(Top left to bottom right) Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville), State Senator Barbara Favola (D-31), Julia Kim Chun, Chief of Staff at Favola’s office, Del. Kathleen J. Murphy (D-34) and Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey at the May 28, 2020, Virtual Town Hall on COVID-19.
Virginia Senator Barbara Favola (D-31) hosted a Virtual Zoom Town Hall Meeting with panelists, Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34), Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust (D). The Town Hall was held Thursday, May 28. The public submitted questions. The expressed focus of the meeting centered on the coronavirus pandemic and Northern Virginia's pathway forward. The region was about to join the rest of the Commonwealth and enter Phase One of Governor Northam's Forward Virginia reopening plan after observing four key metrics trending in a promising direction.
Favola first thanked all essential workers saying, "We value all of you and we appreciate what you are doing." Garvey said that Arlington County was beginning to pivot its focus to businesses. "We just announced the We Are Covered placards…for all our businesses and a pledge to make sure everybody is wearing face masks." Garvey said the focus had been making sure everyone in Arlington County had a roof over their heads, food on the table, access to health care if needed and small businesses survived.
Foust said that the County received "a large sum of money" from the CARES Act, meant to address the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. With it, the County created new grant programs. One grant was Fairfax RISE, meant to assist small businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19. Applications open June 1 for businesses and nonprofits with 50 or fewer full-time employees. He added that the Board also approved an emergency ordinance enabling restaurants to operate outside on sidewalks and paved areas with up to 50 percent of their licensed capacity in terms of seating.
"Look at what's happening at the top of this country. We are a ship in a storm, and we're rudderless.”
—Libby Garvey, chair of the Arlington County Board
ONE QUESTION centered on the availability of tests for asymptomatic COVID-19 individuals and antibody tests. Favola said, "Our goal is to test 10,000 people a day…and we are setting up public testing sites…The goal is really to expand this to folks who are asymptomatic and to be sure we're picking up individuals who would not necessarily go to get tested… We've got pockets in our community where folks are afraid to go to a healthcare provider." According to Favola, the no-cost sites were located in medically underserved areas and performed with a no-ask policy except for ZIP code. More importantly, Favola said they were doing contact tracing, with the state ramping up hiring with about 400 people, many in the Northern Virginia region, and plans to hire another 1,000. "It is absolutely critical that we do this contact tracing. It will enable us to contain the spread of the disease," she said.
According to Foust, the biggest challenge was that so many people wanted to get tested but couldn't without displaying symptoms. "In my opinion, it has to be increased dramatically," he said. Foust said it was a failure in the supply chain to deliver materials.
Another question centered on mental health issues as a result of the virus.
FOUST said people experienced depression and mental health issues as a result of the virus. The County school system, though, was "focused like a laser on the issue," as was the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board and other services the County provided.
Garvey said, "If you are not feeling stressed or anxious, or somewhat depressed, you are probably not well." She said, "If you look at what's happening at the top of this country, we are a ship in a storm, and we're rudderless. So it's kind of scary to be in that situation, and it's reasonable to be afraid."
With a question about driver's licenses, Favola said she understood the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles extended the validity of driver's licenses that expired during the COVID-19 pandemic for 90 days through August at the latest.
On May 28, Governor Ralph Northam announced in his COVID-19 briefing that all driver's licenses and identification cards expired on or before July 31, 2020, are extended for 90 days, to August 31 at the latest. For more information on contact investigations, visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/health/novel-coronavirus/contact-investigations