COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions

Page updated on Jun 4, 2020 at 4:21 PM

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

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COVID-19 101

What are coronaviruses?

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

What is coronavirus (COVID-19)?

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

Where did COVID-19 come from?

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

What are the symptoms of the COVID-19 disease?

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

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

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

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

How long is someone contagious from COVID-19?

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

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

What are risks for getting the COVID-19 virus?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Avoiding contact with ill people is crucial. The Alexandria Health Department urges everyone to stay home and practice physical distancing, such as working remotely and avoiding trips outside the house except for essential needs like food and medicine purchases. This is especially critical for people at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 infection. The CDC provides additional information for people who are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19.

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

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

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

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

How is the COVID-19 virus treated?

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

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

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

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

The CDC notes that purchased or homemade face coverings will not prevent individuals from catching the COVID-19 virus, but will help prevent people who have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Learn how to make a mask out of everyday items and how to wear it properly

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

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

Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?

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

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

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

Can my pet get COVID-19?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a small number of pets have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after contact with people with COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the virus that causes the disease. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. Treat pets as you would other human family members – do not let pets interact with people or animals outside the household. If a person inside the household becomes sick, isolate that person from everyone else, including pets. Visit the CDC website to learn more about COVID-19 and pets

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. 

COVID-19 Cases in Alexandria

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

Visit for the latest on COVID-19 cases in Alexandria.

New ZIP Code Data

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

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

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

If You are Sick

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

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

Anyone with symptoms of respiratory illness should:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more about applying for health care benefits, call 703.746.5700 or visit

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

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

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

Testing for COVID-19

Who should be tested for COVID-19?

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

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

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

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

How do I know if I should stay home or go out in public if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

The table below provides general guidance for those who are experiencing symptoms of coughing, fever of over 100.4 F and shortness of breath .

(Note: The table below is for the general public; it does not apply to those who have been close contacts to a confirmed COVID-19 case, who have a different set of guidance provided directly to them.)

General Guidance for Isolation and Quarantine

Test status Individual Close Contacts Other Precautions
Not Tested

If ill, stay home until 72 hours after fever resolves or 7 days after illness began, whichever is longer.

(Note: if placed on self-quarantine by the Alexandria Health Department, complete quarantine period if longer than the above.)

No extra measures needed. No extra measures needed.
Test Pending Remain isolated, away from others in the home, until results come back. If ill, stay home. If fever-free and no symptoms, free to pursue essential services as needed. No extra measures needed.
Test Negative If ill, stay home until 72 hours after fever resolves. No extra measures needed. No extra measures needed.
Positive/Confirmed Test Remain isolated at home until 7 days after onset of symptoms or 72 hours after symptoms resolve, whichever is longer. If identified by the Alexandria Health Department as a close contact, remain quarantined at home for 14 days for symptom monitoring and/or testing. Persons in schools, workplaces and other facilities where a confirmed case has been present will be notified by Alexandria Health Department of contact tracing as indicated by the Health Department’s investigation.
I went to my doctor but they told me that they could not test me for COVID-19. Why is that?

Right now, healthcare providers are only testing people who have symptoms. If you have symptoms and your doctor couldn’t test you, call one of the facilities on this list for screening and testing.

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.

Shouldn’t everyone in Alexandria – even those who are not sick – be tested just in case?

It is the Alexandria Health Department’s position that everyone who has been deemed by their clinician as needing COVID-19 testing should be tested. Unfortunately, to date, there have been a limited number of tests available. As a result, those at highest risk of infection are being prioritized. Individual risk is dependent on exposure history. Risk of infection is different from being at risk of complications due to COVID-19 infection. Those who are at higher risk for complications include those over 65, pregnant people, and those with underlying health conditions.

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

All levels of government, private labs, and health care providers are all working to expand access to testing. Once that occurs, more people will likely be tested.

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

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 This data is updated daily.

Protecting Yourself, Your Family and Your Neighbors

How can I protect myself from COVID-19?

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

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

Safe Use of Hand Sanitizer

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

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. 

On March 23, Governor Northam issued an executive order requiring physical distancing measures. This order bans gatherings of more than 10 people, closes certain non-essential businesses, and restricts restaurants to pickup and delivery only. Violation of the order is a criminal offense. Governor Northam also advised that those with chronic health conditions or aged 65 or older should self-quarantine because they are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

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 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

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?
  3. Are your healthcare workers trained in recognizing the signs and symptoms of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 in themselves?
  4. 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?
  5. Is everyone who works in the facility wearing a face covering or face mask at all times?
  6. What are the locations of your hand sinks and hand sanitizer?
  7. 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?
  8. Are your healthcare workers trained in infection prevention and in stopping the transmission of COVID-19?
  9. Are your healthcare workers working exclusively at your facility and not at other healthcare facilities?
  10. Are your healthcare workers trained in identifying respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 in elderly patients?
  11. How often are the areas commonly used by employees cleaned and disinfected?
  12. 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)?
  13. 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?
  14. How will you notify me if my loved one gets sick or if any of the answers to questions above change?
Should I stay home from work? And when can I return to work?

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

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

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

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

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

The City has announced reopening phases for programs and services offered by the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA). The timing of the RPCA reopening phases is anticipated to align with the phases in the Governor’s “Forward Virginia” blueprint for Northern Virginia, but is subject to change. Programs and facilities will operate according to federal, state and local health guidelines, which include significant adjustments to capacity and format. Fewer participants than usual will be accommodated during the first two phases in summer camps, classes, pools, fitness rooms and more. Some facility amenities will remain closed until it is safe to reopen in accordance with guidelines. Visit for reopening updates, including details about registration and participation. 

All Alexandrians are safer at home except for essential trips such as medical care or food purchases. IF you and your family and friends adhere to social distancing measures by maintaining 6 feet of personal space and avoid gatherings of 10 or more people, you can use spaces like parks and trails. The City of Alexandria and the Alexandria City Public Schools have closed playgrounds, fenced play courts, and other park amenities. Individuals should consider this as general guidance and take situations on a case-by-case basis depending on their personal health and well-being.

Should I reconsider international travel?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How should I care for someone sick at home?

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

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

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided updated advice about how to stay safe and healthy when running essential errands, such as buying groceries and medicine, and completing banking activities. Topics covered include shopping for groceries and household essentials; accepting delivery and takeout orders; banking; getting gasoline; and going to the doctor or getting medicine.

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

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.

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

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

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

On March 23, Governor Northam issued an executive order requiring physical distancing measures. This order includes a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, closing certain non-essential businesses, and restricts restaurants to pickup and delivery only. Violation of the order is a criminal offense. Governor Northam also advised that those with chronic health conditions or aged 65 or older should self-quarantine because they are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

All City of Alexandria departments are evaluating each scheduled internal and public meeting and event on a rolling three to four-week basis, to determine if it is essential. Non-essential meetings or events will be canceled or modified in consultation with the City Manager’s Office and any applicable board or commission chairs. Staff will consider whether a meeting or event is required by law or necessary to respond to the COVID-19 situation or other continuity of operations needs; whether cancellation would place an undue hardship on participants or other stakeholders; whether the intended participants include people in high-risk categories; whether some or all of the agenda or program could be postponed; whether online virtual options could be used as a replacement or supplement to in-person gatherings; and whether the setup or design of the gathering could be modified to reduce risk. See each department website for details.

For a list of individual meeting schedules and cancellations, visit

Alexandria Health Department urges all community members holding gatherings to practice the following physical distancing at gatherings of any size:

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

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

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

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

  • Follow environmental cleaning guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including more cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces at least daily.

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

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

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

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

  • over 65 years of age

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

  • have weakened immune systems

  • pregnant

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

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

Please note the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

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.

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

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

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

How can I stay informed?
  • To get alerts, text ALEXCOVID19 to 888777
  • For up-to-date local information, visit, subscribe to City eNews alerts, and follow City social media channels.
  • For questions about COVID-19, call the Alexandria COVID-19 Information Line at 703.746.4988, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Virginia residents can also call the Virginia Department of Health public information line, 877-ASK-VDH3, for questions about the novel coronavirus situation.

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

Businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are encouraged to visit 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 or email

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

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

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

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

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

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

When will the City reopen?

On May 26, Governor Northam announced that he will allow Northern Virginia to move from Phase Zero to Phase One of the “Forward Virginia” blueprint for reopening on Friday, May 29. Phase One lifts some restrictions on businesses while continuing measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The region will move to a “Safer at Home” strategy, which continues the ban on gatherings of more than 10 people and maintains standards for physical distancing, teleworking, and wearing face coverings. 

Face Coverings Are Now Required 

Executive Order 63 will require face coverings in indoor public settings starting tomorrow, May 29, and until further notice. This includes stores, governmental facilities, and public transportation. There will be exceptions for children under age 10; people with health conditions that do not allow them to wear face coverings; eating or drinking; and exercising. Violation of the order will be a Class 1 misdemeanor. For questions about the order, call the Virginia Department of Health at 877.ASK.VDH3. Watch a video to learn how to make and use cloth face coverings correctly. Remember that cloth face coverings do not protect the wearer; they protect other people from the wearer. They are not substitutes for staying home as much as possible and maintaining physical distance in public.

On May 12, Governor Ralph Northam issued Executive Order Sixty-Two, delaying Northern Virginia’s transition to Phase One of the “Forward Virginia” reopening plan. This means the existing stay-at-home order and restrictions on certain business operations for Phase Zero remained in effect in Northern Virginia until May 29, while the rest of the state moved to Phase One on May 15. This allows Northern Virginia localities more time to achieve the health milestones required to move to Phase One. The order applies to the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park; the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William; and the towns in those counties. 

On May 10, the chief elected officials of the five largest localities in Northern Virginia sent a letter to Governor Northam, supporting his “Forward Virginia” reopening plan in general but urging him to implement it for the region only once regional threshold metrics have been met. Although the metrics appeared likely to be met statewide by May 15, this did not appear to be the case for Northern Virginia. The 2.5 million residents of the city of Alexandria and the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William represent nearly a third of the population of Virginia and half of the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.  

The Forward Virginia plan requires the following metrics be met before the first phase of reopening can occur statewide: 1) a downward trend of positive test results over a period of 14 days; 2) a downward trend of hospitalizations over a period of 14 days; 3) sufficient hospital beds and intensive care capacity; 4) increasing and sustainable supply of personal protective equipment such as masks, respirators, gloves and gowns; and 5) increased testing and tracing. According to an analysis by the region’s public health directors, all five metrics for Northern Virginia were either unmet or could not be determined based on currently available data. 

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

What about funerals?

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

How should I begin to prepare to reopen?

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

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

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

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. Visit Alexandria will also post a roster of participating businesses online. 

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