By Sean Lenehan, Andrew Loposser, Steve Knotts, Sharon Sadler and Bill Card
Democrat Northern Virginia officials sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam on Sunday, urging him not to ease restrictions on their own constituents’ economic and personal freedoms.
The letter – signed by “Mayors and Chairs of the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, and the City of Alexandria” – does not reflect the views of all Northern Virginians, who are now suffering financially and otherwise as the result of Governor Northam’s March 30 “stay at home” order. The letter doesn’t even reflect a consensus among all the region’s elected officials – at least some of them were not consulted before it was drafted or sent.
At issue is whether Northern Virginia is ready to enter the very first phase of restarting our economy. This would not be a giant leap. Phase One of Governor Northam’s Forward Virginia plan consists of just a few, tentative steps in the direction of normalcy. We, the Chairs of the Republican Committees of Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, believe Northern Virginia is ready.
Under Phase One, social distancing would remain the norm. Social gatherings of more than 10 individuals would not be allowed. Working from home and wearing facial coverings in public would be strongly encouraged, as they are now.
While maintaining vigilance against the coronavirus, certain restrictions would be eased under Phase One. “Non-essential” retail stores could reopen at 50 percent capacity. Restaurants could allow outdoor seating only – at 50 percent capacity. Outdoor fitness classes could be held. Hair salons could reopen, serving those with appointments only – no walk-ins.
Religious services could resume under Phase One, at 50 percent capacity, with adequate provisions for social distancing. Online streaming of services would still be encouraged for those choosing to stay home. That’s worth remembering: nobody would have to leave their home, if they don’t feel comfortable doing so.
While every death is rightly grieved, the fact remains that COVID-19 fatalities in our region are very low. In Arlington, for instance, a total of 66 residents have succumbed to the virus – that is roughly 0.027 percent of the county’s population. While protecting our sick and elderly loved ones, lawmakers must also keep risk in perspective, and avoid doing more harm than good.
Indefinite “stay at home” orders are not consistent with our nation’s character, and they are not financially sustainable. While perhaps necessary, six weeks of near-total economic shutdown came at a very high cost, in both human and dollar terms.
On Friday, the rest of Virginia will, at last, begin moving forward. At the urging of just five elected officials, Northern Virginia will be left behind. Our region deserves better.
Sean Lenehan, Andrew Loposser, Steve Knotts, Sharon Sadler and Bill Card are, respectively, the Chairs of the Republican Committees of Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William.