From Clarendon bars to crowded gyms, unmasked store clerks to house parties, Arlingtonians asked the county to investigate more than 1,000 reported cases of COVID-19 non-compliance.
The reports came in through a form that Arlington County launched last year to report lax social distancing and masking.
ARLnow obtained the full list of reported instances from a resident who acquired the list with a Freedom of Information request. After removing incomplete or abusive requests, about 1,175 remained. Of those, around 200 were filed in 2021, with the rest — just shy of 1,000 — filed in 2020.
The entries provide a snapshot into the kinds of activities that worried Arlingtonians the most during the height of the pandemic. People reported facilities operating without authorization, restaurants allegedly exceeding 50% capacity and large religious gatherings, as well as crowded non-essential businesses, parks and county facilities. A final category, “other,” included home gatherings and complaints about little masking enforcement in apartment buildings.
Referencing a rowdy house party, one reporter asked the tip line, “can we lock everyone under 30 in a closet until this is over?”
Of the nearly 1,200 submissions, about 370 referenced restaurants exceeding 50% capacity.
Far and away, the most frequently reported establishment was The Lot beer garden near Clarendon, which racked up at least 100 reports. Many of these came the Friday (May 29, 2020) that The Lot reopened along with other non-essential businesses permitted to reopen with additional precautions.
The opening day went viral when Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko posted a photo showing a large crowd outdoors, with none wearing masks. The bulk of the tips came that weekend.
“People packed in like sardines. Minimal masking. Shut it down,” wrote one.
Board member Katie Cristol retweeted the photo, suggesting The Lot was out of compliance and included a link to the hot line. She later apologized for the suggestion in a tweet. Outdoor settings were later found to be much safer than indoor settings in terms of virus spread, though not without risks.
Some complaints about Clarendon’s day-drinking and nightlife continued into the fall and winter. In October a tipster said the crowding happens “every night.”
“Surely someone should be policing this — for years you have had extra police in Clarendon for the bars, so why not assign someone here?” the tipster wrote. “The line at the farmers market is better policed by volunteers than this one.”
Behind restaurants were “other” violations (about 330) and reports of public outdoor facilities not following guidelines (nearly 300). Of these, the most common were reports of social gatherings and complaints about enforcement in apartment buildings and gyms.
One tipster said their management company took four months to post signs saying masks were recommended and was not doing any enforcement: “I would estimate fewer than 50% of residents wear face covering in halls and elevators.”
A gym-goer said the building’s fitness center was “full of people” and “no one was wearing a mask except me.”
Early into the reopening, in June 2020, people reported athletes, families and kids using park facilities without masks and getting too close. At the time, Gov. Ralph Northam’s mask order said masks were not mandatory outdoors, and the indoor mask requirement exempted children under 10.
“Many people continuing to go to playground with children at almost all times when the weather is nice,” one tipster said. “Not socially distancing/wearing masks and allowing children to play on equipment.”
Another outdoor activity-related complaint cited a “tennis player handling [the] other player’s balls.”
Some tips were of the very minor variety and seemingly impossible to enforce, ranging from a restaurant employee handing a pizza to a delivery driver while not masked, to a man and a child taking an elevator in an apartment building sans masks.
About two-dozen reports were made about house parties, some of which featured food trucks, flowing alcohol and live bands. Meanwhile, nearly 20 complaints were filed about religious services and events, such as a retreat for engaged couples.
“Not adhering mask or capacity rule at Easter mass. Preaching ‘God will protect you from Covid-19,'” one submitter wrote. “As a frontline worker, this is appalling.”
A submitter reported an underground church operating in an apartment with “many people in attendance singing as a choir for hours at a time.”
Some used the hotline to complain that their liberties were being violated. A few dozen comments accused the county government of being “Nazis,” “the Gestapo” and “snitches.”
“Stop encouraging people to turn on each other,” one person wrote.
“God forbid people live their life,” wrote another.
Tour the secluded and quiet Bellevue Forest with its local parks, trails, forested areas and more in Neighborhood Spotlight.
In loving memory of William Dinwiddie Tucker, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 95.
Good Friday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 6626 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…
Meeting for lunch? Starting Monday, January 30 and running until Friday, February 3, Copperwood Tavern, The Pinemoor, and Brass Rabbit Pub will be offering buy one, get one free soups, salads, sandwiches, and…
St. Charles offers a play-based curriculum in a welcoming, Christ-centered environment.
Our program focuses on socio-emotional development and kindergarten readiness through hands-on and engaging activities. Our programs offer different schedules ranging from 7:30 am-5:30 pm for students, ages 2-5. We feature a full-day Jr. kindergarten class for older 4’s/5’s. Our facility includes a full-sized gymnasium, school chapel, and library. All of our students enjoy music and physical education weekly. Children have an opportunity to participate in enrichment classes such as soccer, basketball, ballet, and science.
We offer Summer Camp with weekly themes and twice a week water play, including Fun Friday moon bounce. Please join us for our Open House Feb. 3 at 9:30 am and 11:00 am. Click here to sign-up.
For more information or to schedule a tour, visit us at www.stcharlesarlington.org or call (703) 527-0608.
If you are a lifelong learner over 50+ who wants to make new friends, power up your brain, and enjoy a wide-variety college-level courses, Encore Learning is for you. An Arlington based nonprofit, Encore Learning offers courses in the arts, theater, literature, history, technology and more. This semester we offer our most popular course, Global Hot Spots as well as 25 new courses. Courses are presented either online or in-person at George Mason University at Virginia Square and other Arlington locations.
Join the free presentation to learn about courses and meet the instructors. This is Encore Learning’s signature event to highlight the upcoming semester with brief presentations by each instructor.
The Spring Course Preview event is Thursday, February 2nd at 9:30 AM via Zoom:
The truth, your first pregnancy and new mom months are full of twists and turns, ups and downs, and lots of questions! None of us really know the best way to do it – we just figure it out, together…