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While more Arlington County libraries are re-opening for express service next month, there’s still no set date for a full reopening.

This is due to staff shortages and the lingering effects of the hiring freeze enacted last March, library spokesperson Henrik Sundqvist tells ARLnow. The library system is having trouble hiring amid a “very competitive job market,” which just today set a new record for job openings in the U.S.

“About 20 percent of permanent public service jobs are vacant and in the process of being filled,” Sundqvist said this morning. “The recruiting, hiring and training process takes time.”

“Only 38 percent of temporary employees employed by the library last year have returned or plan to return for the [re-opening],” he added.

The Aurora Hills branch and the newly-renovated Columbia Pike library branch are both re-opening for the first time since March 2020, offering express service starting on Tuesday, July 6. Central Library will expand from holds pick-up only to express as well. The Shirlington and Westover branches reopened for express service back in March.

While express service allows browsing of up to 30 minutes, meeting rooms, seating, and public PCs will remain off-limits. Operating hours, which have yet to be announced, will also continue to be limited.

The Cherrydale and Glencarlyn library branches are currently expected to reopen for express service in the fall.

By contrast, neighboring jurisdictions like Fairfax County and Alexandria recently announced a resumption of most pre-pandemic services and operations.

Arlington’s more gradual reopening, officials insist, is related to “an unprecedented staff shortage” rather than COVID-related restrictions.

The lack of available labor is affecting other aspects of library operations, according to a press release.

“The Library is no longer quarantining returned items. However, due to staffing shortage, items may not get checked in for several days after they have been returned in a book drop,” the press release says. “If over 7 days have passed since you returned your library items and they remain on your account, please contact the Library to update your account.”

All branches will stick with express library service until the system “is closer to normal staffing levels,” notes the release.

There’s also no set date yet for the resumption of indoor storytime, though there’s a new outdoor storytime series at Central Library. Additionally, the Center for Local History at Central Library will be by appointment-only starting later this summer.

A number of services and resources that the library normally provides will remain closed.

This includes the Shed — the library’s seasonal garden-tool lending service — which will remain so for the entirety of the 2021 season, but plans to reopen in 2022. Arlington Public Library’s “makerspace” will also remain unavailable until staffing increases.

The Plaza branch remains shuttered due to ongoing renovations and its expansion, making it the only library location out of eight that will not offer express service by this fall.

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Through a partnership with a California company, Arlington County will be offering no-charge, walk-up COVID-19 testing starting Wednesday.

The county announced the partnership this morning, in a press release (below). Los Angeles-based startup Curative has placed testing kiosks in two county-owned parking lots in south Arlington; both are set to open tomorrow, operating from 12-8 p.m. seven days per week.

The locations are:

  • Aurora Hills Community Center (735 18th Street S.)
  • Tucker Field at Barcroft Park (4200 S. Four Mile Run Drive)

The tests are performed at no cost or co-pay to the individual, but those with health insurance will have their insurance providers billed. Results are expected within 48-72 hours.

Curative has thousands of testing locations across the U.S., but the accuracy of the tests was questioned in a recent Food and Drug Administration advisory. As a result, the country’s most populous county has discontinued use of the tests.

“In the wake of a federal report that warned of false negative results, the use of Curative COVID-19 PCR tests is being discontinued at Los Angeles County-supported pop-up testing sites, the Department of Health Services said in a statement Sunday,” the NBC station in LA reported on Monday.

The press release from Arlington County is below.

To expand access to COVID-19 testing options, Arlington County is launching no-cost, kiosk-based testing sites, in partnership with the private testing company Curative.

The two testing sites, located in the parking lots of Aurora Hills Community Center (735 18th St. S.) and Tucker Field at Barcroft Park (4200 S. Four Mile Run Dr.) will open on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021, continuing the County’s efforts to limit community spread and provide more testing options in areas disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

Both locations, operated by Curative, will be open seven days a week, 12-8 p.m.

Tests are offered at no cost and do not require a doctor referral or government identification, regardless of insurance or immigration status. Participants will be asked for insurance information, if available, so insurance providers can be billed, but no co-pay from participants will be required. Walk-up testing is available, although residents are encouraged to make an appointment on the Curative website. Kiosk service is available in English and Spanish.

Curative, which operates more than 8,000 testing sites across the country, uses a mouth-swab test that is self-administered under the supervision of a Curative worker in a kiosk. The swab is then placed inside a biohazard bag and returned to the Curative worker. Swabs from the Arlington kiosks will be delivered each night to a lab in Washington, D.C. Test results will be sent electronically to patients within 48 to 72 hours.

Visit Curative’s website for Common Q&As and Advice. Contact Curative’s Customer Success team at [email protected] or 888-702-9042 for questions or additional assistance.

Video instructions on how to correctly self-perform the test, reducing the risk of inaccurate results, is below.

Photo courtesy Jane Green

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Four new early voting locations will open in Arlington this weekend.

The Aurora Hills, Langston-Brown, Madison and Walter Reed community centers will all be open for early voting, starting at 9 a.m. Saturday. The voting hours at the community centers are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays and 2-7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Early voting at the four new locations is in addition to the already-open Courthouse Plaza location, in the former Wells Fargo bank branch at 2200 Clarendon Blvd.

Arlington has seen record levels of mail-in and in-person early ballots. More than 30% of active voters have already cast ballots, Arlington election officials said today, up from 24% last week.

“We’ve never seen volumes this high,” Gretchen Reinemeyer, Arlington’s Director of Elections, told ARLnow last week.

Tomorrow’s kick-off of expanded early voting will draw a number of lawmakers to the area for “get out the early vote” campaign stops.

Sen. Mark Warner, along with fellow Virginia Democrats Rep. Don Beyer and Rep. Jennifer Wexton, will be making stops at community and government centers in Arlington and Fairfax County. Here in Arlington, they trio plan to visit the Aurora Hills Community Center (735 18th Street S.) at 11:30 a.m. and the Langston-Brown Community Center (2121 N. Culpeper Street) at 12:15 p.m.

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