Alexandria Health Department Provides Context to VDH Release of New COVID-19 Zip Code Data
For Immediate Release: May 7, 2020
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has published new data on COVID-19 cases by ZIP code, which show rates in Alexandria that vary from 2.3 to 19.7 cases per 1,000 residents for ZIP codes that can be reliably calculated. 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 critical for everyone to stay home except for essential trips such as food purchases and medical care. Everyone should also keep 6 feet apart from others when in public; wear a cloth face covering over the nose and mouth when physical distance cannot be maintained; and continue meticulous hand hygiene - washing hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and water or, when a sink is not readily available, using hand gel with at least 60% alcohol.
New ZIP Code Data
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.
The City of Alexandria has provided the estimated population for each local ZIP code, so the number of cases per 1,000 residents can be compared. As of May 7, VDH has reported the following positive and probable COVID-19 cases:
|ZIP Code||Estimated Population
(in Alexandria Portion of ZIP code)
|Confirmed Cases per ZIP code||Total People Tested||Positivity Rate*||Tests Per 1,000 Residents||Confirmed Cases Per 1,000 Residents|
* The positivity rate is the number of confirmed cases divided by the number of tests.
** ZIP code 22206 is mostly in Arlington County; the Alexandria portion of data for 22206 is not provided, therefore the numbers and calculations would not be reliable for reporting for Alexandria.
*** ZIP codes 22311 and 22312 are shared between Alexandria and Fairfax County. The number of cases and number of people tested presented in this table, and accompanying calculations, are for the entire ZIP code. Cases per 1,000 Alexandrians cannot be reliably calculated.
It is important to note that the virus has widespread community transmission throughout all of Alexandria, northern Virginia, and Washington DC and Maryland. An individual’s risk of becoming infected is based on many factors, including individual exposures and health status, environmental conditions, policies and practices of businesses, and individual behaviors.
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 historically experienced discriminatory policies and systems, resulting in inequitable access to healthcare, economic opportunities and affordable housing.
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.
What the Alexandria Health Department is Doing
The Alexandria Health Department (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 targeted prevention services such as Immunization and Sexual & Reproductive Health Clinics and the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
AHD’s 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 inform 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 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 an effort 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, the jail and detention center).
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This news release is available at alexandriava.gov/115271.