Northern Virginia hasn’t yet seen the bottom of the economic curve from this pandemic, according to several community leaders, who shared their outlook on the region during an InsideNoVa virtual town hall, June 3.
Jeff McKay, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chair, said he was surprised when Governor Ralph Northam kept Northern Virginia in phase one, despite meeting the decline in new COVID-19 cases.
“It was a good step for the governor to look at the health metrics. When phase one started elsewhere, we met none of the metrics. I am surprised we aren’t going into phase two with the rest of the state, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind everyone that we are a long way from the end of the pandemic. It all relies on safety and social distancing. It’s not like we flip a light switch,” McKay said.
Christina Winn, executive director of the Prince William County Department of Economic development, said Northern Virginia has been working to share best practices for grant programs, like shop-local campaigns and loan programs.
“We are at a point where we need to look ahead and build resilience. How are we building consumer confidence so more consumers will come out when they know that those businesses have been trained in proper sanitizing,” he said.
More cash infusions are needed, said McKay, who noted that when Fairfax County stepped up with a micro-loan program of $2.5 million, it witnessed a far greater need than he anticipated. “Fairfax Rise is a grant program for $25 million, and we expect that all 25 million will go out to our small businesses – and we’ll have to add money to that. We have set aside one third of the $25 million for minority, women, and veteran-owned businesses,” said McKay.
As Northern Virginia prepares for phase two of business reopening, McKay reported good news that the capacity to trace new infections, and alert and quarantine those continues to improve. “Fairfax County is hiring 400 contact tracers in the next week on top of the tracers we’ve had since day one. As the number of tests has gone up, we will have enough manpower,” McKay said, noting, “This is really important because our ability to stop the growth of cases is based on following up with everyone they had exposure with.”
David Tarter, mayor of Falls Church and member of the Northern Virginia Regional Council, added that in addition to local health departments, Virginia is also hiring up to 1,300 tracers to assist, which is part of a coordinated effort by thousands of local officials to keep communities safe.
“Local governments are working very hard on your behalf, but pulling together, we’re going to get through this,” said Tarter.