Arlington, VA

Another week has passed, and Arlington is still at least partially locked down.

But it feels like the dam has sprung a leak. The roads seem busier, more and more people are getting outside as the weather gets warmer, there are still plenty of people out shopping for food and other essentials, and there’s a sense that everyone is ready to resume something closer to normal life.

Our staff photographer Jay Westcott has been observing life in Arlington during the pandemic. Here’s his latest weekly dispatch.

I keep thinking back to late February and early March for many reasons, some deeply personal, but also because for Arlington, it was our last opportunity for “normal” life pre-coronavirus.

I think about all the interactions I had on any given day, driving around Arlington County and documenting what’s going on in this great community. How many parking meters did I touch? How many cashiers handed me receipts and change and credit cards and groceries? How many elevator buttons did I push? How many door knobs and handrails did I grab? Crosswalk signals pushed?

How we interact with each other and with things will be altered going forward. I hate the terms “reopen” and “go back” because those words imply that the threat is gone. Folks, the threat is still present. Testing still lags significantly here in Arlington.

This is where we adapt our behavior, so we can overcome. Yes, businesses need to figure out a way to operate, but the priority has to be practices that negate the spread of the disease. Since we don’t seem to have any clear guidelines coming from the federal level, it’s taken time to make a plan.

Scientists still don’t fully understand this disease. It may be causing illnesses in children that are similar to Kawasaki disease. We have to adapt our behavior until the rate of infection has decreased significantly. We have to have enough testing in place and we have to be able to contact trace and isolate those infected.

I also keep thinking about about this quote from this Atlantic article: “Models show that if 80 percent of people wear masks that are 60 percent effective, easily achievable with cloth, we can get to an effective R0 of less than one.” What’s so challenging about that?

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If this were a Navy deployment, we’ve reached the part where “scuttlebutt” starts to spread throughout the ship.

Rumors and innuendo on where we are going and what the mission might be run rampant, especially through the lower ranks and the people who are the least likely to actually know what’s going on.

In times like this, the captain of the ship would address the crew and reassure all the sailors under his command that things would be alright. We would get through the tough times together, and he would tell us we needed to stay focused on what is important. He would remind us to stay safe, follow our procedures and protocols, and listen to our leadership and follow orders.

Some of that leadership seems to be lacking at the federal level, and at the state level things vary so drastically from state to state that it’s hard to make sense of what to do. Here in Arlington, cases are going up though the rate at which they are going up is declining ,at least for now.

The CDC recommends wearing face masks when going out in public places, where maintaining six feet distance from others is difficult and unlikely. If everybody wears masks, the rate of transmission drops. And as this Atlantic article points out, “If 80 percent of the people wear masks that are 60 percent effective… that’s enough to halt the progress of the disease.”

We can’t be complacent, we can’t look at this and say “let’s get back to what was” or “we need to re-open.” Until there is a vaccine that eradicates this virus, we have to learn how to adapt to living with it as a potential risk to each of our lives.

A training mantra in the military is “adapt and overcome.” In this case, until there is adequate testing and contact tracing, we have to adapt our routines and wardrobes to include staying away from people you don’t live with by at least six feet and wearing a face mask. It’s really that simple. This is the “adapt” part. Let’s do our part to adapt until those at the helm of our research find a vaccine that can overcome this.

This past week, in my observations, more Arlingtonians seem to be wearing masks. People are keeping six feet apart from each other, mostly. The cost of the flyover by the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds last weekend can be debated ad nauseam, but it was nice to share in a collective moment, together. As long as you were six feet away from strangers.

Jay Westcott is ARLnow’s staff photographer. See more of his work on our Instagram account.

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Our military’s flight demonstration teams, the Blue Angels of the Navy and Thunderbirds of the Air Force, flew over Arlington and the D.C. area on Saturday.

The flyover was intended to honor frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic and to inspire national unity.

Arlingtonians came out to watch the unique spectacle — from a safe distance from each other, of course — and share in this collective moment together.

More photos and videos are below, via social media.

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Another week of social distancing has come and gone, as the days blend together and Arlington residents try to make the most of the reality that we’re not going back to normal anytime soon.

Over the weekend we asked our staff photographer, Jay Westcott, to narrate the past week of observations and reflections from his treks around Arlington.

Here’s what he wrote:

As I’m writing this, today is my daughter’s 17th birthday and I can’t hug her. She’s at home with her mom and step-dad and brother in Virginia Beach, safe and sound. She’s finishing her junior year of high school at home with online classes. Her grades are awesome. There will be no soccer this spring, which was something she was really looking forward to. She can’t take college admission tests until September.

I can’t hug my daughter on her birthday, but I’m thankful she is as good as can be amid this pandemic. What is her summer going to be like? Or her senior year? This pandemic is altering every aspect of our lives, and feelings of anxiety about what is coming, and how uncertain our future is, are weighing on us all.

When I am out and about with my cameras, I can feel it in the air. A former shipmate from my time in the Navy made a comment on social media that I’ll share as best I can: “we’ve only been underway a month and people are already going [expletive] crazy!”

My shipmate was referring to the recent protests and the month since the stay-at-home order and closing of non-essential business went into effect. Tensions are high and being stuck inside at home most of the time is hard.

I think about the two 6 month deployments I did aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt — the same ship that’s been in the news lately — in 1993 and 1995. In March of 1993 we deployed for the Adriatic and in April started no-fly zone enforcement over Bosnia-Herzegovina during their civil war. That meant keeping planes in the air 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. We were underway for 78 straight days before we had a break. Day after day of drawing 25 mile wide squares in the Adriatic with 5,500 other Sailors and Marines before we had a port visit to Rhodes, Greece.

That’s two and half months. We didn’t have Amazon Prime or Netflix, or Grubhub or Doordash. We didn’t have smartphones or social media. We had two channels on a newly-installed satellite television system that I helped monitor. CNN International and MTV Europe were our link to the outside world along with the mail, if the plane came. Some days it did not. Stay at home? At 23, being twice-deployed and feeling salty, I’d probably have called it a “cakewalk.”

Then I think about the living space I shared with 20 other men, maybe as big as my apartment, sleeping on “coffin lockers” stacked three high in a compartment that can be sealed watertight. I think about the hundreds of people on my former ship that have suffered and the sailor that has died from the COVID-19 outbreak and the scandal around the wrongful ouster of their Captain, who will hopefully be reinstated soon.

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The past week has seen rising coronavirus cases and concerns in Arlington, but also considerable springtime beauty.

For those largely stuck at home, here are some scenes from around the county from the last seven days.

ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott had this to say about what he’s seeing, including observations about the all-too-frequent lack of social distancing in certain places:

I am seeing lines to get into grocery stores (Whole Foods in Clarendon) because they are limiting the number of customers in the store at one time. I am seeing more people wearing masks when they are out and about. Retail personnel at grocery stores and pharmacies are wearing personal protective equipment. To the folks working retail at groceries and pharmacies right now, I applaud you. Thank you. Please don’t judge my addiction to Lindt dark chocolate bars.

I also feel like people are still taking chances that they don’t need to. I’ve seen group yoga sessions in parks and group runs. And people just do not seem to know what 6 feet is. You can’t share a sidewalk with someone coming from the other way and be 6 feet apart. Sidewalks are 4 feet wide at best, right? You have to actively pay attention to your surroundings while you are walking around or running on the trail systems and sidewalks. Please, stay 6 feet away from people! Act like they have it. Act like you have it.

Not much has changed for my day-to-day as the photographer for ARLnow. I work mostly in the field anyway; I am either somewhere shooting pictures or I am traveling to the next spot. I’m out trying to document the various aspects of daily life around Arlington amidst all of this and how people are responding to it.

It still feels surreal. Each day it’s 14 minutes to Lynn Street and Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, from my place in Fairlington, no matter what time I leave. There are fewer planes taking off and landing at DCA so there is less jet noise in Rosslyn. Seeing businesses such as Whitlow’s shuttered is haunting.

There are still beautiful sunsets to be seen along Columbia Pike, though. The Air Force Memorial looks amazing when the sun breaks through the clouds late in the day. And the tulips along Boundary Channel Drive near the Pentagon are amazing. Not far from there, trees are sprouting blossoms near Columbia Island and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove.

Support your local businesses, support each other. Be kind. Stay 6 feet apart when you do go out, please.

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It’s March, which means the Crosshairs Garage Races has started its 6th season of racing bicycles in parking garages in Crystal City.

Every Tuesday evening through the end of the month, cyclists from across the Washington area descend into the garage at 201 12th Street S. and compete in an event that Washingtonian called the “best use of a garage that doesn’t involve your car.” The series was formerly known as Wednesday Night Spins.

Over 100 racers in three categories put a number on their bicycles and raced through a course of taped-off sections that zig-zagged through the lower levels of the garage. Co-organizer and promoter Taylor Jones loves the sense of community that the races bring.

“It’s a unique opportunity for non-traditional cycling demographics to try racing,” he said. “It’s awesome to live in a place that supports something like this.”

Beverages were plentiful, as was pie from Acme Pie owner Sol Schott. Emcee Nate Graham DJ’ed and offered commentary throughout the night.

“Everybody comes together as a midweek break from the grind and plays bikes in a parking garage,” Graham said. “What’s not to love?”

Beginner’s race winner Mac Maheen, 24, of Bowie, Md., thought it was a “super cool event.” New to bike racing, this was Maheen’s third-ever race.

“There were a lot of turns, staying under control and out of trouble was the most important thing,” Maheen said. “It’s super fun. Who would have thought something this cool would be in a parking garage?”

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Over a dozen Arlington firefighters descended on U.S. Air Force veteran Frank Price’s house in Hall’s Hill on Saturday afternoon.

They weren’t there to fight a fire — but to decorate. The firefighters hung lights and ornaments and trimmings with the help of Decorate A Vet, a non-profit that helps area veterans with decorations and light yard maintenance for the holidays.

The group has decorated veteran’s homes for the holidays for 10 years, according to event organizer and board member Moe Jafari.

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Despite a Tornado Watch and a forecast calling for severe weather, dozens of Arlingtonians descended on Ballston Quarter to trick-or-treat in the shopping center on Halloween.

ARLnow was there and some costumed characters posed for our cameras.

Popular costumes included classics such as superhero characters, Disney princesses, and animals. Many paid homage to our recent World Series champions and several families, impressively, came in fully coordinated costumes.

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Jeff Covel really wanted to go to a World Series game. A fan since the Expos came to town and became the Nationals, going to a World Series game was a “bucket list” dream.

The retiree and Nottingham Elementary crossing guard of 6 years made a sign saying “Need World Series Tickets” and placed it near his post at N. Ohio Street and 29th Street N.

Unbeknownst to Covel, who was lauded as one of Virginia’s most outstanding crossing guards in 2015, parents in a Facebook group decided to raise money to buy Jeff two tickets to Saturday’s Game 4 at Nationals Park. Within 24 hours they raised enough to purchase two tickets.

Colleen Wright, one of the organizers, presented the tickets this morning to Covel, surrounded by other parents and school children.

“He’s just so great with the kids, learning everyone’s name and always greeting everybody with a smile,” Wright said.

Staff video by Jay Westcott

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