Alexandria Health Director Says City Hasn’t Hit COVID-19 Peak Yet

In an update to the City Council, Dr. Stephen Haering said Alexandria is making a clearer picture of which populations are most vulnerable to COVID-19.

“We’ve not reached the peak,” Haering said in a city council meeting Tuesday night. “We haven’t seen a decrease in cases. The number of daily cases still on the rise. The numbers here bounce around in the 20s to 30s.”

Nationwide, black Americans are dying at disproportionately high rates from COVID-19. Haering said his office is pressing state officials to release more information on the breakdown of victims by race in localities, and on Tuesday the following figures were released:

With 223 cases and 40 hospitalizations, white residents make up the largest percentage or reported cases and hospitalizations in the city, followed by black residents, of which there are 111 cases and 28 hospitalizations, then unspecified “other” and “not reported” categories. No other Alexandria-specific demographics have been released.

Non-Hispanic whites represent 52% of city residents, followed by black residents making up 21%, Hispanics residents making up 17%, non-Hispanic Asians of Pacific Islanders making up 6% and non-Hispanic “other” residents making up 4% of the population of about 150,000 people.

Haering said he suspects the mounting pressure will mean the data will likely be released soon, but City Council member Canek Aguirre said data needs to also include Latino populations in Alexandria.

“We do not live in a strict black and white community,” Aguirre said. “The Latino population likely to be using public transportation to work, living in crowded communities, and living with fears of deportation.”

Neighborhood Health, which set up testing centers in Arlandria, said over half the tests it did in that community came back positive. Aguirre said data from regional partners is already showing that Latino populations are also being disproportionately impacted by the virus.

“Latinos make 15 percent of the population in Fairfax but making up half of the cases,” Aguirre said. “If Latino people are just being listed in the white category, that’s not telling an accurate picture of what’s happening.”

Today, Alexandria saw its highest increase in new cases since the pandemic started, though that number also includes presumptive cases.

Haering reiterated the earlier guidelines laid out by the state for the metrics to reopen Alexandria, none of which are currently met.

According to Haering, Alexandria can only reopen:

  • Once the percentage of positive tests over 14 days goes down
  • Hospitalization decreases and hospitals are able to handle any potential surge
  • There is an increased and sustainable supply of personal protective equipment.

Haering also noted that the symptoms for COVID-19 have been expanded and now include chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pains, headache, sore throat and a loss of taste or smell.

Staff photo by James Cullum