The Arlington County Board last week adopted an emergency ordinance prohibiting groups of more than three people from congregating on streets and sidewalks posted with the restrictions, and requiring pedestrians to maintain at least six feet of physical separation from others on the posted streets and sidewalks.
Violators could face a traffic fine of up to $100. In adopting the measure, the Board cited the difficulty of securing voluntary compliance with social distancing requirements as coronavirus cases surge nationwide.
“While most Arlingtonians are adhering to requirements to wear masks and maintain social distancing, unfortunately, some are not,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said. “They are putting themselves and our community at risk of serious illness or death during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board hopes that this step will make it clear to our entire community that this pandemic is far from under control and that we are serious about maintaining social distance to slow its spread and save lives. We hope that through outreach and education, we will get voluntary compliance and will not have to issue a single ticket.”
The Board voted unanimously to adopt the emergency amendment to the County Code, saying enforcement will begin after a period of outreach and education, and after signs are posted in the areas of enforcement. The Board acted under the state of emergency declared by Gov. Ralph Northam and the County in response to the spread of the coronavirus.
The Board noted that since the inception of Phase Three, of Arlington’s and the Commonwealth’s emergence from the Governor’s Stay-at-Home order, “Arlington County has experienced significant crowding inside restaurants and on the public sidewalks, rights of way, and adjacent public spaces where patrons gather for oftentimes prolonged periods awaiting admission into the restaurants,” without wearing face coverings and without practicing physical distancing, “thereby creating a significant potential for spread of COVID-19.”
In accordance with state law, the Board will hold a public hearing on the amendment at its September 2020 County Board Meeting, before voting on whether to make it permanent.
Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia on March 12, 2020, in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus. County Manager Mark Schwartz declared a local emergency on March 13, 2020, and the Board consented to his declaration on March 14, 2020. Arlington entered Phase Three of reopening on July 1, 2020.