Arlington County will begin enforcing a new ordinance this weekend that prohibits groups of more than three people from congregating on certain streets and sidewalks. The action comes as officials say some restaurant and bar patrons have responded with “open defiance” to police and security personnel amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Arlington police department’s Dimitrios “Jim” Mastoras, who coordinates pandemic-related initiatives with the county’s restaurants, said Arlington has posted signs, placed traffic cones and stationed people to monitor lines outside establishments to encourage social distancing. He said those efforts haven’t been enough to discourage gatherings, even as coronavirus caseloads began to rise early this month.
“We have seen quite a bit of defiance and hostility toward security officers just being flat-out ignored,” Mastoras said.
The county, which passed an emergency ordinance July 31 banning more than three people in a group in certain areas, placed signs and decals on sidewalks this week to demark six feet of separation between groups or individuals. Those who refuse to comply can be fined up to $100.
The initial area of enforcement will be along portions of Wilson and Clarendon boulevards, with locations to follow in the Crystal City neighborhood. The areas were chosen based on complaints from the public about crowding on sidewalks, officials said.
The ordinance applies only in places where the rules are posted.
County Manager Mark Schwartz said the ordinance is needed to help battle the spread of the coronavirus in the county.
“I will say I remain deeply frustrated over what I’m seeing in the community,” he told members of the Arlington County Board on Tuesday. “My frustration is not with the owners of restaurants. My frustration is with the patrons, given what we face right now with open defiance on the part of people standing outside these restaurants. . . . I don’t want to be overly dramatic about it, but this is not a game. We are dealing with the public’s health and that is our number one priority.”
Schwartz said without improvement in patrons’ behavior, he would recommend that Arlington, where alcohol can be served until 2 a.m., limit hours to midnight, such as in D.C., or 10 p.m., as in Montgomery County.
Libby Garvey, chair of the County Board, has said an increase in infections is driven by young adults who have not been using masks or maintaining their distance insides bars and restaurants, particularly in the Clarendon and Rosslyn neighborhoods. She has said several options are on the table if caseloads continue to rise, such as curfews or closing down bars and restaurants.
Arlington’s rolling seven-day caseload began the month at 15, which was up from a low of six daily cases in late June. The daily average hit 25 about a week ago, although that number has ticked down in recent days, standing at 20 on Wednesday.
Elsewhere in the region, D.C. officials said Delaware leaders asked that the state be removed from Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s list of high-risk states that require visitors to quarantine for 14 days upon return. D.C. Health Director LaQuandra Nesbitt said Delaware was above the new infections threshold for inclusion on Sunday but had returned by Monday when the city released an updated list.
Nesbitt said the decision to add Delaware was under review, which has implications for beach tourism ahead of Labor Day weekend.
D.C., Virginia and Maryland on Wednesday reported 1,301 new coronavirus cases and 32 additional deaths. D.C. reported 38 cases and one death, Virginia had 823 cases and 21 deaths, and Maryland reported 440 cases and 10 deaths.
The rolling seven-day average of new cases in the Washington region has hovered near 1,500 in recent days, down from more than 2,000 average daily cases earlier this month.
Dana Hedgpeth, Fenit Nirappil and Antonio Olivo contributed to this report.
Coronavirus news in D.C., Virginia and Maryland
The latest: More than two years into the pandemic, covid cases in the D.C. region are rising again, , while liberal Montgomery County asks who deserves credit for its robust covid response. Meanwhile, Black funeral directors still face a daunting amount of deaths from covid and the omicron wave has had an unequal toll in the DMV.
At-home tests: Here’s how to use at-home covid tests, where to find them and how they differ from PCR tests.
Mapping the spread: Tens of thousands have died in the local region and nationwide cases number in the hundreds of thousands.
Omicron: Remaining covid restrictions in the D.C.-area, plus a breakdown of variant symptoms and mask recommendations.
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