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Coronavirus Update: Cases Continue to Rise, Senior Centers an Area of Concern

(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) There are now just under 400 known coronavirus cases in Arlington.

The number of cases continued to rise over the weekend, with Saturday seeing Arlington’s steepest increase in cases — 37 — so far during the pandemic. The past two days have seen more modest increases.

The current case count in Arlington stands at 390, up from 203 a week prior, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. Statewide, VDH is reporting 5,747 cases, 903 hospitalizations and 149 deaths, with 41,401 people tested.

VDH has also released additional local data about outbreaks and testing.

According to the state health department, 1,913 people have been tested and 35 have been hospitalized in Arlington. There have been eight reported “outbreaks” in Arlington, including:

  • 5 in long-term care facilities, like assisted living centers and nursing homes
  • 2 in congregate settings, like apartments, churches, and workplaces
  • 1 in a healthcare setting, like medical offices and fire/EMS facilities

Senior centers, assisted living facilities and nursing homes are a particular concern.

“Nearly 2,500 long-term care facilities in 36 states are battling coronavirus cases, according to data gathered by NBC News from state agencies, an explosive increase of 522 percent compared to a federal tally just 10 days ago,” NBC News reported on Friday. “The toll of these outbreaks is growing. NBC News tallied 2,246 deaths associated with long-term care facilities, based on responses from 24 states. This, too, is an undercount; about half of all states said they could not provide data on nursing home deaths, or declined to do so.”

Statewide data from VDH, sorted by age group, shows that while hospitalizations are more distributed, deaths are highly concentrated among those ages 60 and above — 91%.

In Arlington, at least 2-3 assisted living and senior living facilities have reported coronavirus cases, ARLnow hears.

A memo obtained by ARLnow dated April 5 describes someone testing positive at one of two Sunrise Senior Living facilities in Arlington.

“I’m writing to share that this morning we were notified about a positive COVID-19 diagnosis in our community,” the memo said. “We are following guidance from the CDC and local department of health in Arlington as well as closely coordinating with our corporate leadership teams to implement additional precautions in our community.”

The company did not respond to a request for comment by publication time.

Regency Care of Arlington, in Pentagon City, also has an outbreak, according to a tipster, though that could not be immediately confirmed.

The Brookdale Senior Living community in Virginia Square, meanwhile, has a confirmed outbreak.

“Brookdale’s top priority is the health and safety of our residents and associates,” a spokeswoman told ARLnow in a statement. “We can confirm that more than one member of our Brookdale Arlington community has tested positive for COVID-19. We have informed residents, their family members, and associates of Brookdale Arlington of this matter.”

“We are diligently monitoring our residents and associates for signs and symptoms, and we continue to work directly with local health officials to help ensure our residents and associates have the appropriate and necessary medical support,” the company added. “We will continue to follow the guidance of the Arlington County Public Health Division throughout this situation.”

Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services as repeatedly declined requests from ARLnow to provide more specific information about where cases are being reported. The department issued the following statement on Friday.

We track the number of confirmed cases in our health district and those numbers are updated daily on the Virginia Department of Health website; nonetheless, we still receive questions about specific locations and more detailed information about cases.

Here’s why we report cases as we do.

  • The Public Health Division does not provide information on reportable diseases on less than a county level.  This is due to health care privacy laws and also because we believe that all geographic areas of Arlington County currently are at risk of disease transmission. The Public Health Division conducts contact investigations and notifies close contacts of a case of their specific risk.  Individuals not specifically contacted by the Public Health Division have the same level of risk as other individuals in the community. As our cases numbers continue to grow, we’ll be asking individuals who are sick to inform their own close contacts of their risk of acquiring the illness and what they need to do to self-quarantine and monitor for symptoms.
  • Arlington County, as one of the smallest jurisdictions in the United States, is committed to protecting individuals from being identified as carriers of disease and creating an environment where people can speak freely during the course of a disease investigation to ensure the health of the broader community.
  • Due to limitations on testing, information on those diagnosed with COVID-19 are not always a reflection of who actually has the disease. For example, adults over 65 or those living in congregate settings like nursing homes or assisted living facilities, are much more likely to have severe complications of infection so are much more likely to be tested than other groups.
  • In the beginning of an incident or outbreak, health departments will often publish more details when the disease is novel or limited to just one or two cases. As time goes on, more cases are identified and the announcement of a new case would not warrant any new action by members of the public.  At that point we generally discontinue such announcements. That is the situation we are in now. We are not publishing announcements about every new case or death related to COVID-19, unless circumstances warrant.
  • We don’t want the information we share to be used for individual diagnoses or to measure individual risk. Since a case only represents a place of residence and not where transmission may have occurred, it could create a false sense of security if people think there are more cases in a certain part of the Arlington Health District than in others.

Because we know community transmission is occurring, we need people to be vigilant in following the recommendations of the Arlington County Public Health Division, Virginia Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

ARLnow has also been unable to receive confirmation of tips we and others received last week of 16 members of the Arlington County Fire Department being quarantined. The department, which last month confirmed one COVID-19 case among its ranks, would only say that its staffing is adequate.

“Arlington’s public safety personnel, like other populations experience fluctuations in staffing throughout the year due to varying of circumstances,” Capt. Justin Tirelli told ARLnow. “The County always monitors our workforce capacity and continues to be able to maintain adequate staffing levels for the services needed for Arlington residents.”

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Just hop aboard The Lunch Train and set the destination for: breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or nightlife!

– No app necessary. Simply go to the website if you’d like!
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When: Sunday, October 2nd, Noon – 4 PM. 

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