CommunityWilliam J. Ford

DMV Leaders Talk COVID-19, Education

The three top leaders that represent the D.C. region talked about the coronavirus pandemic, education, transportation and other topics during a Capital Region Business Forum.

The more than one-hour virtual discussion connected those topics on how they affect the business community. As of Tuesday, Sept. 22, health departments from District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia reported more than 270,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The last time D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) all came together for the forum was in 2018 in Tysons Corner, Va.

“We have all been challenged this year in ways we could have never expected,” Bowser said Friday, Sept. 18. “A global pandemic, racial reckoning that we’re experiencing in our country and the economic devastation that has been caused by COVID.”

The Greater Washington Board of Trade organized the event for leaders to present, in a virtual setting, solutions and recommendations for the 300 member organizations from the District, suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia.

In terms of the coronavirus, all three leaders agreed residents’ collective efforts muted the impact of COVID by following advice from health professionals about social distancing, face coverings and staying home when isolation is needed.

Three industries — hospitality, retail and transportation — were hit hard by the pandemic, causing widespread unemployment and commercial setbacks, they concluded.

“From a business perspective, it is really important to focus on training and retraining our constituents, especially those who are unemployed,” Northam said.

A nonprofit organization called Virginia Ready was launched in June to provide job training in health care, technology, welding and other trades for residents who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Those who enroll in a scholars program at https://vaready.org/learn what can receive $1,000 after completion.

Tony Pierce, a partner with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld who moderated the discussion, asked about building “a talent pool” in the region while schools are conducting virtual learning at home with their parents.

Bowser said the District public schools are working on plans to resume school with a hybrid option of both virtual and in-person instruction by Nov. 9.

“I see it critical not just for those kids, but for the entire city, for the business community … the government and families starting to make plans,” she said. “That continues to be our focus.”

All three leaders agreed the federal government should contribute more money toward Metro.

Before Friday’s forum, the transit agency’s board of directors held a special meeting to approve public hearings on proposed service changes that include closing Metrorail stations by 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. The stations currently close at 11 p.m.

Metrobus service would also end at midnight and these routes discontinued on Saturday and Sunday: M6 (Fairfax Village); N2 (National Harbor-Alexandria); Z6 (Calverton-Westfarm); and 30N and 30S (Friendship Heights-Southeast).

The agency faces a budget shortfall of $212 million by the end of this fiscal year and possibly layoff more than 1,700 employees.

If approved by the board later this year, the service changes would take effect in December.

The two states and the District agreed in 2018 to contribute $500 million annually to upgrade Metrorail stations, purchase new buses and other capital improvements.

“It wasn’t an easy thing to do,” said Hogan, who added about 40 percent of the ridership are federal workers. “I’m going to continue to push to see if we can’t get our federal partners to step up.”

The governor announced earlier this month for the state to move into its third and final recovery stage of the “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery” plan that relaxes restrictions on certain activities.

For instance, movie theater and indoor venues can open at 50 percent capacity, or up to 100 people. Outdoor performance venues are also at 50 percent, but with up to 250 people that can attend.

In addition, retail businesses and places of worship can extend from 50 percent capacity to 75 percent capacity.

Prince George’s County Angela Alsobrooks sent a text message to residents Friday stating the county remains under a phase two plan, but certain businesses can reopen with certain limitations.

Reception and meeting rooms in hotels, conference centers and similar establishments can open at 50 percent capacity, or no more than 150 people. No buffets are allowed and capacity is limited to no more than six people per table with social distancing measures enforced.
Service appointments may resume at tanning salons with one customer per 200 square feet.

Vape, cigar and hookah businesses can reopen for retail sales only and no smoking on the property.

Also, public and private indoor pools may open at 50 percent capacity and people must wear face coverings when not in the water.

“I want to remind our residents that this virus is still present in our community,” Alsobrooks said in a statement. “Please remember to continue following COVID-19 safety guidelines to keep yourself and your fellow Prince Georgians safe, including wearing a face mask, practicing physical distancing and washing your hands frequently.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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One Comment

  1. I appreciate this coverage of a meet-up of DMV’s leaders–great way to get the thinking of all of them at one time.
    Also, I love the reporter’s bio!

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