Updates from Letty – March 27, 2020

Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council

Dear Friends,

We’ve nearly made it through Week 2 – congrats! Hopefully social distancing is now the norm and not the exception*. The number of COVID-19 cases in the US/Virginia/locally continues to climb. Since last Friday, the number of cases in the Fairfax health district (of which we’re a member) has grown nearly five-fold, and that’s with limited testing that is finally ramping up. And if you think this just impacts seniors, the data from Virginia shows that nearly 50% of confirmed cases are individuals 49 years and younger.

Starting this week, the City of Falls Church cases are *not* being reported out separately. Just because you don’t see local cases broken out, doesn’t mean we’re immune. COVID-19 is here, and there is evidence of community spread. I’m concerned our numbers are still woefully under-reported which means tracking is also insufficient. Combined with the fact that carriers may be asymptomatic, we must continue to heed the public health advice to socially distance to minimize the spread and keep medical facilities from being overwhelmed.

As we start Week 3 – with family ties straining, homeschooling getting old (just me??) and warmer weather, it’s important to combat that spring fever, keep up the social distancing, and not get complacent! And looking further ahead – for fellow families with cancelled spring break plans, do start planning for April 6-13 so that we don’t have kids roaming the streets.

I’m cognizant of not adding to the noise with so much COVID-19 news everywhere. (If you’re already subscribed to the City’s daily updates, that is a good daily dose.) This week’s is a long post but I hope helpful. I’ll share information that I think merits more attention – including unemployment numbers, early thoughts on the $2T federal stimulus bill, resources for impacted businesses, Falls Church-specific news like the return of the Farmers Market and trail etiquette reminders for the W&OD, one of the few remaining recreation options around. And an updated list of ways to help. City Council has our next scheduled meeting on April 6, and by then we should have clearer legal guidance on how to proceed with meetings electronically so we can adhere to the Governor’s ban on 10+ gatherings and meet public transparency.

Be safe and well,

*This is a cool website that uses mobile phone location data to determine compliance with social distancing – green = good, orange = bad. Our region is rated A overall, although if you can get your cursor over Falls Church, we’re actually rated a C, perhaps attributable to small sample size and other methodology issues.

What Happened This Week:

The pandemic – help is on the way? Now that the $2T federal stimulus package is on its way to approval (to put $2T in context, the 2009 stimulus bill was $831B), I hope to see testing kits, PPE, ventilators, and other critical medical supplies ramp up production. Virginia is set to also receive our first PPE shipment from the national stockpile. Supplies and testing capacity has been a repeated request our region has collectively raised with our state and federal representatives.

The economy’s bad (but expected) news: The US just recorded the highest number of individuals filing for unemployment in history. Unemployment insurance filings in Virginia jumped from just 2,706 last week to 46,885 this week — a 17-fold increase.

Federal, state, and local relief: Virginia is eligible to receive anywhere from $1.25B to $3.3B from the federal stimulus package. Fairfax is the only locality in Virginia that meets the local government population requirement (500K+) to be eligible for direct federal aid. As we keep analyzing the bill, we’ll be able to better understand how the state’s allocation will help us locally. Hopefully the direct payments to individuals will help our residents in the interim.

With the city’s FY21 budget on pause, we are continuing to monitor and re-forecast revenue scenarios. We expect significant hits on tax revenues and at the same time we want to be able to offer relief to impacted citizens and businesses. As we have to run a balanced budget – ie, we can’t spend more than we bring in, I expect we’ll have many tough decisions ahead.

Links to other aid:

Important Falls Church-specific news:

  • Virtual Town Hall: Monday night’s town hall is available for viewing. We’ve received good feedback that it was informative, especially the section with the Fairfax Health Department.
  • Time to clean the lunchboxes: By now, all fellow FCCPS families have heard, but maybe not yet internalized, the news that distance learning will continue for the rest of the year, with no physical school. (Parents: solidarity.) If you missed the very detailed update from Dr. Noonan with more answers forthcoming, read it here.
  • Farmers Market: The Farmers Market is returning tomorrow, albeit in a very different to-go format that complies with the Governor’s orders. Instead of being able to browse stalls and see what’s fresh and in season – you need to pre-order your items from a limited set of vendors and show up to pick up your order. Letty’s take: while I’m glad we can support the farmers, we need strong adherence to the new model if we want it to work and be safe for the community. If you go to the farmers market, you need to follow the rules to pre-order, keep your 6 ft social distance at the entrance queue where entry will be limited to 10 people at a time, and when picking up your items, maintain your social distance with no lingering or browsing. These are good practices even if you’re going to a traditional supermarket!
  • Bookmark this: launched last week is a listing of all restaurants in the Little City that that offer carryout or delivery to comply with the Governor’s orders and store hours for grocery stores, including modifications and special shopping hours for seniors/vulnerable populations.
  • W&OD Trail Etiquette PSA – Since playgrounds are closed, I am more grateful than ever to have the W&OD Trail running through our city. And by the looks of the trail the past two weeks, it’s been busier than ever with users of all kinds. It’s a good time to practice good trail etiquette on the W&OD and our neighborhood sidewalks:
    • Maintain social distancing of 6 ft+
    • Announce when you’re passing and try to keep your social distance or wait to pass until the width of the trail/sidewalk allows it.
    • Obey leash laws. I’ve seen so many new pups, but several were off leash.
    • Obey stop signs – cars and bicyclists alike! Even if there are less cars at trail crossings, there are more pedestrians.

Helping Hands:

I continue to be heartened by all the people who are stepping up and helping one another. This is a good read to spark some ideas. If you’re ready to put yourself to work locally, here are a few suggestions: