With the first confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the D.C. area, Alexandria’s DASH transit agency says it will be taking extra precautions.
In a press release Friday afternoon, DASH said it is “increasing facility and vehicle cleaning with a special focus on critical touchpoints such as door handles, handrails and other surfaces.” It is also encouraging passengers “to utilize everyday methods to prevent the spread of germs recommended by the CDC and Alexandria’s Health Department.”
More from the press release:
Alexandria Transit Company (DASH) is joining regional transit agencies and local authorities in taking steps to prepare for and prevent the spread of COVID-19 or novel coronavirus. As a public transportation agency responsible for the safety and security of thousands of passengers daily, DASH is increasing measures to maintain a safe and healthy environment for its passengers and personnel.
“We’re a public transit agency, so of course safety is always our top priority. We are taking precautions and preparing in accordance with CDC guidelines to protect both our passengers and our personnel,” said Stephanie Salzone, DASH safety and security manager.
DASH is increasing facility and vehicle cleaning with a special focus on critical touchpoints such as door handles, handrails and other surfaces. These cleanings will incorporate disinfection procedures indicated to be effective against COVID-19. These measures apply to all DASH buses and King Street Trolleys.
In addition to these efforts, DASH encourages all passengers to utilize everyday methods to prevent the spread of germs recommended by the CDC and Alexandria’s Health Department. These include frequently and effectively washing hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Be sure to follow the CDC’s guidelines for proper handwashing.
The public is also encouraged to cover any coughing or sneezing with a tissue or sleeve. Used tissues should be immediately discarded in an appropriate garbage receptacle. Hands should be washed immediately after coughing or sneezing.
Finally, anyone experiencing fever, coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath is encouraged to stay home and avoid outside contact whenever possible.
According to the CDC, general risk among the American public outside of areas with confirmed cases of COVID-19 is low. Of the 164 of coronavirus across 19 states, none have been reported in Virginia or the district. As of March 5, three individuals in Maryland have tested positive for the virus and Governor Hogan has declared a state of emergency.
The City of Alexandria, the Alexandria Health Department, Inova Health System, and the Alexandria City Public Schools will host an online virtual information session on Thursday, March 12, from 8 to 9 p.m., to provide information and answer questions about the COVID-19 coronavirus. The session will also address how government agencies, businesses and residents can prepare. A recording of the session will be available after the session end
Biden Wins Virginia — “Virginia voters have overwhelmingly given former Vice President Joe Biden a sizable win over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in Tuesday’s primary election. According to unofficial state election returns, Biden has been called the winner of the state with 53.3 percent of what was a record primary turnout, and will capture the largest share of its 99 delegates.” [Patch, Washington Post]
City Holding Coronavirus Info Session — “The City of Alexandria, the Alexandria Health Department, Inova Health System, and the Alexandria City Public Schools will hold an online virtual information session on Thursday, March 12, from 8 to 9 p.m., to provide information and answer questions about the COVID-19 coronavirus. The session will be accessible at alexandriava.gov/Health.” [City of Alexandria, Alexandria Living]
North Old Town Quickly Developing — “Old Town North has been witnessing metamorphic change evolving before our eyes over the last two decades. Residential and mixed-use developments, including rental apartments, townhouses, condos, and retail spaces scattered throughout. Among notable additions are the Harris Teeter at The Kingsley, the Gables Old Town North with apartments, restaurants and retail built on the old Giant/ABC Store site. Redevelopment of the abandoned Bus Barn site has just commenced.” [Zebra]
Nearby: Redevelopment Floated for Shopping Center — “One developer is proposing putting 900 apartments where the Belle View Shopping Center — recently ravaged by a fire — now stands.” [Alexandria Living, Covering the Corridor]
Schools Preparing for Coronavirus — “ACPS has partnered with the Alexandria City Health Department and local first responders to form a COVID-19 Task Force Planning Committee to work closely to monitor this evolving situation. We plan to provide updates as we progress with this planning and work.” [ACPS]
Reminder: Primary Day is Tomorrow — “On Tuesday, March 3, there will be a Democratic Party presidential primary election in the City of Alexandria. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.” [City of Alexandria]
Business Robbed in Old Town on Sunday — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a commercial robbery in the 800 block of South Washington Street. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]
Kaine Campaigning for Biden Today — Sen. Tim Kaine is scheduled to help Joe Biden’s re-energized presidential campaign phone bank at its Eisenhower Avenue office this afternoon.
Resident: Parking Is Too Sparse in Old Town — “Personally, I have consciously put off or cancelled Old Town plans several times because the parking crisis made visiting a business or meeting up with friends impossible with my own vehicle. I believe our city planners should consider building a public parking deck or similar facility somewhere in the neighborhood in order to alleviate the impossibly high demand on our limited parking situation.” [Gazette Packet]
The City of Alexandria is working on plans to handle a potential Coronavirus outbreak, but if you’re looking to a free face mask from the city, you’re out of luck.
“Our health department is not there to deliver masks,” said City Councilwoman Amy Jackson at a City Council meeting on Tuesday. “We’ve seen an increase in requests, but you have to find your own if that’s what you want to do.”
Councilman Mohamed “Mo” Seifeldein checked in with the City Manager at the meeting’s end to ensure the city is preparing for a potential coronavirus outbreak.
“With the announcement from the CDC, it seems like unwelcome news may be coming,” Seifeldein said. “In the event that we have to go into a short schedule, work from home, school [closures], I want to make sure plans are set.”
City Manager Mark Jinks confirmed that the city is working on plans to continue operating city services while minimizing the potential spread of disease.
“As the spread of the virus is on two continents, it’s a pandemic,” Jinks said. “We’ve had a staff group working and we’re going to be expanding that. We have a continuation of service plans in place with each department, however, this is a different circumstance than we have ever faced.”
“This is not a snowstorm. This is not a weather event,” he continued. “We’ve got to go back and look at those and see how we would respond differently. We’re in a different gear.”
Jinks said he and others on city staff are reading up on past pandemics.
“Nobody really knows how far it’s going to spread, but we have to plan for it,” Jinks said. “We have to be ready.”
Wuhan, China is half a world away, but Alexandria officials are not letting the city’s distance from the deadly coronavirus outbreak there lull them into a false sense of security.
With authorities investigating a possible coronavirus case in Northern Virginia — reportedly a George Mason University student who recently traveled to China — Alexandria says it’s “closely monitoring” the outbreak.
On Monday afternoon the city released information on the disease, its efforts thus far and how locals can protect themselves from it.
From a City of Alexandria press release:
The Alexandria Health Department (AHD) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) are closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (termed “2019-nCoV”) that was first detected in Wuhan City, China, and reported in December 2019. Infections with 2019-nCoV are being reported in a growing number of countries across the world, including the United States. Test results for a patient under investigation in the Northern Region of Virginia are expected to be received later this week. At this time, Virginia continues to have no confirmed cases of Novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV.
2019-nCoV is novel, or new, meaning that is has not previously been identified by public health officials. As a coronavirus, it comes from a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats. Early on, many of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan, China, reportedly had some link to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting the virus likely emerged from an animal source. Now there are indications the virus is spreading from infected persons to others.
AHD is following guidelines from VDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to rapidly identify persons who may be infected with 2019-nCoV. AHD has provided Alexandria’s healthcare providers guidance and resources for screening and testing persons suspected of being infected with 2019-nCoV, while also protecting their staff and the public.
How Can I Protect Myself, My Family and My Business?
There is currently no vaccine to prevent 2019-nCoV infection. However, everyday preventive actions help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses like 2019-nCoV as well as influenza and the common cold, including:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Stay home when you are sick. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow, not your hand. Alternatively, cough or sneeze into a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Please note: the CDC has specific guidelines for travelers.
Public health officials’ understanding of 2019-nCoV is continuously evolving. For the most up-to-date information, visit VDH’s Novel Coronavirus page or to the CDC’s 2019 Novel Coronavirus page.
MOMs Shopping Center Set for Redevelopment — A “D.C. developer filed preliminary plans with Alexandria earlier this month for the project, looking to completely overhaul a Mount Vernon Avenue shopping center near Four Mile Run Park, now called Del Ray North. It’s currently home to a MOM’s Organic Market, but has seen a variety of retail vacancies recently.” [Washington Business Journal]
Port City Planning 9th Anniversary Celebration — “Time to celebrate 9 awesome years of brewing with the only way we know how: a COLOSSAL release! For our ninth anniversary we are introducing COLOSSAL IX a Weizenbock to the COLOSSAL lineup.” [Port City Brewing]
Sephora Now Open in Old Town — “Cosmetics store Sephora is opening a store in Old Town Alexandria on Friday, Jan. 24. The store is located at 810 King Street, the former site of home furniture store Random Harvest. That store moved to 814 King Street.” [Patch]
Possible N. Va. Coronavirus Case — “The Virginia Department of Health says it is investigating three people, including one in northern Virginia, who ‘meet both clinical and epidemiologic criteria’ for coronavirus.” [Fox 5, Virginia Dept. of Health]