COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions

Page updated on Jan 19, 2021 at 10:57 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).

Misinformation can often spread faster than a virus. AHD urges everyone to follow credible sources of information such as the City's COVID-19 data dashboards and news releases, daily updates from the Virginia Department of Health, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The City provides answers to Frequently Asked Questions, about COVID-19 and AHD’s COVID-19 Hotline is available at 703.746.4988 on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Everyone has a role in stopping the spread of rumors and inaccurate information as well as COVID-19.

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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?

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 1 in 12 infected Alexandrians have required hospitalization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that while COVID-19 is most commonly spread by close contact, the coronavirus can be spread through airborne transmission under certain conditions. People within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 are generally at greatest risk of developing the infection when respiratory droplets carrying the virus are inhaled or deposited on mucous membranes of the nose or mouth. 

Airborne transmission can occur when someone with COVID-19 is in an enclosed space with inadequate ventilation, or has been breathing heavily such as through singing or exercising. Under these circumstances, droplets and particles carrying the virus become concentrated enough for others in the same space, or shortly after the infected person has left, to become infected. AHD advises property owners to ensure their HVAC systems are properly maintained and use the highest grade filters their systems can accommodate. It is vital for everyone to wear masks when in public, and for those who are ill to stay home.




How long is someone contagious from COVID-19?

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. 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 to quarantine themselves and monitor for symptoms. 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. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published updated information about the risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 for adults and children with certain conditions. Data show that adults are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 if they have a body mass index of 30 or higher; smoke or have a history of smoking; or have underlying conditions such as cancer, heart conditions, Type 2 diabetes, or compromised immune systems. Other conditions that may increase the risk for severe illness to adults of any age include asthma, high blood pressure, pregnancy, and neurologic conditions, such as dementia. Children are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 if they have conditions such as asthma, diabetes, severe genetic disorders, and inherited metabolic disorders. However, it is not yet known who is most at risk for the rare but serious complication from COVID-19 called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). The list of conditions that increase risk for serious illness is being updated as experts continue to study and learn about COVID-19.

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. 

What about the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccine Information

The City has developed a vaccine webpage to help residents learn more about their safety, how they work, and when vaccines may be available. COVID-19 vaccines are a key ingredient to reduce illness, save lives, and return to normalcy in Alexandria. Learn about the types of vaccines that are in the final stages of approval with the FDA, how they were developed and the steps involved in being proven safe for the public. Find out whether costs will be involved in receiving the vaccine, the order in which residents will be prioritized for receiving the vaccine, and more. Updates will be added to the webpage as more information is available, including who can be vaccinated first and where vaccines will be offered. 

For those who have received the vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed the "v-safe" health monitoring tool to be used after receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. The web page offers step-by-step guidance about setting up and using the tool.
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.).

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

Beginning October 1, a new ordinance went into effect requiring that masks are worn over the nose and mouth in indoor and outdoor public places. The ordinance, which was adopted by City Council on September 12, expands on a state executive order that has required masks in most indoor public settings since May 29. Wearing masks has been proven to limit the spread of COVID-19. Find information about mask requirements, the state executive order and helpful tips and videos about how to wear masks correctly. The City has also produced numerous signs, flyers and videos that explain when, where and how to use masks while COVID-19 remains present in the community. These materials are available for download and print, or reproduction can be requested

Like the existing state executive order, the Alexandria ordinance requires face coverings to be worn over the nose and mouth in retail stores, food establishments, theaters, personal care and personal grooming services, and common areas of condominium or apartment buildings. The ordinance also requires masks in transportation other than personal vehicles; public parks; sidewalks and trails; and any other public outdoor locations where physical distancing requirements cannot be maintained between persons not living in the same household.

Limited exceptions to the mask requirement include when a person is age 5 or younger; when wearing a mask would be harmful to the wearer’s health or is precluded by a workplace safety regulation, religious ritual, medical condition or disability; when a person is actively eating or drinking; or when removal of the mask is necessary to receive government or medical services. Masks are not required while swimming, biking, jogging or engaging in other physical activity for which wearing a mask has been determined to pose a health risk, but participants who do not live together should still maintain at least 10 feet of distance from each other.

Public health experts believe that COVID-19 spreads from person to person primarily through viral respiratory droplets, which are expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, sings, or engages in physical activity. Other people can inhale the infected droplets, especially in confined spaces. Maintaining physical distance between people and wearing masks to block droplets are among the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided updated guidance about the effectiveness of masks at preventing the spread of COVID-19. Evidence shows that wearing a multi-layered, non-valved mask over the nose and mouth at all times when around others outside the household can prevent the wearer from spreading or inhaling respiratory droplets, which are the primary source of COVID-19 transmission. More than 50% of the spread of COVID-19 has come from infected people who have either not begun to experience symptoms or are asymptomatic. Single layer masks, masks with valve openings that allow more airflow, and improper use of masks such as gaps around the edges of the mask, are much less effective at preventing transfer of droplets. High-thread count cotton in multiple layers, and thick materials such as polypropylene, that form an enclosed fit around the nose and mouth, are the most effective.

Learn how to properly use face coverings. 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.

Cloth face covers are most effective when they are correctly worn and properly cleaned and maintained.  Persons who do not live together should stay at least 6 feet apart at all times. The minimum safe distance is 10 feet during physical activity or singing. Virginia’s Phase Three Guidelines specify the minimum safe distances for different sectors and activities.
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?

A small number of pet dogs and cats have been diagnosed with COVID-19, with most infections occurring after contact with a human who tested positive. There is no evidence that animals have played a significant role in the spread of COVID-19 to humans, but there is evidence emerging that it can be transmitted from humans to animals. Pets that tested positive for COVID-19 experienced mild or no symptoms, and recovered completely. Until more is known about the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises treating pets the same as human beings when considering the spread of COVID-19. They should be cared for by someone who is not sick and kept away from the sick person, avoiding petting, snuggling, being licked, sharing food or sleeping with pets. Pets should be kept at least 6 feet away from people outside the household; not allowed to roam freely outside; or be taken to places where people gather, like dog parks. Do not put a mask on a pet, and do not use hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes on their fur. 

The CDC offers guidelines on caring for pets during the pandemic. Anyone in the household who tests positive for COVID-19 should limit contact with pets. Do not wipe or bathe pets with chemical disinfectants or any product used to sanitize and disinfect, including hand sanitizer and surface cleaner wipes. Cats should be kept indoors, and while socialization and exercise is important for dogs, the CDC advises dog owners to minimize interaction with people outside the household. Avoid groomers, long-term care facilities, dog parks or other places where people and pets gather. If dog parks are unavoidable, bring water bowls, keep toys to a minimum, disinfect everything after use outside the home, and do not let dogs share water bowls or toys from outside the household. It is also important for pet owners to wear masks, keep physically distant and follow the mitigation measures whenever in pet-related situations outside the home. 

Face coverings on animals may harm them and should not be used. 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. 

What is a close contact?

Close contact is  being within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, even if the contact takes place at different times. Close contacts should be identified starting from two days before the person with COVID-19 felt sick, and continuing until the person was isolated. For those without symptoms, the time period begins two days before a person diagnosed with COVID-19 was tested.

Because any definition of close contact is just a rule of thumb, the circumstances of each contact may change the level of risk that the virus will be transmitted. Factors to consider include the length of time spent within 6 feet of the infected person; whether the infected person had symptoms and was producing respiratory droplets from activities such as coughing, shouting or singing; and environmental factors such as a crowded, poorly ventilated, enclosed space. 

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.

New Pandemic Metrics Dashboard with Metrics for Schools

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has released a Pandemic Metrics Dashboard which includes weekly updates on COVID-19 transmission trends to help guide local decision makers on mitigation strategies. The new dashboard also includes a CDC School Metrics tab that can inform school operational decisions when combined with guidance from local health departments. Beyond local data on COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the CDC School Metrics include the status of the school's implementation of five key mitigation strategies: consistent and correct use of masks, social distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, cleaning and disinfection, and contact tracing in collaboration with the local health department. Although the data in the CDC School Metrics tab can be viewed by jurisdiction, it is critical to consider regional data because many Northern Virginians do not live and work in the same jurisdiction and transmission rates may differ.

Mask Ordinance

How is the City’s mask ordinance different from the state executive order requiring face coverings?

In addition to the state executive order’s requirement for face coverings in indoor public places, the City’s ordinance requires that they be worn in transportation other than personal vehicles, and in outdoor public places where maintaining at least 6 feet of physical distance from others who live in different households is not possible, such as public parks, sidewalks, and trails. 

Studies are showing that once local governments adopt mandates to enforce wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the number of positive cases in their communities decreases. This is especially true in jurisdictions where a scientific foundation, fair enforcement, and free or affordable masks were part of the mask initiative. Masks reduce transmission of COVID-19 from the wearer and may further protect the wearer from severity of the illness. The 15 states where mask mandates were enacted between April 8 and May 15 experienced slower growth of positive case rates than states without mask mandates. It is estimated that by May 22, between 240,000 and 450,000 cases were avoided in those states. Even in states that saw increases in cases after relaxing other mitigation measures, significant reductions in case rates followed new mask mandates.

Studies around the world have also shown an association between mask mandates and better outcomes from illness, with a reduction in fatalities. In countries where wearing masks is a cultural norm, and where mandates were recommended by the national government within 30 days of the first case in that country, there were significantly fewer fatalities.

What counts as a “face covering” in the mask ordinance?

 A face covering is an item normally made of cloth or various other materials, often with elastic bands or cloth ties, that is secured over the wearer’s nose and mouth. This may also be referred to as a mask and surgical masks fit into this category.

The mask ordinance requires face coverings in “public places.” What is a “public place” under the ordinance?

Public places are generally open to the public, including indoor places, other than one’s residence or personal vehicle, and outdoor places where at least 6 feet of physical distance cannot be maintained between members of different households. This includes, but is not limited to public parks and open spaces, sidewalks, trails, retail stores, food establishments, theaters, personal care and personal grooming services, common areas of condominium or apartment buildings, such as elevators or lobbies, and transportation other than a personal vehicle. The required physical distance varies by activity.

Are there exceptions to the face covering requirement?

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

Are children required to wear face coverings under the mask ordinance?

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

Do I have to wear a face covering when I am exercising outdoors?

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

Do I have to wear a mask if I’m dining outside and waiting to order or receive my food?

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

What is the penalty for not wearing a face covering in public?

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

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

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

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

If You are Sick

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

COVID-19 can present as mild symptoms, severe illness, or no symptoms at all. Getting tested for COVID-19 will better enable you to take care of yourself while sick, while at the same time allowing you to protect friends and loved ones from contracting the illness.

Get tested if you have any of the common symptoms below or you have spent 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19.

Common symptoms include:

  • fever or chills

  • cough

  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • fatigue

  • muscle or body aches

  • headache

  • new loss of taste or smell

  • sore throat

  • congestion or runny nose

  • nausea or vomiting

  • diarrhea

Learn more on the Get Tested page.

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.




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.

Reach out to your medical provider for an evaluation.

Where can I get help if I have concerns about my immigration status?

Testing, treatment and basic needs resources for anyone who has been exposed to or impacted by COVID-19 is available regardless of immigration status or insurance coverage. Since the virus does not discriminate, it is in the entire community’s interest that everyone stays healthy. For those without lawful permanent resident status, or who are concerned about immigration status or applications, download or view a list of testing locations that include anonymous testing options and healthcare facilities that do not ask for or require immigration status to receive services. Doctors and medical providers take privacy very seriously. The City has compiled a fact sheet of benefits that are subject to the public charge rule; frequently asked questions about public charge rule, which includes a full list of immigrants exempt from the rule; and a video about what to do if you are sick, available in English, Spanish, Amharic and Arabic.   

What should I do if I'm caring for someone who's sick with COVID-19?

The Alexandria Health Department has new guidance on Caring for Loved Ones with COVID-19, including how to support and care for someone who is sick, whether or not they are in your household. Learn how to provide contactless help, monitor for emergency symptoms, clean and disinfect the environment, and keep yourself safe. With the recent increase in local cases, your friends and loved ones may be impacted. Save this guidance in case someone you know becomes ill. The information provided is available in a flyer that can be downloaded, printed and shared.

Testing for COVID-19

How can I be tested for COVID-19?

As part of efforts to expand access to COVID-19 testing options, the City of Alexandria and the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) launched free kiosk-based testing sites on January 7, in partnership with the private testing company Curative. 

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

COVID-19 Exposure App

An app developed by the Virginia Department of Health that notifies users if they have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. The app, COVIDWISE, is free to download from the Apple App Store or the Google Play store, and uses Bluetooth to identify close contacts anonymously. Watch an informational briefing with the app developers, and read the one-page information sheet about COVIDWISE. The document is also available in Arabic, Chinese, KoreanSpanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

What is Contact Tracing?  

One of the most effective ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19 is to stay informed when there has been likely exposure to someone who is infected. Contact tracing is a technique used by public health authorities to contact and give guidance to anyone who may have been exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. AHD will initiate a case investigation when staff receive information that an Alexandria resident has tested positive for COVID-19. The process includes providing resources and guidance for how to quarantine safely and reaching out to everyone who has had close contact with the person who tested positive, while maintaining confidentiality. AHD will provide resources and guidance about how to protect others and will never ask for bank account information, immigration status, social security number or other information unrelated to the case. A Case Investigation and Contact Tracing Guide explains the contact tracing process, and is now available in Spanish, Amharic, and Arabic. These fact sheets are available for download and print, or prints can be requested.
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 available to the general public 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.

New Restrictions Effective December 14

On December 10, Governor Ralph Northam announced that new statewide mitigation mandates will go into effect on Monday, December 14, due to the surge in positive COVID-19 cases. These new restrictions, under Executive Order 72, are expected to remain in effect until at least January 31, 2021. 

  • All individuals will be required to stay home between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m., with some exceptions, including school, work, urgent needs and emergencies. 

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

  • The limit on social gatherings will be reduced from 25 to 10 people, which includes, but is not limited to, parties, celebrations, or other social events, regardless of whether they occur indoors or outside. Religious services, restaurants, retail businesses, employment settings and schools are not considered social gatherings, and other rules apply.

Restaurants will still be limited to serving alcohol only until 10 p.m. and food only until midnight, with no bar seating and all customers seated so that members of different groups are at least 6 feet apart. Masks must be worn by customers when not actively eating or drinking, and all restaurant employees, including cooks and kitchen staff. All employers are still urged to permit teleworking whenever possible. 

The following restrictions, which became Governor Ralph Northam has announced new statewide mitigation measures to slow the increase of positive COVID-19 cases in Virginia. effective at midnight on Sunday night, November 15, remain in effect, 

  • All essential retail businesses, including grocery stores and pharmacies, must adhere to state guidelines for physical distancing, requiring face masks and enhanced sanitization. Violations will now be enforceable by the Virginia Department of Health as Class 1 misdemeanors. AHD and the City anticipate additional guidance in the coming days.

  • Onsite alcohol sales, consumption and possession after 10 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery, or tasting room will be prohibited, and all such establishments must close by midnight. Bar areas of restaurants remain closed.

Any impacts to City programs or services will be announced separately. Alexandria residents are urged to continue to follow the Six Steps to Stop the Spread of COVID-19 and do their part to minimize the potential for spread of the virus.

The new statewide mitigation measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 will not significantly impact City operations. City recreation, nature, art and library facilities, programs and classes already comply with COVID-19 best practices and will not be affected, other than that children ages 5 and up will be required to wear masks. Races and marathons may have up to 250 participants, provided there are staggered starts of groups of no more than 25 per group. For outdoor sporting activities, spectators are limited to two guests per player.  The total number cannot exceed  30% of the occupancy load of the venue (if applicable).  For indoor activities, spectators are limited to  25 per field.Any impacts to City programs or services will be announced separately. Alexandria residents are urged to continue to follow the Six Steps to Stop the Spread of COVID-19 and do their part to minimize the potential for spread of the virus.

Impact on Restaurants and Businesses

The new statewide mitigation measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 now in effect  will impact restaurant and fitness center operations, but will have limited impact on other businesses.

  • In restaurants, on-site sale and consumption of alcohol must end at 10 p.m., and the restaurants must close by midnight. Parties of more than 25 may not be seated or served, and customers must be served at tables 6 feet apart (and not at bar seating). Masks must be worn at all times when not drinking or eating. Delivery and take-out services may continue to serve alcohol after 10 p.m. as permitted by existing regulations by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. 

  • Fitness and exercise facilities must reduce their occupancy of indoor and outdoor activity to 75% of the normal occupancy limit, not to exceed 25 persons, including instructors and participants. All other existing guidance in section A, number 5 of Executive Order 67 remains required. 

  • All other businesses must follow the Guidance for All Business Sectors of Executive Order 67. 

  • While the social gathering limit of 10 does not apply to individuals performing functions of their employment, assembled in an educational instructional setting, or participating in religious services, everyone must still observe applicable mask and distancing requirements. 

The City strongly urges all businesses to follow these new measures, implement measures to help patrons maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others outside their household, and encourage everyone age 5 or older to wear masks in all public settings, as required by the City ordinance.

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.

For most effectiveness, rub hand sanitizer all over hands and fingers until dry and keep out of eyes and mouth. Keep hand sanitizer out of reach of children and supervise while they apply it. Do not rinse off hand sanitizer as it will reduce effectiveness. Do not use hand sanitizer to clean surfaces and do not apply it to pet fur or allow pets to ingest it. Seek medical attention immediately if hand sanitizer is ingested, but do not be concerned if children eat with or lick their hands after using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.  

Warning About Certain Hand Sanitizers

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to issue warnings about the safety of using certain brands of hand sanitizer. Some hand sanitizers are being packaged in food and beverage containers, and some are being flavored, which can be confusing especially for children, who might ingest products that smell like food. Ingesting even small amounts of hand sanitizer can be potentially lethal for children and toxic for adults. The FDA also continues to screen and review hand sanitizer brands for ineffective ethanol levels, the presence of methanol and 1-propanol, and other harmful impurities. Symptoms of 1-propanol exposure can include confusion, decreased consciousness, and slowed pulse and breathing. Toxic effects of methanol can include changes in vision, vomiting, nausea, headache, or neurological symptoms. The FDA list of unsafe hand sanitizer brands is updated regularly and should be reviewed for recalled products to safely discard and avoid. Refer to the FDA’s guidelines on safe use of hand sanitizer as well as a question and answer page for more information. 

Your role in preventing the spread of COVID

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.

In addition to following the Six Steps to Stop the Spread of COVID-19, you can help by conducting a self-assessment for symptoms daily. It is important to stay home if you have a cough, shortness of breath, or fever. Complete the home health checklist before leaving home to run errands, go to work or be in public. The checklist is also available in Spanish. This checklist and all the COVID-19 materials listed in the City’s COVID-19 Resource Catalog are available to the public for download, or can be printed for you by completing an online request form.

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.

    New Virginia Law on Nursing Home Visitations

    On October 21, Governor Northam approved a bill passed by the Virginia General Assembly during its recent special session, in response to concerns about loneliness caused by isolation from caretakers, residents and their loved ones. The new law will require nursing homes, certified nursing facilities, and hospices to allow patients and residents to receive visits in person, or by audio or visual technology, during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Facilities must create visitation protocols that are consistent with guidance from the CDC and as directed by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Virginia Board of Health, and must inform families and residents when visits will be allowed in-person and when they will be conducted remotely. Facilities are also required to outline the technology they have available to support virtual visits and the steps they will take if there is an internet outage or other emergency that prevents virtual visits from occurring. The law requires the Virginia Department of Health to adopt regulations no later than July 2021 to implement the above requirements.   

    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 24 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.

    Under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), employees who work for private American companies with fewer than 500 employees have the right to paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. FFCRA generally requires employers covered under the Act to provide sick leave if an employee is required to self-quarantine or has symptoms of COVID-19; is caring for an individual in quarantine or a child whose school or daycare is closed; or is experiencing a similar situation due to COVID-19. For more information, see the FFCRA poster and list of FFCRA frequently asked questions from the U.S. Department of Labor. For FFCRA coverage concerns, call 866.487.9243.

    The City and AHD have recently updated guidance for people who have tested positive for COVID-19, have been exposed to the virus, or have recovered from the illness. The “When You Can Be Around Others" flyer (also available in Spanish, Amharic and Arabic) provides detailed guidance on how people in these situations may determine the safest time to leave isolation or quarantine. The flyer is included in the COVID-19 Catalog of Resources, a collection of materials developed by AHD and the City to communicate guidelines and information to residents, businesses, facility managers, employees, customers and the general public. Materials in the Catalog of Resources can be downloaded and printed, or you can submit a request for the City to print them.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated information and guidance regarding immunity to COVID-19 after recovery from the illness. Studies show that people can continue to test positive for COVID-19 up to three months after diagnosis without being infectious to others. This latest data suggests that retesting within three months of initial infection is unnecessary unless symptoms of COVID-19 cannot be attributed to another illness. The CDC continues to recommend that anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should isolate for 10 days from the onset of symptoms, and for 24 hours from when a fever returns to normal temperature without the assistance of medication. Researchers continue to study the length of infection; duration of being contagious; and the variances between those who are mildly ill and those with severe illness and other underlying health issues.Continue to monitor messages from the Alexandria Health Department for updated guidance.

    COVID-19 Reporting Requirements for Businesses

    The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) established regulations that require all businesses to report an employee that tests positive for COVD-19 to their health department within 24 hours of receiving notification. This emergency temporary standard is intended to establish requirements for employers to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace and supplements any existing DOLI laws or standards. AHD created a secure and confidential online portal to help simplify the reporting process for local businesses. Once the report is submitted, the business may be contacted by a member of the AHD contact tracing team. Learn more about the contact tracing process (Spanish, Amharic, Arabic). 

    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. 


    Should I reconsider international and domestic travel?

    Travel Guideline Update

    The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has revised travel guidelines to align with recent guidance updates from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). VDH continues to advise Virginians to stay home as much as possible, especially if a trip is not essential or a traveler is either sick or at higher risk of serious illness. Virginia does not have quarantine requirements for travelers arriving from domestic or international locations; however, the CDC recommends a 14-day quarantine upon return from destinations with high rates of COVID-19.  Other high-risk activities associated with travel include attending gatherings -- such as weddings, parties, sporting events or concerts -- or being in crowded places such as restaurants, airports, bus or train stations, cruise ships or river boats. Many countries have entry requirements and restrictions for entry, so anyone considering international travel should check the list of countries and requirements prior to making reservations. If you may have been exposed before or during travel or you start to show COVID-19 symptoms, contact your healthcare provider and isolate at home.  

    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

    Guidance for Travelers Returning Home

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidance for those returning from travel. Travelers may have been exposed to COVID-19 and be contagious despite not having symptoms. All travelers should get tested, stay at home, wear a mask when leaving home is unavoidable, and practice physical distancing. The CDC urges travelers who engaged in high-risk activities to get tested 3-5 days after their return and stay home for at least 7 days, even with a negative test result, or stay home for at least 14 days if not tested. They should also stay away from others who may be at risk of severe illness for at least 14 days after travel. This interim guidance on the timing for post-travel testing is a change from previous guidance recommending testing after 7-10 days. The CDC will be issuing additional changes to quarantine guidance later this week. High-risk activities include attending social gatherings, being in crowded bars or restaurants, and using public transportation. Travelers who receive a positive test result should review the “What To Do If You Get Sick” worksheet (available in Spanish, Amharic, Arabic and Farsi), and cooperate with health department contact tracing efforts to identify and inform others who may have been 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.  

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

    The public is reminded to continue taking the Six Steps to Stop the Spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers guidance for safely participating in daily activities while the COVID-19 virus remains a threat in the community.Guidance is provided for specific settings and activities, including going to the bank or a gas station, handling deliveries and takeout, having guests or workers in the home, attending various social gatherings, and handling groceries and food safety. While the suggested safety measures vary depending on the type of activity, the CDC recommends consistently following general guidance and always considering the risk factors before going out.

    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?

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued strong recommendations for the use of masks for all passengers and employees of public transportation. Due to the nature of public transportation, it is often not possible to maintain 6 feet of physical distance. Passengers on public transportation are generally considered to be in close contact with each other for the purpose of identifying risk for exposure to COVID-19. Therefore, covering the nose and mouth with a mask is critical to helping prevent the spread of COVID-19. Masks should be worn for all domestic and international travel at all times at stations, airports and seaports and inside aircraft, trains, buses, boats and hired cars. Transportation operators are advised to require passengers to wear masks other than in limited circumstances. Travelers are reminded to maintain physical distance whenever possible; wash hands frequently; avoid touching or disinfecting high-touch surfaces when possible; and carry supplies such as extra masks and hand sanitizer containing more than 60% ethyl alcohol.

    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. 

    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. 

    I’m pregnant. What precautions should I take to protect myself and my newborn from COVID-19?

    People who are pregnant are strongly urged to follow guidance for minimizing exposure to  COVID-19, due to increased risk for severe illness that can include adverse outcomes, such as preterm birth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers extensive guidance for pregnancy, breastfeeding and caring for newborns. It is important to limit interactions with people who might be exposed to COVID-19, including anyone within the household. When outside the household, be sure to wear a mask, maintain 6 feet of physical distance whenever possible, and avoid activities that make taking protective measures difficult or impossible. 

    Continue scheduled healthcare appointments during and after pregnancy, to continue to monitor health. Receive recommended vaccines during pregnancy, such as flu and whooping cough, and keep a 30-day supply of medications at home. Seek emergency medical attention when necessary, and notify first responders and medical staff if COVID-19 infection is present. There are many decisions that will need to be made for the newborn in the event that the pregnant person has COVID-19, including whether the newborn will be rooming in at the hospital following birth. Precautions must be taken both in the hospital and upon returning home, including how to safely manage newborn doctor visits and breastfeeding.

    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.

    Multilingual COVID-19 Resources

    Studies show that communities where English is not the first language have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. The City offers a catalog of multilingual resources, containing informational and educational signs, flyers and videos, that are available in Amharic, Arabic, Spanish and Farsi. This helps to ensure that all of Alexandria’s residents have access to information about how to stop the spread of COVID-19, what to do if they are sick, and the resources available when they need assistance. A “translate” button is also available at the top of the COVID-19 webpage, which can translate all the information provided into 11 languages. All multilingual signs and flyers are available for download and print, or reproduction can be requested

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

    For detailed information about ACPS and COVID-19 response, including distance education, after-school programs, child care, food distribution and other services, visit ACPS-At-Home, www.acps.k12.va.us/acps-at-home

    What about childcare and recreation programs?

    The Department of Recreations, Parks and Cultural Activities offers RPCA at Home, virtual programming options are also available for youth and adults with free on-demand programs and classes.

    A recording of a virtual COVID-19 Daycare Town Hall meeting produced by AHD is now available. The Town Hall provides public health guidance to guardians of children attending daycare or other child care settings. Topics include when to keep a child home from daycare; when to get a child tested for COVID-19; when to return a child to daycare; and common infection scenarios. AHD staff reviewed the steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 and shared resources with guardians to reinforce the message at home.

    AHD has developed a checklist for families to help guide discussion with their daycare providers, to ensure everyone is following safety and health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Daycare providers should be prepared to answer questions about cohorting practices to minimize teachers and staff floating between classrooms, and whether hand sanitizer and other disinfecting supplies are regularly available. They should have contingency plans for mitigation measures, and communication plans already in place in the event a child or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. The Daycare Assessment Checklist is available for download on the City’s Coronavirus web page, along with many other resource materials that can help families teach their children how to stay healthy.
    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?

    Rental Assistance - 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

    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.

    Housing Relief Program

    The Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP) is now processing all tenant and homeowner applications for assistance paying past due and current rent and mortgages as a result of COVID-19. Homeowners and landlords can take a survey to determine if they are eligible, or submit a new application online or by phone at 703.962.1884. Landlords can visit alexandriava.gov/Housing or call 703.746.4990 for more information. 

    Alexandria residents who have received eviction notices should call the Office of Housing at 703.746.4990 for assistance. Residents impacted by COVID-19 should call 703.746.5700 or text 703.346.5599 to determine eligibility for rental assistance and eviction prevention programs, and review additional services and resources offered by the City.
    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.   

    For more information and to apply, visit the Food Assistance page or call 703.746.FOOD (3663).

    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.

    Households impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic may qualify for assistance with energy bills, including those that have accumulated during the crisis. The Virginia COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program is available to low-income households that do not typically qualify for other Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) energy assistance programs. Each eligible household should apply online to receive a one-time payment of $300 that will address immediate energy needs. For additional information regarding the program and other energy assistance resources, visit the VDSS Benefits web page or call 833.829.2767.  

    New Assistance from a Distance Text Line

    In addition to its phone, virtual and online services, the City’s Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) now offers a new text line to access DCHS-related services or needs. Programs such as emergency shelter and assistance with food, rent, utilities, prescriptions and other costs are especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. Text a request for “Assistance from a Distance” services to 703.746.5599 and receive an immediate response in English of Spanish during the hours listed on the flyer, with other language options available. The listing of resources is also available in Spanish, Arabic and Amharic, and can be downloaded and printed. Share this resource with others, particularly those in communities where English proficiency is limited, and with vulnerable individuals who may not have access to traditional media. 

    Mental Health and Well-Being 

    Mental health-related emergency room visits are increasing. The holidays are normally a time of increased stress, but with more positive cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria and the region, this year’s holiday stress may be compounded by feelings of isolation and depression. Self-care techniques, such as reaching out to loved ones, exercising and getting enough sleep, can help manage normal holiday stress. The City has compiled coping resources  for youths, parents and caregivers of children and older adults, and individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Multicultural mental health resources offer support for race-based trauma, LGBTQ community and immigrants, and include Spanish-language materials. The City also provides resources for clinical and emergency mental health and substance use. Crisis resources are available 24/7 for sexual assault and domestic violence hotlines, adult and child protective services and substance use treatment. Call or text 911, or go to the nearest emergency room for all life-threatening emergencies. The City recommends several mental health support hotlines: 

    • VA COPES: Call or text 877.349.6428. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. and weekends, 5-9 p.m. Non-emergency warmline. Spanish speakers available.

    • Parent Support Line: Call 703.324.7720, or text “support” or “parenting” to 30644. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Spanish speakers available. 

    • PRS CrisisLink Hotline: Call 703.527.4077 or text “connect” to 855-11. Available 24/7.

    • Emergency Mental Health Services: Call 703.746.3401. Available 24/7. 

    The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and Mental Health America of Virginia” non-emergency “warm line” is 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.  

    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. 

    The City has compiled resources to help Alexandrians cope with the fatigue and anxiety they are experiencing due to COVID-19, which can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Since it is helpful to try to keep children’s daily routines as stable as possible, the start of the new school year may add to feelings of stress and anxiety. Taking care of yourself, your friends and your family can help you cope with stress. Helping others cope with their stress can make the entire community stronger. A video offers guidance for how to cope; flyers for coping with fear and anxiety and coping resources for parents are all available in English, Amharic, Arabic and Spanish, and can be downloaded for reuse from the COVID-19 Catalog of Resources

    Locks & Lockboxes Help Prevent Suicide

    The heightened stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic make it especially important to be aware of ways to safeguard mental health and the steps to prevent suicide. Studies show that 61% of people who complete suicide use firearms and 19% use poisons or medication. The City offers locks for firearms and lockboxes for medications at no cost to residents through the Lock & Talk program, which helps to prevent suicides by limiting access to lethal means. This program is facilitated by the Suicide Prevention Alliance of Northern Virginia.

    For some, staying home during COVID-19 isn’t safe because they may be at risk of abuse. Resilience Alexandria: Inform Support Elevate (RAISE), Alexandria's trauma-informed community network, has created a flyer to help identify signs of abuse and who neighbors should call for assistance. Proof that abuse or neglect is occurring is not required to make the call. Learn more about protective services for children and adults and resources for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

    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

    COVID 19 Parental Resources Kit

    Dealing with trauma during childhood can have a lifelong impact on a child. Breaks in routine, learning, and healthcare; missing out on milestone celebrations; and losing a sense of security because of the COVID-19 pandemic may have long-lasting effects on a child. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidance for parents and caregivers about how to support the emotional, social and mental well-being of children and young people through the COVID-19 pandemic. Recommendations and resources are broken down by the stages of a child’s development, and address the different levels of understanding and awareness based on a child’s age and maturity level. Resources include materials that contain safety and self-care messaging that can be placed throughout the home; activities to reinforce staying safe and healthy; and conversation starters to help adults talk to children about their feelings of fear, stress, and anxiety. The City also has a “Coping Resources for Parents and Children” flyer, which is available in Spanish, Amharic, and Arabic, and includes local crisis contact information.  

    Legal Services for Evictions

    Virginians will have access to $4 million in funding for Legal Services for eviction due to lack of payment during the COVID-19 pandemic. The City has requested that landlords make every effort to work with tenants who are unable to pay rent and reminds those facing financial hardship of their tenant rights. Landlords are not permitted to shut off utilities or lock residents out without a court order. Residents can ask the court for a delay of eviction due to lost income as a result of COVID-19. Depending on the type of housing and reason for eviction, tenants may be protected by the Coronavirus Aid Relief Economic Security (CARES) Act eviction ban and may qualify for the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief (RFMR) Program, which limits late fees and provides special rules for residents of hotels, motels, or boarding houses. Virginia families facing eviction have a much more successful outcome when represented by Legal Aid lawyers. Visit alexandriava.gov/Housing for more information regarding Housing Resources and Legal Services.

    Rent and Mortgage Relief Expands to Landlords

    The Commonwealth of Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program (RMRP) that was initiated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, Economic Security (CARES) Act to assist households in preventing evictions and foreclosures due to COVID-19 is expanding to support landlords. The RMRP provides a one-time payment with the opportunity for renewal based upon availability of funding, the household’s need for additional assistance, and continued eligibility. Under this new expansion, landlords who have tenants that qualify for the RMRP can receive financial assistance for rent or mortgage payments past due beginning April 1, 2020. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) moratorium on eviction proceedings does not prevent rent and mortgage payments from accumulating. Virginia and the City are working to provide resources to maintain housing stability and encourage landlords to work with their lending institution to understand their rights and responsibilities, and seek assistance if needed. Eviction prevention programs, resources and information are available through the Alexandria Office of Housing. 

    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.

    Help for Jobseekers

    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.

    Re-Employing Virginians (REV) is a state initiative to help residents who have lost full-time jobs due to COVID-19 pursue training in high-demand fields with workforce or community college programs. Eligible residents can apply for one-time scholarships of $3,000 to register in qualifying full-time workforce programs, or $1,500 to register part-time or in short-term, noncredit training programs. High demand fields include health care, information technology, skilled trades, public safety and early childhood education. The enrollment deadline is December 14, 2020. To learn more about the program and apply, visit the Alexandria Workforce Development Center REV web page.

    Help with Medicaid

    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. 

    Help for Students

    In an effort to support students in their virtual learning environments, the library has also purchased a license for Tutor.com.  All customers with a library card, both permanent and temporary, can use the service to get help with homework, class projects, papers—even test prep! Tutor.com helps you by:

    1. Providing Personalized, On-Demand Student Support

    2. Virtual Learning Day

    3. Engaging the Student One-to-One

    4. Impacting Student Achievement

    Tutoring is available in all core K-12 subjects – math, science, English, social studies and writing, including AP-level assistance.

    Adult customers can also benefit from Tutor.com.  Get help completing a job application, or writing a strong cover letter & résumé and practice & prepare for an interview!  There are also resources for finding a job.  Get started today at alexlibraryva.org/online-learning.

    If you have any questions regarding this service, please contact the Digital Services Librarian at csonnier@alexlibraryva.org.
    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.

    What if my business in the City is struggling because of COVID-19?

    Information about resources available to Alexandria  businesses impacted by COVID-19 are available through the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership.

    Businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged to visit growalx.com/business. 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.

    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. 

    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.

    ALX Promise training now available in Spanish

    The ALX Promise safety training program is now available in Spanish. Business owners and employees can receive training in Spanish about how to safely reopen during all phases of the COVID-19 pandemic from an AHD Environmental Health Specialist. Businesses that successfully complete the training and commit to higher safety standards for their employees and customers than the minimum requirement receive an ALX Promise Shield to display and a kit of promotional materials and are added to the list of ALX Promise business partners. Register to participate on the ALX Promise webpage, or by calling 703.746.4190.   

    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. 

    Guidance for Workplaces and Businesses

    Current VDH guidance urges employers to extend teleworking when possible as positive COVID-19 case numbers continue to surge. Everyone within a workplace has a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) comprehensive guide to Workplaces and Businesses provides the responsibilities of employers and employees, with guidance for essential services and specific industries, such as food service, transportation, and manufacturing. The City Support & Guidance for Businesses webpage contains materials from the Department of Labor and Industry and their online COVID-19 reporting form, and additional resources. The Catalog of Multilingual Resources has video and print materials to help with workplace COVID-19 guidance communication, that are available for download.

    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. 

    What about specific programs and services?
    • Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA) - For  information about RPCA programs, phased recreation reopenings, visit alexandriava.gov/Recreation.

    • Libraries - Effective Monday, December 7, Alexandria Libraries will resume Phase 2 operations, with curbside pick-up and virtual services only until further notice. The change in services is due to the increase in positive cases and risk of COVID-19 transmission in Alexandria and surrounding jurisdictions. All branches except the Law Library are closed to the public. Curbside pick-up hours vary by branch. Telephone and virtual services will continue during curbside hours. Hold items can be reserved online and will be held for four days after notification. Returned items will be held in quarantine for seven days before being removed from accounts, with no fines accrued during the holding period. Staff-Assisted Materials Selections service is still available for materials not available through the hold system and can be coordinated with library locations. No donations will be accepted at this time. All fees and late payments must be made online, or by check or mail order through the mail. The Library Board is working closely with the City and AHD, and will keep residents informed of changes as they are made.

    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. 

    What about funerals?

    Planning a funeral and managing grief can be especially difficult and emotionally overwhelming while COVID-19 is still active in our community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides funeral guidance, which offers suggestions for planning and helping loved ones to cope with loss during the pandemic. Gatherings and interactions with people in high-contact occupations, such as caterers, florists, clergy, and funeral home staff, may increase the possibility of spread. The CDC recommends that funeral attendees wear masks and avoid physical contact; gather outdoors or in well-ventilated spaces large enough to maintain physical distance; avoid sharing common religious items such as books or collections plates; and reduce the number of people who participate in singing or chanting. While the minimum safe physical distance is usually 6 feet, at least 10 feet should be maintained between people who are singing or chanting. Managing grief in addition to the stress and anxiety of the pandemic can be difficult. Loved ones are encouraged to find alternate ways of supporting each other, such as sharing memories and feelings of loss with household members or through virtual calls and memory books.




    My child will be returning home from college. How should we prepare?

    The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) offers guidance for students who will be returning home for the holidays from colleges and universities located out of state or in different regions, to minimize potential household exposure to COVID-19. Students and staff are strongly urged to follow all the mitigation measures for preventing the spread of COVID-19 while participating in classes and activities. At least 14 days before returning home, students should limit in-person interactions with others; consider getting tested for COVID-19; and receive the results before leaving campus. If limited interaction is not possible while at school, students should quarantine at home for at least 14 days, keep isolated from the household, and get tested one week after travel. After quarantine ends, students should continue to limit the frequency and size of social gatherings with people outside their households; wear masks; and maintain 6 feet of physical distance at all times. If a student tests positive prior to travel, they should self-isolate and not travel for at least 10 days. Students who test negative for COVID-19 afterclose contact with someone who tested positive should still quarantine for 14 days after exposure. VDH has developed a flyer for students and parents to help them understand the recommended mitigation measures.  

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