To the editor:
The COVID-19 pandemic has been horrific for our country, with more than half a million lives lost, including over 130 Alexandrians. Our economy was hit hard, businesses closed and jobs were lost.
When examining public statements by the campaign of former Mayor Allison Silberberg, you would hardly know that the country is struggling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Silberberg’s campaign has neither released statements related to the pandemic nor included measures to address the effects of the pandemic as part of her platform.
For example, her 850-word Facebook post announcing her candidacy does not comment on the pandemic and instead discussed those pesky bike lanes on the West End. Furthermore, since announcing her candidacy, she has not tweeted on the COVID-19 pandemic.
In contrast, Mayor Justin Wilson’s website mentions the pandemic seven times on the home page. His website also highlights actions by the city to vaccinate Alexandrians and other resources available to residents. Additionally, the mayor invites individuals to donate to ACT Now’s Alexandria Resilience Fund, which responds to the community’s needs during the pandemic.
When asked about the city’s response to the pandemic in ALX Now, Silberberg listed four of the biggest issues driving her campaign; however, none of the issues were related to responding to the pandemic. Her statement criticizing the timing of the city’s mandate on wearing masks outdoors ignores the timeline of when the CDC recommended that masks be worn outdoors.
Dr. Redfield, then head of the CDC, did not publish his journal article “Universal Masking to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Transmission— The Time Is Now,” which recommended that everyone wear masks in all public spaces, until July 14, 2020. On Sept. 12, 2020, the Alexandria City Council voted on the Alexandria outdoor mask mandate, which Wilson helped write. The city implemented its outdoor mask mandate beginning in October to give its residents time to understand and prepare for the new mandate. That policy was widely adopted throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Silberberg’s blatant disregard of the greatest health crisis of this century ignores the single most significant issue that currently affects our daily lives. Her acknowledgment, or lack thereof, of the COVID-19 pandemic, is an affront to the over 130 souls of Alexandria that were lost and to people whose lives were upended by job loss and business closures.
In my opinion, our city’s response to the pandemic has been excellent. When I was tested for COVID-19 at Ben Brenman Park, the city provided the test free of charge, and I got my result back the next day. Later, when I received my vaccination at Potomac Yard, I spent more time in the waiting area after receiving the shot than I did waiting for the shot. Wilson and the current City Council members deserve a lot of credit for executing the city’s pandemic response. I applaud the city’s measures to vaccinate its residents and workers because the sooner we get vaccinated, the sooner our local economy will recover.
These are serious times that require serious people to bring together coalitions that will help build Alexandria back better. We cannot afford to have leadership that caters to pet projects and to single-issue voters. That is why I support re-electing Mayor Justin Wilson and I hope my fellow Alexandrians do the same on June 8.
-Benjamin Dawes, Alexandria