To the editor:
I commend the efforts to flatten the curve of the pandemic by the City of Alexandria and its residents, but we must also prepare for a just reopening of Alexandria’s economy. Alexandria, like the rest of Virginia and the D.C. Metro Region, adhered to stay at home orders and asked businesses to close.
Critical to reopening, like flattening the curve, is testing for coronavirus and the antibody, as well as preparation for contact tracing. But we must also continue to encourage social distancing and the wearing of masks.
As far as I know, no survey of our city government has been done for number of cases in public facilities or working conditions, but all branches of local government will need PPE such as facemasks, gloves and antibacterial products to reduce risk and reopen. This will include city hall, the police and fire departments, EMT’s and the Sheriffs’ office – and eventually schools.
Many people in Alexandria who are essential workers with front-line jobs cannot afford to stay home, and also annot afford to send kids to daycare. They are at greater risk, and therefore need greater attention. Unfortunately, populations in Alexandria that are more at risk often have the least political power. We need to therefore empower organizations like Tenants and Workers United and Arlandria Health Services to be on the front lines.
Small independent businesses are also at risk, including restaurants and retail. Emergency funding from stimulus bills has run out or been difficult to obtain and these businesses need more than money. Unemployment for their employees has been difficult to apply for.
In order to recover, these businesses and communities need planning and coordinated efforts from organizations like Visit Alexandria, Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, The Small Business Development Center and others. The city manager, mayor and city council must prepare businesses to reopen, especially to help neighborhoods like Arlandria, that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus.
The best way to do this is by making sure organizations across the city are working together to plan to reopen Alexandria’s economy. I call on our leaders to convene a task force on reopening the local economy and to create a plan with all stakeholders.
They must make sure Alexandria has a just recovery, focusing on at-risk communities and businesses. A good recovery will not only help us all survive but will help us weather the next inevitable crisis. Stay safe everyone.
-Boyd Walker, Alexandria