means of encouraging healthy outdoor activity, supporting Town businesses, and assisting local nonprofit organizations during the difficult times of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town of Occoquan is sponsoring a “virtual” 5K through June 10.  All of the gross proceeds from the virtual 5K will go to the Occoquan Historical Society’s Mill House Museum and the Good News Community Kitchen.

To participate in the virtual 5K individuals register online and then run or walk a distance of 5K (3.1 miles) on their own anywhere, including on a treadmill in their home, sometime between now and June 10, 2020.   Once a participant completes the run or walk they go to the relevant link below to report the date, start time, and end time of their run/walk.  If able, participants should upload a legible screenshot of a GPS or equivalently-tracked recording of their run/walk when uploading results.  All registered participants who complete the event will receive an event t-shirt.  As part of the registration process all participants will also be asked to commit to making a good-faith effort to order online or by phone a gift card or curbside, pickup-to-go service from an Occoquan business.

Registration for the Occoquan “Virtual” 5K is $25 dollars and includes the event t-shirt, which will be available a few weeks after the event.  For more information and to register for the event click here.

Thank You for Your Food Donations

Thank you to everyone who was able to donate yesterday to our food drive for the Good News Community Kitchen and ACTS.  Due to your generosity we were able to fill a complete pickup truck load to support those who are less fortunate.

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March 20, 2020 – 5:00 p.m. 

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

Food Drive Reminder

Remember that tomorrow, Saturday, March 21, the Town of Occoquan will be operating a food drive from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to support the Good News Community Kitchen in Occoquan and the ACTS Hunger Prevention Center.  Food may be delivered to the cul-de-sac at the northwestern end of Mill Street in the Town of Occoquan between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. or picked up at your location.  For more information or to schedule a pickup click here to go to an earlier post with more information.

Blood Drives

Several of you have contacted me regarding advertisements you have seen concerning a severe blood shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic.  If you are interested in giving blood go to redcrossblood.org to schedule an appointment.  Appointments are available through the Red Cross site at nearby Sentara Hospital next week.

Relief for Small Businesses

As noted yesterday, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has declared all of Virginia an Economic Disaster Zone, making businesses in Prince William County potentially eligible for SBA assistance.  More information is available on the SBA web site (sbg.gov/disaster).  A resident/business owner in Occoquan has compiled some information that may be useful in submitting an application to SBA and we hope to provide that shortly.

Business Services Directory

As we encourage individuals to continue, in whatever manner they are able, to support small businesses during this difficult time, we are attempting to alter the Town’s online business directory, or create an additional web page, that identifies what businesses in the Town of Occoquan can accept orders for gift cards, offer curbside pickup, or are sponsoring GoFundMe or similar pages related to their business or their employees.  We will make this information available as soon as possible.

COVID-19 Neighborhood Assistance

For those on social media, we are aware of two Facebook groups in the area where people can offer assistance or request it: (1) COVID-19 Mutual Aid-Occoquan VA and (2) COVID-19 Neighbors Helping Neighbors-DC/MD/VA.

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March 19, 2020 – 5:00 p.m. – Prince William County Businesses Eligible for SBA Loans

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has declared all of Virginia an Economic Disaster Zone, making businesses in Prince William County potentially eligible for SBA assistance.  At the moment, the SBA web site (sbg.gov/disaster) has not been fully updated and is overwhelmed.  Those who are interested are encouraged to continue to check the SBA site.

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March 19, 2020 – 4:00 p.m. – Food Donation Drive (Saturday, March 21, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.)

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

During the COVID-19 pandemic local food banks are experiencing significant shortages.  On Saturday, March 21, the Town of Occoquan will be operating a food drive from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. to support the Good News Community Kitchen in Occoquan and the ACTS Hunger Prevention Center.  Food may be delivered to the cul-de-sac at the northwestern end of Mill Street in the Town of Occoquan between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.  Staff at that location will be taking appropriate precautions to maintain social distance.  You may place food donations yourself in the area to which you are directed or volunteers will remove the food from your vehicle at your instruction.  Additionally, within the Town of Occoquan you can also drop food off on the porches of 184 Washington Street or 302 Commerce Street.

Those who prefer can leave donations on their own porch, steps, walkway, or yard and have it picked up between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on the 21st.  If you choose this option, please complete this form so that we can schedule our pickup accordingly.

The Good News Community Kitchen primarily requires Peanut Butter, Jelly, Saltines, Flavored Oatmeal, Vegetable Soup, and Chefboyardee for their student “Meals 2 Go” kits.  All such donations will be given to them.  All other donations will go to the ACTS Hunger Prevention Center.  Thank you in advance for your support.

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March 18, 2020 – 5:00 p.m. – Business Impact Survey

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

Occoquan Magisterial District Supervisor Kenny Boddye has notified us that the Prince William Economic Development Department is requesting that businesses consider completing a survey on how they are being affected by the pandemic. This information will be used in support of Prince William County businesses being eligible for relief from the Small Business Administration. To complete the survey please click on the following link (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/7RMY8SH). Additionally, the following link contains further information from the Prince William Economic Development Department (https://occoquandistrict.net/pwc-department-of-economic-development-covid-19-business-update/).

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March 18, 2020

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update — 4:00 p.m.
from Mayor Porta

Below are updates for the Town of Occoquan as of 4:00 p.m. today regarding shops and restaurants, the availability of wellness checks, Town Hall operations, and scheduled upcoming events. Also included are the links for basic health information on COVID-19.

Shops and Restaurants

An increasing number of shops in the Town of Occoquan are closing temporarily.  Consequently, if you are making a special trip to a particular store we encourage you to contact them to ensure they are open.

Occoquan’s Chief of Police and I today reviewed with every open restaurant in Town the Commonwealth of Virginia’s restrictions released late yesterday regarding gatherings in excess of ten people.  All of Occoquan’s restaurants who are remaining open have implemented procedures to comply with the ten-person limitation and/or are implementing curbside, pickup-to-go service.  The Town is offering to reserve curbside, pickup-to-go parking spaces for every restaurant in Town.

The following public restaurants are currently remaining open and have, or are considering implementing, curbside, pickup-to-go service: Bar J Chili, Grind N Crepe, Madigan’s Waterfront Restaurant, the Secret Garden Café, the Spot on Mill, the Tap Room, Third Base Pizza, and the Virginia Grill.  Bann Thai is offering curbside, pickup to-go service, but is closed to in-house dining.  Restaurants not listed above are currently closed.

Request a Welfare/Wellness Check

A welfare check, also known as a wellness check, is when police stop by a person’s home to make sure they are okay. Requests for welfare checks are made by friends, family, and neighbors, typically after someone unexpectedly stops answering their phone or getting in touch with others.  In response to COVID-19 we have implemented a Town-specific wellness check system.  If you are concerned about someone in Town and would like to have Town police check on them, please click here (https://www.occoquanva.gov/request-a-welfare-check/)  and complete the online form.  This will go directly to our Town police officers who will perform the check as quickly as possible and report back to you if you so request.

Town Hall Operations

Town Hall continues to remain open for those in our community who might be in need of services.  Those of you familiar with Town Hall know that staff members are separated from the public by a windowed partition.  The surface area of the window and counter are sanitized regularly.  Please be patient if it takes a moment for staff to get to the window.  We encourage you, if possible, to do as much business with Town Hall as you can by phone, email, or drop box.  If you want to be assured that your issue can be addressed personally in Town Hall before you set out, please contact Town Hall by telephone at 703-491-1918.

No more requests for use of Town Hall after hours are being considered until further notice.  Nor will there be any use of Town Hall for after hours meetings by non-governmental groups after March 31 until further notice.

Upcoming Events

As noted in an earlier communication, the Merchants Guild Peep Show scheduled for April 11 has been cancelled.  The Peep Show contest, however, is going virtual.  Click here for more information.  Music on Mill, scheduled for May 1 and May 16, has also been cancelled.  Discover Occoquan, which was scheduled for May 16, has been postponed to a later date yet to be determined.  The Town continues to plan for RiverFest, which is scheduled for June 6-7, 2020.

COVID-19 Resources

For those who would like more information or updates about COVID-19 in our area, we encourage you to visit the Prince William County Emergency Management website at https://emergency.pwcgov.org/.  Additionally, the Virginia Department of Health also has information related to COVID-19 at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/surveillance-and-investigation/novel-coronavirus/. If you still have questions after visiting these sites you may call (877) ASK-VDH3 (877-275-8343) to speak with a public information representative.

Again, please do not hesitate to reach out to me by email at eporta@occoquanva.gov, or by my personal cell phone (571-276-8695), if you have any questions or concerns.

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March 17, 2020

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

I have received a number of inquiries regarding whether or not businesses in the Town of Occoquan are remaining open as communities confront the challenge of COVID-19. As of this moment, some are doing so while implementing the precautions recommended for businesses and food establishments by the Virginia Department of Health. Some are sending out emails or posting on their web sites or social media pages the additional precautions they are taking.  If you have any questions about the steps being taken by a particular business, you should not hesitate to call them directly and ask. Occoquan business owners are doing their best to balance serving the public and addressing health concerns, while at the same time recognizing the potential financial toll shutdowns impose on their employees — most of whom perform jobs that cannot be done remotely or by telecommuting.  Below is specific information regarding restaurants, business and employee relief, Town government operations, events and other facilities, and COVID-19 resources.

Restaurants

As of March 17, 2020 some Occoquan restaurants have closed completely.  Others remain open. Most are offering curbside, pick-up to go. This is already in place for Third Base, Grind N Crepe, Bar J Chili, Bann Thai, and the Spot. Others like Madigan’s, the Secret Garden Cafe, the Tap Room, the Virginia Grill (all still open) and D’Rocco’s are considering offering the service soon. The Town is working to reserve parking spaces for curbside, pick-up to go customers for those restaurants who need it.

Business and Employee Relief

A number of business owners have contacted me requesting information on potential federal, state, and county loan or tax deferral programs available to assist small businesses during this time.  I have been in touch either directly with our elected representatives at all three levels, or their offices, and they are all working to secure assistance or implement relief policies through the relevant agencies.  While the federal government is working on providing such aid through the Small Business Administration (click here for the SBA’s COVID-19 web site), Virginia is not yet one of the eligible areas.  Occoquan District Supervisor Kenny A. Boddye has a page on his website (https://occoquandistrict.net/covid19-resources-county-response/) dedicated to updates and resources on COVID-19 where he plans to post information on business relief when such information becomes available.  Dominion Virginia Power, PWCSA, and Washington Gas have all suspended disconnection actions during this period.  At the Town level I have asked the Town Attorney to investigate whether or not the Town has the authority to defer BPOL tax payments (currently due May 1) and will be raising this issue with the Town Council.

For employees the Commonwealth of Virginia has waived the normal waiting period for those seeking to file unemployment claims.  This is available to individuals who have been laid off or have had their hours reduced as a result of COVID-19.  Information on this is available at http://www.vec.virginia.gov/node/11699.

Town Council Meeting

The Town Council plans to proceed with its scheduled meeting this evening.  Public seating will be limited, and chairs for both council members and the public will be separated by the recommended distance.  Relevant surfaces will be sanitized.

Town Hall

At this time, the Town of Occoquan plans to maintain its normal business hours at Town Hall in order to be available to respond to those in our community who might be in distress.  Staff have implemented protocols that include sanitizing public areas on a regular basis after use, including the dais and chair arms in Town Hall.  Much as in the past during serious snow storms, I encourage everyone to look out for neighbors who might be particularly at risk, in this case by checking in by phone, text, or email if possible.  Some, for example, may be self-quarantining and be in need of supplies.

Town Events and Other Facilities

With regard to Town-operated events, we will continually monitor the situation to make determinations consistent with the advice of local health officials. The Merchants Guild Peep Show event scheduled that was scheduled in the historic district for April 11 is cancelled but the Community Peep Contest will be held online. Until more information is available, the Town plans to move forward with RiverFest in June. Events operated by other organizations with which the Town is a cooperating partner will be held at the discretion of those organizations. As a precautionary measure for the health of its staff, the Occoquan Historical Society is closing the Mill House Museum from Saturday, March 14 until further notice and the Occoquan Visitor Center, which is operated by the Prince William County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, will be closed until March 31.

COVID-19 Resources

For those who would like more information or updates about COVID-19 in our area, we encourage you to visit the Prince William County Emergency Management website at https://emergency.pwcgov.org/.  Additionally, the Virginia Department of Health also has information related to COVID-19 at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/surveillance-and-investigation/novel-coronavirus/. If you still have questions after visiting these sites you may call (877) ASK-VDH3 (877-275-8343) to speak with a public information representative.

Finally, please do not hesitate to reach out to me by email at eporta@occoquanva.gov, or by my personal cell phone (571-276-8695), if you have any questions or concerns.

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March 15, 2020

Occoquan COVID-19 Information Update
from Mayor Porta

COVID-19 INFORMATION

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another.  It can also be spread by touching a surface containing the virus and then touching one’s mouth, nose, or eyes.  The Town of Occoquan has adopted a set of policies and protocols related to the background, symptoms, prevention, and procedures for dealing with COVID-19.  For those who would like more information or updates about COVID-19 in our area, we encourage to visit the Prince William County Emergency Management website at https://emergency.pwcgov.org/.  Additionally, the Virginia Department of Health also has information related to COVID-19 at http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/surveillance-and-investigation/novel-coronavirus/. If you still have questions after visiting these sites you may call (877) ASK-VDH3 (877-275-8343) to speak with a public information representative.

At this time, the Town of Occoquan plans to maintain its normal business hours.  With regard to Town-operated events, we will continually monitor the situation to make determinations consistent with the advice of local health officials. The Merchants Guild Peep Show event scheduled in the historic district for April 11 is cancelled but the Community Peep Contest will be held online. At this time, the Town plans to move forward with RiverFest in June.  Events operated by other organizations with which the Town is a cooperating partner will be held at the discretion of those organizations.  As a precautionary measure for the health of its staff, the Occoquan Historical Society is closing the Mill House Museum from Saturday, March 14 until further notice and the Occoquan Visitor Center, which is operated by the Prince William County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, will be closed until March 31.

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