Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson joined Northern Virginia elected leaders Sunday in asking Governor Ralph Northam to carry out his phased reopening plan for the state by regions until the rate of infections meets an acceptable threshold.
The May 10 letter penned by Wilson, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay, Arlington County Chair Libby Garvey, Loudoun County Chair Phyllis Randall and Prince William County Chair Ann Wheeler asks the governor to adjust his reopening in the region.
“As you know, together our jurisdictions represent half of the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” the letter says. “As we make local decisions during this time, we understand that confidence in public health is a foundation for restoring commerce. We appreciate your thoughtful and data-driven approach to striking the correct balance.”
The leaders asked Northam to withhold such an opening until there is a downward trend of positive cases over a two week period, downward hospitalization trends and when there are no personal protective equipment or testing shortages.
Northern Virginia Congressman Don Beyer agreed, and said that the reopening of Alexandria was premature.
“Southern Virginia is rural and people live far apart,” Beyer, a former lieutenant governor, told ALXnow. “They don’t travel a lot and they have a different disease profile there and can move around a lot more freely than we do, but we’re in a dense urban area with a lot of mobility and tend to be older. I think for the city of Alexandria, specifically, that the governor’s reopening is probably premature.”
A number of local businesses are also cautious of reopening.
The foundation of our reopening is the protection of public health. The Governor of Virginia set reasonable…
There are now 839 deaths associated with the virus and 24,081 probable or positive cases in Virginia. In the five jurisdictions that wrote the letter, there have been 408 deaths and there are 12,352 cases. In Alexandria there have been 30 deaths, and there are 1,193 cases and 139 hospitalizations — an increase of 51 cases since yesterday.
It is not clear how many people have recovered from the virus, and an accurate count on the number of cases is difficult to maintain in Alexandria since the highest infection rates are in the city’s poorest areas.
“Based on our assessment, we do not believe that the Northern Virginia region has met the criteria for moving into Phase 1 at this time,” notes an attached memo to the letter.
We have slowed the spread of #COVID19, but we have not yet cured this disease. The virus is still circulating, and Virginians must remain cautious––we cannot afford to let our guard down.
Phase One guidance for specific business sectors is available here: https://t.co/NxfuJsbRGm
— Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) May 9, 2020
On Friday, local groups demanded that Northam respond by supply 10,000 testing kits over the next 10 days and providing housing for COVID-positive patients who currently live in jam-packed residences in the city’s Arlandria neighborhood.
“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.
Per the governor’s proposal, all non-essential businesses would be allowed to open, while limited to 50% capacity. Movie theaters and concert halls will remain closed, and barbershops and hair salons will be open by appointment only. Churches can also have up to 50% capacity, and Alfred Street Baptist Church, which has thousands of members, is still listing all of its May services as virtual.
Staff photo by James Cullum