Opinion: Commentary: August COVID-19 Update

Opinion: Commentary: August COVID-19 Update

Cases here in Northern Virginia have remained steady on a downward trend; the same cannot be said about the rest of the country.

Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 Case Chart for Northern Virginia.

Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 Case Chart for Northern Virginia.


Screenshot of COVIDWISE App.

As we head deeper into summer, I wanted to provide you with the latest news with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our cases here in Northern Virginia have remained steady on a downward trend, even a month into our Phase 3 reopening, which means that our community has been diligent in following the facial covering regulations, staying home as much as possible, and have maintained physical distancing wherever possible. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the rest of the country.

COVIDWISE APP: Last week, Governor Northam and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that the Commonwealth is launching a new free app that will notify users if they may have come into contact with another app user who has tested positive for COVID-19. Virginia is the first state in the nation to use this technology. The roll-out of this revolutionary app will give Virginia a significant leg up with contact tracing, and will hopefully help to continue flattening the curve and controlling the spread of COVID-19.

According to Virginia Department of Health, the app is designed to protect each users’ privacy. The app does not collect, use, or store any of your personal information or location data. It does not ask for your name, address, email, etcetera. Your device will not share your identity or personal information. Instead, the exposure notification system is based on Bluetooth Low Energy and uses anonymous tokens. On a daily basis, your phone downloads a list of all the anonymous tokens associated with positive COVID-19 cases and checks them against the list of anonymous tokens it has encountered in the last 14 days. If there's a match, the app will notify you with further instructions on how to get yourself tested.

If you test positive for COVID-19, the app makes it easy to report your positive test. The app would then notify any individuals you have been in contact with during the last 14 days who also use the app, so that they can take precautionary measures. I encourage everyone to download this free app, available through iOS and Android, as the app is designed to be more effective as app users increase. I hope that this app can help give Virginians some more peace of mind as we go about our days while wearing our masks and physical distancing because I know it has done so for my staff and family.

EVICTION STAY Governor Northam has also announced that the Supreme Court of Virginia has issued a stay on evictions through Sept. 7, at his request. I applaud this move, as I joined with my colleagues in sending a letter to the Governor earlier this month requesting this action. The new moratorium began on Monday, Aug. 10, and will remain in effect through Monday, Sept. 7. Until that date, all eviction proceedings related to failure to pay rent will be halted. The reality is that evictions will still be a problem one month from now. The economic ramifications of so many families being forced from their homes in a matter of weeks would be catastrophic. There must be a more permanent and sustainable solution to help families stay in their homes during this pandemic.

HUNGER HELP: It is refreshing to see so many companies and nonprofits throughout Virginia come together with our state government to provide resources to help families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. One example, Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health, in partnership with Truist, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the Federation of Virginia Food Banks, have kicked off a new statewide initiative to bolster Virginia’s emergency food support system. The “We Care” COVID-19 Virginia Emergency Food Support Plan has begun at food banks across the state, and will provide free and accessible meals to families during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.