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Alexandria Health Department Asks Citizens To Spread Knowledge About COVID-19

Stephen Haering, director, Alexandria Health Department issued a letter urging citizens to spread knowledge about the coronavirus pandemic. According to alextimes.com, the letter reads as follows, "More than likely, you’re feeling anxious right now. It’s easy to understand why since there is still so much uncertainty and misinformation about COVID-19. One of the main functions of public health is to prepare for and respond to medical emergencies like COVID-19. In consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health, Alexandria Health Department has been working on this since early January. The AHD’s role is to 1. Monitor and synthesize continuously updated CDC guidance for public consumption; 2. Provide science-based recommendations to local healthcare providers, schools, businesses and the community; 3. Identify, advise and monitor individuals with potential exposure to COVID-19; and 4. Lead and coordinate the multi-agency COVID-19 planning and response team and liaise with non-governmental partners. To date, the general public in Alexandria is still at low-risk for COVID-19. When people make policy decisions based on fear rather than science, it causes more harm. Decisions that might make sense for King County, Washington, New York City or even other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia may not apply to Alexandria. We have to consider our situation on a day-by-day basis and use expert scientific guidance to determine how best to protect the Alexandria community. Amidst the stress and anxiety, it’s understandable and appropriate that people are asking lots of questions. On March 12, I was part of a virtual information session and there were more than 200 submissions from community members and almost 500 viewers. Some asked why more wasn’t being done: “Why aren’t we shutting down the city?” “Why aren’t there drive-through testing centers on every corner?” But there was also another set of other questions that came in from viewers: “How can I help my elderly, immune-compromised neighbor?” “How can I pitch in to support the low-wage workers who likely don’t have paid sick time?” “How can we ensure kids get the right nutrition and health services if the schools shut down?” These latter questions represent the best of us as a community – focusing on protecting our vulnerable populations and taking an active role in that work. Public health workers often go unnoticed because we don’t wear uniforms and our cars don’t have sirens. We’re a group of dedicated professionals working late hours and weekends because our priority is the health and safety of everyone who lives, works, plays or learns in Alexandria. But we can’t do this work alone. Along with our city partners and fantastic Medical Reserve Corps volunteers, we need you, community members, to help share accurate information and dispel the fear that can be seductive and paralyzing. Everyone has likely seen those lists of basic preventive measures like good hand hygiene and coughing into their elbow. Rarer advice but equally important — lookout for one another, remain calm and follow the facts. Remember, misinformation is far more contagious than a virus. For tips on coping with uncertainty and fear, visit https://www.alexandriava.gov/dchs/info/default.aspx?id=92897 For the latest on COVID-19 in Alexandria, visit https://www.alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus or call the Alexandria COVID-19 Information Line at 703-746-4988, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m."

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