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Northern Virginia officials stressed the importance of working together on their reopening plans during Gov. Ralph Northam’s press conference today.

Yesterday, Northam announced that he was pushing the reopening deadline for Northern Virginia localities to May 29.

Today Northam said that he is “comfortable” having the first reopening phase begin on Friday (May 15) for the rest of the state.

Jeff McKay, Fairfax County’s chairman, said that coordination with D.C. and Maryland leaders is key to determine when to reopen the D.C. area, which he called “one cohesive region.”

“It’s important that there not be huge variations in the roll-out of phases as we move forward so that we don’t unnecessarily confuse our business owners, confuse our residents and confuse our house of worships,” McKay said. “This virus does not know jurisdictional boundaries.”

Officials for Arlington and Loudoun counties along with the mayors of Alexandria and Falls Church also spoke at the press conference.

Libby Garvey, the chair for Arlington County, said that the Northern Virginia region is looking to meet the following criteria before reopening:

  • a downward trend of positive test results and hospitalizations for 14 days
  • sufficient hospital beds and intensive care unit capacity
  • enough personal protection equipment
  • increased testing and tracing

“The most responsible path forward for us is to maintain our current operating status until the phase 1 criteria laid out by the governor are met by Northern Virginia

Northam said that he has not heard about a desire to delay the first reopening phase from other regions in Virginia.

Image via Gov. Ralph Northam/Facebook

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Following more details to reopen Virginia later this week, Fairfax County’s chairman joined Northern Virginia leaders in saying that the region is not ready yet to ease restrictions.

On Sunday (May 10), McKay, along with the top officials for the City of Alexandria and Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties, said in a letter to the governor saying that regional threshold metrics should be used instead of statewide metrics for reopening the five localities.

“While it is certainly useful to examine statewide metrics as we gauge the success of current public health policies, we feel strongly that any changes to current policies be guided by what is occurring in our region,” the letter said.

The health directors for the five localities also sent a letter to the state health commissioner. “Based on our assessment, we do not believe that the Northern Virginia region has met the criteria for moving into Phase 1 at this time,” the letter said.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday that his plans to begin the first phase on Friday (May 15) as part of “Forward Virginia” include these new restrictions:

  • Restaurants with open air space will be allowed to seat guests outdoors but at 50% capacity while other in-door only restaurants will be only be allowed to offer takeout and delivery.
  • Residents will be under a “safer at home” suggestion.
  • Retail businesses will be able to open at a 50% capacity.
  • Fitness centers must remain closed unless they offer outdoor facilities.
  • Entertainment and amusement centers will still be closed.
  • Churches and places of worship will be allowed to gather at 50% capacity.
  • Private campgrounds and specific public camping facilities will be reopened.
  • A 10-person gathering limit for private parties will be still be required.

If the number of COVID-19 cases rise with the new orders, Northam said that there is a chance tighter restrictions will once again go into place.

“The virus is still in our communities and we need to continue our vigilance,” he said. “We may be living with it for months or maybe years.

Northam stressed that his proposed plan is an easement of the temporary restrictions: “We are not opening the flood gate here.”

Prior to the governor’s announcement, McKay and other local leaders had been pushing the state’s administration to provide more collaboration with the reopening plans.

For places like Fairfax County, Northam said on Friday that they may be allowed to reopen at a slower pace and that he will announce more details early this week.

“I have said from the beginning this is a dynamic-fluid process,” he said.

Catherine Douglas Moran and Ashley Hopko contributed to this report 

Image via Virginia.gov

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With Virginia businesses poised to have fewer restrictions in mid-May, Fairfax County’s top official is urging people to stay home to save lives.

Yesterday, Gov. Ralph Northam unveiled a three-phase plan to roll back restrictions on businesses possibly starting on May 15 — after extending the closure of non-essential businesses through May 14.

Meanwhile, his stay-at-home order, which is in effect until June 10, would become a “safer at home” recommendation, according to his presentation.

Jeff McKay, the chairman for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, is weighing in on the governor’s proposal and calling on people to continue to stay home.

“A path forward is necessary, but public health and saving lives are our biggest priorities,” he said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “The first phase, however, doesn’t really change how we will operate.”

Fairfax County continues to have the highest reported number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths due to the illness in the state. As of today, the county has at least 4,834 cases and 201 deaths, according to the state’s health department.

McKay noted that Northam included a variety of data, including the number of daily positive test results and hospital bed capacity, when explaining the rationale behind the plan.

Both in the statement and a letter to county residents last night, McKay urged county residents to stay home, pointing to Fairfax County’s continued rise in COVID-19 cases.

“We are in the exponential growth period of our epidemic curve and will see more cases and deaths in the coming weeks,” the letter said. “I encourage you to not change what you are doing. We can’t see our friends and go to concerts yet, that’s the reality.”

State health officials recently said that social distancing has already prevented nearly 36,600 cases in Fairfax County — and an estimated 134,000 cases by June 10.

McKay’s full statement to Tysons Reporter:

It’s good to see that Governor Northam is establishing data- and science-driven metrics in his decision to gradually ease restrictions in Virginia. A path forward is necessary, but public health and saving lives are our biggest priorities. The first phase, however, doesn’t really change how we will operate. Just because certain parts of the economy will re-open, doesn’t mean that you have to or should leave the house. As Governor Northam said, it will [be] safer-to-stay home. I will continue to encourage county residents to do so because our case numbers continue to rise exponentially. It is my hope that we start seeing less cases soon, but we aren’t out of the woods just yet.

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The head of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is joining mayors and county officials around the U.S. in a call for the federal government to ramp up production and distribution of medical supplies.

Addressed to President Donald Trump, the letter demands that the federal government establish a “medical equipment czar” and task force that would work with the Defense Logistics Agency to handle the distribution of medical supplies while the pandemic lasts.

Jeff McKay, the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, tweeted earlier today that he had signed the letter.

At the time this article published, just over 100 local elected officials from around the U.S. had signed the letter.

The letter notes that many hospitals and health care workers are facing obstacles to replenish their dwindling medical supplies to treat COVID-19 patients.

To help minimize medial supply shortages, the task force would forecast the geographic and temporal spread of COVID-19 and maintain an inventory of medical equipment, along with other roles, according to the letter.

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Morning Notes

McKay Running for BoS Chair — “Shortly after current Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova revealed in her monthly newsletter that she will not seek reelection, Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay announced on Dec. 6 that he is running to succeed her… ‘This campaign is about the future of our community,’ McKay said in explaining why he has decided to run for board chairman. ‘In this time of hateful rhetoric and divisiveness, we need to fight for all families and communities across Fairfax County.'” [Fairfax Times]

Linda Smyth Looks to Final Year on Board — “After nearly two decades of handling some of Fairfax County’s largest and most nettlesome land-use cases, Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) is ready to let someone else handle the burden. Smyth announced at the board’s Dec. 4 meeting that she would not seek another term next year… Smyth will spend her final year in office tying up a bunch of land-use cases.” [InsideNova]

Stanley Cup Visits McLean Private School — “Students at The Langley School recently ‘Rocked the Red’ when the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup trophy made a stop at the school as part of its victory tour celebrating the Washington Capitals’ 2018 championship win… The experience was made possible by Roger Mody, a Langley parent and co-owner for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, who arranged for the trophy to spend several hours at the school.” [Fairfax Times]

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