ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) — Virginia will head into Phase Three of reopening next Wednesday. At his press conference Tuesday, Governor Northam said Phase Three will allow gatherings of up to 250 people and there will no longer be capacity limits on restaurants or non-essential retail services. Northam is still strongly recommending face masks.
At its bi-weekly virtual town hall Friday, the Arlington County Board gave residents a preview of what Phase Three will look like. Residents have expressed concern for entering into Phase Three. Board Member Christian Dorsey says the county has reached 2,550 positive coronavirus cases, an increase of 6 percent, with hospitalizations up 5 percent.
“As much as we have our own individual perspectives, I’ll be perfectly frank in sharing I would prefer to stay in Phase Two for a while longer, it doesn’t really matter what any of the individual jurisdictions think about this,” Dorsey said. “It’s whether or not we have a concerted desire to stay in Phase Two as a region and quite frankly we do not. And so there will not be any jurisdictional carve outs.”
A “jurisdictional carve out” did occur when Northam considered moving the state into Phase One. Leaders from across Northern Virginia wrote to the governor and requested reopening be delayed in the region. “I think trying to stop right now is not really wise or possible politically to do,” said Chair Libby Garvey. “And the numbers are there and we said we would go on the metrics, right? We said that’s what we would do and that’s what we’re doing and that’s what the governor’s doing.” Garvey says she’s in close contact with other jurisdictional leaders.
Arlington County has administered over 16,000 tests and has partnered with nearly 70 community organizations to distribute about 41,000 face coverings through houses of worship, PTA’s and nonprofits. Over 200 organizations and businesses are CDC compliant and are marked with the county’s state of approval as part of its We Are Covered program. The county has approved 43 applications for expanded outdoor seating.
Meanwhile, if a surge occurs, Director of Public Health Dr. Reuben Varghese says the county is prepared with robust contract tracing. “We’re not expecting huge variations but we want to have enough so if one day suddenly 100 cases are reported for whatever reason that we still have the ability in a 24 hour period to make the initial case contact, find out who their contacts are, and talk to them as well.”
County Manager Mark Schwartz says the county is recruiting people to do contact tracing so they can quit using public health employees. The county will continue to use volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps.
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