Arlington police prep to enforce outdoor social distancing, dish out $100 fines

Arlington is concerned about residents gathering in large groups while waiting to get into bars and restaurants in popular neighborhoods like Clarendon. (Courtesy Brad Haywood)

Arlington police may start dishing out $100 fines to people who are not properly distancing on Arlington sidewalks. (Courtesy Brad Haywood)

Popular gathering places like The Lot in Arlington are drawing crowds, and while operators may be ensuring distancing inside, signs will be posted outside. (Courtesy Brad Haywood)

The council in Arlington has decided to post signs advising people to avoid gathering in crowds while waiting to get into bars and restaurants. (Courtesy Brad Haywood)

Popular venues like The Lot in Arlington have created some anxiety about social distancing protocols. (Courtesy Brad Haywood)

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In Arlington, Virginia, notably in the Clarendon neighborhood, reduced capacity inside bars and restaurants has meant customers have spilled out onto sidewalks.

That’s where some residents and visitors have been running afoul of the county’s social distancing ordinance.

An emergency ordinance prohibits people from gathering in groups of more than three on some streets and sidewalks, and pedestrians should stay 6 feet apart, but it hasn’t been enforced yet as the county waits for signage.

“Once we get the signs up, we’ll really start the enforcement, but the enforcement actually hasn’t begun,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey.

She said the ordinance will only be enforced near the signs, which should be set up soon.

County police will do the enforcing, although Garvey hopes for voluntary compliance.

She also hopes businesses will change their protocols to send customers a text when space opens up, rather than have them wait in lines.

Some recent social media posts have shown people crowding outside of popular bars and restaurants as they wait for their turn inside.

It comes amid warnings about people being put at risk for COVID-19 as they wait outside.

“The danger is that whenever you have groups of people coming in close contact — that is within 6 feet or less, with or without masks — that there could be a chance of transmitting the virus,” said Amira Roess, professor of global health and epidemiology at George Mason University.

She said that some people may wear masks incorrectly or take them off. Additionally, she said, someone very infectious could transmit the infection through the mask or around the mask.

Failure to comply with the Arlington ordinance could result in a $100 fine.

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