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Mayor and Health Department Urge Caution as Alexandria Moves into Phase 2 of Reopening

Alexandria formally moved into the second phase of its economic recovery today (Friday), and while some businesses are embracing the easing of restrictions, others are taking a slower approach.

Even though there was only one new reported case of coronavirus in the city today, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said that phase 2 does not mean that the city is out of the woods just yet.

“We need our residents and visitors to continue to socially distance, wear masks and stay home when ill,” Wilson told ALXnow. “We are able to ease restrictions because everyone played their part over the past few months. We have more work to do to keep our community safe.”

Under the loosened restrictions, Alexandria restaurants can offer indoor dining at 50% capacity; fitness centers can operate at 30% capacity and pools can operate for exercise.

Bill Blackburn, co-owner of the Homegrown Restaurant Group, is opening the inside of Whiskey & Oyster and Tequila & Taco in Caryle and will continue curbside pickup at Sweet Fire Donna’s, Pork Barrel BBQ and Holy Cow Del Ray.

“Our number one priority is the safety of our employees and customers,” Blackburn told ALXnow. “Every concept is different with layout and footprint, we have to make different decisions for different properties.”

The pandemic closed about half of the city’s 860 permitted food establishments. More than 100 retail and restaurant businesses have received the new ALX Promise accreditation decal, which launched three weeks ago and requires business owners and staff to undergo a training session and sign a pledge to maintain safe and sanitary practices.

Natalie Talis, a population health manager with the Alexandria Health Department, said that 289 businesses have expressed interest in participating in the ALX Promise initiative, which is a partnership with Visit Alexandria, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

“Just because these new phases are happening and businesses are reopening, it doesn’t mean that we can be any less vigilant about washing our hands really frequently, wearing a face-covering in public settings, and also not crowding together,” she said. “We have to keep messaging about that and banging the drum that COVID hasn’t disappeared.”

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Staff photo by James Cullum

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