Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) gathered Loudoun County government, business, research and healthcare leaders for a conference call Wednesday to discuss their respective reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic.
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) reported on the Board of Supervisors’ responses, which has included providing $350,000 in relief funds for renters’ assistance and food pantries. She has also directed flags in the county to be flown at half staff every Monday going forward to honor the people who have died in the pandemic.
“We will get very used to talking about people who perished by numbers, and I want to not forget that behind everybody who has unfortunately passed away, there is a family who is grieving,” Randall said.
Meanwhile, Inova Loudoun Hospital President Deborah Addo reported that across the Inova system, “we feel that we’re ready for the surge.” Inova Loudoun opened its new patient tower Monday, and the system as a whole has been able to distribute resources where they’re most needed, Addo said. At Inova Fairfax Hospital, there are 122 undergoing treatment for COVID-19, while at Inova Loudoun Hospital, there are only 11.
“This gives us the opportunity to wax and wane with resources where we need them most and how we need them most,” Addo said.
Tracey White, Vice President of Community and Government Relations for the Hospital Corporation of America Capital Division, which includes StoneSprings Hospital Center near Aldie, was not able to provide some of those specific numbers, as StoneSprings Matt Mathias had to pull out of the call. But she said they, too, are mostly supplied—even though some supplies from the national stockpile they received were so old they had to be replaced, and supplies for rapid-turnaround, two-hour COVID-19 testing have been unreliable.
Janelia Research Campus Executive Director and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Vice President Ron Vale reported that the Ashburn research center has reoriented many of its operations to addressing the pandemic, including manufacturing face shields and partnering with Sterling-based biotech firm Aperiomics to roll out more testing.
And among the things Northern Virginia Community College is doing, said President Anne Cress, is a program to let high school students get up to six college credits for free while still taking high school classes to help them get a jump start.
The call happened the same day people began receiving much-anticipated $1,200 direct stimulus checks from the federal government. But Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce President Tony Howard warned that in places with a high cost of living like Loudoun County, that money doesn’t go very far.
“We just ask for a consideration for high cost-of-living areas where it relates to any future stimulus packages,” Howard said.
He also asked that something be done to help the Small Business Administration process the loan requests coming in; while Congress and the president have approved the money for loans, getting that money onto the street has been slow, he said.
Warner expressed frustration with the federal government’s handling of the pandemic so far.
“After the virus has passed us, I think we are all owed an explanation of why America didn’t join with countries like Germany, and South Korea, and Taiwan and others and accept the international standards on testing,” Warner said. “We are sixty days behind where we should be on testing, and lives have been lost.” He also called the Trump administration’s handling of personal protective equipment “a national disgrace.”
“The fact that we’ve almost turned this into a ‘Lord of the Flies’-type of competition, with communities and healthcare systems all bidding against each other, I think is immoral, and inefficiency on steroids, and at some point we’re going to have to sort that through,” Warner said. “Probably right now, but I think that kind of tension of people not having the equipment we need is part of the problem.”