Today, five of my regional colleagues — from Fairfax, Loudoun & Prince William Counties & the City of Alexandria — and I participated virtually in Governor Northam’s regular COVID-19 Update press conference. We spelled out the reasons, based on scientific data that Northern Virginia is not yet ready to safely move to Phase 1 of the Governor’s reopening strategy. Regional leaders, health directors and staff spent most of the past weekend making sure we all understood the current situation in ou
r region and worked to coordinate what we wanted the Governor to know as he looks to begin reopening the Commonwealth this Friday.
Last month, the Governor outlined both his strategy and threshold metrics needed to move forward. His blueprint for Virginia Forward Phase 1 includes industry-specific guidelines and the following threshold metrics for easing the public health restrictions currently in place:
* Downward trend of positive tests over a period of 14 days
* Downward trend of hospitalizations over a period of 14 days
* Enough hospital beds and intensive care capacity
* Increasing and sustainable supply of PPE
* Increased testing and tracing
Unfortunately, Northern Virginia currently either does not meet, or does not have sufficient data to indicate if we meet, any of these metrics. Therefore we sent a letter to Governor Northam Sunday morning providing him the data that we have and asking that Northern Virginia not move to Phase 1 on Friday. We heard on Monday that the Governor agreed with our assessment and has granted us at least a two-week extension on entering Phase 1. That was announced at today’s press conference as well as the fact that $650 million has been given to the State of Virginia from the Federal CARES Act to support COVID-19 efforts by local governments. Those monies have been distributed and Arlington has received almost $20M. There also will be an additional amount of Federal dollars for localities to boost testing and contact tracing services.
We are all eager to rebuild our economy and to help our residents and our businesses recover from the severe blow dealt them by this pandemic. However, as the Governor said today, “Until we get the health crisis
behind us, the economy cannot recover.” Arlington County has responded on many fronts. We have provided increased funding for emergency food and rental assistance, reordered our Fiscal Year 2021 Budget priorities to create a $10.2 million contingent fund to help broaden and strengthen our social safety net, and created a fund for small businesses, among other steps. We continue to maintain essential services and programs.
Please note that whenever Phase One begins, social gatherings of more than 10 people will still be banned, and recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and wearing face coverings will be maintained. All businesses should make modifications to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitization of high contact surfaces and provide enhanced workplace safety measures. Many other restrictions will be in place for businesses and places of worship and entertainment and public amusement venues will remain closed.
I thank everyone for your personal sacrifices, for volunteering to help our neighbors and for sticking to our safety measures so that we may keep the volume of new COVID virus cases under control in Arlington. I also much appreciate the good ideas many of you have been sharing with me and your words of support. We are innovating every day in order to be resilient. Please stay well.