|This Annandale eatery is doing a brisk carryout business.|
Traffic has picked up, while some restaurants are showing more signs of life.
|Trader Joe's customers line up outside to avoid overcrowding in the the store.|
Phase I of Virginia’s plan to ease some of the restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus allows outdoor seating at restaurants. Non-essential retail shops and places of worship can open with 50 percent of capacity, barbershops and hair salons can open by appointment, and fitness centers can have outdoor classes.
Phase I took effect May 15 across most of the state but was delayed for two weeks in Northern Virginia at the insistence of local leaders.
The threshold for entering Phase I is based on certain health metrics, such as downward trends in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over a 14-day period, increases in testing, and availability of personal protective equipment.
While the state as a whole was meeting the metrics, “we weren’t close,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeffrey McKay said May 18.
Fairfax County is moving toward reaching some of the health metrics for moving into Phase I, including increased hospital capacity, testing, and PPE, but is still seeing an overall increase in new cases and hospitalizations.
The number of COVID cases in the Fairfax Health District has dipped in the past two days, but isn’t close to reaching a two-week decline. There were 177 new cases on May 19, 200 on May 18, 210 on May 15, 286 on May 14, 191 on May 13, and 282 on May 12.
There has been a total of 8,111 COVID cases in the Fairfax Health District and 299 deaths, including 49 deaths since May 11.
McKay said there are likely a lot more COVID cases than health officials know about because there’s still not enough testing being done. Also, it takes up to two weeks for symptoms to show up.
When Northern Virginia gets to Phase I, McKay said the police will enforce the rules. “We have to be responsible adults. This virus is still very much in this area. There’s still a big health risk.”
The Fairfax Health District has the largest numbers of COVID cases in the state. Seventy percent of the positive cases in the state are in Northern Virginia.
Within the region, there are “hyper hot spots,” including Annandale and Bailey’s Crossroads. As a result, the Fairfax County Health Department and Virginia Department of Testing are conducting community testing events in those areas this weekend.
There are also greater concentrations of COVID cases among African American and Latinx populations, and those groups will be most at risk when the economy reopens.
“I hope we’ll be in a better situation when Phase I starts,” McKay said. “Our goal is to get to Phase II. If we don’t do Phase I right, it will delay when we get to phase II.”
“Our economy was strong before this happened,” he said. “We are in better position to recover quickly than almost anywhere else in the country. I remain optimistic.”