Representing Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax

Newsletter - May 12, 2020

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Alexandria Office:
301 King St
Alexandria, VA 22314
571.234.8481

DelMLevine@house.virginia.gov

I hope you and yours are doing well. Before diving into the latest updates, I wanted to share with you my COVID-19 Constituent Survey. Please take the survey today to help my team and me know what issues are most important to you during this trying time. 

Click Here to Take my COVID-19 Constituent Survey Today!

As I discussed in my last newsletter, Governor Northam has announced that Executive Order 53 - which declared the closure of all non-essential businesses that couldn't maintain proper social distancing and gave guidance to the businesses that were essential (like grocery stores and pharmacies) on how they can operate safely - will expire on Friday, May 15. 

Phase 1 of Virginia's reopening will begin on Friday, 
but NOT for Northern Virginia. 

On Sunday, May 10, the Mayor of Alexandria and Chairs of the Counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, sent the Governor a letter saying that Northern Virginia is not ready for Phase 1. The Directors of Northern Virginia's local health departments also sent a letter stating their assessment, according to the stated metrics for a successful reopening, that the Northern Virginia region has not "met the criteria for moving into Phase 1 at this time."

Governor Northam announced at his Monday, May 11th press conference that Northern Virginia will not begin Phase 1 when the rest of Virginia does. (You can watch the press conference by clicking here.) 

The Governor also asked some local leaders from Northern Virginia to join him at his 2pm briefing tomorrow (Wednesday) to discuss why Northern Virginia is likely to continue current public health restrictions as the rest of the Commonwealth begins Phase 1 of the reopening. 

The Governor stated his decisions regarding the reopening have been and will continue to be based on daily incoming data and evidence. 

While I share some details below, I strongly encourage you to read the new guidelines in their entirety by clicking the links below. 

PHASE ONE EASING OF CERTAIN TEMPORARY RESTRICTIONS
DUE TO NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)

Business guidelines can be found here. (Questions? Email business@virginia.gov)

Religious services guidelines can be found here.
(Frankly, given the enclosed space and the length of religious services,
the re-opening of houses of worship concerns me greatly.
I would highly advise you not to attend any indoor services for the time being.)

The below images come from Governor Northam's May 8th slideshow presentation on Phase 1. 

We will share more details when we have them. Governor Northam gives press conferences to update Virginia on his Administration's pandemic response every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 2 pm. Tune in on the Governor's facebook page or on Virginia Public Media's Youtube channel.


What Does Re-Opening Mean for Unemployment?

Virginia is still awaiting guidance from the Virginia Employment Commission (guided by U.S. Department of Labor policy) on the eligibility for unemployment insurance for people who feel unsafe going back to work. A member of the Governor's team said they are developing what criteria workers may be able to demonstrate -- such as having pre-existing conditions -- to allow them to continue receiving unemployment while not returning to work. Those guidelines would not apply to healthy individuals who think their workplace shouldn't be open.

I am doing all I can to make sure that every single worker is protected and not put in a position where they have decide to between risking death and risking financial ruin. That is a choice that no one should ever have to make. 


New Rules for Long-Term Care Facilities from the
Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services

On Friday, May 8, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services has published an interim rule, with new reporting and notification requirements for federally certified nursing homes. This includes about 90% of nursing homes in Virginia. As you may be aware, nursing homes and assisted living facilities constitute a very large portion of the cases of novel coronavirus and deaths caused by COVID-19 in Virginia.

This is good news. Constituents of mine have rightfully complained that they were unaware of outbreaks in nursing homes and assisted living facilities that eventually took the lives of their loved ones. Due to a quirk of Virginia privacy law, these facilities were not heretofore required to disclose their cases. I believe they are required to do so now.

I believe this interim rule requires all federally-certified nursing homes to publicly disclose when residents or employees have contracted COVID-19 or are reasonably expected to have done so. Unfortunately, I do not believe the new regulation includes assisted living facilities that are not federally certified, but I am seeking clarification on this. The first report is expected May 18th. 

When we reconvene for a special session, most likely in July or August, I intend to introduce or support legislation to change Virginia's privacy law to require nursing homes and assisted living facilities to report any outbreaks of contagious disease. Many of my constituents want to pull their loved ones out of Covid-ridden facilities, and I feel they should have that choice. At the very least, they should know when their loved ones are at risk so they can verify that facilities are taking the appropriate precautionary measures.

Here are the new reporting requirements as outlined by CMS:
  • Federally certified nursing facilities must electronically report information weekly about COVID-19 including:
    • Suspected and confirmed COVID-19 infections among residents and staff, including residents previously treated for COVID-19
    • Total deaths and COVID-19 deaths among residents and staff
    • Personal protective equipment and hand hygiene supplies in the facility
    • Ventilator capacity and supplies available in the facility
    • Resident beds and census
    • Access to COVID-19 testing
    • Staffing shortages
    • Other information specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Long-term Care Facilities (LTCFs) must inform residents, their representatives, and their families of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases in the LTCF among residents and staff by 5 p.m. the next calendar day following the occurrence of either:
    • A single confirmed infection of COVID-19
    • Three or more residents or staff with new onset of respiratory symptoms that occur within 72 hours of each other
  • LTCFs must provide cumulative updates to residents, their representatives, and families at least weekly or by 5 p.m. the next calendar day following the subsequent occurrence of either: 
    • Each time a confirmed infection of COVID-19 is identified
    • Three or more residents or staff with new onset of respiratory symptoms occur within 72 hours of each other. 
  • LTCFs' updates cannot include personally identifiable information and must include information on mitigating actions, including if normal operations in the LTCF will be altered. 
  • LTCFs are not expected to make individual telephone calls, but to utilize communication mechanisms that make this information easily available to all residents, their representatives, and their families (such as reporting on a website). 

Virginia Hiring for Contact Tracing Program

Governor Northam has also announced that, as part of the phased re-opening, Virginia is beginning the process of hiring 1,000 contact tracers around the Commonwealth who will be working to track how the virus has spread and to protect people who've been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. Medical providers will be involved with contact tracing as well. Virginia's Department of Health currently employs over 200 contact tracers.

The Commonwealth is still ramping up the hiring process but you can learn about the different positions for which they are hiring by clicking the links below. 


If Your Child Gets Free or Reduced Lunch,
You Qualify for EBT

Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) is a temporary food benefit available in Virginia to families with children who would have received free or reduced-price meals if schools were open. The program is authorized through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service. The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) and the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) are working together to operate the program.

Click here for the Frequently Asked Questions on P-EBT.


Expanding our Testing Availability

Click here to find a list of all COVID-19 Testing Sites in Virginia.

You can search by radius or by geographic region.

Virginia has tripled its test rate. At this point, anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 or anyone who believes they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should be able to get a test.

You start with your health care provider. If you don't have a health care provider or are uninsured, please contact your local health department. 

Local health departments can assist you in identifying a free healthcare clinic or a federally qualified health center for evaluation.

City of Alexandria Health Department 

Arlington County Department of Health

Fairfax County Health Department

As always, we're working hard to share all the latest COVID-19 information on my website's Coronavirus Page.

If information is not there, let us know and we can find it, we'll add it.


Congratulations to Takis Karantonis,
the new Democratic Nominee for Arlington County Board 

Congratulations to urban planner Takis Karantonis on earning the Democratic nomination for the Arlington County Board special election on July 7. Thank you to Barbara Kanninen, Chanda Choun, and Nicole Merlene for stepping up and running to replace the late Erik Gutshall; his shoes will not be easy to fill. Arlington is lucky to have so many people so committed to public service. I heartily endorse Takis for the seat. Arlingtonians: get your absentee ballots today!

Read more about Takis' nomination here.

Request your absentee ballot today.

Needless to say, it was not ideal to have fewer than 200 Arlington Democrats choose the Democratic nominee for an office as important as County Board. But the law had our hands tied. (I am committed to changing this law, by the way, at my first legal opportunity. I was unaware of it until Erik died.) So I, along with other members of the Arlington delegation to the General Assembly, supported the Virginia Supreme Court petition of the current members of the Arlington County Board to allow an extension of the election date so as to allow more people to participate in the nominating process. I was very disappointed the Virginia Supreme Court apparently declined to even consider the petition.

I'm unaware at this time of any Republicans or independents campaigning for the Arlington County Board seat.


Stories from the 2020 Session

Although I've written at length about the Fate of My Bills, you should also know I copatroned a very long list of bills, 158 to be exact, not including commemorative resolutions. I won't attempt to describe them any more than give the title of the bill, but I thought you should see them all. We do a lot of work each session. I listed the first 100 of them in previous newsletters available on my website. I will share the bills for which I was Chief Co-Patron in my next newsletter.

I've listed the final 58 of them here. Click on any one that interests you to learn more:

Legislation as Co-Patron:

 


My Post-Session Postal Letter

If you contribute now, you can help us meet our goal of raising $3,300 to pay for my annual postal newsletter. You can help us inform constituents who are not as well informed as you are. 

So far, exactly $2866.80 dollars has been contributed. Thank you!  Donations ranged from $5 to $500. Thank you! We need to raise just $433.20 more to meet our goal. If you would prefer to send a check in the mail, just mail it to the address at the bottom of this email.

Every dollar donated today and every check dated today (May 12) will go towards postage to mail my annual letter to constituents. Simply put, the more I receive in contributions the more people will be able to receive the letter.

So I really appreciate your support.


And I thank you again for the honor and privilege of representing you.

Delegate Mark Levine
Proudly serving Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax
      in the Virginia House of Delegates