Virginia’s top emergency manager told agency COVID-19 crisis could ‘run into the summer’

Virginia’s top emergency manager told agency COVID-19 crisis could ‘run into the summer’
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management's Emergency Operations Center in Midlothian hosts the Virginia Emergency Support Team and the commonwealth’s Emergency Support Functions. (Source: NBC12)

In a memo sent to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management this month, the agency’s leader told his colleagues the COVID-19 crisis could “run into the summer” and disclosed that he had tested negative for the coronavirus.

Jeff Stern, who has served as VDEM’s state coordinator since 2014, sent the all-staff memo on March 15, the same day the agency announced one of its own employees had contracted the virus from an unknown source. In the note, Stern said the pandemic has “all the makings of a historical event.”

“Take care of yourselves, your families, your friends and each other,” Stern wrote. “Begin to think of this as a long event, perhaps one that will run into the summer.”

The Mercury obtained a copy of the memo through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Stern’s attempt to set his agency’s expectations for the pandemic was similar to comments Gov. Ralph Northam made Sunday. At his daily media briefing, the governor told the public not to assume disruptions to daily life and the state economy will be over soon.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.