Now Is Not the Time to Reopen Northern Virginia, Leaders Say

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By Elle Meyers
May 11, 2020

As Gov. Ralph Northam readies Virginia for his first phase of recovery from strict stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of coronavirus, leaders in the northern part of the state say they are not ready to reopen.

Health officials in the region released a memo saying that areas of northern Virginia do not meet important benchmarks to move forward with lifting certain restrictions. For example, they say the area has not seen reduced COVID-19 hospitalizations or enough contact tracers to chart the progress of coronavirus in the community. 

They also explained that while larger hospitals in the region have sufficient protective equipment for nurses and physicians, private practices and long-term care facilities do not. 

In a letter that accompanied the memo, leaders in the region asked Northam to allow northern Virginia to reopen at a slower pace. 

“The transition to Phase 1 in Northern Virginia should occur when our region has achieved the threshold metrics,” wrote leaders from Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun Counties along with the mayor of Alexandria. 

Northam plans to begin the first phase of reopening the economy this Friday, but some restrictions will remain in place. Although some retail businesses will be allowed to reopen with limited capacity and private gatherings of less than 10 people will be permitted, indoor gyms, and beaches will remain closed. Restaurants will also still be only allowed to provide takeout services. 

During discussions with the local press Northam has been hesitant to allow parts of the state to reopen before others noting concern that people in areas with high rates of the virus would travel to areas with low or no cases. But over the past week Northam said he would allow local jurisdictions to slow their reopening if they expressed concern that their region was not ready. 

The northern Virginia region accounts for about a fourth of the state’s population but roughly half of its coronavirus cases. 

Here’s a look at the number of cases in the region according to local health departments.

LocationTotal Cases HospitalizedDeaths
Arlington County1,39928660
Alexandria 1,22413930
Prince William County2,99128453
Loudoun County1,19511630
Stafford County384592
Fairfax County6,200946243
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