Arlington County has seen a slight, week-long slowdown in new coronavirus cases, but is pushing back on Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to partially reopen statewide by the end of the week.
As of Monday morning, there were 1,399 known coronavirus cases in Arlington, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. That brings the trailing 7-day rise in cases to 293, down from a peak of 349 on May 4.
The state health department is also reporting 60 deaths and 286 hospitalizations in Arlington, up from 57 deaths and 227 hospitalizations on Friday.
Statewide, 25,070 cases have been reported, along with 3,300 hospitalizations, 850 deaths and 167,758 total tests.
According to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, 1,504 confirmed and potential COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized statewide, while 3,273 have been hospitalized and subsequently discharged. There are 4,647 hospital beds available statewide and 21% of ventilators in Virginia are currently in use.
Over the weekend, Gov. Northam released more details about his “Forward Virginia” plan to reopen the state, which could happen as early as Friday. From a press release:
Under Phase One, the Commonwealth will move to a Safer at Home strategy, which continues the ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people and maintains recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and wearing face coverings. 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.
Retail establishments will be allowed to operate at 50 percent occupancy, restaurant and beverage establishments may offer outdoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, personal grooming services may begin operating with one patron per service provider, and fitness centers may offer outdoor exercise services. Campgrounds may also begin taking reservations for short-term stays.
Places of worship have had a 10-person limit and have been allowed to hold drive-in services allowed. In Phase One, drive-in services may continue, and services may be held inside at 50 percent capacity. Specific guidelines for religious services can be found here.
Many of the restrictions put in place by Executive Order Fifty-Three will remain in place in Phase One. Entertainment and public amusement venues will remain closed and beaches will continue to be open only for exercise and fishing. Childcare centers remain open for children of working families. Overnight summer camps will remain closed in Phase One.
Arlington County and other Northern Virginia governments, however, are asking for the ability to delay its implementation. The county released the following statement Friday evening.
Arlington County supports Governor Northam’s detailed framework for “Forward Virginia,” and appreciates the Commonwealth’s acknowledgement that the Northern Virginia region faces challenges that differ in number and scale from the Commonwealth as a whole. Over half of the cases and hospitalizations and nearly half of the COVID -19 deaths are here in Northern Virginia — despite our constituting a little more than a quarter of the state’s population; and we continue to see a rise in hospitalizations. Arlington is working closely with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, which comprises other localities in the region, to coordinate with the Governor’s office to determine the safest path forward, with an extended timeframe for entering Phase One.
Arlington County’s top priority is to ensure the safety of the entire community; and we believe we must meet the criteria for entering Phase One. At this point, based on the data for our region as well as Arlington specifically, the most responsible path forward is maintaining our current operating status until these criteria are met.
That message was echoed by County Board member Katie Cristol, in an interview on WAMU Friday. She was asked by host Kojo Nnamdi about potentially opening up on Friday, May 8.
“I think that is going to be a timeline that works for some part of Virginia. And we are grateful that, in recent days, it is recognized that that is not a timeline that is likely going to make sense here in Northern Virginia,” she said.
“Generally, we are coalescing around more or less the same criteria,” she said, “downward trend in positive tests, downward trend in hospitalizations, testing, tracing PPE, and so forth.”
Cristol also revealed a bit of news in the interview: Arlington County is planning to distribute cloth face coverings, as a way to further encourage their use.
“We recently put in a pretty significant order for cloth face coverings that were intended to be distributed around the county,” she told Nnamdi. “And we’ll have more details on that, we hope, in the next week or so. So, I suppose a carrot, not a stick approach on that one.”
“It makes more sense to make masks available and distribute those to whomever needs them, rather than trying to, for example, give tickets to those who aren’t wearing them,” she added.