Reopening Safely, Sustainably

Reopening Safely, Sustainably

A message from Occoquan District Supervisor Kenny Boddye…

The recent New York Times piece highlighting the nearly 100,000 American lives already lost to this pandemic is heartbreaking. Meanwhile, many are also reeling from economic loss as we reduce public outings to prevent further spread of COVID-19. To successfully combat these combined tragedies, logic and reason need to be front-and-center in our decision-making and science should be our guide to working our way back to normalcy. 

It has been cited by leading health organizations that having a mask handy to put on when you will be in close proximity to others can slow the spread of COVID-19, which can be transmitted via respiratory droplets when we talk, sing or even just breathe. Even asymptomatic people can inadvertently infect those around them. Masks are particularly important for keeping workers, who must spend hours in the same closed environment, safe. 

As we balance the needs of public and economic health, I have never seen this as a question of “Should we reopen or not?” It is a matter of reopening in a way that offers the public and workers protections that will allow for us to open businesses in the safest, most sustainable, manner possible. Masks are just one of the tools at our disposal for ensuring that reopening doesn’t lead to further health and economic setbacks.

Limiting the time spent indoors in public settings is another tool. That is why I signed on to a letter to the Governor asking to allow Prince William restaurants with outdoor seating the ability to open for outside-only dining at 50% capacity, to allow for physical distancing, leading up to Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, that request was denied, but the data seems to supports us staying on track for entering into Phase 1 on March 29.

In preparation for Phase 1, my office has been working with several County departments and in collaboration with business owners and the Chamber of Commerce on hashing out what a safe, sustainable reopening looks like. Efforts include a new Temporary Activity Permit that businesses can use to expand their outdoor seating capacity and a micro-grant program managed by PWC Economic Development.

Reopening is where we want to go, with logical, common sense safety measures in place that everyone should be following to protect the health of our residents and workforce. All businesses should be following the same rules of the road so we can reopen as quickly as possible, while keeping folks safe so that our community can remain healthy and open for business. 

In the coming days, we will make sure that the public is aware of the guidelines, and that County staff is working with business owners to help them quickly get up to speed.