Alexandria, VA

A 17-year-old Alexandria male was shot in the upper body on Tuesday evening on a basketball court in the 300 block of Tancil Court in Old Town, according to police.

“We got there and found a male subject with a gunshot wound and he was transported to a local hospital and suffered non-life threatening injuries,” police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine told ALXnow.

Police were called at 7:18 p.m. after the victim was short in the upper torso, according to police.

The victim was accompanied by other people when he was shot, and the suspect was reportedly not known to them. The suspect fled the scene on foot and no description is available.

Police would not release any more information since the investigation is ongoing.

 Map via Google Maps
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City Manager Mark Jinks presented the City Council with preliminary estimates for a $743.5 million fiscal year 2021 budget on Wednesday night — a $56.4 million reduction from the budget he unveiled in February.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Alexandria to drastically change its budget over the course of the last month. Preliminary cuts include eliminating the previously proposed 2 cent real estate tax increase, implementing a city hiring freeze [except $2 million to hire new Health Department staff], deferring raises for city staff and reducing the multi-million dollar transfer to Alexandria City Public Schools.

The budget would be an $18 million reduction over the current FY 2020 budget of $761.5 million.

Mayor Justin Wilson, who presided over the meeting with his colleagues via conference call, said that the impact will be felt in the city for years.

“The seven of us [on council] as well as the staff need to communicate to the public and make sure our residents are prepared and ready for the types of choices that we’re going to have to make about the role and scope of government in the city of Alexandria over the next several years,” Wilson said. “I think it’s right that it’s not just a one-year [or] two-year conversation. This is a multiple-year conversation.”

The previously approved budget also covered the $241.4 million transfer to the Alexandria City Public School system and fully funded the renovation of Douglas MacArthur Elementary School and the expansion of T.C. Williams High School. City and ACPS staff will now have to iron out which projects will get deferred and where budget reductions can be made.

“I don’t have a number yet. We have to have discussions with the schools,” said Jinks, who asked staff to make $100 million in cuts. “If the city’s budget goes down by $56 million, that means that every part of the budget needs to be looked at and I think that means reducing the ACPS operating transfer is something that’s going to need to occur to some degree.”

The uncertainty of COVID-19 will likely also impact the state’s budget, including millions to the city for its Combined Sewer Outfalls project.

“We had a conference call with the governor with mayors and chairs in the region on Friday, and he made it very clear that the budget that he sends back to the General Assembly for the reconvened session would be radically different than the budget that was approved by the General Assembly,” Wilson said. “That certainly means that money that is in there for the city and specifically for the CSO project may be very well at risk… Obviously there’s an expectation that that pretty much anything that’s in the General Assembly’s approved budget is at risk.”

City Council will receive the budget proposal next Tuesday and then will have a meeting on the proposed budget on April 14. The budget will be adopted on April 29.

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Landmark Mall Redevelopment Uncertain — “An official from Howard Hughes Corp., a Texas-based company that owns the 51-acre property and has been working on redevelopment plans for several years, said in response to email inquiries from Alexandria Living Magazine: “Sorry, no update for now, but we’ll let you know when we have a good update.” [Alexandria Living]

Volunteer Alexandria Needs Volunteers — “For those who are eligible to volunteer, we encourage to take measures and bring their own sanitizer, wipes, and keep distance from other people.” [Volunteer Alexandria]

Alexandria Restaurant Partners Donating 50% of Gift Cards to Staff — “Purchase a gift card today and 50% of all sales will be donated directly to an ARP employee relief fund. Plus, you’ll receive a 20% bonus gift card with all gift card purchases of $25 or more as a thank you for your support. Gift cards can used immediately at both Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap and Mia’s Italian Kitchen.” [Facebook]

City Asks Spring Cleaners to Leave Big Stuff Alone — “It is certainly a tempting time of year to start “spring cleaning” but we ask you to help protect our workers and not overwhelm the waste stream. Please hold on to bulky or excess household items and help us reduce excess waste generation as much as possible during this time.” [Facebook]

Inova Assures Safe Conditions to Deliver Babies in Hospitals — “We’re still delivering bundles of joy to families at Inova every day. We understand you might be concerned if you’re expecting in these rapidly changing times. But, please be assured Inova is leading the way to help you bring your little one, or ones, into this world as safely as possible.” [Facebook]

Alexandria Wedding Showcase Pushed to June 28 — “One lucky couple will win 250,000 Marriott Bonvoy Travel Points, good for a week-long honeymoon to one of thousands of locations worldwide from The Westin Alexandria Old Town.” [Alexandria Wedding Showcase]

Old Newspaper Clipping Documents Spanish Flu in Alexandria — “Spanish influenza is increasing in the city at an alarming rate. There are few houses in the city where there is not a case of the disease… Doctors are working overtime but are performing their duties heroically. Druggists are doing their share for the general good filling prescriptions.” [Facebook]

VIP Alexandria Magazine Going Digital in April — “Does this mean we are going ALL DIGITAL? HECK NO!  We LOVE print! And VIP Alexandria Magazine will be back, in your beautiful hands, by May when we release our Annual Health & Beauty Issue! Hang in there, Alexandria! We’re all in this together!” [Facebook]

Del Ray Creates Stuffed Animal ‘Zoofari’ — “The idea is for homeowners to put out stuffed animals in their front yards, porches, trees, flower boxes, gardens, and places where they can be seen. The kids and parents can then walk around the neighborhood locating them and checking off, creating a safe Zoofari scavenger hunt walk.” [Zebra]

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There are now 55 positive cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, the city’s Health Department Director Dr. Stephen Haering told city council on Wednesday night.

The new figure is an increase of 11 cases since yesterday.

The full breakdown in Alexandria is below:

There are now more than 1,400 COVID-19 cases and 34 deaths related to the virus in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

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With restaurants in Virginia now relying on take-out and delivery for their survival through the pandemic, Alexandria is joining other localities in urging the state government to allow restaurants to make cocktails to-go.

“I am writing to express support to authorize the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) to allow the selling of mixed beverages for delivery and pickup by restaurants in the City of Alexandria and across the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam.

Two weeks ago, the state did loosen up on its restrictions regarding selling beer and wine to-go.

Wilson said in the letter that alcohol sales in take-out and delivery options could help offset other revenue losses — at least a little. Alexandria’s bar and restaurant scene has already seen closures as a result of the statewide restrictions.

“Alexandria restaurant owners have indicated that the sale of mixed beverages provides healthy margins that keep them afloat during this time,” Wilson said. “They believe that the ability to offer these beverages for delivery and pickup as part of the new limitations on restaurants is vital to their ability to remain in business in the current environment.”

The letter is in support of a request by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney to the Virginia ABC. The letter was shared by other members of the City Council who echoed the mayor’s sentiment.

California, Kentucky, Colorado, Vermont and Nebraska have similarly loosened restrictions on mixed beverages.

“In states that have loosened restrictions on mixed beverages, these new provisions have promoted a sense of normalcy to their clientele, have increased sales and allowed some staff to continue working,” Wilson said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has required all of us in the Commonwealth and the nation to think innovatively in order to assist those who need the most. Small businesses and their personnel are no exception.”

Photo via Dave B/Flickr

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Virginia Congressman Don Beyer has been quarantined at home with his wife for nearly three weeks.

The three-term Democrat Congressman has been to Congress once in that time, to vote for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. He and his staff have been working up to 12 hours a day from their homes for weeks now.

Beyer announced on March 10 that he and his wife, Megan, would quarantine after having dinner in Old Town with a D.C. resident who later tested positive with COVID-19. Beyer and his wife are not currently symptomatic. Incidentally, Beyer’s grandfather, Otto Beyer, lost his first wife and young son in 1918 to the Spanish Flu, so for him the virus hits a personal note.

In a brief phone interview, Beyer told ALXnow that the next COVID-19 aid packages will help out state and local governments more, in addition to small businesses like gyms and assistance for trade associations.

ALXnow: How are you and your wife feeling?

Beyer: We’re been self-quarantined for 19 or 20 days now. It’s good. We’re trying to model the behavior that all of us should be doing to the extent possible.

ALXnow: The infected friend you and your wife had dinner with — how is he?

Beyer: He is recovering. His fever broke on his 77th birthday. And, interestingly, no one else that he was at the dinner party with seemed to get sick either. He did not prove to be a Typhoid Mary himself.

ALXnow: Since then you have been in isolation. Did you go to Congress to vote for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security [CARES] Act?

Beyer: I went last Friday morning when we had the major CARES package, which provides for all the small businesses. I went to the Congress for that because we weren’t sure we thought we would need a quorum, which in this case is 215 members of Congress. So I felt that, especially somebody who lived closer to Congress, I had a real responsibility to show up. I didn’t want my older colleagues flying across the country, and risking getting COVID-19 on an airplane.

I waited in my car in the parking lot until it was my turn to come speak on the floor. It was really interesting to be in Congress that day because people would speak 30 seconds or a minute, and then would retreat to the far recesses of the upper gallery or in the far corners. Everyone was trying to be on their best germ-free behavior.

ALXnow: When are you going back to work on Capitol Hill?

Beyer: Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, said don’t plan on coming back to Congress in person until April 20. We’re still working 12-to-14 hour days right now. I can’t tell you how many conference calls I’ve been on today. In fact, we just got off one for an hour long with 340 nonprofits in Alexandria and Falls Church, talking about how they can access the small business loans. Tomorrow night [April 1] we’ll have a town hall meeting from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., and one we had last week had 3,000 people on it.

ALXnow: How can residents and businesses take advantage of the CARES Act?

Beyer: Any small business with fewer than 500 employees and nonprofit will be able to go to their bank and apply for the Small Business Administration 100% fully-funded government-guaranteed loan. So no credit applications, and if you maintain your employment base the government will forgive it, which means 0.5% interest rates and the first payment isn’t for six months. There’s a really a wonderful deal, and then if you make less than $75,000, or $150,000 per couple, you also get the direct payment of 1,200 dollars plus $500 for each child. My guess is that there will be more coming in subsequent packages. This is just a one-time payment.

ALXnow: What other legislation will need to be enacted at the Federal level?

Beyer: We’re already on package number four, which will be addressing a lot more help for state and local governments. Probably begin to think about infrastructure. We also were looking at things we left out of the legislation. For example, we didn’t do anything to help trade associations, and we have a lot of trade associations in Arlington and Alexandria. We didn’t do anything to help fitness clubs. All these places that are closed down aren’t getting any help.

ALXnow: What can the federal government do to expand the availability of testing at the local level?

Beyer: There are the best scientists all over the country, all over the world, trying to figure out how to make tests that test quickly that are readily available and that are affordable. It’s very frustrating that little South Korea has tested tens of thousands of people. We were caught flat-footed, and we don’t have to be pointing fingers of blame, we just were. Now we just have to struggle to catch up and be better prepared in the future. My wife and I haven’t been tested yet, and there are a lot of breakthroughs happening. I really do think there’s gonna be more good news and bad news.

ALXnow: Speaker Pelosi mentioned the possible repeal on the SALT [state and local tax deductions] cap. Where do you stand on that?

Beyer: I do support it. It’s hit our district very very hard. The fundamental issue is fairness. We had state and local taxes long before we had a federal income tax. It’s always been deductible. I’ve seen numbers that people in Alexandria have had their net tax bills go up $5,000, because they can’t deduct their state and local taxes. I was a co-sponsor of the bill to repeal it, which has already passed the house.

ALXnow: Does Governor Northam’s stay at home order go far enough?

Beyer: Yeah, I think it put us in sync with Maryland and with Washington DC. I was thrilled that he closed the colleges and universities especially Liberty, which I think was the poster child for irrationality and danger to public health. I also thought that his limiting groups to two or three people and asking people to stay at home is very responsible. We’ve learned from Italy and, to a lesser extent from China andSouth Korea, that the sooner we act, the flatter the curve, the fewer people get sick.

ALXnow: The White House is saying upward of 200,000 Americans may be killed by this. That’s more deaths than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam and Korea combined. Is this the administration’s fault, or was this catastrophe unavoidable as it seems the entire world was unprepared?

Beyer: It was definitely not unavoidable. People have been warning about this for years, that the long-term thinkers have been aware that pandemics come and go, and that we were overdue… You can hold Donald Trump to task for ignoring it for the first couple of months and hoping it would just go away. But the long term impact, we only have American policymakers to blame, and my hope is that we should never be this unprepared again.

ALXnow: As far as the November election goes, primaries are being pushed back. What are Democrats talking about with the national convention in Milwaukee in July?

Beyer: One of the things we didn’t get done in this CARES bill was voting at home, the ability to mail in ballots. A number of states have it like Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and they do really well with it. I’m hoping that in the fourth or fifth coronavirus package that we are able to provide the idea of voting at home. The convention — I have no idea. It sort of depends on where we are in the pandemic.

We’ll still almost certainly have a nominating process of some kind. For example, the 8th District Nominating Convention, has been cancelled as an in-person event but it could still happen virtually, or it may happen through mail. We’re all adapting like crazy right now. We’re finding ways to make things happen, and my hope is that in November that we will be able to vote in person.

We just have to take it a day at a time. We’re learning new things every day, not just about the virus but about our culture and how it works and how we adapt. I’ve always felt that one of the marks of the most successful people is that they are the most adaptive.

ALXnow: How is this pandemic going to change our lives?

Beyer: In the case of 9/11, in a country with 300 million people, if we all made 10 small changes in our lives it meant three billion changes and we haven’t had any major attacks since. So, we will make the same kind of changes now, and that will reduce the likelihood the frequency the impact of the next novel virus.

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Morning Notes

Noah Lyles Relieved Olympics Postponed — “It was a little relief to see that it’s been decided to postpone the Olympics because my first concern was that everybody would be healthy and everybody would have a fair place to compete.” [Running Magazine]

Former Medical Employees Plead Guilty to Running ‘Pill Mill’ — “Two women pleaded guilty yesterday [March 30] for their respective roles in helping run a “pill mill,” which led to the fraudulent dispensing of thousands of prescription opioid pills.” [DOJ]

Trader Joe’s in Old Town is Hiring — “At Trader Joe’s we are working diligently to support our communities and ensure our customers have access to food and necessary household staples during this time. To those who have found their hours limited or jobs placed on hold, we invite you to apply to join our Crew until your employer is able to welcome you back.” [Indeed]

‘The People’s Drug’ Makes Lunches For Industry Workers — “40 bag lunches – GONE! We’re doing our part to feed as many laid off industry folks that we can. Stay tuned for more info on how to grab a bag lunch in the coming days. Not posting this for a “thank you”…but more so to alert our industry fam in need! In the meantime – yes we’re open for curbside pick up and delivery via @UberEats.” [Facebook]

Scholarship Fund of Alexandria Gala Canceled — “The kids in Alexandria who come from families with financial need will feel the greatest economic impact from the COVID-19 crisis. Graduation and College are Coming. They need YOUR Support Now More than Ever!” [Facebook]

Free Parenting Therapy and Support Group Launches — “This is a free therapist-led group, but donations are graciously accepted for those volunteering their time to lead thoughtful discussion, provide support, and even some light-hearted distractions. 25% of all donations received will go to small businesses in need from the Alexandria community.” [Facebook]

Beverley Hills Residents Adorn Homes With Art — “Every Wednesday, neighbors decorate their windows, porches and front yards with artwork based around a specific theme. Then, throughout the day, kids and their parents can walk the neighborhood to admire the displays and hunt for hidden art.” [Alex Times]

Where/When Seniors Should Shop For Groceries — “Vulnerable customers should avoid shopping in person at all and make use of delivery services or volunteers when possible. If in-person shopping is necessary, customers and staff should stay six feet apart from each other, wash hands frequently, and disinfect shared surfaces like shopping cart handles.” [Zebra]

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The number of COVID-19 cases in the city is now at 44 — an increase of eight cases since March 29.

The Alexandria Health Department announced the new number of cases on the city website on Tuesday, March 31.

The city released the following statement:

On March 31, the Alexandria Health Department confirmed eight additional cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, bringing the total to 44. AHD is identifying and contacting individuals who came in close contact with the confirmed cases. The close contacts will be asked to self-quarantine and actively monitor for fever and respiratory symptoms. If they start experiencing symptoms, they will immediately undergo testing. As a result of the AHD’s case investigations and expanded testing through private providers, the number of positive cases is expected to continue to increase.

There are currently 1250 cases of COVID-19 and 27 deaths in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The city is encouraging the public to donate personal protective equipment to the fire and police departments. Additionally, volunteers are needed with the Alexandria Medical Reserve Corps to support the health department in the city’s preparedness and response efforts. More ways to help can also be found with Volunteer Alexandria.

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There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing you could be helping and being unable to. It’s a plight doctors like Del Ray’s Matthew Haden are experiencing with the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been extremely frustrating,” Haden said. “We feel sidelined. We’re trained to help for something like this, but we can’t. It’s extremely frustrating to know we can only help virtually, which often means not being able to help those in need.”

Haden said his office has always done telemedicine, but with the pandemic he’s had to direct nearly all patients except those with injuries to telemedicine.

“We’ve seen an uptick in new patients who need telemedicine to screen for coronavirus,” Haden said, “and we’ve had more interest from the public in one-off visits. That’s the primary change. We’ve had more panicked and scared messages from our patients.”

Haden isn’t alone in that. Other primary care providers in Alexandria have been switching primarily to telemedicine, including the Inova hospital system.

Haden says he does what he can to help concerned patients through the coronavirus testing online, which is mainly walking them through the CDC screening guidelines and giving them his up-to-date understanding of the symptoms. The challenge comes with getting them access to the actual tests.

“Actual testing has been more of a problem, like the nasal swap,” Haden said. “We have not been able to get the necessary medical supplies to conduct tests safely. We couldn’t get swabs at all, then we were able to get ten from one lab and three from another, but it’s been difficult to get personal safety equipment.”

Haden says he’s been collecting donated masks from around the Del Ray community and was able to snag the last six coveralls from Home Depot for his team. Haden says it’s important to get testing up and running because many people who don’t have active symptoms could still be spreading the virus without knowing it.

At Inova, tests are available but only for those exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus.

The best thing that Haden said the public can do is to follow the governor’s order to stay at home.

“Stay home,” Haden said. “It takes everyone being aggressive and vigilant now to shut this down. I know people are very impacted by economic consequence — but it will get much worse if we don’t shut it down now. It really takes isolation to keep this from spreading because people can be spreading it and not have symptoms, or think they have a virus or a cold. The public needs to take it seriously so we don’t have a sudden surge.”

File photo

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Morning Notes

There are Now 36 Cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria — “On March 30, the Alexandria Health Department confirmed four additional cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, bringing the total to 36. AHD is identifying and contacting individuals who came in close contact with the confirmed cases.” [City of Alexandria]

DASH Further Reduces Service — “As part of a wider effort to protect the health and safety of the Alexandria community and DASH employees, DASH implemented an Enhanced Sunday Operating Plan on weekdays and Saturdays, beginning March 30. No changes are anticipated to Sunday service; however, King Street Trolley service will discontinue until further notice.” [DASH]

Old Town Books Launches GoFundMe Campaign — “You’re making it possible for us to make ends meet while our sales floor is closed and before the new SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans roll out. I didn’t know what to expect when starting this fundraiser – crowd funding is not something I *ever* expected to do for this business. But this fundraiser is helping keep our staff working and our online store open. It’s motivating us to keep trying, to keep working despite the bleak economic projections for the year. We’re not giving up. Thank you for your support!” [Facebook]

Mason & Greens Grocer Opens in Old Town — “It’s not the grand opening they were planning, but the new bulk grocer in Old Town, Mason & Greens, is now open. For now, Mason & Greens is offering online shopping for pick-up or delivery.” [Alexandria Living]

ACPS Unveils Story Hour For Younger Students — “It’s such fun to see all these famous faces reading for America’s children in this time of need and we are grateful that some publishers are allowing us to publish read-alouds on the website at this time.” [ACPS]

Little Theatre of Alexandria Issuing Refunds — “Please submit this form before Friday, April 10. For Moonlight and Magnolias and Blue Stockings, we will not be able to process refunds after Thursday, April 30.” [LTA]

Ascend Cycle Offering Virtual Classes — “Virtual high fives! While we can’t be together in person, this is the next best thing! You see us & we see you! Connect with your favorite instructor and friends live while breaking a sweat! We are offering daily live virtual classes designed to connect our community and provide personalized attention. Drop into class for just $10.” [Ascend Cycle]

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The developers behind the Oakville Triangle redevelopment say the project has been dramatically reshaped by the decline of brick-and-mortar retail.

Early designs for the project were of a predominately retail district set up across several blocks near Mount Jefferson Park, but Doug Firstenberg, a principal with development investment firm Stonebridge, said in a video that the 13-acre project near Potomac Yard is being reshaped.

“The original design for the Oakville Project was going to include exclusive retail near Mount Jefferson Park,” Fistenberg said. “So what’s changed? The retail world changed a few years ago and it’s, unfortunately, changing again.”

Firstenberg said the idea of a predominately retail district isn’t economically feasible. Now, neighborhood-serving retail will be focused on the new buildings facing Richmond Highway. A hotel that was also planned for the site has also been scrapped.

Instead, a large section of the development at the western end of the site will be replaced with townhouses and the area will be the site of a new Inova HealthPlex.

“The HealthPlex is a standalone emergency room with other complementary standalone services,” said Dr. Rina Bansal, President and CEO of Inova Alexandria.

Bansal said the HealthPlex will feature a full-service emergency room, surgery center, and medical office space. The site is designed for outpatient care only, meaning patients cannot stay for more than 23 hours.

One of the local benefits of the change is a 34,000 square-foot expansion of Mount Jefferson Park. Firstenberg said early community feedback indicated that the park was viewed as a crucial community resource and expansion of that was prioritized.

Firstenberg said the developer is targeting Planning Commission and City Council review in November for the small area plan and the first quarter of next year for a special use permit. Firstenberg said that timeline is important to keep the project on track for summer 2021 construction and opening in the third and fourth quarters of 2023.

A press release noted that feedback can be submitted through the project website.

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Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay at home order for all Virginians that will be in effect until June 10 unless otherwise rescinded or extended.

Northam made the announcement in a press conference today, and said that those congregating in groups of ten or more could be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor. The order requires that Virginians stay at home unless they are getting food, medical attention, going to work or getting a little fresh air.

“To date, this has been a suggestion,” Northam said. “Today, it’s an order.”

The escalation comes as Virginia faces 1020 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 25 deaths. In Alexandria, there are 32 confirmed cases and no deaths so far.

“We are not looking to put people in jail, but at this time when I expect all Virginians to comply,” Northam said. “If we see people gathered in any place throughout Virginia, like beaches or parks, then that will be enforced.”

Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow he supported the governor’s order.

“We’ve been encouraging residents to stay at home for a few weeks now to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Wilson said. “The Governor’s order helps provide further support for that messaging. We hope that residents will respect this order so that we can support our health workers working day and night to keep us safe.”

Del. Charniele Herring and City Councilman John Chapman also took to social media to encourage Alexandrians to follow the order.

It is time to stay at home, Virginia folks. Governor of Virginia has issued an Executive Order, mandating Virginia to stay at home due to COVID.

Posted by John T. Chapman on Monday, March 30, 2020

Orders from the state have already forced Alexandria restaurants to reduce service to only takeout and deliveries, which Northam said has not changed.

I'm making an important announcement about our efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia and save lives.

Posted by Governor of Virginia on Monday, March 30, 2020

Photo via Governor of Virginia/Facebook

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