Alexandria has officially entered into the community spread phase of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Dr. Rina Bansal, president of Inova Alexandria Hospital.
That means that direct exposure to the virus can not be traced back to its source.
“Stay home and stay safe, and ask others to do the same. We are officially in community spread now,” Bansal told ALXnow. “This is the calm before the storm.”
There are currently four positive cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, and Bansal said Alexandria Hospital treated up to 30 patients in its tented temporary auxiliary screening unit outside the emergency room entrance.
The tent has a 10-person capacity.
The hospital has restricted visitation, and is also asking that anyone feeling symptomatic should call ahead to warn staff. Uninsured patients will also be admitted, as their costs will fall under charity care for the nonprofit hospital system. Additionally, it has about 150 available beds at the moment, out of 303 beds in the entire facility, Bansal said.
“We are preparing for the worst,” Bansal said. “We have seen a significant number of patients coming into the emergency room, and we’ve seen patients come to our screening unit as well. ”
Meanwhile, Alexandria business owners and residents are adapting to a completely changed city. The governor’s recent orders restricting occupancy at 10 people has shuttered dozens of restaurants and retailers.
On Thursday and Friday, Hillary Orr, the city’s deputy director for the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, erected “Reserved Parking” signs for curbside pickup outside of the remaining restaurants that are open.
“We have about four people working on it. We’ve been working mostly in Old Town North, Old Town on King Street and on Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray,” Orr said. “Hopefully we’ve heard from all of the businesses. We have a list.”
A number of local business owners have said they will not be paying their upcoming tax bill, including Rob Krupicka, a former member of the state legislature, city councilman and now-owner of Elizabeth’s Counter.
Files but didn’t pay my taxes. Looking out a few months I won’t have money to pay these taxes back. Revenue hits to government going to be significant this week.
— RobKrupicka (@RobKrupicka) March 20, 2020
“It’s not going to be all right,” a business owner working from home told ALXnow.
Pat Miller is going to cancel the Del Ray Farmers’ Market on Saturday. The market has 20 vendors who rely on its weekly sales.
“It’s so unbelievable. I will cancel the farmers market,” Miller said. “But we will get through it. We will. Our community is so community-minded that if anybody needs help all you have to do is put the word out and you will have 50 people to help. That’s how we operate in Del Ray.”
Meggrolls at 107 N. Fayette Street is open for business, although indoor dining has been eliminated.
“We’re actually doing pretty good,” a staff member said. “Most of our orders are carryout anyway. So, it hasn’t been too bad.”
One Old Town bar had difficulty adhering to the 10-person rule on Thursday, and at one point had more than twice the legal limit with over 20 customers. The bartender said that she couldn’t serve an ALXnow reporter at the bar because there were too many people, but that he could be served in an uncrowded dining area.
Alexandria Police have not cited any businesses for not meeting the 10-person rule, spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine told ALXnow.
Mayor Justin Wilson said in an emergency meeting on Wednesday that businesses are suffering catastrophic losses and that the city needs to act quickly. Consequently, next Tuesday the City Council is scheduled to review measures to suspend the dining and transient lodging taxes.
Many businesses are getting creative. The Italian Place at 621 Wythe Street is now offering a free roll of toilet paper with every dinner order. Chop Shop Taco (1008 Madison Street) is offering two rolls and a $25 gift card, owner Doug Rashid said in an email.
Local grocery stores are also adapting to the pandemic.
On Friday, Giant Food announced that all of their regional stores will offer “dedicated shopping hours” from 6-7 a.m. for senior citizens 60 and older, and for people with compromised immune systems.
The Fresh Market at 3680 King Street has also set aside 8-9 a.m. for senior citizen shopping.