Wednesday, May 25, 2022



Six elected leaders from Northern Virginia on Wednesday said that Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order excepting them from the opening of the first phase of relaxed restrictions was the right move for the region.

The rest of the commonwealth will start Phase I of the relaxation of pandemic-related restrictions on Friday.

An executive order issued by Northam on Tuesday said that Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties; the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park; and the towns of Dumfries, Herndon, Leesburg and Vienna (Northern Virginia Region) will remain in what’s called Phase Zero until one minute before midnight on the night of May 28.

Chiming in remotely to Northam’s regular Wednesday COVID-19 briefing, Northern Virginia regional leaders applauded the move, saying that while metrics such as cases, hospitalizations and deaths had improved in other areas of the state, the region around D.C. wasn’t ready.

“The elected leaders of our region have spoken together” to ask for a delay, said Falls Church Mayor P. David Tarter, chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, a consortium of local governments. “We thank Gov. Northam … for recognizing that one size does not fit all.”

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Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay pointed out that Northern Virginia constituted “one cohesive region” along with D.C. and parts of Maryland, and that residents “cross jurisdictional boundaries every day by the thousands.”

On the other hand, McKay said, “This virus does not know jurisdictional boundaries,” adding that, “It’s important that there not be huge variations in the rollout” of Phase I between Northern Virginia, the District and its Maryland suburbs.

“We thank you for recognizing that our numbers are not there,” McKay said.

Arlington County board Chairwoman Libby Garvey pointed out that Northern Virginia constituted a third of the population of the commonwealth but half the cases and deaths.

She advocated for “letting the data, not the date, determine our status.”

Loudoun County board Chairwoman Phyllis Randall said, “We’re not looking for different rules; we’re looking for a timeline that makes sense with what our health officers are telling us.”

Randall said that of the five metrics needed to begin Phase I — a downward trend of positive test results and of hospitalizations over 14 days; sufficient hospital beds and intensive care capacity; an increase in supply of personal protective equipment, such as masks, respirators, gloves and gowns; and increased testing and contact tracing — the region had either not achieved them or data were not available.

Prince William County board Chairwoman Ann Wheeler added that the process of getting life back to normal in Northern Virginia will be sped by “people listening” to the regulations, as well as the recommendations, about hand-washing, social distancing and staying at home, especially if you’re sick. “It’s about personal responsibility,” she added.

And though the closure of nonessential businesses and other rules were causing economic pain in the region, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said, “Public health and the economy go hand in hand.”

Northam echoed those comments, answering a question about balancing health concerns with economic ones by saying they weren’t, in the end, that different: “We realize that we are in the middle of a health crisis, and we are also in the middle of an economic crisis. Until we can get the health crisis behind us, the economy will never recover.”

Northam called Phase I “a small step forward,” but cautioned that it “will not be like turning on a light switch.”

He later reminded residents that there’s a reason it’s called the novel coronavirus: “We’re learning every day how this virus affects people. … For me to sit here and say exactly what we’ll need six months from now” is impossible.

Leaders from Northern Virginia wrote to Northam on Sunday requesting the delay. Northam said Wednesday that no other leaders had asked for such a pause.