As Alexandria moves toward the first phase of reopening its economy on May 29, the city’s health department is developing a new accreditation program to ensure compliance with enforced restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Alexandria Health Department initiative is currently labeled as the “ALX Promise,” and it’s a partnership with Visit Alexandria, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and business groups, according to AHD Environmental Health Manager Rachel Stradling.
The pandemic closed about half of the city’s 860 permitted food establishments, and many of them will not reopen, Stradling said.
Business owners who participate in a seminar and sign a pledge to adhere to the restrictions will get a decal to post in their front windows. They will have to commit to training their staffs on protocols, including wearing face masks, hand washing, disinfection and social distancing. Participating businesses will then be advertised on the Visit Alexandria website.
“You can have a decal in your window that says that you’ve gone above and beyond,” Stradling told ALXnow. “That’s hugely exciting news. It takes us a good six months to get an accreditation scheme in place and we’re basically doing this in a little over a week.”
Stradling added, “So there’ll be a training component, and then they’ll sign a pact at the end to say that they’ll maintain those standards in their business, that they will put their staff and their community first.”
In Alexandria, the first phase means that restaurants can have no indoor dining, but dining will be allowed at 50% capacity in outdoor areas.
Additionally, the department is now preparing for the second phase of reopening the economy. In the meantime, Stradling and her staff are continuing to do virtual inspections.
“Hopefully in phase two we’ll be able to get out there more in person,” she said.
Staff photo by James Cullum