The incumbent County Board member on the Nov. 2 ballot and one of his challengers went at it over the Arlington government’s response to COVID – past, present and future – in a Sept. 20 forum sponsored by the Arlington branch of the NAACP.
Incumbent Democrat Takis Karantonis took aim at the current county-government policy related to its own employees, saying it was too lax.
That policy, laid down by County Manager Mark Schwartz and described by him as a COVID-vaccine “mandate,” provides an opt-out for employees who are willing to get tested (at the government’s expense) once a week.
Karantonis urged government to use “strong power” to get vaccination rates up. He wants to see a situation where “all public employees are vaccinated with no exceptions, zero.”
That may have been a bit of political-theater hyperbole – “no exceptions, zero” could open governments up to a bevy of lawsuits for violating federal civil-rights protections – and in any event, would be counterproductive, one of Karantonis’s opponents said.
A mandate “sounds really good on paper” but instead “creates a hard, immediate backlash,” said Adam Theo, who while running as an independent also serves as leader of the Northern Virginia chapter of the Libertarian Party.
Theo intimated the tough talk from the incumbent was being used to cover for a challenging rollout of the local government’s response to COVID, and ongoing challenges to get a more full share of the population vaccinated.
“We’re not doing enough,” he said.
Theo said areas like the western end of Columbia Pike were “neglected” by the county government during the COVID crisis, and said the county government should be rolling out mobile units to provide additional testing opportunities. Karantonis shot back that Arlington already had those in place.
Karantonis and Theo are sharing the Nov. 2 ballot with independents Michael Cantwell and Audrey Clement.
In remarks at the NAACP forum, Clement praised Gov. Northam for his efforts to address the COVID situation, and said that rather than mandates, there should be greater public-awareness campaigns to advertise the benefits of vaccines.