We are 10 days into an initial 15-day nationwide effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Lives have tragically been lost. Jobs that seemed secure are now gone. Uncertainty surrounds every decision being made by individuals, families, businesses and our elected leaders. Decisions are being made daily, even hourly that in some cases drastically impact our lives.
Here in Arlington, our county leaders declared a state of emergency to maximize social distancing, even closing our parks. Closed schools are still serving school lunches and breakfasts to kids who rely on them. Local leaders worked together with Virginia Hospital Center to stand up a drive-through testing site.
County Manager Mark Schwartz announced last weekend he would come back to the County Board with a revised annual budget. Certainly, county officials are expecting to lose the revenue cushion that had lead Chair Libby Garvey to speculate the Board would cut the tax rate.
At the same time, the fiscal year does not begin until July 1, which hopefully will be after we have turned the corner on coronavirus. The Board will also have access to closeout funds later in the year to bridge the gap. And, for years Arlington has banked large emergency reserves that we can tap into if necessary. In other words, we should be able to get through this without taking drastic measures.
Sadly, yesterday Governor Northam announced an end to the school year. In Arlington, the Governor turned a 30-day school shutdown into a 100-day shutdown. By contrast, the Governor’s order only required non-essential businesses to close for the next 30 days.
It is not entirely clear why the Governor did not wait until mid-April to make this long-term school decision when he would have had more information available to him. However, there will be plenty of time for after-action reports, public criticism and public praise in the weeks and months after we get through this.
In the meantime, as we make our way through this unprecedented national crisis, may we all take a measured response to the actions and decisions of our leaders. We have to trust that every elected official is trying to both protect public health, particularly for the most vulnerable of our people, and guard against the potential of an economic collapse.
Arlingtonians can stay up to date on all of the latest news and information at the county’s website. Not only does it include announcements about what the county is doing in response to COVID-19, it also outlines resources to meet community needs during this difficult time.
Right now, if you have the means, please consider helping your neighbors. You can check in with local charitable organizations or reach out directly to those who may be in need. It certainly is a cliche, but we will come out of this stronger if we continue to remember that we are all in this together.
Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.