As April showers bring May flowers and an occasional arctic blast, we normally look forward to the warmer summer weather, baseball, Ocean City, and vacation. Sadly, this year is going to be way different. Children will not be able to attend their favorite summer camp, and our high school seniors must adapt to virtual graduation ceremonies. Thankfully, Virginians have done well, so far, in containing COVID-19 in our communities. I say ‘so far’ because all the experts tell us we cannot backslide to our former normal ways of life, at least until we have a vaccine, or proven therapeutics. So, in this very challenging time, thank you for helping us whip this coronavirus. Your neighbors and your fellow citizens appreciate your patience and willingness to take the necessary precautions until science eventually wins.
Yesterday, Governor Northam announced that Northern Virginia (NOVA) will not “re-open” until May 28. Most of the Commonwealth, what is sometimes called ROVA or “Rest of Virginia,” will enter Phase One of the “Forward Virginia” plan this coming Friday. However, Executive Order 62 is fact- and data-driven, extending restrictions that are already in place where needed and called for by local officials nearest the crisis. For much of the state, “re-opening” might make sense. In NOVA, home to most of the Virginia COVID-19 cases to date, the following places will remain closed for two more weeks: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties; the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park; and the towns of Dumfries, Herndon, Leesburg and Vienna.
In the past 24 hours, we've had over 700 new reported cases of COVID-19 in NOVA while ROVA reported about 270 new cases. There is a 25 percent positive testing rate here, while in ROVA, tests come back positive “only” 10 percent of the time. Due to these metrics, as well as the need to follow the CDC’s 14-day downward trend in new cases; a reduction in COVID-19 hospitalizations; the ability to test and trace disease; and a steady supply of PPE to workers at risk, it would be medical malpractice to “open up” NOVA on Friday. Our only hope to return the economy back to its previous performance is to beat this virus.
Finally, the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is reminding Virginians of the importance of childhood vaccinations to protect the health and welfare of our children and community. There has been an alarming drop in vaccination rates as COVID-19 has spread in the community. Since early March, infant vaccination rates are down 30 percent and adolescent vaccination rates are down 76 percent. Pediatricians throughout Virginia are making significant accommodations to help parents and children feel safe in their offices. Some have carved out specific hours or locations for well-child visits. Some pediatricians will examine children in the car or even come to your home. While you might be hesitant to bring your child to the doctor’s office right now, it is both safe and necessary to prevent outbreaks of communicable diseases like Pertussis, Meningitis, Measles, Rotavirus and others. We encourage you to reach out to your pediatrician for advice if you are concerned.
As a reminder, Governor Northam's has ordered Virginians to "stay at home" and only leave for essential outings. Remember to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and follow CDC guidelines to wear face coverings when in public spaces. If you need additional assistance during this health crisis, my staff and I can be reached at DelMSickles@house.virginia.gov or (804) 698-1043. We will be checking email and phone messages regularly.
Thank you for the continuing opportunity to serve.
Mark D. Sickles
Delegate, 43rd House District