City of Alexandria Provides COVID-19 Updates: New State Orders; Additional Cases; Food Safety; Metro and Parking; Curbside Collection; Recreation; City Council Meeting
For Immediate Release: March 17, 2020
The Alexandria Health Department (AHD) urges all community members to change their daily behavior now to reduce risk from COVID-19, particularly to protect our most vulnerable populations.
New Virginia Orders and Guidance for Social Distancing
On March 17, the Governor and the State Health Commissioner issued an order declaring a public health emergency in Virginia and prohibiting restaurants, fitness centers, and theaters from operating with more than 10 customers present. Violation of the order is a criminal offense. Businesses may continue to provide carry-out and delivery options.
Earlier in the day, Governor Northam recommended that individuals with chronic health conditions or age 65 or older should self-quarantine, because they are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. He encouraged neighbors and friends to stay in touch and regularly check in with high-risk individuals.
Positive COVID-19 Cases Under Investigation
AHD is investigating three new positive cases of COVID-19. One patient was tested in New York but provided a residence address in Alexandria; another recently traveled internationally; and another came in close contact with a confirmed case in Washington, D.C. Any patient who tests positive for COVID-19 is notified and asked to self-isolate. The investigations will determine where the patients have had close contact with other individuals, and those individuals will be contacted directly by public health officials. Those identified as close contacts will be asked to self-quarantine and actively monitor for fever and respiratory symptoms. If they start experiencing symptoms, they will immediately undergo testing. This brings the total number of cases involving Alexandria residents to five; the first two cases were directly linked to other known cases.
Grocery Stores and Farmers Markets
Check the website or phone number for grocery stores and farmers markets in case hours or policies have changed. While there is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through food or food from certain countries, any food can be a surface for the transmission of viruses if safe food handling practices are not followed.
To permit access to food while employing social distancing and hygiene best practices, merchants and customers at grocery stores and farmers markets should follow these guidelines:
Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Use hand sanitizer when washing is unavailable.
Do not touch your face with unwashed hands.
Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly.
Use gloves properly and in addition to washing or sanitizing. Change gloves frequently.
Maintain personal space of six feet whenever possible.
Discontinue sampling of cut or open foods.
Before preparing or eating, customers should wash all fruits and vegetables in accordance with FDA guidance for cleaning produce.
Use non-cash forms of payment when possible. Wash or sanitize hands immediately after handling cash or payment devices.
Changes to Public Transportation Services
Starting March 18, Metrorail and Metrobus service will be reduced to allow for additional cleaning and social distancing. Rail system hours will be reduced to 5 a.m.-11 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m.-11 p.m. weekends, running every 15 minutes and operating with eight cars on all lines. Buses will operate on a Sunday schedule for essential travel only. Metro asks the public not to use Metrorail or Metrobus unless absolutely necessary, and to follow guidance from state and local authorities.
Metro is specifically urging the public to not use public transportation to travel to the Cherry Blossom Festival. This will keep Metro’s limited capacity available for essential travel (e.g. doctors, nurses, essential governmental functions, etc.). Metro reserves the right to close stations near the Tidal Basin at any time to reduce the use of Metro for tourist trips.
Changes to Parking Regulations and Curbside Collection
Parking - Effective immediately, the City will suspend enforcement of parking restrictions for residential street sweeping and for the prohibition on vehicles parking on the street for more than 72 hours. All other posted parking restrictions, including residential permit time limits and parking meters, remain in effect. Residents may continue to apply for guest parking permits online. The City will also begin working in commercial corridors to establish temporary curbside loading and pickup to assist with an increase in pickup and delivery services.
Trash and Recycling - To protect the health and safety of collection teams, residents should make sure all trash and recycling placed curbside is either contained within a can or cart, or in a tied or sealed plastic bag. Loose trash set out curbside for collection will not be collected.
Yard Waste - The City is suspending yard waste, bulk material, and metal curbside collection, effective immediately, for a period of at least two weeks. This change allows crews to continue to prioritize and safely collect residential refuse and recycling. Residents are encouraged to compost yard waste at home or wait to place it curbside until service returns to normal. Smaller amounts of yard waste may be collected with trash, but residents should expect larger volumes to be left uncollected.
Recreation Registration Postponed
The opening of spring and summer registration for City recreation programs has been postponed to 9 a.m. on Wednesday, April 1, for City residents and Friday, April 3, for nonresidents. Spring and summer registration applies to classes, leagues and activities offered by the City’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities that occur April through August 2020. Any additional adjustments to the registration date will be posted online prior to April 1.
City Council and Board of Architectural Review Meetings
On Wednesday, March 18, the Alexandria City Council will hold an emergency meeting to discuss COVID-19 response. The meeting will take place at 8 p.m. in the City Council Chamber on the 2nd floor of City Hall (301 King St.), and will be preceded by a budget work session at 7 p.m. The Board of Architectural Review meeting will be held in Sister Cities Conference Room 1101 at the same time, in order to review docket items with legally-mandated deadlines. The two City Council meetings will be streamed live at alexandriava.gov/Video and cablecast live on Comcast Channel 70 in Alexandria. The BAR meeting will be streamed live at alexandriava.gov/Livestream. The public is encouraged to follow these meetings online or on television rather than attending in person.
City Government Operations
City facilities are open normal hours, except that library branches and indoor museums and historic sites are closed. Many City events and activities have been canceled or postponed. A list of cancellations is available on alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus and will be updated frequently. The Alexandria Library, Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, Courts, Office of Historic Alexandria, Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities, and Sheriff's Office have detailed information about service and program changes.
City employees are working remotely to the extent feasible while maintaining core services. The City encourages all employers to maximize telework opportunities for employees whenever possible, both to increase social distancing and to help reduce the impact of school closures.
If You Have Symptoms of COVID-19
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 themselves; avoid contact with other people; wash their hands frequently; and disinfect surfaces regularly.
Protect Yourself and Others, Especially Vulnerable Community Members
Wash Your Hands. Rub hands together with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Hand Sanitizer. If you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol as you would wash your hands, rubbing them together for 20 seconds.
Don’t Touch Your Face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Stay Home. If you are feeling sick, stay home. If you are well, avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Use Your Elbow. Cough and sneeze into your elbow, not your hand. Alternatively, cough or sneeze into a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands.
Disinfect Surfaces. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Manage Stress. The CDC recommends taking breaks from exposure to the news; take deep breaths or meditate; try to eat healthy; get sleep or rest; make time to do activities you enjoy; and connect with others to share your feelings.
For more information about the COVID-19 coronavirus and how you can help protect yourself and those around you, visit alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus. 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. If you have chest pain or shortness of breath, call or text 911.
For inquiries from the news media only, contact Craig Fifer, Director of Communications and Public Information, at email@example.com or 703.746.3965.
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This news release is available at alexandriava.gov/114242.
Note: This news release was edited on March 19, 2020, to provide a link to FDA guidance on cleaning fruits and vegetables.