City of Alexandria Provides COVID-19 Updates: Text Alerts; Farmers’ Markets Suspended; Recreation Centers Closed; Parks Open

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City of Alexandria Provides COVID-19 Updates: Text Alerts; Farmers’ Markets Suspended; Recreation Centers Closed; Parks Open

­­For Immediate Release: March 20, 2020

The Alexandria Health Department (AHD) strongly urges all community members to change their daily behavior to reduce risk from COVID-19, particularly to protect our most vulnerable populations. Public health officials have noted evidence of community transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus in parts of Northern Virginia, and each individual is a critical part of slowing the spread of the virus.

Text Alert Option Now Available

To receive text message alerts from the City related to COVID-19, text ALEXCOVID19 to 888777.

Farmers’ Markets Suspended Due to State Regulation

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which regulates farmers’ markets, announced today that the agency has interpreted the state emergency order regarding restaurants to apply to farmers’ markets. As a result, markets may not operate with more than 10 patrons present. Because it is not practical to enforce such a limit in an open market, the Del Ray, Four Mile Run, Old Town, Old Town North and West End markets will be suspended until further notice. The Virginia Farmers Market Association is petitioning the state to reconsider this interpretation for future market dates. 

Local Enforcement of 10-Person Rule

Restaurants and businesses are still permitted to operate under Governor Northam’s order to limit the number of patrons to no more than 10 at any time. While most businesses are complying, local law enforcement is authorized to enforce the order for those that are not. Restaurants and patrons are encouraged to take advantage of delivery and take-out options, and ensure the safety and health of restaurant workers and the public. 

Outdoor Recreation Remains Open; All Recreation Centers Closed Beginning March 23
Due to staffing shortages and low usage, all City recreation centers will be closed through April 10. Visit for a complete list of facility and service adjustments.

All parks, trails, fields, and playgrounds remain open to the public. The City and the Alexandria Health Department believe that safe, socially distant opportunities for exercise are crucial for our community, to maintain both physical and mental health. Patrons are requested to practice social distancing and wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer to protect themselves and others. Since any outdoor amenity is only as clean as the last person who touched it, please wipe down any playground or other outdoor equipment with disinfectant wipes before and after use. Signage with guidelines is being posted at City playgrounds, play courts and park entrances to remind the public how they can prepare themselves, protect their community and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Further State Guidance on Filing for Unemployment

The Virginia Employment Commission has increased its speed and capacity to make it easier for Virginia residents to file for unemployment online or through the call center. Governor Northam has waived the normal one-week waiting period and work search requirements. Unemployment policies are changing rapidly to accommodate the ongoing crisis. Applicants who have previously applied for and been denied unemployment are encouraged to check again. 

New Food Safety Guidance for Meal Distribution Sites 

As a result of school closures and economic challenges, more Alexandrians are relying on meal distribution sites. This AHD checklist for food safety at meal distribution sites highlights safe preparation, handling, and distribution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in staff, volunteers, and meal recipients. 

Coping with Fear and Uncertainty

Fear and uncertainty about COVID-19 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 the stress. Helping others cope with their stress can also make your community stronger. If you, or someone you care about are feeling overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or others call or text 24/7 to talk.

State Department Advises Against All International Travel

The U.S. Department of State has advised against all international travel. U.S. citizens who are traveling should arrange for immediate return to the United States, or prepare to remain abroad for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens living abroad should avoid all international travel. 

Two New COVID-19 Cases in Alexandria, Bringing the Total to Six

On March 20, the Alexandria Health Department confirmed two additional cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, bringing the total so far to six. AHD is identifying and contacting individuals who came in close contact with the confirmed cases. The 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.

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.

  • Use 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 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 or 703.746.3965.

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This news release is available at

Note: This news release was edited on March 20, 2020, at 10:25 p.m., to clarify that all recreation centers are now closed.