COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions

Page updated on Mar 22, 2021 at 10:13 PM

Misinformation can spread faster than a virus. The Alexandria Health Department (AHD) urges everyone to follow credible sources of information such as the City's COVID-19 data dashboards and news releases, daily updates from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Alexandria COVID-19 Hotline is available at 703.746.4988, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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The CDC and VDH maintain comprehensive COVID-19 information. For questions about coronavirus, COVID-19 symptoms, quarantine or isolation, vaccine effectiveness, vaccine safety, and other questions without guidance and information local to Alexandria, visit:


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Alexandria COVID-19 Response and Ordinances

What is the City’s COVID-19 response plan?

On March 14, 2020 the City of Alexandria declared a state of emergency in response to COVID-19. Working closely with the AHD, the City’s pandemic response has evolved as public health experts learn more about COVID-19. Alexandria’s response is heavily informed by the latest recommendations from the CDC and VDH. Learn more about Alexandria’s Strategic Action Frameworks for fighting COVID-19.



Where can I find information about COVID-19 cases in Alexandria?

VDH’s Virginia Daily Dashboard provides a daily update about COVID-19 case, hospitalization, death, testing and vaccination data for Virginia residents only.

The  Alexandria COVID-19 Data dashboard includes information about new COVID-19 cases, deaths and 7-days moving average of positive cases in Alexandria.

The case count includes laboratory confirmed cases and probable cases (symptomatic patients diagnosed by a doctor but not tested) reported by VDH.

How can I stay informed about the City’s COVID-19 response?
  • To get alerts, text ALEXCOVID19 to 888777

  • For up-to-date local information, visit alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus, subscribe to City eNews alerts, and follow City social media channels.

  • For questions about COVID-19, call the Alexandria COVID-19 Information Line at 703.746.4988, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

  • Virginia residents can also call the Virginia Department of Health public information line, 877-VAX-IN-VA, for questions about COVID-19.

Why did the City of Alexandria declare a state of emergency?

The City Manager declared a local state of emergency in Alexandria, which provides streamlined regulations for logistics coordination and prepares for the possibility of federal and state reimbursement of emergency costs. A declaration of emergency does not mean that the level of risk from the virus has changed. The latest on City government operations and changes in services are available on alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus


Do I have to wear a mask all the time?

Masks are required for ages 5 and over at all times in indoor settings that are shared with others, including places of worship and work settings, whether or not employees are customer facing. Masks are also required for everyone ages 5 and over in all outdoor settings where 6 feet of physical distance cannot be maintained. These requirements are similar to those already in place under Alexandria's mask ordinance.



Are there exceptions to the mask requirement?

There are limited exceptions indicated in the City ordinance and state executive order. These include when a person is under 5 years old; when wearing a face covering would pose a substantial health risk; and when wearing a face covering is prevented by a workplace safety regulation, religious ritual, medical condition, or disability. Masks are also not required while actively eating or drinking, but should be worn while waiting for food or beverages and during substantial breaks in eating or drinking. Masks can be removed, where necessary, to receive government, medical, or dental services.



Are children required to wear masks?

Generally, children under age 5 are not required by the ordinance to wear a face covering, unless required by a daycare center, educational institution, or other facility where children congregate. For children age five and over, accompanying adults are responsible for prompting children to wear a face covering in public.



Is a mask required when I am exercising outdoors or dining outside?

A mask is not required while swimming, biking, jogging, or engaging in any other physical activity where wearing a face covering has been determined to pose a health risk. 

However, dining establishments, whether indoor or outdoor, are considered public places where 6 feet of distance from people outside of your household cannot be maintained. Therefore, masks should be worn unless actively eating or drinking.



What is the penalty for not wearing a mask in public?

The Alexandria City Council adopted the ordinance to make it clear that masks are an important part of stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Rather than forcing compliance with citations or penalties, the City is encouraging compliance by providing education materials for awareness, handing out free face coverings and approaching people in crowded places to request compliance.



How should I report when others are not wearing a face mask in public?

The City’s website details the requirements for masks and what to do if a violation is observed, including exemptions for certain individuals and situations. If a violation is taking place in a business or restaurant, the business and customers should work together to resolve the situation when possible. A customer who is concerned about a mask violation by an employee or another customer should bring the concern to the attention of the person involved, or to a manager. If the situation cannot be resolved, the customer may wish to explain to the manager why they will no longer patronize the business, and may report the violation using the VDH online complaint form or calling the Alexandria COVID-19 Hotline at 703.746.4988.

Please contact Alex311 to indicate the area where you see people not wearing masks in public so that staff ambassadors can continually monitor the area and provide educational materials. Please do not approach or photograph others without their permission.

What are the City’s recommendations during public gatherings?

As much as possible, the City recommends individuals to avoid or limit their participation in public gathering. 

If some community members or organizations plan to hold a small gatherings, AHD urges all community members to practice the following physical distancing at gatherings of any size:

  • Older adults or people with underlying conditions are encouraged to not attend.

  • People should avoid being within 6 feet of each other for longer than momentary or minimal contact.

  • Employees are screened for coronavirus symptoms each day and excluded if symptomatic.

  • Proper hand hygiene and sanitation must be readily available to all attendees and employees.

  • Follow environmental cleaning guidelines from the CDC, including more cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces at least daily.

  • If you have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19: People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. Those fully vaccinated:

    • Should continue wearing a mask and maintaining physical distance when in public, when gathering with unvaccinated people at high risk of severe illness, or when gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one household. 

    • Should avoid attending non-essential events.

    • Can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.

    • Can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

    • Do not need to stay away from others or get tested after exposure to someone with COVID-19 unless they develop symptoms.

For a list of individual meeting schedules and cancellations, please visit alexandriava.gov/Calendar.

Staying Safe and Prevention

How does COVID-19 spread?

COVID-19 spreads very easily from person to person and is spread through the air. COVID-19 is even easier to catch than influenza, which causes the flu. COVID-19 spreads most easily when:

  • People are physically near (within 6 feet of) a person with COVID-19 or have direct contact

  • Through respiratory droplets. When people with COVID-19 cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe they produce respiratory droplets

  • Through contact with COVID-19 on contaminated surfaces

How do I protect myself and others from COVID-19?

Follow the 6 steps to stop the spread:

  • Stay home

  • Wash hands often

  • Maintain 6 feet of physical distance

  • Cover coughs and sneezes

  • Disinfect surfaces

  • Wear a mask if you have to go out

When and how should I wear a mask?

Masks are one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Masks are required in public settings, mass transportation, at events and gatherings, and anywhere you will be around other people.

Masking tips:

  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before you put on your mask

  • Put your mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin

  • Make sure your mask fits tightly and does not have any gaps around the edges

  • Whether you’re wearing one or two masks, make sure it completely covers your nose and mouth, that there are no major gaps on the sides of your mouth, and that you can breathe comfortably enough that you’re not tempted to take it off.

Testing and Tracing

Where can I get a COVID-19 test in Alexandria?

As part of efforts to expand access to testing options, the City and AHD have launched free kiosk-based testing sites in partnership with the private testing company Curative. 

The kiosks offer a nasal swab that is self-administered under the supervision of a Curative worker. Appointments are encouraged and may be made at Curative.com. Walk-up testing is also available. Kiosk service is available in English and Spanish.

For information about the sites, including locations and times, visit alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus

How much does a COVID-19 test cost?

Curative testing kiosks, and many other providers offer free tests. Learn more about costs and other testing options here.



If I was exposed to COVID-19, when should I get tested?

If you were exposed to COVID-19 you will need to quarantine prior to testing. Be sure not to test too soon after exposure. AHD recommends waiting 7 days after exposure before seeking testing unless you have symptoms of COVID-19. If you are experiencing symptoms seek testing as soon as possible.

If you’ve been fully vaccinated and are around someone with COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you develop COVID-19 symptoms. You are fully vaccinated when: 

  • It has been 2 weeks after your second dose in a 2-dose series vaccine, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines

  • It has been 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine

Do I have to have symptoms to get tested?

No, around half of people who test positive for COVID-19 do not experience symptoms. 



If I get a positive test result should I get tested again?

No, there are other actions you need to take. If you test positive you need to isolate away from others for a minimum of 10 days from when your symptoms started. If you do not have symptoms isolate for 10 days from the date you went and got tested. Before you end isolation after 10 days you need to have improved symptoms for at least 24 hours. Learn more.



What happens after if I test positive for COVID-19?

Your local health department will receive your test result and a COVID-19 Case Investigator or Contact Tracer will call you to conduct an interview. They will provide you with instructions on how to isolate, contact your close contacts, and connect you to any locally available resources. If you test positive and see an unfamiliar number, answer the call.



Do I need to test negative before returning to work or other activities?

No, AHD does not recommend waiting to receive a negative test result once you have recovered from COVID-19. Once you have completed your 10 days of isolation and had reduced symptoms for at least 24 hours, you are no longer considered infectious. Some individuals will continue to test positive for 90 days or more, but are not contagious or sick. Learn more.



When do I get my test result?

The provider that collected your COVID-19 test is responsible for informing you of results. Curative will contact you via email or phone (depending on which you used to register) within 72 hours. If you have not received your results within this timeframe contact the provider. 



Can I end my quarantine if I test negative?

If your primary care provider or local Health Department has directed you to quarantine for 14 days because you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, AHD does not recommend ending quarantine early if you receive a negative test result.  



What should I do if I was in close contact with someone tested positive for COVID-19?
  • The best way to protect yourself and others is to stay home for 14 days

  • Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19.

  • Stay away from others, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.

  • Contact the AHD for further information and advice. Alexandria COVID-19 Hotline፡ 703.746.4988.

  • If you are fully vaccinated and around someone with COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you develop COVID-19 symptoms. You are fully vaccinated when: 

    • It has been 2 weeks after your second dose in a 2-dose series vaccine, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines

    • It has been 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine

How does the City identify individuals in close contact with someone who has COVID-19?

AHD will initiate a case investigation when staff receive information that an Alexandria resident has tested positive for COVID-19. The process includes providing resources and guidance for how to quarantine safely and reaching out to everyone who has had close contact with the person who tested positive, while maintaining confidentiality. AHD will provide resources and guidance about how to protect others and will never ask for bank account information, immigration status, social security number or other information unrelated to the case. A Case Investigation and Contact Tracing Guide explains the contact tracing process, and is now available in Spanish, Amharic, and Arabic. These fact sheets are available for download and print, or prints can be requested.



COVID-19 Vaccination

What is the City of Alexandria’s COVID-19 vaccination plan?

COVID-19 vaccine is provided to specific groups of people over several phases. Alexandria follows guidance from the Commonwealth of Virginia regarding who is currently eligible for the vaccine. Recommendations are designed to reduce COVID-19 deaths, serious disease, protect the most vulnerable populations, and stop the pandemic. Learn more about eligible groups and prioritization in Alexandria. 



Why should I get COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccines can help end the pandemic by protecting you and your loved ones from COVID-19. Learn more


Who is eligible for the vaccine?

Those eligible for vaccines include Phase 1a: healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities; and Phase 1b: frontline essential workers, people aged 65 and older, and ages 16-64 with underlying health conditions. Learn about vaccine prioritization



How can I get the vaccine?

Anyone is able to sign up for the vaccination waitlist. Individuals on the waitlist are contacted and offered appointment times based on their priority group, the order they pre-registered in, and the availability of vaccines. Pre-register to receive the vaccine.


Will I have to pay for the COVID-19 vaccine?

You do not have to pay for a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines are purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars and are given at no cost. 



How do I schedule a second dose?

Vaccine second doses are provided by the same provider who administered your first dose. If you received your first dose from AHD, you will be contacted by 5 p.m the following day to make your next appointment. If you received your first dose from a pharmacy or other private entity, you should contact them regarding your second dose.



COVID-19 Resources and Support

What resources are available for residents and businesses?

Emergency Safety Net Services
Services available for residents who face an immediate crisis and need help to resolve the situation. Safety Net Services may include, but are not limited to emergency shelter, eviction assistance, prescription assistance, burial assistance and utility turn-off notices. For more information, visit the Office of Community Services or call the Department of Community and Human Services Customer Call Center at 703.746.5700 or text 703.346.5599.

Assistance for Workers and Job Seekers
Employment assistance and information is available for workers and job seekers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis in Alexandria. Visit the Assistance for Workers and Job Seekers page to learn more.

Child care Assistance and Referral Program
Multiple programs and resources are available for residents that are in need of childcare assistance or other childcare resources. Visit the Childcare Assistance and Referral Program page to learn more.

Food Assistance
A variety of programs and resources are available for Alexandria residents that may need food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit the Food Assistance page to learn more.

Financial Relief for Alexandria Businesses
The pandemic has taken its toll on Alexandria businesses and nonprofits. Resources are available for those severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit the Financial Relief for Alexandria Businesses page to learn more. 

Housing and Eviction Prevention Programs
The Office of Housing, the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS), and the State have programs and services that can help renters, homeowners, and property owners struggling to pay rent or mortgage payments. Visit the Eviction Prevention Programs, Resources and Information page to learn more.

Health Insurance and Care Programs and Services 
Information and resources for residents with healthcare needs such as questions concerning insurance, Medicaid and access to primary care. Visit the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) to learn more. 

Mental Health and Coping Support
Fear and anxiety about COVID-19 can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. The Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) has resources to help about effective ways to cope with stress and where to access support when needed.

Legal Aid and Other Assistance Programs
More helpful information and resources for those impacted by COVID-19 are available. Visit the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) More Helpful Resources page to learn more.

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