Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Alexandria Needs a Plan to Re-open

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Alexandria Needs a Plan to Re-open

I commend the efforts to flatten the curve of the pandemic by the city of Alexandria and its residents but we must also prepare for a just re-opening of Alexandria's economy. Alexandria, like the rest of Virginia and the DC Metro Region adhered to stay at home orders, and asked businesses to close and citizens and local government alike have tried to reduce the number of cases of the CoronaVirus. Critical to reopening, like flattening the curve, is testing for coronavirus and the antibody, as well as preparation for contact tracers. But we must also continue to encourage social distancing and the wearing of masks.

As far as I know, no survey of our City Government has been done for number of cases in public facilities or working conditions, but all branches of local Government will need PPE such as facemasks, gloves, and antibacterial products to reduce risk and reopen; and this will include City Hall, Police and Fire, EMT’s and the Sheriffs’ office, and eventually schools. Many people in Alexandria who are essential workers with front line jobs cannot afford to stay home, and cannot afford to send kids to daycare, or provide an equal education as is provided by our public schools, so they are at greater risk, and therefore need greater attention.

Unfortunately populations in Alexandria that are more at risk often have the least political power; we need to therefore empower organizations like Tenants and Workers United and Arlandria Health Services to be on the front lines.

Small independent businesses are also at risk, including restaurants and retail. Emergency funding from stimulus bills has run out or been difficult to attain and these businesses need more than money. Unemployment for their employees has been very difficult to apply for. These businesses and communities need planning and coordinated efforts in order to recover. The city has many strong organizations like Visit Alexandria, Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, The Small Business Development Center, Del Ray Business Association, ACT for Alexandria, Volunteer Alexandria, and many other boards and commissions and community groups that could join together. The City Manager, Mayor and Alexandria City Council while continuing to work diligently on the Covid19 Pandemic, must prepare businesses to reopen, especially to help neighborhoods like Arlandria, that have been hardest hit by the CoronaVirus. The best way to do this is by making sure organizations across the city are working together to plan to reopen Alexandria’s economy, and helping businesses and residents survive this unprecedented crisis.

I am calling on our leaders to convene a task-force on re-opening the local economy and to create a plan with all stakeholders. Finally they must make sure Alexandria has a just recovery focusing on at-risk communities and businesses. A good recovery will not only help us all survive but will help us weather the next inevitable crisis. Stay safe everyone.

Boyd Walker