In some ways, there was only one story in 2020: COVID-19

By Heather Michon

Since the first local cases emerged this past spring, the virus has altered our everyday lives, cleared our calendars of community events, and added a spice of danger to even our most mundane daily errands. To date, nearly 700 Fluvanna residents have been diagnosed with the virus, 52 have been hospitalized, and nine have died.

Very few of us will be sorry to put 2020 in the rearview mirror, but you can’t say it hasn’t been one for history books. So, before we ring in the New Year, let’s take one last (and maybe not-so-fond) look back.


Before COVID-19, the community faced a much more familiar pathogen: rabies. After a rabid dog attacked and seriously injured a child as she walked home from school in late December, several local animal shelters and groups organized a free rabies vaccination clinic at Pleasant Grove on Jan. 8. More than 450 previously unvaccinated animals were treated, and no further cases were found in the county.


The James River Water Project at Point of Folk in Columbia got even more beleaguered over the course of 2020, as the Monacan Indian Nation and its supporters increased their pressure on the water suthority to relocate a proposed water intake and pumping station to avoid further disrupting the archaeological remains of the tribe’s historical capital of Rassawek. Dozens spoke against the project at a meeting in March and thousands submitted public comments to the Army Corps of Engineers in June. In the fall, the National Trust for Historic Preservation added Rassawek to its “Most Endangered Places” list, and by October, the James River Water Authority signaled they were seriously considering moving the water intake a mile upriver to an alternate location.


Like school systems across the country, Fluvanna faced serious challenges in deciding how to safely conduct schooling for its 3,500 students and hundreds of teachers. Gov. Ralph Northam ordered all schools shut in April, and debates on how to reopen in the summer dragged for months. In mid-July, the School Board first okayed a hybrid plan, with students in class for two days a week and learning at home for three. In mid-August, the Board reversed course and voted 3-2 to be fully virtual for the first nine weeks of the school year. The hybrid model was implemented in early November. Throughout it all, the school system and county administration has scrambled to make sure all students have access to the internet, with several providers planning to expand their networks to more rural parts of the county.


COVID-19 has been particularly deadly in closed settings with vulnerable populations. Fluvanna’s first major outbreak came in mid-April at Envoy at The Village in Fork Union, sickening more than 60 nursing home residents and staff and causing several fatalities. In September, more than 120 inmates and staff tested positive for the virus at Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (FCCW). The year ended with a second outbreak at FCCW, with almost 170 reported cases in the final weeks of December.

Black Lives Matter

Fluvanna joined the national dialog on race after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other incidents of police violence against people of color in the summer of 2020. The Fluvanna chapter of the NAACP held an emotional forum on race relations in early June. Later that month,  the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution condemning systemic racism and committing the county to transparency and the erasure of racial barriers. The School Board later approved an “Equity Statement” presented by a committee of residents and community leaders and will establish several action committees to delve into the issues of racial inequality within the county schools.

The election

Fluvanna residents turned out in historic numbers to vote in the 2020 Presidential elections. Helped in part by the state’s new 45-day “no excuse” walk-in voting at the county’s convenient new Registrar’s office at Turkeysag, fully 80 percent of residents cast their ballots — far exceeding the 74 percent turnout in 2016. President Donald J. Trump carried the county by 52 percent, but lost statewide by a wide margin; Democratic congressional candidate Cameron Webb won the county by a handful of votes, but lost the Fifth District to Bob Good by more than 20,000 votes. This election cycle was far more rancorous than others, with multiple incidents of political yard sign damage and theft across the county.

New businesses

While Fluvanna County business owners certainly haven’t been spared from the economic impact of COVID, there have been a couple of bright spots in an otherwise gloomy year. Like many counties, Fluvanna dedicated a substantial portion of the federal funds received under the CARES Act to set up a small business grant program called FROM.

Fluvanna, gave out almost $350,000 in loans to at least 50 small businesses and nonprofits. In the fall, Silk City Printing, a New Jersey-based company that produces silkscreened apparel to companies like Target and Walmart, moved their headquarters to the former Thomasville factory in Fork Union, bringing 93 jobs to the area. YAE Wellness, a medical cannabis producer, is hoping to win a state license and build its own Fork Union facility. The Virginia Board of Pharmacy will make a permitting decision in March.

County budget

The COVID crisis struck just as the Board of Supervisors was finalizing their FY2021 budget and forced hard choices at the worst possible moment. With no way of knowing how deep the pandemic-related economic recession was going to go, the $79.8 million budget was more austere than previous years, allocating almost nothing for capital improvement projects and holding the real estate tax at 92.5 cents. Since the budget was passed in April, some of the burden has been relieved by some $4 million in Federal dollars for COVID-related expenditures and state and federal grants to fund critical projects like the establishment of a drug court and new breathing apparatus for first responders. At its final meeting in December, there was enough money left over in departmental budgets to fund a $500 bonus for full-time employees at the end of a uniquely challenging year.


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