Alexandria’s poorest areas have been hit hardest by the coronavirus, and local groups are demanding that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam respond by supplying 10,000 testing kits over the next 10 days and providing housing for COVID-positive patients who currently live in jam-packed residences.
“We urge the governor to come visit Arlandria and see it with his own eyes, leave the governor’s mansion, check it out and then take dramatic action necessary to stop or at least slow down the spread of this disease,” Jon Liss, co-director of New Virginia Majority said in a Friday afternoon tele-press conference with Tenants and Workers United.
The Virginia Department of Health is now providing data on cases by ZIP code, and revealed that Alexandria’s poorest areas have been hit hardest by the virus. The 22305 ZIP code, which includes the Arlandria, Potomac Yard and Potomac West neighborhoods, has the largest number of reported cases at 317 and an estimated population of 16,095 residents.
There is a Neighborhood Health COVID-19 testing site in Arlandria, although many residents have found it difficult signing up to become a patient to take a test.
Arlandria resident Asusena Esquivel is a Neighborhood Health patient and lives in an apartment with four other people. She and another resident she lives with were tested, although two others weren’t tested because they weren’t members of Neighborhood Health.
“All of us in the house will have not been working the last two months with no funding,” Esquivel said. “We are all going to get it regardless. We can’t avoid not getting it because we do not have the money, we do not have the funding, the resources, nor the privilege to live in ample space or go somewhere else if one of us is sick. It shouldn’t be like this.”
There is also the issue of freezing rent, and last week Tenants and Workers United also led a community-wide protest demanding that Virginia implement a rent freeze for workers affected by COVID-19. In April, the Alexandria City Council unanimously approved Councilman Canek Aguirre’s call for a rent freeze, formally calling on state and federal officials to put a potential moratorium on rents and mortgages and to suspend the reporting of negative credit information by credit bureaus.
Evelin Urritria, executive director of Tenants and Workers United, said that the poorest residents often live in overcrowded conditions and health care options are scarce.
“We’re thinking about opening up the state phase by phase. What is this going to mean for a community like Arlandria,” Urritria said. “This is a big issue, because at this point it’s not just you who is sick, it’s everyone in your entire family who is exposed to it and who will get sick, and we’re talking about one-bedroom apartments and two-bedroom apartments.”
BREAKING: We just hosted a press conference with New Virginia Majority about the devastating COVID-19 infection rate in Chirilagua. We're calling on Governor of Virginia to immediately address this crisis by expanding access to testing, ensuring tests and treatment are free, and providing housing so that residents can safely isolate. We need to protect our community before Virginia can safely reopen. Watch our video below – press conference starts at 1:23#KeepUsSafeVA #Chirilagua
Posted by Tenants and Workers United – Inquilinos y Trabajadores Unidos on Friday, May 8, 2020
Staff photo by James Cullum