COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions

Page updated on Aug 6, 2020 at 2:07 PM

This is a continuously evolving situation and the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) guidance will change (sometimes rapidly) with the passage of time, a change in circumstances, and/or release of updated guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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COVID-19 101

What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are known to cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new strain of coronavirus that can cause pneumonia that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 is the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, in late 2019. 

Where did COVID-19 come from?

Like MERS and SARS, COVID-19 closely resembles coronaviruses found in bats but not humans. Scientists believe that the bat virus had a change in its genes that permitted it to spread to humans, possibly via an intermediate carrier (snakes) in an animal market in Wuhan, China. 

What are the symptoms of the COVID-19 disease?

We are learning more about the symptoms that this virus causes as the outbreak progresses. The most common symptoms currently seen with COVID-19 are coughing, fever of over 100.4 F, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. The CDC updated its website with the following additional symptoms on 4/27/20: Chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. 

How is COVID-19 transmitted, and when will someone get sick if they’re exposed?

Currently, it is thought that COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). 

Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through the air by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact like shaking hands, or touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands. Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear anywhere from 2-14 days after someone was exposed.

COVID-19 is spread by people whether or not they have symptoms, and nearly 10% of infected Alexandrians have required hospitalization. Everyone must do their part to stop the spread: maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others, wear a mask, and carry and use hand sanitizer. With a recent increase in cases, you are more likely to encounter someone who is infected. Be prepared to answer a call from the Alexandria Health Department in case you are identified as a close contact. 

How long is someone contagious from COVID-19?

Based on our current understanding, symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure, and people are believed to be most contagious when they are symptomatic. This means someone who is infected is most likely to spread the illness when they are actively coughing or sneezing.

There have been cases of COVID-19 that were asymptomatic and transmitting the virus to others without showing signs of illness. There is also some evidence that people can transmit the illness in the 48 hours before symptoms are apparent.

What are risks for getting the COVID-19 virus?

Individual risk is dependent on exposure history. People who are close contacts of someone with a confirmed case or who have traveled from another affected country or geographic area in the last 14 days are at higher risk of becoming infected.

Close contacts of confirmed cases will be contacted and advised by Alexandria Health Department or the confirmed case themselves. Depending on their level of exposure they may be asked to self-quarantine or self-monitor for symptoms. If they develop symptoms like a cough, fever of over 100.4 F, and shortness of breath, they should self-isolate and seek medical guidance by calling their health care provider. If you are a close contact of a confirmed case and haven’t been contacted, call the Alexandria Health Department COVID-19 Information Line at 703.746.4988 weekdays from 9 a.m. To 6 p.m.

Who is at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19?

Everyone appears to be at the same risk of getting COVID-19 if they are exposed, but people who are 65 or older, as well as people of all ages who have underlying medical conditions, are at higher risk of serious illness if they do get COVID-19. Other groups at higher risk for complications include pregnant women or people with weakened immune systems.

High-Risk Conditions for Severe Illness from COVID-19

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated and expanded the list of who is at increased risk for getting severely ill from COVID-19. Consistent evidence has shown that specific conditions increase a person’s risk of severe COVID-19 illness at any age, including chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), obesity, weakened immune system from a solid organ transplant, serious heart conditions, sickle cell disease, and type II diabetes. The CDC also amended the list of other conditions that might increase a person’s risk of severe illness, including additions such as asthma; high blood pressure; neurologic conditions such as dementia; cerebrovascular disease such as stroke; and pregnancy. Among adults, the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk. If you are an older adult, take extra precautions to protect yourself from infection.

COVID-19 does not discriminate. Every age group, gender, race and ethnicity are at risk of infection. However, the burden and impacts of this disease vary depending on a number of factors. The Virginia Department of Health's (VDH) daily dashboard has added the ethnicity of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities for Alexandria. 

While each individual’s risk of infection is based on their personal exposure to the virus, some groups, like the Hispanic/Latinx population, experience additional systemic challenges and barriers to ideal health such as access to safe, affordable housing, to jobs with a living wage and benefits, and to trusted, affordable healthcare. The Alexandria Health Department and the City of Alexandria continue to work with community leaders and residents to identify local needs and address them in a comprehensive way to support all Alexandrians.

All healthcare providers now require people to call ahead or have an online consultation either before, or in place of, an in person visit. This ensures that both you and your healthcare provider take the proper precautions.

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

At this time, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. Efforts are underway to develop a vaccine, but it is not clear that an effective vaccine will emerge in time to have an impact on this pandemic. Until that time, we must proceed as though it will not be available.

You can help prevent the spread of illness by washing hands often with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds, staying home if you are sick, avoiding close contact with others who are sick, coughing into your elbow or covering your coughs or sneezes with a tissue, and cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces.

How is the COVID-19 virus treated?

The vast majority (at least 80%) of people with COVID-19 recover just with their own immune response. Treatment in hospitals includes supportive care for symptoms, fluid intake, isolation and observation. Patients who are hospitalized also receive supportive care and treatment for complications of the infection (pneumonia, problems breathing, etc.).

Should I wear a mask in public to protect against COVID-19?

On May 26, Governor Northam announced that effective Friday, May 29, Virginians will be required to wear face coverings in indoor public places, including in stores, governmental facilities, and public transportation. There will be exceptions for children under age 10; people with health conditions that do not allow them to wear face coverings; eating or drinking; and exercising.

The CDC recommends that everyone wears a cloth face covering while out in public if they can’t maintain a six foot physical distance from others. Because medical-grade masks such as surgical masks or N95s are not recommended for general public use, please refrain from purchasing large quantities as these are crucial supplies needed for health care workers and first responders. Wearing a cloth face covering is only effective when used in conjunction with frequent hand washing and physical distancing, which includes staying at least six feet away from other people. It's also important to follow state orders to stay at home unless it's essential to go out.

Study After Study Proves the Importance of Wearing Masks

A recent analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington of more than 20 studies on the effectiveness of face masks has concluded that COVID-19 infections would drop by two-thirds, and deaths from COVID-19 would drop by one-third, if 95% of people in the United States wore masks. Currently, even the states with the highest mask use among residents -- Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia -- are only in the 50 to 60% range. An NPR infographic shows that one person with COVID-19 who does not wear a mask could infect 89 people. With a mask, the number drops to 33. Since those without symptoms can still transmit the illness to others, it's critical that everyone wear a mask regardless of whether they feel sick. While most people who become infected with COVID-19 do recover, many may suffer long-term health consequences and can experience prolonged periods of illness.

Learn how to make a mask out of everyday items and how to wear it properly

The City and the Alexandria Health Department have published a new resource to help the public properly use and care for cloth face coverings. This guidance echoes the CDC’s recommendation that everyone wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other physical distancing measures would be difficult to maintain. These covers are not a replacement for staying 6 feet away from other people and meticulous hand washing. Cloth face covers are most effective when they are correctly worn and properly cleaned and maintained. 

Individuals and businesses in the City who are making cloth face covers are encouraged to share this resource with their customers. Cloth cover makers who would like printed copies for distribution can email their request using the Cloth Face Covering Infographic Order Form.

Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?

It is not yet known whether weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months, but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather. Regardless of climate, adopt protective measures if you live in or travel to an area reporting COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently washing your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. By doing this, you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.

What about using disinfectants to treat the COVID-19 virus?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns the public not to ingest disinfectant products; never apply the product to themselves or others; and never use these products with  food. The agency also cautioned users to never mix products unless specified in the use directions, as certain combinations of chemicals will create highly toxic acids or gases. The agency also advises people to wash their hands after using a disinfectant. This minimizes the user’s exposure both to the chemicals in the disinfectant and to the virus the product is intended to kill. Information about disinfectants and safety can be found on the EPA’s Coronavirus page.

Can my pet get COVID-19?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) have provided updated guidance for people who own pets and other animals. Until more is learned about how COVID-19 affects animals, pets should be treated like human family members to protect them from a possible infection. Because there is a small risk that people with COVID-19 could spread the virus to animals, pet owners should limit their pets’ interaction with people outside their households. 

The new guidelines include recommendations regarding dog walking and dog parks. Dogs should be walked on leashes, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals. Pets and their owners should not gather in groups or and should stay out of crowded places. 

Face coverings on animals may harm them and should not be used. Do not wipe or bathe a pet with chemical disinfectants or products not approved for animal use. Talk to a veterinarian if a pet gets sick, or there are any concerns about a pet’s health. For more information, see the CDC’s Pets and Other Animals, and VDH’s Animals and COVID-19.

I have a child with a complex medical condition. Are they at greater risk?
Children with complex, chronic medical conditions, including children with physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional differences, can have special healthcare needs. It is not known yet whether all of these children are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, however, the CDC provides frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and caring for children and youth with special needs or underlying health issues.
I heard about a condition affecting children that may be related to COVID-19. What are the symptoms?

AHD is closely monitoring reports in the United States and internationally about the Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) possibly linked to COVID-19. MIS-C is a rare but serious inflammatory condition that affects the heart and other organs. Symptoms in children include fever lasting several days along with irritability or sluggishness, abdominal pain with no explanation, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, red or pink eyes, enlarged lymph node on one side of the neck, red cracked lips or red tongue that looks like a strawberry, or swollen hands or feet that might also be red.

Call your doctor immediately if your child becomes ill and has a continued fever. If your child is severely ill, you should go to the nearest emergency room or call 911 immediately. Continue to take steps (face coverings, hand washing, physical distancing) to prevent your child from being exposed to COVID-19. 

Is it safe for me to go to the emergency room or see my doctor?

It is safe to visit a hospital, emergency room, or other care site if you have a medical need to do so. AHD reminds everyone that persons experiencing signs or symptoms of a heart attack (chest pain, shortness of breath); stroke (loss of motor function, altered mental status); uncontrolled high blood sugar (feeling very tired, feeling thirsty, blurred vision) or any other life-threatening issue, should call or text 911 immediately.

The American Heart Association has more information about the signs of a heart attack or stroke

It is also important for children to keep up with their vaccinations.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the country could begin experiencing outbreaks of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases because children are not getting the necessary immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. A newly released study found vaccinations of children and vaccine orders dropped in late March, about a week after a national emergency was declared. Vaccinations and well-child doctor visits are essential to avoid outbreaks and to keep children protected. 

COVID-19 Cases in Alexandria

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

Visit alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus for the latest on COVID-19 cases in Alexandria.

New ZIP Code Data

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has been  publishing  data on COVID-19 cases by Zip code since May. This data release is a change from VDH’s long-standing policy not to disclose data at the ZIP code level, which is particularly important to protect patient privacy when there are relatively few cases of a disease. Now that there are more than 21,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout Virginia, the risk to patient privacy is lower and VDH is publishing ZIP code data to help communities identify differences in the distribution of COVID-19 cases.

Although viruses do not discriminate, the COVID-19 virus disproportionately impacts vulnerable populations just as other diseases and health conditions do. The ZIP codes with the highest rates of known COVID-19 cases in Alexandria are also the ZIP codes with higher concentrations of poverty, lower education levels, and crowded housing conditions. The populations living in some ZIP codes have historically experienced discriminatory policies and systems, resulting in inequitable access to healthcare, economic opportunities and affordable housing. 

If you believe you have had close contact with a person with a presumptive positive case of COVID-19, call the Alexandria Health Department COVID-19 Information Line at 703.746.4988 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If You are Sick

What should I do if I get sick and have COVID-19 symptoms?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are coughing, fever of over 100.4 F, and shortness of breath. If you are concerned you may have COVID-19, call your primary care physician to ask whether you should come for an exam or test before visiting in person. Most people who get COVID-19 recover on their own at home and do not need testing or treatment.

Anyone with symptoms of respiratory illness should:

  • Isolate yourself. Stay home, do not travel, and do not go out in public, including stores and restaurants. Avoid contact with others.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow, not your hand. Alternatively, cough and sneeze into a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands. 
  • Disinfect surfaces regularly.
  • Practice good habits. Get plenty of sleep. Be physically active. Manage stress. Drink plenty of fluids. Eat nutritious foods. Stop smoking to help decrease the risk of serious consequences if you do become ill with flu-like symptoms.

If it is an emergency, call ahead and mention your symptoms before going to the nearest hospital emergency room.

People who are not ill or who are ill only with mild cold symptoms should NOT go to their health provider, a clinic or the hospital seeking coronavirus testing. Doing so displaces other patients who truly need urgent care and increases the risk of spread of respiratory infections in health care settings.

The response to COVID-19 will demand a tremendous amount from our health care system. Health care providers may ask you to postpone non-urgent visits or procedures. They may also be providing tele-health options (consultations by phone or online). If you are unable to get an appointment with your regular provider, check other local health care systems for available tele-health options.

What if I don’t have a primary care doctor or health insurance?

If you do not have a primary care physician or health insurance, call one of the facilities on this list for a phone screening or appointment. For chest pain or difficulty breathing always call or text 911.

If you have Medicaid or Medicare benefits, do not let your coverage expire. When you receive the notice that it is time to renew, apply promptly so your coverage does not lapse.

To learn more about applying for health care benefits, call 703.746.5700 or visit commonhelp.virginia.gov

I’ve recently traveled and have been sick ever since I got back. Do I have COVID-19?

There are many causes of respiratory illness. It is very important that people with even mild signs of illness (fever, cough shortness of breath) stay home to prevent spreading illness to others. 

If you are having moderate to severe symptoms, reach out to your medical provider for an evaluation.

Testing for COVID-19

Who should be tested for COVID-19?

Call your primary care doctor and describe your symptoms and possible exposures. They will determine whether you need to be tested. If your doctor determines that you need to be tested, they will collect the test sample in their office or refer you to a specific place to have your test sample collected.

Individual risk is dependent on exposure history. People who are close contacts of someone with a confirmed case are at higher risk of becoming infected.

Close contacts of confirmed cases in Alexandria are contacted by public health staff or the confirmed case themselves. Those close contacts of confirmed cases are advised to self-monitor for symptoms and, if they develop symptoms like a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, to self-isolate and seek medical guidance by calling their health care provider.

Do not call the Alexandria Health Department for a diagnosis or testing.

AHD has developed a guide of locations throughout the City and neighboring communities where residents -- especially those without primary care physicians or insurance -- can get tested for COVID-19. The map shows locations within Alexandria and lists the medical centers alphabetically, along with information about cost; whether or not they offer evening and weekend hours; if photo ID is required; and if payment is due at time of service. Alexandrians who need help getting a photo ID can get it with support from the group Project ID. It is best to contact your doctor with questions or concerns about COVID-19, since there are Alexandria physicians who are testing existing patients but have declined to be listed publicly. The providers listed are accepting new patients and willing to be listed publicly.

How do I know if I should stay home or go out in public if I have symptoms of COVID-19?
Follow the guidelines in "When You Can Be Around Others" (Spanish | Amharic | Arabic).
What if I was in close contact with someone who has been tested for COVID-19 and their test is positive or confirmed?

If identified by the Alexandria Health Department as a close contact, remain quarantined at home for 14 days for symptom monitoring and/or testing. Schools, workplaces or other facilities where a confirmed case has been present may need to notify students, staff and families.

Do Your Part, Answer the Call

Case investigation and contact tracing are critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19, but they only work when community members answer calls from AHD and return voicemails. AHD has provided information to the public, to learn more about the investigation process. All information is confidential, and AHD doesn't share the names of close contacts. If you are suspicious of any call or form of contact that you believe is not from the Alexandria Health Department, write down the caller’s information, hang up, and call the AHD COVID-19 hotline at 703.746.4988. Ask the hotline to transfer you to a member of the Contact Tracing Team. AHD will never request payment or fees related to contact tracing. Everyone has a role to play in keeping their neighbors and loved ones safe. Do your part by answering the call.

Does insurance pay for COVID-19 testing?

Many insurance plans cover the cost of testing and related health care costs. For specific information about your health insurance coverage, call your insurance company. You can usually find their phone number on your insurance card. Most insurance covers testing costs without a co-pay. You will also find information about insurance and coronavirus costs at www.ahip.org/health-insurance-providers-respond-tocoronavirus-covid-19/

After testing for COVID-19, how will I get my test results?

You will get your test results from the health care professional or facility that collected your specimens. Ask your health care provider, when they collect your specimen, what the best way to get your results is. Most clinics and health care professionals are providing results by telephone. Although faster tests are being developed, test results currently take anywhere from one to eight days to be returned. This is one reason it’s so important to say home whenever you’re sick.

How many COVID-19 tests have been done in Alexandria?
All tests done for Alexandrians are listed on the Virginia Department of Health’s website at vdh.virginia.gov/Coronavirus. This data is updated daily.

Protecting Yourself, Your Family and Your Neighbors

How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. We recommend the following actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory disease:

  • Stay home except for essential needs such as food purchases and going to get medical care.
  • It is especially critical to stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people outside of your household members.
  • Wash hands frequently, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. A minimum 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a trash, and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Utilize non-contact alternatives to handshakes, such as waving or bowing.

Safe Use of Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol should be used to keep hands clean whenever soap and water are not available. Alcohol-based products are highly flammable and should not be used or stored next to an open flame. Keep sanitizer handy when handling food outside, but maintain a safe distance from grills and fire pits. While it is safe to store hand sanitizer in a car for use during essential trips, keeping the product out of direct sunlight will help maintain its consistency.

The City and AHD have created a new “Six Steps to Stop the Spread” video to remind the public of the concrete actions they can take to help protect their loved ones and our community from the spread of COVID-19 as the economy continues to reopen. The video, which is available in English, Spanish, Amharic, and Arabic, is now available at alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus and the City’s YouTube channel.

Warning About Certain Hand Sanitizers

New brand names have been added to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) list of hand sanitizers that should be avoided due to the use of the toxic ingredient methanol. Many of these brands list ethanol (or ethyl alcohol) among their ingredients, but have tested positive for methanol, which can have many toxic effects, such as changes in vision, vomiting, nausea, headache, or neurological symptoms. Consumers who may have been exposed to methanol and are experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately. The public is strongly urged to review and discontinue use of any products that appear on the FDA list. The FDA also reminds the public that some hand sanitizers do not contain the minimum 60% ethyl alcohol required for effectiveness, and some brands are making misleading claims that their products are FDA approved or that hand sanitizers offer prolonged protection from bacteria or viruses.  Hand sanitizer should only be used to replace hand washing when water and soap are not available. Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds remains the most effective way to sanitize and disinfect your hands and is one of the Six Steps to Stop the Spread of COVID-19.

FDA recommends the immediate disposal of any hand sanitizing product containing methanol, using a hazardous waste container; do not flush or pour them down the drain. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% ethyl alcohol.

The City has released a series of animated videos to help communicate the role everyone plays in preventing the spread of COVID-19. The first video, Six Steps to Stop the Spread ( Amharic | Arabic | Spanish ), explains the vital steps to reducing the spread of COVID-19. Another video in the series addresses all the preventive measures to take when you are sick ( Amharic | Arabic | Spanish ), and how to prevent spreading the virus to friends, coworkers, and loved ones. The last video offers a variety of resources for those in need of help ( Amharic | Arabic | Spanish ) during the pandemic. Whether it’s food, health care, substance abuse, child care or other needs, there is support available.

What is physical distancing?

It is the most effective strategy for slowing the spread of disease. The closer the contact between people – and the more people in a group – the greater the risk of passing along viruses. Keep at least 6 feet away from others. Avoid handshakes and hugs; use smiles and “hellos” instead. 

What should I do to prepare my family?

During a situation like the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, stores may run out of the supplies you’re used to having, and you may be asked to not leave your home for an extended period. We encourage you to stock up now, in the event that this happens. In addition, places and organizations you rely on—like government offices, stories, schools, transportation, health care and other services—may not be as available as usual. Here are steps you can take right now to prepare.

Stock up on necessary supplies.

Medical Supplies - Enough for 1 month

For refrigerated medications, use the oldest supplies first. Other supplies should include the following as needed:

  • Prescriptions 
  • Blood sugar measuring strips and glucose tablets for diabetics
  • Over-the-counter medicines for fever and pain (e.g. acetaminophen or ibuprofen), cough and cold remedies, diarrhea and other digestive issues 
  • Soap
  • Hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol)
  • Tissues
  • Thermometer

Food and Household Supplies - Enough for 2 weeks

  • Canned or packaged meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, beans and soups
  • Protein or fruit bars
  • Dry cereal and nonfat dry milk
  • Peanut butter or nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Crackers
  • Canned juice
  • Comfort foods - things you tend to eat or drink when you’re sick
  • Baby food and supplies
  • Pet food and supplies
  • Toilet paper
  • Garbage bags
  • Anything you normally use or have on hand if you could not leave your home for two weeks

Emergency Supplies - Good for anytime

Although water and electricity may not be affected during a coronavirus outbreak, having the following items at home will help prepare you for any emergency:

  • Three-day supply of water
  • (1 gallon for each person per day)
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries - all the sizes you use at home
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Manual can opener 

Get to know your neighbors and community.

  • Who can help you? Identify neighbors, friends, family and coworkers who could help you in the event of an emergency.
  • Who can you help? Identify neighbors, friends, family and co-workers who are older adults, have special needs, don’t understand English well or are new to the area.
  • Volunteer with local groups. Join groups like the Medical Reserve Corps and the Citizen Corps or those associated with schools, civic associations and houses of worship to assist during emergencies.
  • Stay Informed. Sign up for alexandriava.gov/eNews to get free information, including emergency alerts from the City of Alexandria.

Plan your work.

During the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, businesses may not operate on normal schedules. Be sure to ask your employer what their plan is if schedules have to change.

  • Ask how your supervisor will contact you about changes to your work or office.
  • Ask how family and sick leave will be handled.
  • Ask if there are plans to work from home or elsewhere.

Prevent infection.

  • Wash your hands often by rubbing them together with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who have cold or flu-like symptoms (e.g. fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath) - do not shake hands or hug others.

For additional guidance on how to prepare at alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus.

My loved one is in a nursing home/long-term care facility. How can I prevent them from getting COVID-19?

Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 infection. AHD has been working with local long-term care facilities (LTCF) on COVID-19 detection and response in this vulnerable population since mid-January 2020. All such facilities have received multiple communications from AHD on how to best protect their residents, including calls, emails and visits from Medical Reserve Corps volunteers. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has issued guidelines restricting all visitors and non-essential health care personnel and requiring all facilities to screen employees for symptoms of respiratory illness. AHD urges the public to consider alternatives for staying in contact with their loved ones. AHD recommends that those with higher risk of COVID-19 infection complications stay home away from others. To reduce the negative effects of physical isolation, AHD asks all Alexandrians to stay connected with one another through safe alternatives (e.g. phone calls, online communication, writing letters).

If you have any concerns about how a facility is keeping your loved one safe, consider calling the facility and asking the following questions. 

  1. What are you doing to protect my loved one?
  2. Has my loved one been in contact with any positive COVID-19 cases in your facility? If so, what measures have you taken to protect the case and my loved one?
    • Are your healthcare workers trained in recognizing the signs and symptoms of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 in themselves?
    • Are your healthcare workers screened for signs and symptoms at the beginning of each shift? Including whether they have a temperature >100.0 or feel feverish, or if they have shortness of breath, or cough. If they have any COVID-19 symptoms, are they sent home?
      • Are they sent for COVID-19 testing?
      • Are they provided with sick leave?
      • How do you determine when they can safely return to work?
    • Is everyone who works in the facility wearing a face covering or face mask at all times?
    • What are the locations of your hand sinks and hand sanitizer?
    • Are your healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment?
      • Have they been trained in how to properly put PPE on and take it off?
      • How are you ensuring that your facility has an adequate supply of PPE?
    • Are your healthcare workers trained in infection prevention and in stopping the transmission of COVID-19?
    • Are your healthcare workers working exclusively at your facility and not at other healthcare facilities?
    • Are your healthcare workers trained in identifying respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 in elderly patients?
    • How often are the areas commonly used by employees cleaned and disinfected?
    • Have you stopped communal meetings of residents (i.e. have you stopped group meetings and group meals in order to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19)?
    • How are you addressing the mental and emotional needs of my loved one during this pandemic?
      • How can I safely stay in touch with my loved one?
      • What sort of activities can they participate in safely if they are isolated?
    • How will you notify me if my loved one gets sick or if any of the answers to questions above change?

    The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently published data on COVID-19 cases in skilled nursing facilities. These data follow the recent publication of rules requiring nursing homes to provide prompt notification of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases; disclose mitigation strategies; provide cumulative updates at least weekly; and protect individuals’ privacy.

    The CMS rule applies only to skilled nursing facilities that participate in Medicare and/or Medicare programs; it does not apply to assisted living facilities or to skilled nursing facilities not participating in Medicare or Medicaid. As a result, not all Alexandria long-term care facilities are listed on the CMS database. Neither AHD nor the Virginia Department of Health can verify the accuracy of the information reported by facilities or published by CMS.

    Should I stay home from work? And when can I return to work?

    People with symptoms such as cough, fever, and/or difficulty breathing, or who have been contacted by public health because they are a close contact of a confirmed or presumptive positive case, should stay home from work, school and other activities. Do not attend work until 72 hours after fever has resolved. If you have specific questions about your symptoms or care, contact your medical provider. Please call ahead before showing up to a clinic or other health care facility.

    We are encouraging workplaces and businesses to provide options for their employees to work from home if possible. If they cannot work from home, employees should minimize their interaction with large groups of people. We urge employers to maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits to accommodate these measures.

    Employers should not require a positive COVID-19 test result or a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick to validate their illness, qualify for sick leave, or to return to work. Healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely manner.

    AHD urges businesses to encourage workers who are in isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19 to follow the guidelines found in “ When You Can Be Around Others,” to determine when it is safe to return to work. AHD does not issue letters for return to work from isolation or quarantine, and letters from healthcare providers are usually unnecessary since return to work is based on reported symptoms. The guidelines are also available in Spanish, Amharic, and Arabic.

    Continue to monitor messages from the Alexandria Health Department for updated guidance.

    Should we still go out in public places like parks, playgrounds, or other spaces?

    The City has announced updates on the reopening of program registration, outdoor pool schedules, and more, in accordance with the plan for phased reopening of recreation activities and facilities. All programs are designed in accordance with Phase Two of the Forward Virginia blueprint, guidelines regarding physical distancing and other measures necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

    Registration for outdoor fitness and tennis classes will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, June 17 for Alexandria residents, and Friday, June 19 for nonresidents. Summer programs take place June 26 through September 5. Program offerings will be added as they are confirmed, and registration will be ongoing. Registration will be available online at alexandriava.gov/Recreation and in person by appointment at the Registration & Reservation Office (1108 Jefferson St.). Schedule an appointment by calling 703.746.5414.

    The 2020 summer outdoor pool season will be July 1 through September 7 (Labor Day). Pools will be open for diving, exercise and instruction, with lap swimming limited to three persons per lane. Each pool will have specific requirements and restrictions; visit alexandriava.gov/116065 for details.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance for visiting beaches and pools. Although there is no evidence that COVID-19 spreads through water, the virus does spread easily between people in crowded places. To reduce your risk: stay home if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or just aren’t feeling well; check to see if your beach or pool has steps in place to prevent the spread of the virus; bring supplies like face coverings, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, disinfectant wipes, tissues, and paper towels; stay at least 10 feet away from other people you don’t live with; avoid crowded areas; wear cloth face coverings when you are not in the water; wash your hands often with soap and water, and avoid sharing items or touching surfaces in common with people who don’t live with you. 

    There have been a number of vacation or travel-related COVID-19 outbreaks over the last several weeks, including in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. With community transmission still active across the country, engaging in activities with people outside your household puts you at risk of contracting COVID-19. AHD urges community members to be mindful of alerts about outbreaks from travel destinations -- both before and after visiting -- and carefully consider the need to change plans before traveling or seek testing afterward.

    Under Phase Three guidelines in Virginia, indoor and outdoor swimming pools may be open at up to 75% occupancy, provided 10 feet of physical distance may be maintained between swimmers and seated patrons who are not of the same household. Visit the CDC’s Healthy Swimming website for information to help you prevent illness and drowning, so you can safely enjoy the fun and health benefits of swimming.

    All Alexandrians are safer at home except for essential trips such as medical care or food purchases. 

    Should I reconsider international and domestic travel?

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided frequently asked questions for domestic and international travelers. Domestic travelers are advised to find out if COVID-19 is spreading in their local area or in the places being visited. Visiting family may be especially dangerous if travelers or their loved ones are more likely to get very ill from COVID-19, and people at higher risk for severe illness need to take extra precautions.  

    The CDC recommends everyone to avoid nonessential international travel. Many countries are implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice. Airlines have canceled many international flights and in-country travel may be unpredictable. Some healthcare systems are overwhelmed and there may be limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas. If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be disrupted, and you could remain outside the United States for an indefinite length of time. For more information, see the CDC’s Considerations for Travelers.

    Please review the CDC website for the most updated information on travel health notices and other important information to consider.

    Am I at risk for COVID-19 from a package or products shipping from China?

    Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods.

    After returning from X, when can an employee return to work?

    Currently, anyone who enters the United States after being in a Level 3 country during the past 14 days will have some level of restrictions on their movements.

    • For Level 3 Travel Health Notices the Virginia Department of Health recommends the following for the traveler: Stay at home for 14 days from the time you left an area with widespread, ongoing community spread (identified as a Level 3 Travel Health Notice country) and monitor your health. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, or shortness of breath. If you develop fever, cough, or shortness of breath, contact your healthcare provider.
    • For Level 2 Travel Health Notices the Virginia Department of Health recommends the following for the traveler: Monitor your health and limit your interactions (i.e. practice physical distancing) with others for the 14 days from the time you left the country identified by CDC as a Level 2 Travel Health Notice country. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Physical distancing means remaining out of:
      • Public places where close contact with others may occur (such as shopping centers, movie theaters, stadiums).
      • Workplaces (unless the person works in an office space that allows distancing from others).
      • Schools and other classroom settings.
      • Local public transportation (such as on a bus, subway, taxi, rideshare, plane, ship). These restrictions are to be in effect for 14 days from the time the person was possibly exposed.
    What is the risk of getting COVID-19 on an airplane?

    Because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on airplanes. Although the risk of infection on an airplane is low, travelers should try to avoid contact with sick passengers and wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer that contains 60%– 95% alcohol. They should also wipe down any shared surfaces—such as armrest, tray table, and seatbelt—with a disinfectant wipe.

    Do I need to take any precautions when cleaning or disinfecting?

    Yes. The City encourages the public to exercise caution when cleaning and disinfecting their homes against the COVID-19 virus. On April 20, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released research that shows calls to poison control centers for exposure to cleaners and disinfectant increased substantially in March, corresponding with the rise in COVID-19 cases. Follow CDC’s guidance on cleaning and disinfecting your home. When using household cleaners and disinfectants, follow label instructions; don’t mix chemicals; wear protective gear; and store chemicals out of reach of children. 

    What should I do to clean and disinfect my home or business?

    New guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines specific best practices for cleaning and disinfecting public spaces, workplaces, businesses, schools, and homes. As states begin considering reopening plans, the CDC urges all organizations to make a cleaning and disinfecting plan to ensure that both employees and the public stay safe. A flowchart on the CDC website helps you determine what to clean and disinfect and how to do so safely.  

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds everyone to stay safe when using household cleaning and disinfectant products. A recent study showed that about 1 in 3 adults used chemicals or disinfectant unsafely while trying to protect against COVID-19. Some of these unsafe practices included using bleach on food products, applying household cleaners and disinfectants products to skin, and inhaling or ingesting cleaners and disinfectants.  One quarter of respondents reported adverse health effects. When working with disinfectants, cleaners and chemicals, always read product directions and follow them carefully; wear protective gear; do not mix chemicals; and keep these products out of the reach of children. These products should never be ingested or applied to the skin. Follow CDC’s guidance on cleaning and disinfecting your home.  

    How should I care for someone sick at home?

    New guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes updated information on caring for someone with COVID-19 at home or in a non-healthcare setting. The guidance outlines what to do when someone has symptoms of COVID-19 or when someone has been diagnosed with the virus, as well as strategies for caregivers to keep themselves safe. This information also should be followed when caring for people who have tested positive but are not showing symptoms. Notably, older adults and people of any age with serious underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for developing more severe illness from COVID-19. People at higher risk of severe illness should call their doctor as soon as symptoms begin.

    What if I do have to go out to do essential errands? How can I protect myself and others?

    As Northern Virginia’s first full week under Phase Two of the Forward Virginia reopening blueprint continues, the public is reminded to continue taking the Six Steps to Stop the Spread of COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers new guidance on how to resume daily activities as safely as possible. If you decide to engage in public activities or run errands, protect yourself by practicing everyday preventive actions. When going out, always carry a cloth face covering, tissues, and hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. For more information about the face covering requirement, read these frequently asked questions from the Virginia Department of Health.

    What responsibilities do skilled nursing facilities have to report COVID-19 cases?

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published data on June 5, 2020, on COVID-19 cases in skilled nursing facilities, in accordance with recent rules.

    CMS issued its “Upcoming Requirements for Notification of Confirmed COVID-19 Among Residents and Staff in Nursing Homes” on April 19, 2020 and its interim final rule with comment period on May 8, 2020. These rules require that nursing homes participating in Medicare and/or Medicaid programs, report residents and staff infections, potential infections, and deaths related to COVID-19.  

    The CMS rule also requires nursing homes to:

    1. Notify residents, their representatives, and families of those residing in facilities, of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases in the facility among residents and staff.
    2. Disclose what mitigating steps they are taking to prevent, control and reduce the spread of COVID-19, including if normal operations such as restriction or limitations to visitation or group activities will be altered.
    3. Complete the notification by 5:00 pm the next calendar day when:
      • There is a single confirmed infection of COVID-19, or
      • Three or more residents or staff with new-onset of respiratory symptoms occur within 72 hours of each other.
    4. Provide cumulative updates on at least a weekly basis. 
    5. Protect individuals’ privacy. 

    Nursing homes have the option of providing the information via paper notification, email listservs, website postings, and/or recorded telephone messages.

    The CMS Nursing Home data can be accessed at CMS COVID-19 Nursing Home Data. Neither AHD nor the Virginia Department of Health can verify the accuracy of the information reported by facilities or published by CMS. 

    The CMS rule applies ONLY to skilled nursing facilities that participate in Medicare and/or Medicare programs; it does not apply to assisted living facilities or to skilled nursing facilities not participating in Medicare or Medicaid. As a result, not all Alexandria long-term care facilities are listed on the CMS database. 

    Since the beginning of the pandemic, one of AHD’s main priorities has been to support all long-term care facilities (LTCFs), both skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities, regardless of participation in Medicare or Medicaid programs. AHD provides updated information and guidance regarding the virus that causes COVID-19 and infection prevention and control measures. AHD helps equip LTCFs with personal protective equipment (PPE) which is vital to protect both staff and residents; the Health Department also has provided fit-testing and has conducted fit-testing train-the-trainer to ensure that LTCF staff have appropriate respirators. AHD conducts Infection Control Assessment and Response (ICAR) surveys (a CDC infection prevention program designed to prevent the spread of infection in healthcare settings), and coordinates and follows up on Point Prevalence Surveys (PPS) to determine the number of cases in residents and staff. Learn more about AHD’s role with long-term care facilities.

    If you have a loved one in a long-term care facility, do not hesitate to reach out to the facility directly. Use AHD’s 14 questions to ask your loved one's LTCF to find out what steps they are taking to protect their residents and staff.

    How can I protect myself and others when I have to travel?

    As Northern Virginia progresses toward reopening and the use of transportation modes increases, the CDC has issued guidance for how travelers can protect themselves and stop the spread of COVID-19. When using public transportation, a hired or personal vehicle, or a rented bicycle or scooter, it is important to practice good hand hygiene; improve ventilation where possible; and avoid touching surfaces. Face coverings are required on all public transportation in the region, but riders are also reminded to carry a supply of sanitizer and disinfecting wipes with them when they go. Guidance is also available for workers whose jobs involve transportation, including public transit workers and deliveries. 

    There have been a number of vacation or travel-related COVID-19 outbreaks over the last several weeks, including in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. With community transmission still active across the country, engaging in activities with people outside your household puts you at risk of contracting COVID-19. AHD urges community members to be mindful of alerts about outbreaks from travel destinations -- both before and after visiting -- and carefully consider the need to change plans before traveling or seek testing afterward.



    What the City of Alexandria is Doing

    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.

    What is the Alexandria Health Department response to COVID-19?

    Alexandria Health Department’s role is to:

    1. Monitor and synthesize continuously updated CDC guidance for public consumption.
    2. Provide science-based recommendations to local health care providers, schools, businesses and the community.
    3. Identify, advise and monitor individuals with potential exposure to COVID-19. 
    4. Lead and coordinate the multi-agency COVID-19 planning and response team and liaise with non-governmental partners.

    Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19

    Although viruses do not discriminate, the COVID-19 virus disproportionately impacts vulnerable populations just as other diseases and health conditions do. The ZIP codes with the highest rates of known COVID-19 cases in Alexandria are also the ZIP codes with higher concentrations of poverty, lower education levels, and crowded housing conditions. The populations living in some ZIP codes have experienced discriminatory policies and systems, resulting in inequitable access to economic opportunities, affordable housing, and healthcare. 

    Inequitable conditions have created disproportionate rates of chronic health issues resulting in large differences in life expectancy across Alexandria. Now, these chronic health issues also make people more susceptible to severe disease from COVID-19 infection. Additionally, these community members are more likely to work in jobs where they are underpaid; do not receive paid sick leave; and are not afforded telework opportunities, creating additional risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

    AHD has been working with vulnerable populations, community leaders and activists in communities of color and disadvantage for decades, including in the battles against HIV/AIDS, other communicable diseases, and teen pregnancy. AHD provides those communities with targeted prevention services such as immunization and sexual & reproductive health clinics and the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

    AHD’s population health efforts engage residents and partners to identify barriers to ideal health, to help build solutions that make sense for everyone. AHD’s Community Health Assessment underscores the existing disparities in Alexandria. The project’s steering committee – a group of committed, diverse community members and leaders – used equity as their guide throughout the process. Community members reviewed the results of this work and chose three focal points – poverty, housing and mental health – for a five-year Community Health Improvement Plan, developed in tandem with the Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria.

    Since originally becoming aware of COVID-19 in late 2019, AHD has been working with community partners that serve populations at high risk for severe illness if they contract COVID-19. This has included targeted messaging to educate and empower all Alexandrians of all levels of health literacy of what COVID-19 is; how to reduce the risk of catching it; where to seek testing and medical care; and how to take care of one’s self and loved ones at home who may become ill. 

    AHD works with healthcare providers to inform them about the virus and disease; how to protect their staff and patients; and how to conduct testing. AHD has also provided personal protective equipment to healthcare providers willing to perform COVID-19 testing, in order to increase testing options for community members. Additionally, AHD prioritizes efforts to protect Alexandrians most at risk, particularly those over the age of 65 and those living in congregate living facilities (e.g. long-term care facilities, group homes, and detention centers).

    AHD reminds everyone that viruses do not respect geographic boundaries, and ZIP codes are largely arbitrary areas that vary in shape and size. Since there is community-wide transmission of COVID-19, and people may have the virus without showing symptoms, everyone in Alexandria is at risk of infection. It is important to be aware that it is still safer at home, particularly for those most at risk of severe disease that can lead to hospitalization, the need for mechanical ventilation, and even death. This includes those 65 years of age and older and those with underlying medical conditions. Those who do go out should remain 6 feet apart from others; wear a cloth face covering over the nose and mouth when physical 

    The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) updated its demographics dashboard to include additional racial reporting categories for case, hospitalization and death data. Previously, VDH published data for ethnicity and race separately. With the exception of the “White” and “Black or African American” categories, all other races were combined into a single “Other Race” category. The new categories are:

    • Asian or Pacific Islander (individuals who identify as “Asian” or “Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander” and not “Hispanic or Latino”)

    • Black (individuals who identify as “Black or African American” and not “Hispanic or Latino”)

    • Latino (individuals of any race who identify as “Hispanic or Latino”)

    • Native American (individuals who identify as “American Indian or Alaska Native” and not “Hispanic or Latino”)

    • White (individuals who identify as “White” and not “Hispanic or Latino”)

    • Other Race (individuals who select “Other Race” and not “Hispanic or Latino”)

    • Two or More Races (individuals who select more than one of the above race categories and not “Hispanic or Latino”)

    The updated dashboard confirms existing race, ethnicity and ZIP code data that indicates Alexandria's Latinx population is disproportionately burdened by COVID-19. The data also confirms that people of color are experiencing higher rates of hospitalization due to COVID-19. AHD and the City are committed to working directly with community members and partners to address these disparities and develop solutions not just for COVID-19, but also for the underlying systems and policies that have led to these inequities

    How do I find out information about my child’s school?

    All K-12 schools in Virginia, including the Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS), are closed through the rest of the school year. For detailed information about ACPS closures and COVID-19 response, including distance education and distribution of food, visit acps.k12.va.us/coronavirus.

    What about childcare and recreation programs?
    The Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities (RPCA) will offer modified full-day summer programs at several Alexandria locations for children ages 6-12. Due to limited capacity based on physical distancing requirements, priority will be given to Alexandria families who need financial assistance and essential workers who have limited options for childcare. Registration for after-school programs for the 2020-2021 school year is suspended until at least mid-July, and the new Out of School Time Power-On Program pre-registration process for families who qualify for financial assistance will also be rescheduled. RPCA at Home virtual programming options are also available for youth and adults with free on-demand programs and classes.

    What public gatherings are being canceled due to COVID-19?

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

    Alexandria Health Department urges all community members holding gatherings 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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including more cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces at least daily.

    Events that are subject to this order include gatherings for business, social, spiritual or recreational activities. This includes community, civic, public, faith-based or sporting events, parades, concerts, festivals, conventions and fundraisers. It does not include normal school, health care facilities or other public safety and critical infrastructure operations.

    For non-essential smaller events, this is a good time to consider canceling or postponing.

    In any event or group situation, the larger the group, the higher the risk. The closer the contact to others, the higher the risk.

    For people who are at higher risk from COVID-19, extra precautions should be taken. This includes those who are:

    • over 65 years of age

    • have an underlying medical condition, like heart disease, lung disease or diabetes

    • have weakened immune systems

    • pregnant

    What about food being served at funerals, weddings and gatherings of small numbers of people?

    Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food.

    Please note the following:

    • It may be possible to become infected with COVID-19 by touching a surface or object with the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes, but it is not thought to be the main cause of virus spread. In general, because of poor survivability of coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated or frozen temperatures.

    • It is recommended that serving spoons and communal food be avoided, unless specifically protected with sneeze guards, and spoons changes frequently. For ease of complying with this recommendation, individually packaged meals might make it simpler.

    • It is strongly recommended that all attendees thoroughly wash their hands prior to eating, and if a sink is not readily available that hand sanitizer be used immediately prior to consuming food. That way any viruses picked up after the last hand washing (e.g. from door knobs, etc) are removed.

    • The CDC also recommends physical distancing, so if possible, use a larger room to allow people to space out at least six feet apart from one another.

    • If anyone is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, they should not attend.

    What are City government and services doing to help people meet emergency needs?

    At its May 12 meeting, the Alexandria City Council unanimously approved three programs to provide support to vulnerable Alexandrians and small businesses affected by COVID-19 pandemic. These rent relief, food security support and small business programs will be funded by $13.9 million allocated to the City through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 

    The $4 million Residential Rental Assistance Program will target eligible renters who have suffered income loss due to COVID-19.  A total of $600 per month for up to three months may be paid directly to property owners on behalf of eligible tenants. Financial assistance will be provided regardless of citizenship status. Visit the COVID-19 Emergency Rent Relief Assistance Program webpage to learn more or apply.

    The $2.4 million Food Security Plan will support large-scale food distributions, home delivery for seniors, and augment ongoing food programs; and the $2.4 million Small Business Grants Program will provide eligible businesses with grants to offset costs and investments related to reopening. The programs are not yet accepting applications; additional information will be announced as soon as it is available

    On March 14, the Alexandria City Council unanimously approved a matching grant of $100,000 in City funds to the ACTNow Fund, to help solicit donations from the community. The fund, administered by the ACT for Alexandria community foundation, streamlines grants to nonprofit service providers to assist with food, housing, medical and other financial hardships.

    City Council also unanimously approved a grant of $20,000 to the ALIVE! food bank, which will provide for bulk food purchases equivalent to 17,000 meals.

    In addition, Alexandria Renew Enterprises (AlexRenew), Dominion Energy and Virginia American Water have suspended utility disconnections for nonpayment. For questions about utilities, contact the utility provider directly.

    The City is developing temporary child-care options to support employees who are required to work during the COVID-19 crisis. This includes workers in healthcare, the food industry, transportation, pharmacies and other essential services. Please complete the forms for parents if you are an essential worker in need of child care, or complete the form for providers if you are interested in providing child care during this crisis. Visit the City’s COVID-19 Emergency Child Care webpage for details and forms.

    At the Governor’s request, the Supreme Court of Virginia has issued a temporary statewide moratorium on all eviction proceedings. The order remains in effect through June 28 and modifies the Court’s earlier declaration of judicial emergency in response to COVID-19. The temporary moratorium will halt all eviction proceedings for a period of nearly three weeks, in order for tenants facing housing insecurity to continue to access rent relief programs. Visit the City’s COVID-19 Housing Resources webpage for more information.

    How can I help?

    Volunteer

    Join the Medical Reserve Corps, Citizen Corps, or groups associated with schools, civic associations and houses of worship to assist during emergencies.

    Donate to ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund

    The ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund was established by ACT for Alexandria and the City of Alexandria to provide emergency funding f     or nonprofits that are delivering the critical services and programs that are needed by Alexandrians right now.

    COVID-19 and the necessary public health measures to address it will affect our community in many ways in the weeks and months ahead. There are life-threatening implications for older Alexandrians, and it will disrupt normal operations of everyone in our community. Hardship on individuals and families will intensify, many who are already on the financial edge may be pushed into crisis. The demand for emergency health services, food, rent, utility, and childcare assistance as well as mental health services is anticipated.

    Alexandria’s nonprofit organizations are essential partners during this public health crisis. As nonprofit organizations respond, they may become financially vulnerable themselves as they work to cover the cost of expanding their services or suspend programs and events that generate revenue. Support our local nonprofits and donate today.

    Donate Blood

    Blood supplies are running critically low because of worry over COVID-19 and you cannot be infected with the virus by donating blood. You cannot donate blood if you are ill, so please only make an appointment to donate if you are well.

    What if I need help?

    The City and its partners are working together to provide information and resources that may offer some level of support, security and stability for families in need due to the impacts of the coronavirus response. We invite those in need to visit Resources to Meet Basic Needs for Those Impacted by the Coronavirus COVID-19 Response, or contact the Department of Community and Human Services Customer Relations Team at 703.746.5700 for assistance.

    Feeding and food distribution has been a concern since the COVID-19 crisis began, and many public and private organizations have responded to the need. The City has developed an interactive dashboard to measure the impact of the combined efforts, including locations, demographic and food program data, and food distribution events. Use the maps and charts to locate food distribution sites, investigate areas of interest, compare areas and more.

    Senior Services of Alexandria has partnered with Giant Foods to offer a grocery delivery program for seniors living in Alexandria. Screened volunteers shop for and deliver groceries to seniors every other week. Groceries are ordered based on the recipient’s personal shopping list, which is created with volunteers over the phone. There are no delivery fees and no minimum order requirements. To be eligible, seniors must be 60 years of age or older, an Alexandria resident, and have a debit, credit or electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. To learn more about the program or how to apply, email groceries@seniorservicesalex.org or call 703.836.4414, ext. 119. Senior Services of Alexandria also has many other programs that support senior residents.   

    The City of Alexandria will provide additional rent and mortgage relief to eligible residents, using an initial $450,000 of funds from the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program to support housing stability during the COVID-19 pandemic. The City’s Department of Community and Human Services will administer the funds. These funds are in addition to the $4 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds being distributed through the Emergency Rent Relief Assistance Program and $671,500 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds for tenants of affordable housing, both administered by the City’s Office of Housing. 

    Financial assistance is a one-time payment, with opportunity for renewal based on availability of funding and the household’s need for additional assistance and continued eligibility. Eligible households must demonstrate an inability to make rent or mortgage payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Monthly rent or mortgage must be at or below 150% Fair Market Rent as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and eligible households must have a gross household income at or below 80% of area median income (AMI). 

    Residents can take a self-assessment survey in English or Spanish to determine if they are eligible, and call 703.746.5700 to apply. Individuals and families who receive funding will also be connected to housing counseling to receive other technical assistance.

    The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) is a temporary food benefit available in Virginia to families with children who would have received free or reduced-price meals if schools were open. The purpose of the P-EBT benefit is to supplement existing nutrition programs for low-income households during the pandemic. It does not replace meals provided through the school programs during unexpected closures, such as the summer meal programs that will begin when the school year ends. The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) will issue benefits to eligible households with a total benefit of $376 per eligible student. Virginia households are eligible if they have students who are either eligible for free or reduced-price school meals or enrolled in a school that provides free meals to all students through the Community Eligibility Provision or another provision. Households do not have to apply for P-EBT; schools will provide information for all eligible students directly to VDSS. If you believe there are eligible students in your household, but you do not receive P-EBT by the middle of June, call 804.726.7000. For more information, read Frequently Asked Questions in English and Spanish.

    The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and Mental Health America of Virginia have established a non-emergency “warm line” for those struggling with isolation, fear, grief, or trauma caused by COVID-19. A warm line may be a more comfortable choice for those who do not feel their concerns are urgent enough to call a hotline. Trained staff provide support, community resources, and referrals for any Virginia resident in need. Counselors are available by phone or text at 877.349.6428, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday, 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Calls are anonymous, and Spanish-speaking counselors are available. This service should not be used as an emergency or crisis hotline. If you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Crisis Hotline at 800.273.8255, or call or text 911. More information about the program is available at vacopes.com and Facebook page (VA COPES). Additional resources are also available at the Virginia Association of Community Service Boards

    Additional resources for those struggling with mental health or substance abuse disorder are available from the Department of Community and Human Services.

    Fear and anxiety about COVID-19, and events of national concern such as the killing of George Floyd, can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Taking care of yourself, your friends and your family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger. The City’s Coping with Uncertainty and Fear and Multicultural Resources: Race Based Trauma and Support in Times of Civil Strife web pages provide information and resources to help during this difficult time. 

    Two legal organizations are providing resources to residents dealing with COVID-19 related issues. The Virginia Poverty Law Center's web site provides answers to many employment, eviction and legal questions, provided in both Spanish and English. The Center also has an eviction hotline: 833-NOEVICT (833.663.8428). The Legal Aid Justice Center provides recorded videos on topics ranging from immigration concerns to price gouging. The videos are recorded live on the Center's Facebook page numerous times per week. For a full list of videos in both Spanish and English, visit the organization’s COVID-19 Updates page.

    Expanded payment relief is available for Virginians with privately held student loans. While the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided much-needed relief for students with federal loans until September 30, this relief did not apply to borrowers with student loans made by private lenders. Under the new initiative, Virginians with commercially-owned Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) loans, Perkins loans, or privately held student loans who are struggling to make payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible for expanded relief. Borrowers must immediately contact their student loan servicers to identify the options that are appropriate to their circumstances.

    The City of Alexandria Workforce Development Center (WDC) has launched “Strive & Thrive: Helping Alexandria Stay Resilient & Get Back to Work” to support Alexandria’s workforce and employers by offering events, services and training remotely and online.

    WDC is a trusted resource, providing services and expertise to support job seeker and employer workforce needs in Alexandria. Strive & Thrive aims to extend WDC’s outreach to residents and employers seeking assistance due to challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Virtual recruitment events and services include a newly launched Meet the Employer series and virtual job fairs. For information on upcoming events, visit alexandriava.gov/WorkforceDevelopment.

    Job seekers can enhance their job readiness through free WDC workshops and webinars on topics like virtual job searching, interviewing and resume building. WDC staff also provide one-on-one coaching and support in accessing resources to assist with job searches and economic needs. Access a calendar and register for upcoming workshops online; call 703.746.5990 or email wdc@alexandriava.gov for job coaching and other services.

    Residents can also access WDC’s user friendly Job Board, where employers can post openings and find qualified candidates and job seekers can post resumes and search for jobs. Visit wdc.alexandriava.gov.

    To serve Alexandria youth, WDC adapted its annual Summer Youth Employment Program to offer 200 youth ages 14-21 a virtual workforce development experience for career development, education enrichment and summer income. Learn more.

    WDC will also begin offering informational sessions and open house events to give job seekers and employers more opportunities to learn about WDC services.

    WDC training supports in-demand certifications and credentials and connects ready-to-work job seekers with employment opportunities. As a certified One Stop Center, WDC serves a variety of skill levels, from those with advanced degrees and years of experience to those with limited education and experience. WDC also provides a range of services at no cost to businesses. Employers can learn more by calling 703.746.5990 or emailing wdc@alexandriava.gov. 

    For more information or questions, call WDC Director Daniel Mekibib at 703.746.5990 or email daniel.mekibib@alexandriava.gov.

    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a sharp increase in the demand for Medicaid assistance since March. To comply with the federal “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” Virginia Medicaid has adopted policies to protect Medicaid subscribers from losing coverage, and implemented strategies to make the application process more efficient. Most significantly, no Virginia resident’s Medicaid coverage will be canceled or closed for any reason, for the duration of the COVID-19 health emergency. The City has also compiled a list of resources available for individuals receiving Medicaid, which is available in multiple languages, or can be translated into 11 other languages using the “Translate” button at the top right corner of the page. 

    How can I stay informed?
    • 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-ASK-VDH3, for questions about the novel coronavirus situation.

    I have a business in the City and I am struggling because of COVID-19

    Businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged to visit alexandriaecon.org. This webpage contains regular updates about policies and programs that support the Alexandria business community. On this page, businesses can also sign-up for the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership’s COVID-19 newsletter. The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership has an updated collection of COVID-19 resources for businesses, including information on disaster assistance, tax and regulatory changes, support for affected workers, government response; how to support local small businesses, and more.  

    The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce’s COVID-19 Updates and Resources webpage provides links to webinars and other resources.  

    For information and guidance on how to apply for Federal disaster assistance please visit the Alexandria Small Business Development Center’s website at alexandriasbdc.org or email help@alexandriasbdc.org.

    The nonprofit Virginia 30 Day Fund provides forgivable loans for Virginia-based small businesses. The loan is intended to provide immediate financial assistance to meet payroll, preserve healthcare coverage for employees, and save jobs. Help is designed to be quick, easy, and free of red tape, as small business owners work to keep employees on board in the near term. 

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated frequently asked questions for businesses, including information about reducing the spread of COVID-19; workplace cleaning and disinfection; dealing with potential or confirmed cases in the workplace; healthy business operations; and critical infrastructure. 

    I have recovered from COVID-19. How can I help?

    Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 may be able to help others struggling with the disease. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration, in coordination with the American Red Cross and other organizations, is seeking people who have fully recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood plasma to help current patients. People who have fully recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus. This “convalescent plasma” is being evaluated as treatment for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections, or those judged by a healthcare provider to be at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease. For more information, including eligibility criteria, visit the American Red Cross donor eligibility form.

    Are information and guidance available for nonprofits and houses of worship?

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued updated guidance for community- and faith-based organizations (CFBOs). The guidance is intended for administrators and leaders of congregations and places of worship, voluntary social service agencies and other nonprofit organizations, and community organizations. It answers frequently asked questions for CFBOs; provides updated information on how to plan, prepare and respond to COVID-19; offers a checklist for CFBO leaders, and more. 

    When will the City reopen?
    • Farmers’ Markets - Beginning July 4, farmers' markets in Alexandria will be permitted to resume on-site transactions, on-site food preparation and non-food vendors. Customers are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings and use pre-ordering and contactless payment options when available. Market Managers must continue to comply with the Operating Conditions and Market Set-up guidance, which are subject to change based on public health guidance.

    • Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA) - Most RPCA programs are now operational, with modifications in accordance with Phase Three guidelines. Outdoor picnic shelters are now open and other amenities, such as playgrounds, are open with modifications to capacity and schedules. The Interactive Fountain at Potomac Yard Park remains closed in accordance with Phase Three guidance for interactive water play features. For additional information about phased recreation reopenings, visit alexandriava.gov/Recreation.

    • Libraries - Patrons may now place holds on items by logging in to their accounts at alexlibraryva.org and scheduling curbside pickup appointments. Staff-Assisted Materials Selection (SAMS) is a service available for specific materials requests that are unavailable through the online Library catalog. SAMS may be coordinated by phone or email

    The City has made it easy for residents, businesses, residential property managers, facilities, and houses of worship to communicate guidance and rules about face coverings, hand hygiene and physical distancing. A catalog of more than 180 COVID-19 related signs, flyers, postcards and digital banners is available for download and print. Many documents are available in English, Amharic, Arabic and Spanish. It is important to remember that while restrictions are being eased, COVID-19 still exists in the community. It is important for everyone to do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.

    Virginians will still be “Safest at Home,” especially for those at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Everyone is encouraged to continue teleworking when possible, and should maintain physical distance in public spaces. Face coverings in indoor public settings will still be required. All businesses should continue to follow physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high-contact surfaces, and keep enhanced workplace safety measures in place. 

    Do I have to wear maks? 

    Executive Order 63 requires face coverings in indoor public settings until further notice. This includes stores, governmental facilities, and public transportation. There will be exceptions for children under age 10; people with health conditions that do not allow them to wear face coverings; eating or drinking; and exercising. Violation of the order will be a Class 1 misdemeanor. For questions about the order, call the Virginia Department of Health at 877.ASK.VDH3. Watch a video to learn how to make and use cloth face coverings correctly. Remember that cloth face coverings do not protect the wearer; they protect other people from the wearer. They are not substitutes for staying home as much as possible and maintaining physical distance in public.

    Members of the public wishing to report violations of Executive Order 63 (wearing face coverings inside public buildings) or Executive Order 65 (Phase Two easing of certain temporary restrictions) may use Virginia Department of Health’s new online reporting form. The agency, which has the authority to enforce violations, will review complaints and follow up as needed.

    It is critical that everyone continue to vigilantly practice the actions proven to help stop the spread of COVID-19. These include staying home as much as possible and especially when sick; frequent hand washing; covering coughs and sneezes; cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly; staying at least 6 feet apart from other people when outside the home; and wearing a cloth face covering over the nose and mouth when it is essential to be in public and physical distancing practices are difficult to maintain.

    What about funerals?

    Grieving the loss of a loved one, along with the fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic, can be overwhelming. It may be difficult for people to make decisions about how to safely grieve and honor their loved one. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided updated guidance for individuals and families working with funeral directors, community and religious leaders, and others to plan and hold funeral services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance also includes recommendations for adapting funeral-related traditions to prevent the spread of COVID-19

    How should I begin to prepare to reopen?

    To help Alexandria businesses prepare to reopen once state restrictions are eased, the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) and the City will conduct a series of webinars to share valuable information with business managers and owners. Guidance and regulations to be covered include those from the Commonwealth of Virginia, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, and the City of Alexandria. Separate webinars will focus on information for businesses in the fitness, restaurant and food service, personal care, and brick and mortar retail sectors.

    If you own or operate a building, Virginia American Water, which provides water service in Alexandria, recommends that you proactively flush water pipes and related equipment to bring fresh water into their facilities in preparation for eventual reopening. To prepare facilities, building owners and operators are encouraged to adopt a proactive approach that includes proper flushing of individual fixtures (e.g., toilets and showers), adjustment of hot water temperature, and maintenance of building plumbing and heating/cooling systems. Proper flushing of plumbing before reoccupying buildings is essential to maintaining water quality in internal plumbing systems and should be performed biweekly while the building is closed, and again in the days immediately before opening. Read the Virginia American Water news release for more information.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided COVID-19 Employer Information for Office Buildings, for employers who are preparing office buildings for returning workers. The updated guidance provides information on creating COVID-19 workplace health and safety plans; checking building systems to ensure they are ready for reopening; strategies to ensure physical distancing and other preventive measures; changing the way people work to avoid COVID-19 infection; and more.

    AHD has sent new guidance to local property managers clarifying how Executive Order 63 on face coverings (masks) applies to residential buildings. Residents are required to wear masks in any indoor common areas such as lobbies, elevators, mailrooms, and laundry facilities. New evidence from the CDC continues to prove that consistent and correct use of masks over the nose and mouth can reduce COVID-19 infections. Learn more about when masks are required. Consider reporting violations on Virginia Department of Health’s online complaint form, or call Alexandria Health Department’s COVID-19 Hotline at 703.746.4988 weekdays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (messages after hours, or on holidays and weekends will be returned the next business day).

    ALX Promise Program to Support Safe Businesses

    The Alexandria Health Department (AHD), in partnership with Visit Alexandria and local restaurant and business associations, has launched the “ ALX Promise” program to help businesses safely reopen as Northern Virginia ALX Promise” program to help businesses safely reopen as Northern Virginia approaches Phase One of the Forward Virginia blueprint. The program is designed to train and support businesses as they begin to reopen and expand operations. ALX Promise is a voluntary measure to encourage businesses to adopt COVID-19 safety standards for employees and customers that exceed the minimum rules required by law.

    Each business that takes part in the ALX Promise program will:

    • Participate in training with an AHD Environmental Health Specialist on state requirements to reopen.

    • Train all employees on the safety measures needed for safe reopening.

    • Submit a completed checklist, training record and pledge commitment to ensure the safety of employees and staff.

    • Agree to follow all future applicable health guidance as Northern Virginia enters new phases of reopening.

    Businesses that successfully complete the program will be awarded the ALX Promise Shield to display on their windows and websites, to show customers they are committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment and using the highest safety standards. 

    As more Alexandria businesses look to reopen on July 1 in Phase Three of the “Forward Virginia” blueprint, participating in the ALX Promise program can support safe interaction with the public. This program, offered by AHD in partnership with Visit Alexandria, trains business owners and operators how to properly and effectively create a safe, sanitized environment for customers and patrons. Businesses that complete the training receive an ALX Promise shield to display. All Alexandria businesses are encouraged to participate. Visit Alexandria offers a list of businesses that have completed the program, which is updated regularly.

    For more information, or to sign up a business, visit the ALX Promise webpage.

    The City is expanding opportunities for restaurants, retail businesses and fitness centers to operate outdoors. Retail businesses may request the use of sidewalks, on-street parking spaces and privately-owned parking lots and spaces to display their products and conduct sales. Similarly, fitness and health businesses may request the use of privately owned parking lots and spaces to offer classes and provide access to fitness equipment. Interested businesses should contact the Department of Planning & Zoning to request the correct form for their business zone. Requests must be reviewed by the City prior to setting up the alternative areas for outdoor dining, retail display, and sales and fitness business use. There is no fee for these requests. The programs are in effect until August 27 and may be extended or shortened upon future notice. 

    Workplace Standards

    Virginia has become the first state to adopt statewide emergency workplace safety standards in response to COVID-19. These standards require all employers to mandate the use of personal protective equipment for employees in customer-facing positions and when physical distancing is not possible; regularly sanitize high-contact surfaces; provide regular access to hand washing or hand sanitizer; develop infectious disease preparedness and response plans; and maintain recordkeeping and training. 

    The new standards require that all employees be notified within 24 hours if a coworker tests positive for the virus. Employees who are known or suspected to be positive for COVID-19 cannot return to work for 10 days or until they receive two consecutive negative tests. The emergency temporary standards, infectious disease preparedness and response plan templates, and training guidance will be posted on the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry website at doli.virginia.gov. Workers who feel unsafe in their workplace can file a formal complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

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