Prince William County Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, former state delegate Rich Anderson and several Republican candidates for office joined about 120 people in a “Reopen Prince William County” rally Saturday afternoon outside the Old Courthouse in Manassas.
The rally was organized by Christopher Lee and Zach McDonald, two Prince William County residents who are members of a local Facebook page by the same name. Attendees brought American flags and Trump 2020 flags and carried homemade signs with slogans such as “Flatten the curve of ignorance” and “the media is the virus, tired of the lies.”
Speakers included Lawson and Anderson as well as Tom Speciale, a Woodbridge resident vying for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Mark Warner (D) in November, as well as Jeff Dove and Aliscia Andrews, both candidates for the Republican nomination to unseat Rep. Jennifer Wexton in Virginia’s 10th District.
As Chairwoman Wheeler writes:
“I wish this pandemic wasn’t being so politicized. I believe in the science and we need to listen to our health experts. Please everyone, make decisions to do what you need to do to protect your health. We need to come together and work together to get through this. One of our local board members, Supervisor Jeanine Lawson was quoted in the article.”
It’s irresponsible for any elected official to call on people to defy social distancing guidelines when lines for free COVID-19 testing are stretching out for hours at a time — including right here in Prince William County.
The lines we saw here during the last week include at sites in Dumfries, Dale City, Woodbridge and the Prince William County portion of Manassas at Stonewall Jackson High School, where — as you can see below — cars stretched up Rixlew Lane toward the train tracks and across Ashton Avenue, past the Manassas Mall.
Eight-four members of our community have died in Prince William County from COVID-19 during the last two months. My lifelong home of Manassas is hurting, leading Prince William with the highest infection rate per capita. If the greater Manassas area — county and city — was one locality, we’d have the third highest total number of infections by locality in Virginia.
Many of my constituents in 20111 and 20109 are essential workers earning less than $15 an hour. They’re risking their safety every day they’re required to show up to work, worried every time someone walks up to them while refusing to wear a mask or just take basic safety precautions like keeping a distance of six feet.
Meanwhile, another four of my constituents from the City of Manassas Park and seven from right next door in the City of Manassas have died of COVID-19. Every single one of these 95 people in the greater Prince William area who have died has a story. They’re not just data points. They’re people.
As for those who’ve survived, some people are fortunately making full recoveries. Others have had severe respiratory damage and will be in recovery for a long time to come, including a Manassas man who had to be put into a medically-induced coma in order to be attached to a ventilator that could breathe for him.
Exercising safety cannot become partisan when we’re trying to save lives. You have governors across the country right now, irrespective of party, telling people this is not some overblown media hype; this is as real as it gets — 100,000 times over across this country and more than 1,100 times over right here in Virginia.
As North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said, “If someone is wearing a mask, they’re not doing it to represent what political party they’re in or what candidates they support. They might be doing it because they’ve got a 5-year-old child who’s been going through cancer treatments. They might have vulnerable adults in their life who currently have COVID, and they’re fighting.”
In the 13th District part of Gainesville, there is a 7-year-old girl with cancer. Also in western Prince William County, there is a family of 10 with eight children, including three with severe disabilities. I successfully fought for the USDA to waive its policy requiring kids be present with their parents in order to receive free meals from school sites so the parents of these two families could afford to feed their children.
I delivered groceries to both of these families. I cannot even bear the thought of what were to happen to any of those children if their parents, who are already limiting their exposure outside to begin with, were to come into contact with asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 when they’re out buying supplies and brought it into their home.
As her delegate, I know that mother in Gainesville is being as absolutely careful as possible to protect the safety and well-being of her family, including her immunocompromised little girl. The least we can do to help her is maintain proper social distancing.
During the last two days, the Prince William Health District reported 206 new COVID-19 cases among our local residents. That’s now 5,513 people in the PWHD who have tested positive. While the trendlines are improving, now is not the time to stop doing our parts. It’s also a warning that when we still have hundreds of people in two days testing positive in our area, then we are not ready to return to normal.
The people we serve need us to lead by example, each and every day, and especially today. Let’s do our part to help slow the spread and responsibly manage our way through this crisis.
“The NY Times published a full page of coronavirus-related deaths this morning. Nearly 100,000 of our fellow Americans have lost their lives to this unseen enemy in a war we were unprepared for. I want us to re-open as quickly as possible. As someone who has worked for a small business for over a decade, I know that there are a lot of business owners and working families who are hurting right now. This is not the time, though, to further divide Prince William County, and Virginia, by pitting people against each other or by encouraging residents to violate the Governor’s Executive Orders. The only way we will be able to successfully begin re-open is by reaffirming our sacred commitment to our social contract with one another as Virginians and as Americans – that we may differ on beliefs here and there, but that we all agree that our safety and security is a shared responsibility. We’re in this together.”