Arlington, VA

Just six days after the number of COVID-19 cases in Arlington topped the 100 mark, the county is now reporting more than 200 cases.

As of Monday morning there were 203 known coronavirus cases in Arlington County, according to the latest Virginia Dept. of Health data. An additional 35 cases were reported Sunday, the county’s steepest daily increase so far.

Statewide, there are 2,878 known cases, 497 hospitalizations, 54 deaths and 24,521 cases. Neighboring Alexandria has 93 reported cases, while Fairfax County — with about five times Arlington’s population — has 488 reported cases.

The state health department’s data shows relatively few cases among those 19 years of age and younger, but those 20 and up appear similarly susceptible to contracting the virus.

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(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools is on spring break this week, which is prompting some people to ask… why?

During normal times, spring break allows teachers and students to get a needed week-long break, leading up to final exams and the end of the school year. It also allows parents to plan vacations and getaways.

During the coronavirus crisis, however, everyone is (or should be) staying at home, so vacations are not really a thing. Parents, many of whom are working from home, have to pull double duty as their kids’ at-home enrichment coordinator even with school in session — more so when it’s not. Meanwhile, the workload for students, who no longer need to worry about SOLs and other high-pressure tests, has been greatly reduced.

This is not to mention APS’ laudable meal distribution for families in need, which buckled under the strain of distributing five grab-and-go meals on Friday for the week ahead. The school system ran out of meals amid long lines, according to the Washington Post.

The argument for keeping spring break is giving students and staff long-planned time off, while giving APS — especially hard-working teachers who have been figuring out how to educate students from a distance — extra time to figure out how to proceed for the rest of the year.

But given all the disruption to everyday life caused by the virus outbreak, should spring break have been cancelled this year?

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Morning Notes

Governor Urges Va. Residents to Wear Masks — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday urged all residents to wear a cloth mask if they must leave their home… In light of the state’s prohibition of wearing masks law, Northam said Friday that “no law enforcement will be bothering anybody because they have a covering on their face.” [Patch]

One-Day Donation Drive Results — Arlington County collected 3,484 food items, 269 boxes of N95 masks, 323 boxes of surgical masks and 740 homemade masks during a one-day donation drive on Friday. [Arlington County, NBC 4]

VHC Gets Mask Donations — “We continue to be amazed by the generosity of our community! Shout out to all of the individuals and businesses who have donated food and supplies to our team on the front lines of COVID-19.” [Instagram]

Pub Owner Now Working As Cop — Mark Kirwin, the Irish-born owner of Samuel Beckett’s in Shirlington and Kirwin’s on the Wharf in D.C., has closed both pubs during the coronavirus outbreak and is instead spending his days working as a reserve police office in the District. [RTE]

AM Water Main Break in CourthouseUpdated at 9:35 a.m. — “NB & SB N Courthouse Rd closed between 13th St N & 14th St N until further notice for emergency repairs. Seek an alternative route.” [Twitter]

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

We hope you are safe and well at home. To learn more about protecting yourself from COVID-19, please visit the County’s COVID-19 page.

Due to the need to remain at home, we are announcing our first virtual solar and electric vehicle (EV) co-op session.

More than 200 homeowners have already participated in our Solar and Electric Vehicle Charger Co-op. The cooperative helps Arlingtonians buy solar and EV chargers at a discounted price through bulk purchasing. The cooperative also provides support to participants to make the purchasing process easy. This year we will also provide information about storing your solar power at home in battery systems.

You can also take advantage of one of the last big federal solar tax credits. This year the solar tax credit will be 26 percent. In 2021, it will be 22 percent and in 2022 and beyond, it won’t be available for homeowners at all.

Being stuck at home is an opportune time to learn more about solar, electric vehicle charging and solar battery storage. Help our community reach carbon neutral by 2050.

Please RSVP and join us for an information session to learn more:

April 27: 12 p.m. Info Session link
Facebook event link

April 2812 p.m. Battery Storage 101 link
Facebook event link

April 30: 6 p.m. Info Session link
Facebook event link

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This content was written and sponsored by The Keri Shull Team, Arlington’s top producing residential real estate team.

With so many people affected by regulations surrounding the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, it’s more important than ever to support our communities and take care of one another. That’s why so many amazing members of the Keri Shull Team have taken the initiative to make a difference in our local area and support those who need it during this time.

We interviewed some of these agents to ask them how they decided to help out in the way that they are, and how other people can get involved in their philanthropy.

Providing Local Food to Local Hospitals

Libby Bish and Rafael Melo are using their ingenuity and resources to give back to two groups of people who have been affected by COVID-19: healthcare professionals and local restaurants. They have been using donations to purchase food from local restaurants and give it to local hospitals and first responders in the DMV.

With the recent stay-at-home orders that were issued across D.C., Maryland and Virginia, people have been asked to stay in their houses except to complete essential business. Restaurants have been restricted to take-out or delivery only.

As a result, a lot of restaurants have struggled to maintain their customer base in a time when a lot of industries are floundering. Libby and Rafael saw this happen to a client of theirs, and decided to take action to help support local restaurants.

“Restaurants all across the world are taking a severe blow and we want to help! You can too! We know that hospital staff are working tirelessly around the clock to protect and treat our people. We’d like to help the locals by helping the locals. Ordering catering from our local restaurants and delivering it to the local hospitals should help in the short term.”

Libby and Rafael knew that they could help two groups of people in need, at the same time. So they decided to purchase food from restaurants that needed to make sales and deliver it to local hospitals, where dedicated and selfless healthcare professionals are working around the clock to curb the spread of COVID-19.

In the short time since beginning their drive, Libby and Rafael have fed over 160 nurses and doctors with 6 catering trips — and they’re just getting started!

If you want to help them provide stability to local restaurants and healthcare experts, then click here to donate to their ongoing GoFundMe project!

Taking Care of Senior Citizens

Another group of people that have been deeply affected by COVID-19 regulations are the elderly. Some of our agents — including Brianna Byrd and Elizabeth Landeros have recently been working with senior care facilities, helping ease the transition for seniors who are entering the retirement communities.

When the stay-at-home orders came across the DMV, these considerate team members decided to send flowers to these communities to help raise the residents’ spirits.

When they sent over the floral arrangements, the caretakers told Bri and Elizabeth some heartbreaking news — due to extra social distancing concerns for seniors, the residents are unable to have visitors or interact with the other members of the community.

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ARLnow Weekend Discussion

Another week of social distancing, and it’s still not clear how many are to go.

Earlier this week Gov. Ralph Northam said Virginia might see a surge of coronavirus cases as late as the latter half of May. That could push our at-home isolation well into to summer.

Let’s hope that our distancing efforts pay off and we resume some semblance of normal life before that.

Here are the most-read articles on ARLnow this week:

  1. Virginia is Now Under a Stay-at-Home Order
  2. Police: Store Employee Charged After Shooting Would-Be Thief
  3. Clarendon Trader Joe’s Closed After Employee Tests Positive for Coronavirus
  4. Photos: Drug Bust Near Columbia Pike
  5. Store Owner Goes on Fox News to Blast Decision to Charge Employee for Shooting
  6. Reported Coronavirus Cases in Arlington Top 100
  7. Arlington County Announces First Coronavirus Deaths
  8. Ask Eli: Impact of Coronavirus on the Real Estate Market, Part 4
  9. County: Clap for Healthcare Workers Tonight at 8 p.m.

Feel free to discuss those stories, or anything else of local interest, in the comments.

And now here it is, your moment of zen.

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On Friday, Arlington Central Library was transformed into a storage space for donated goods, serving as a symbol for the county’s efforts to improvise solutions in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The idea of today’s one-day donation drive was to “to collect unused, unopened containers of essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), cleaning supplies, and certain food to assist essential employees, nonprofits and community organizations with coronavirus (COVID-19) response operations.”

“We’ve been repurposing employees and our organization in many ways to solve the problems that are arising,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said at a press event outside the donation station.

“Many nonprofits need donations and many of our residents want to donate and help. But a lot of the nonprofits don’t have the ability to safely collect [and store] the donations in this pandemic,” she said. “Many of our libraries are empty, we have a drive-through here, so we’re providing a bridge for those who want to donate and a safe bridge to get it to the folks who need a donation.”

Both at the new donation station and a virtual town hall meeting this afternoon, members of the Arlington County Board and other local leaders said that while the county is generally well supplied with needed medical equipment, that may change as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

“As of right now, we are confident our healthcare providers have what they need,” said Aaron Miller, Director of Arlington’s Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management, “but we’re continuing to ensure that we’ve sourced appropriately and ask the federal government when necessary to access the national stockpile.”

In the town hall, at noon on Facebook, County Board members and county staff fielded questions from the public about the county’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and some of the restrictions regarding social distancing. Some of the most pressing questions were about what kind of outdoor activities Arlingtonians can do while parks are closed down.

County Board member Katie Cristol said Arlington’s trails are still open and locals in need of some sunshine and exercise should travel on those — while maintaining six feet of distance from other trail users.

As a two-person activity with players spaces a full-court apart, tennis would seem like a decent option. But as it involves a ball that both players are touching, it has been verboten — and the county-managed tennis courts are now being padlocked to prevent pandemic scofflaws from serving up disease to one another.

Basketball hoops in county parks have similarly been issuing Wilt Chamberlain-worthy blocks, with the hoops now covered by 2x4s.

“If you’re applying the principle of staying six feet apart there is, on its face, nothing particularly horrible about standing on a tennis court 40 feet apart,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said. “The problem is trying to make an exception and open up some of the park facilities. I realize this is a situation where we’re perhaps painting with a broad brush, but we’re left with limited resources. If we had fine-tuned enforcement, we could do it.”

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Arlington prides itself on citizen participation in government, but public engagement is taking a backseat to practical necessity during the coronavirus crisis.

On Wednesday, members of Arlington’s galaxy of advisory commissions and boards were told that their meetings have been put on hold for the foreseeable future.

“As you may know, we issued a continuity of operations ordinance that offers some flexibility for the County Board and other appointed bodies to meet virtually — but only for decisions directly related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and other essential continuity of business matters,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in an email.

“While commissions and advisory boards do important work, it is not necessarily essential to the crisis in front of us, which is our key priority at this time; and which is the only kind of work legally covered under the ordinance we adopted,” she continued. “As of March 31, 2020, ALL Commission, advisory boards, workgroup and subcommittee meetings are cancelled until further notice. However, there may be a few exceptions that will require some additional review and approval prior to taking any actions.”

“The Arlington Way has been killed by COVID-19,” one tipster told ARLnow in response to the mass meeting cancellation.

Garvey’s email went on to outline how commission chairs can request in writing the scheduling of a virtual meeting for an item involving “business essential for addressing the coronavirus or the continuity of business operations for the County.”

The “continuity of business operations” includes “the adoption of the budget, the approval of tax rates and fees, and appropriations of funds necessary to keep government running,” Garvey clarified, in response to a series of questions from ARLnow.

Asked whether the temporary halt to commission meetings — including key bodies like the Planning Commission and Transportation Commission — will delay development approvals before the County Board, Garvey said it depends.

“The Board will assess pending applications to determine whether they should be considered or can be delayed,” she said. “If the proposals are considered, the public process for development proposals will occur to the extent possible and consideration by advisory commissions, such as the Planning Commission, will occur.

The County Board chair said that the county’s actions are consistent with an opinion issued by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring two weeks ago, in response to concern from elected officials that they were unable to comply with both the governor’s order to limit public gatherings to 10 people or fewer — and freedom of information laws that require in-person meetings that are open to the public.

“The cancellations are primarily to protect the health of commission members, staff, and the public,” said Garvey. “Matters that can be delayed are being delayed. The AG’s guidance has been considered in determining whether important matters that cannot be delayed can be considered electronically.”

“We are all learning how much FOIA and other regulations were put in place at a time when no one contemplated 21st century technology or a pandemic,” Garvey wrote in her letter to commission members.

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So many of us are spending even more time at our desks now that we are working from home, or we have our exercise routines disrupted.

We are dedicated to make sure you come out of this with your body feeling even better than it did going in! Did you know you can get physical therapy through a live video chat? We offer our 1 on 1 hour sessions through the computer, iPad or phone now. Visit our website www.performancecareclinics.com to learn more!

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