The week of March 8-14 ended with an outdoor sign at Pots & Plants on Georgetown Pike in Great Falls reading, "What a week this year has been." On March 15, the CDC provided "Interim Guidance for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)." It read: "Larger gatherings (for example, more than 250 people) offer more opportunities for person-to-person contact and therefore pose greater risk of COVID-19 transmission...Cancel gatherings of more than ten people for organizations that serve higher-risk populations."
On March 21, Johns Hopkins University of Medicine confirmed the United States now placed 3rd globally in the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases with China and Italy preceding.
Phrases such as “wash your hands,” “social distancing,” and “flatten the curve,” became the norm. Locals changed how they lived, learned, worked, played and worshiped. Many, but not all, took proactive measures protecting themselves, their families and the community.
Fairfax County Public Schools remained closed. Parents found themselves with an unexpected job description: educator. Social distancing meant working from home. Companies directed employees to pack up, go home and telework to limit person-to-person contact and risk of COVID-19 transmission. Workers set up impromptu workspaces in their residences. For some, it didn't always work out.
A second crisis, locally, spun off from the coronavirus pandemic — food insecurity for the 55,000 school-aged children in Fairfax County who are poor enough to qualify for subsidized meals during the school year.
While those in medical, safety and military professions had long been termed first responders, a new group of individuals took to the front lines. In grocery stores, cashiers such as the one at Safeway in Great Falls rung up purchases for his neighbors but with limited protection gear, not unlike most other cashiers and shelf stockers at other stores locally, including Giant and big-box retailer Costco. Management rationed items, a word used in times of war. Nonprofit organizations, including Cornerstones in Reston, told volunteers not to show up; staff took to the frontlines.
Monday, March 16 – Food is priority #1 for school-aged children in Fairfax County.
All Fairfax County Public school buildings close. The county cancels planned laptop distribution for students. The school system announces food distribution sites.
Financial markets crater. Both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 have their most significant one-day falls since Black Monday 1987. S&P 500 drops 11.9 percent. Nasdaq drops 12.3 percent. All three indexes are down more than 25 percent from their highs, according to Dow Jones.
Tuesday, March 17 – Virginia governor urges those over 65 to self-quarantine.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors holds an Emergency Special Meeting and declares a local state of emergency. Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatrician, adopts federal government guidelines of limiting gatherings to 10 people. However, he does not order restaurants and bars to close; instead, he says, "We're encouraging that they use takeout ordering so that people won't be inside the confined space."
Wednesday, March 18 – Amazon donates a local $1 million for COVID-19 relief to four area nonprofit organizations, including the Community Foundation of Northern Virginia.
Thursday, March 19 – Evidence of community spread in NOVA
The number of positive tests among people tested for coronavirus in Fairfax County is 14. Fairfax County Health Department releases the words no one wants to read: "Today, public health officials noted evidence of community transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus in parts of Northern Virginia." It urges, "vigilant social distancing," staying at least six feet from others in all situations. FCPS expands grab-and-go food distribution sites, begins pop-up sites and buses deliver grab-and-go meals along select bus routes.
Friday, March 20 – New first responders. Cornerstones in Reston, self-described as an “advocate for those struggling to make ends meet in northwestern Fairfax County and the Dulles corridor," requests shelter volunteers, including meal servers, front desk staffers, donations assistants, childcare providers and others refrain from coming in for the next two weeks. The staff performs the work.
Saturday, March 21 – U.S. ranks 4th worldwide
At 4:43 p.m., Johns Hopkins reports 156 confirmed cases of coronavirus COVID-19 for Virginia with two deaths. That afternoon, the United States ranks 4th worldwide – 24,148 confirmed cases. By evening, the United States skyrockets to 3rd place.
Locally, Pia Agostini of Italy, owner of Pots & Plants in Great Falls, says "Another sad day for Italy, 793 deaths... All around the D.C. metro area, we are still seeing outdoor gatherings, mostly of young adults, this must stop...If we follow distancing, we might be safe from a lockdown, and businesses might be safe from a shutdown."