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F.C. Mayor Helps Delay N. Virginia Re-Opening

CITY OF FALLS CHURCH MAYOR David Tarter (left, on video monitor) spoke during Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s (right) news conference Wednesday to express that Northern Virginia’s local leaders were interested in prolonging its current Phase Zero to keep businesses closed until at least May 29. (Photo: Courtesy Governor’s Office of Virginia)

Falls Church Mayor David Tarter was a prominent representative of the Northern Virginia region participating remotely in the press conference of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam Wednesday afternoon, speaking on behalf of the region’s request for a two-week delay in the implementation of the governor’s Phase 1 reopening strategy for the state as a whole that’s set to begin Friday.

The request was granted by the governor, and the counties and cities comprising the Northern Virginia region will not commence with Phase 1 before May 29, while the rest of the state will cautiously begin opening this Friday.

Tarter, speaking as mayor of Falls Church but also as the chair of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, kicked off live video feed presentations from regional leaders, including the chairs of Fairfax County, Loudoun County, Arlington, Prince William counties and the mayor of Alexandria.

They were all broadcast onto a large video screen at the governor’s thrice-weekly live press conference in Richmond.

Mayor Tarter’s remote video presentation originated at the Falls Church City Hall.

In his remarks, Tarter cited the extraordinary level of consensus and cooperation among the regional entities in collectively seeking the delay based on the fact that the area has not yet been able to meet the five criteria set by the governor as preconditions for entering Phase 1.

They are a 14-day downward trend of positive cases as a percentage of those tested, a 14-day downward trend in hospitalizations, assurances of adequate hospital beds and personal protective equipment supplies and an increase in testing and tracing capabilities.

Tarter said, “Our public health directors have kept us informed about the coronavirus data and advised us on the best measures to keep our citizens safe, and we have come together as a region to provide a unified response.”
He added, “We thank Gov. Northam for his willingness to listen and act on our behalf, recognizing that one size does not fit all when it comes to the complex work of saving lives and livelihood.”

In a telephone interview with the News-Press after the press conference, Tarter said reaching such a solid consensus among regional leaders was the outgrowth of lengthy twice-weekly phone conferences led by the NVRC that often included over 40 officials and key staff persons on the call.

Northam acknowledged the unity in issuing his Executive Order excluding the Northern Virginia region from tomorrow’s Phase 1 opening elsewhere in the state, and said it was also out of consideration for the efforts of the region working with the leaders of the District of Columbia and Maryland to “be on the same page” with respect to a wider regional response. Neither Washington, D.C. or Maryland have yet indicated a timetable for loosening strict efforts to contain the virus.

Tarter told the News-Press that the regional conference calls will continue and data will be evaluated as the current two-week extension period proceeds toward the end of the month.

Decisions among the regional leaders will be made as the May 29 deadline approaches based on progress on the governor’s five criteria as to whether the region can be moved from Phase Zero to Phase 1 at that time.

Phase 1 policies that are delayed here include an ability for restaurants to serve customers on site at a 50 percent capacity in outdoor dining spaces, houses of worship and retail businesses to allow attendance up to 50 percent of capacity, salons and barber shops insuring social distancing practices, with facemasks required for personnel in restaurants and salons.

These would come with bans on assemblies of more than 10 persons and none of all that will be permitted in this region for another two weeks at least.

But City of Falls Church officials reiterated the City’s policy of enthusiastically encouraging local residents to avail themselves of the “Grab and Go” capabilities of 58 different restaurants in the City to prepare food for pickup or delivery, and for Small Business Saturday initiatives to include gift cards, curbside pickups and the fact the Farmers Market will be open for pickup of fresh produce, meat and dairy by pre-order.

Northam announced yesterday that plans are afoot to expand testing capabilities in the state, including the involvement of Walmart and other drug stores and pharmacies as locations for tests available to the public.

Meanwhile, the deadline is this Friday for small businesses in the City to apply for microgrants courtesy of the City’s Economic Development Authority.

As for the City’s preparations for the now-delayed Phase 1 opening, city manager Wyatt Shields told the City Council Monday that he’s adding both Sally Cole, executive director of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and Bob Young, chair of the Economic Development Authority, to his reopening implementation working group, which is currently composed solely of City staff.

Shields added that the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks is developing “virtual” Community Center events as well as events for Cherry Hill Park, and the temporary digs of the Mary Riley Styles Public Library is enjoying a major increase in requests for new library cards.

A decision is expected by June 1 on whether any summer camps will be held, contingent on the region’s ability to move into Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plans in time.

Shields also urged citizens to resist the temptation to overburden the City’s recycling centers with non-recyclable items.

There has been a surge that officials assume is related to stay-at-home house cleanings.