Last week marked a new beginning for Prince William County: We began offering free COVID-19 testing to residents. Testing sites are located in the Neabsco and Gainesville Magisterial districts and open to all residents who would like to be tested.
While this is a start, I feel we have a very long way to go. If this were a football game, we are behind 70-0 and have been given the ball on our 1-yard line, meaning we have a long way to go to put this pandemic behind us.
It wasn’t until recently that we were given a coaching chance -- when the Virginia Department of Health released data showing COVID-19 testing across the state.
Of course, the only way to collect this data was to wait for our sick residents to either show up at medical facilities or dial 911 for help. We’ve lost 94 of those citizens in this process and at the present time have more than 5,000 confirmed cases and more than 400 hospitalizations, so we still have a very long way to go.
The data also showed us where to focus on defeating this enemy and presently, that is on the east end of the county with the highest counts of confirmed cases in the state being in the Neabsco and Woodbridge magisterial districts.
If we go back to early March in the beginning of cases being confirmed, we were not prepared for this virus and not just Prince William County; the state was not prepared, the nation was not prepared, the world was not prepared. It has been all-hands-on-deck since early March, and I am very proud of the work Prince William County staff has done to keep us in the game under the leadership of our County Executive Chris Martino. I’ve been referring to him as our star quarterback when he has really been our strong safety and the captain of our defense keeping us in the fight, a fight literally for our lives.
Now we begin moving the ball forward, and I believe the only way for us to score is to test as many citizens as possible so that we can gain a better perspective of confirmed cases or those who have contracted the virus and fought it off, creating the antibody that could be used to help others.
Now is not the time for a Hail Mary (I apologize for my football analogy, but I think it fits nicely in this situation). A Hail Mary is a last-ditch effort for the quarterback to send his best receivers down the field as he throws the football as far as he can in hopes that one of his receivers catches it and scores what hopefully is the winning touchdown. That Hail Mary for us would be getting back to life and business too soon. We are still early in the game and if anything, I’d say just beginning the second quarter.
Now that COVID-19 testing is becoming more available, we must take advantage of it and, at the very least, test the workforce if restrictions are going to be lifted in a phased approach.
This testing should be free to all citizens regardless of insurance status, citizen status or financial status. Collecting this new data will allow us to focus our efforts on contact-tracing each confirmed case, because as my colleague Supervisor Pete Candland stated at the board meeting, this is one Prince William, and all of our citizens move about the county not only working but enjoying everything it has to offer.
The VDH is recruiting 1,300 contractors in the areas of: case investigators, contact-tracers, testing coordinators, contact tracing supervisors and data managers. (Please check the VDH website for more information.) To win this game it is going to take every one of us to get in it, and there is a position for you on the team.
The writer, a Democrat, represents the Neabsco District on the Prince William Board of County Supervisors.