PRESS RELEASE: Arlington Won’t Invoke Authority Under Local Emergency Statute to Contain COVID-19

April 13, 2020

I’m Audrey Clement, and I’m running for Arlington County Board in the November 3, 2020 election. I’m concerned that the County is not doing all that it can do to stop the spread of COVID-19.

True. Arlington County has announced measures to expand COVID-19 testing, provide food assistance for those in need, and help small businesses. This is all good.

However, at an April 10 virtual town hall my opponent, Libby Garvey, insisted that Arlington has limited authority to act, saying “[W]e don’t always have the authority to do what we see very clearly that we need to do and in an as effective way that we can. [53:22]”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Title 44 of Virginia Code provides localities with the express authority to “control, restrict, allocate or regulate the use, sale, production and distribution of food, fuel, clothing and other commodities, materials, goods, services and resource systems” during a local emergency.

In responding to my claim that Title 44 should have been invoked to shut down bars and restaurants before Governor Northam’s Executive Order closed them on March 24, Garvey told the Sun Gazette:
“Should Fairfax and Alexandria and Falls Church have continued to have their bars and restaurants open, it would only have encouraged our residents to go there, and the problem of viral spread would still exist.”

This is bunk. If Arlington had closed its bars timely, it would have sent a signal to all other localities in Northern Virginia that they could and should do the same.

No N95 Face Masks for Personal Use

The need for standard N95 face masks for personal use is another area where the County lacks leadership. At the April 10 town hall, County Board member Christian Dorsey intoned CDC guidance that do it yourself coverings are adequate. He even cited Libby Garvey’s video on how to make your own. While do it yourself face masks might be reassuring, the notion that they are adequate for protection against COVID-19 is doubtful.

A fact sheet put out by CDC itself demonstrates that N95 masks provide far better protection than even standard surgical masks. If that’s the case, then the County should be skeptical of CDC’s insistence that the public doesn’t need them.

If I am elected before the crisis abates, I will:

  • demand that CDC cease and desist from underplaying the pandemic;
  • demand that President Trump exercise his authority under the Defense Production Act to requisition N95 masks and ration them for personal use; and
  • cite Title 44 of Virginia Code as the relevant authority.

I will also:

  • Seek tax relief for County residents.
  • Say NO to a recently authorized County Board pay grab.
  • Preserve green space and emphasize basic services like: streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Promote transparency by requiring publication of official documents at least 72 hours before board and commission meetings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

As a 16-year Westover resident, long-time civic activist and current member of the Transportation Commission, I have both the experience andindependence to promote these reforms