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Arlington Grapples with Community Transmission of Coronavirus

Like other nearby localities, Arlington has entered the community transmission phase of coronavirus outbreak.

As of noon Monday, the number of known coronavirus cases in Arlington again increased — to 34 cases from 26 cases on Sunday and 17 on Friday, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health. Some of those are suspected cases of community transmission, which cannot be traced back to travel abroad or contact with a person known to be infected.

At the Arlington County Board meeting on Saturday, Arlington County Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese provided an update on the county’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We have cases in Arlington, as well as in the region… there is now evidence for local transmission, community transmission,” said Varghese. “[These are] cases where you can’t find a known source related to travel… The cases in Georgetown were a known cause, but we now have evidence without being able to find a known source of transmission.”

Varghese said that this was completely expected and the work being done now on social distancing will help reduce the spread.

“With that evidence of community spread in Northern Virginia we want to remind everyone: infectious diseases don’t respect boundaries and all localities should be vigilant in helping to slow the spread of the virus,” Varghese said.

Varghese advised people to wash their hands frequently and to cover their faces when coughing, complimenting someone else in the room mid-speech with having “good technique” as they started to cough.

Statewide in Virginia, there are now 254 known coronavirus cases, including 38 hospitalizations and 6 deaths. Nearly 3,700 people have been tested, according to the state health department. Fairfax County now has the highest number of cases among individual jurisdictions in the Commonwealth: 43.

Meanwhile, the county is scrapping its previous budget.

“We’re doing the best to get a new budget proposal by April 1,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said. “It will be a very small document with increased demands in certain areas and less revenue.”

Schwartz said that, as the county did after the 9/11 terror attacks, all capital projects will be reprioritized to divert resources to essential needs. Budget work sessions have been temporarily suspended.

“We expect occupancy tax and meals tax to be low,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said that occupancy rates at Arlington hotels are currently around 2-3% with one closing that week.

Image via Arlington County

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