NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Ahead of Gov. Ralph Northam’s 2 p.m. press briefing, during which he’s expected to make a “major announcement” about Virginia’s response to coronavirus, Norfolk officials announced that they have furloughed 550 part-time city workers in response to the governor’s “Stay at Home” order.

No official “Stay at Home” order has been issued, but Northam has encouraged Virginians to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Norfolk spokeswoman Lori Crouch said the city’s internal decision to further cut operations was made based on other directives Northam has given involving social distancing.

“We made operational decisions over the weekend based on what he said during his Friday press conference,” Crouch said.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Norfolk will reduce the number of city workers to “critical staffing levels” from March 30 to May 4. The city originally planned for this reduction in staffing levels to end on April 13; however, they decided to extend that date to early May because healthcare officials predict COVID-19 will peak in Virginia in mid-to-late April.

This includes furloughing 550 part-time workers. These workers will get two paychecks in April, have access to additional resources, and can return to work when the city resumes normal operations, according to a Norfolk press release.

“We heard the Governor loud and clear and we are responding to his direction,” Norfolk City Manager Dr. Chip Filer wrote in a news release. “Team Norfolk will continue to serve as a model in the community and do what we can to encourage social distancing. My expectation is our employees will stay home and stay healthy so we can return to 100% staffing levels when the time comes.”

Some city services will remain fully staffed: Police, fire-rescue, and 911 dispatch centers.

Although trash and recycling pick up will continue, bulk yard and waste collection will be suspended for two weeks. All trash must be in a city-issued bin with the lid closed, the release states.

“Bulk and yard waste collection will stop during this time because it takes two employees in one truck to collect materials,” according to the news release. “Any bulk waste requests scheduled during this two-week period will be canceled.  Residents must reschedule their request when city operations return to normal.” 

Norfolk staff will respond to emergency requests from residents. Anyone with a service request should do so online or through the city’s mobile app. Norfolk Cares phone line is experiencing long wait times.