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Covid cases in Arlington over the past three months, as of 9/12/23 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Don’t look now but Covid cases are on the rise in Arlington.

As of today, the Virginia Dept. of Health is reporting a seven-day average of just over 21 daily cases in the county. That’s the highest point since this past February.

Of course, there are some caveats. First, Covid cases are not getting reported to health departments as consistently as earlier in the pandemic, thanks in part to the availability of at-home tests. On the other end of the equation, cases are still much lower compared to this time last year, then there were more than 50 average daily cases in Arlington reported to VDH.

And then there’s the matter of Covid being a respiratory virus with seasonal spikes — like the flu — so an increase in September is not unexpected.

Covid cases in Arlington over the past year, as of 9/12/23 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Nonetheless, there are anecdotal indications that Covid is making the rounds locally. Several D.C. area employees of ARLnow’s parent company, which is a primarily remote workplace, recently were diagnosed. And some schools in the region have been reporting outbreaks.

That’s not to mention what has been characterized as a “late summer surge” nationally.

Arlington Public Schools no longer reports cases via an online dashboard, as in previous years, but an APS spokesman told the Washington Post that the school system is monitoring for outbreaks.

In nearby Arlington County, spokesman Frank Bellavia said the school district, which has been in class for only five days, is not tracking cases this year, but it will be monitoring for an influx of cases and will provide notice of an outbreak as it would for other communicable diseases.

Meanwhile, the FDA just approved updated Covid vaccines. From CNN:

The US Food and Drug Administration gave the green light Monday to updated Covid-19 vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech amid rising cases and hospitalizations.

Both vaccine manufacturers have said testing shows that their vaccines are effective against EG.5, the currently dominant strain in the United States.

Two Covid-related deaths have been reported so far this year in Arlington, according to VDH.


(Updated 08/25/23) This week will be the audience’s last chance to see former local pandemic response volunteer and Broadway actor Joey Collins star in “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Kennedy Center.

After 18 months on the road and nearly 600 performances, Collins said he plans to leave the production following the tour’s last performance in D.C. at the Kennedy Center on Sunday.

While the rest of the cast continues on the tour, he will cross the river into Arlington to be reunited with his family and the community he formed doing voter and Covid vaccine outreach.

“I just have to pull the plug,” he told ARLnow. “And it’s not because of the people. I love my cast, crew, and team. I’m going to miss them tremendously. But, obviously, I miss my family too.”

Collins portrays the main villain, Bob Ewell, in Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The play animates the book, which follows Scout Finch as she grows up in Alabama, observing her father, Atticus, defend a Black man who Ewell falsely accused of raping his daughter.

Collins described performing in the play as an “amazing” experience and a “privilege.” Still, he found it difficult to be away from his wife, two high school children, and their Maltese-Shih Tzu mix, Shakespeare — all of whom moved to Arlington from New York in 2019.

“I feel like I’ve missed so much by being on the road,” he said. “And so I really would love to, at least for the next four years, really strive to find work here. So, it’s more about the time and my family than it is about any other aspects of my acting career.”

Collins says he does not have any work lined up. If he returns to live, local theater, partial credit would go toward the type of vaccine outreach he did — which helped regional theaters reopen their doors during the pandemic.

Shortly after moving to Arlington, Collins said he felt a loss of “purpose.” He joined a volunteer effort to register people to vote ahead of the 2020 elections, an experience he noted that “filled my cup.”

“I didn’t really have a community here, and I love helping people,” he said. “I’ve loved volunteering my whole life, but this particular [experience] gave me something that I really needed because we were all isolated.”

Then, a colleague from the voter registration effort told him the county was looking for volunteers to help distribute vaccines in Arlington. He jumped at the chance, seeing it as a way to get theaters up and running again.

“Then I thought, ‘Okay, this is going to be the beginning of getting performative arts back to the public because once enough people are vaccinated, maybe they’ll open up the theatres,’” Collins said.

And open up, they did. Collins got word that the show he initially auditioned for in November 2019 was finally ready to hit the road.

When the tour came to the Kennedy Center last summer, Collins said several fellow vaccine workers came to one of his performances. On another occasion, a vaccine worker approached him after a show during his tour in the Midwest.

“It was a surreal experience, but it was also like a reminder of the impact one might be able to have on the world simply by donating some time,” he said.

While Collins said he is sad to be leaving the tour, he added he believes he will be ending on a fitting note. The actor has now completed a “trifecta” by performing on the Kennedy Center’s three most prominent stages: the Concert Hall, Opera House and Eisenhower Theater.

“I feel very lucky to have checked those boxes, and I hope I can go back through all of them at some point in my career,” he said.

Northside Social in Clarendon (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The makeshift outdoor dining areas that sprung up in the early days of Covid, and gradually took on a more permanent feel, could be here to stay.

On Tuesday, the Arlington County Board voted to hold hearings next month mulling zoning changes that would give most restaurants a way to add outdoor seating areas without special Board approval.

Restaurants were able to do this during the pandemic — adapting to social distancing and indoor gathering regulations — via a special county program that is ending on Aug. 15.

Under the proposed ordinances, temporary outdoor seating areas (TOSAs) that are on private property and on public sidewalks within rights-of-way would be approved administratively. Those on privately owned public spaces, like the patio outside the seafood spot Seamore’s in Clarendon, would require a County Board use permit.

How outdoor seating areas could be approved (via Arlington County)

Restaurants could go to the Board to have parking spots converted to outdoor dining space.

The proposed ordinance changes, which will be discussed in a Board meeting on July 15, have been under development for the last year. The county says the code changes support local businesses, about 100 of which have TOSAs, and account for livability concerns some residents raised.

“This is a huge body of work. A huge thanks to staff, who’ve been working on this comprehensively for a while,” Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. “I know it seems like a simple issue to some, but as you peel layers of the onion, you continue to find more complexity.”

The Board initially approved TOSAs early in the pandemic to help restaurants circumvent the typically lengthy process for getting an outdoor dining permit. These spaces were popular for offsetting revenue lost to closures and social distancing and for creating a safer dining experience.

As the pandemic wore on, the Board allowed TOSAs in common areas, such as plazas, and for restaurants to continue operating them at full capacity once the indoor capacity restrictions lifted.

“It was a life saver for our family and employees and continues to be a large part of our business,” Lebanese Taverna Executive Vice President Grace Shea said during a forum hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100 on Wednesday night.

Now, she says, it brings more people to the restaurant.

“Outdoor seating enhances the streetscape of where the restaurant is. It attracts people by creating a welcoming atmosphere,” she said. “It’s also additional revenue that we do not have to pay rent for.”

In 2021, Arlington County signaled plans to study early a dozen separate policies governing outdoor cafés to figure out how to make TOSAs permanent. That started in the fall of 2022, after a local Covid emergency order ended.

County staff say it heard both support and concerns from the community. One strong supporter is the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.

“The Chamber and the county both agree that we want to make this transition smooth for restaurant owners who want this outdoor dining,” said John Musso, the government affairs manager for the Chamber, at Wednesday’s forum. “We’re looking forward to continuing this conversation.”

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A vaccine shot (via Arlington County/YouTube)

Arlington County is lifting its vaccine mandate for anyone who works or volunteers for county government.

The change today (Thursday) coincides with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ending the national public health emergency.

“Effective May 11, 2023, consistent with the end of the National Public Health Emergency, employees (including contractors and volunteers) are no longer required to provide proof of vaccination status for employment,” Arlington County spokesman Ryan Hudson told ARLnow in a statement.

“Employees are still urged to engage in mitigation measures as appropriate and to stay up to date on vaccinations,” he continued.

Arlington County mandated vaccines for all government employees in August 2021, requiring those who were unvaccinated to submit to weekly testing. Unvaccinated employees were told to get the jab or an exemption before Feb. 1, 2022 or face job loss.

A group of people who decided not to get the vaccine, largely first responders, petitioned the county for “more reciprocal ideas,” such as continuing testing. The mandate seemed to work somewhat, with the number of unvaccinated workers dropping from 278 to 174 in about a month.

By March 1, 2022, some 125 people obtained exemptions. The county said everyone complied with county policy and no one was fired.

The CDC’s emergency declaration at the start of the pandemic empowered the federal government to track Covid cases and deaths with greater granularity, among other measures. Now, it says it is time to integrate its emergency response into programs it already has.

“As a nation, we now find ourselves at a different point in the pandemic — with more tools and resources than ever before to better protect ourselves and our communities,” it said in a statement, adding that these changes will make its Covid response more sustainable in the long term.

The CDC says vaccines, treatments and testing will remain available but the data it publishes and the sources it uses will be different.

“Case data has become increasingly unreliable as some states and jurisdictions may no longer collect case data, testing results are sometimes not reported, or some individuals skip testing all together,” the CDC notes.

Some of these factors, plus vaccines and three years of exposure, may explain lowering case rates in Arlington. The county is seeing about five cases per day, down from about 60 cases a day this past winter, per Virginia Dept. of Health data.

Covid cases in Arlington County reported to the Virginia Dept. of Health over the last 13 weeks (via VDH)

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement this morning that the ending of the public health emergency declaration should be followed by the implementation of laws and policies that will strengthen the health system, prepare us for the next such crisis, and address the end of the asylum policy known as Title 42.

When COVID-19 hit, Congress acted with force and urgency to save lives and livelihoods, taking actions that were made possible by the Public Health Emergency declaration, which opened the door to a wealth of additional tools and flexibilities. More than three years later, I’m proud to know that our nation has reached a point where we can move beyond the emergency stage of COVID-19 and the corresponding PHE declaration. Now, it’s up to Congress to adopt more permanent policies that reflect the valuable lessons we learned during this crisis, and that allow us to move forward rather than backwards. We must continue to strengthen our public health response capabilities, ensure that health care is affordable and easy to access through robust telehealth options, and improve the security of our southwest border while creating a better functioning asylum process and a reasonable path towards legal status for those who are undocumented. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress on these issues.


Three years after opening its doors in Ballston in the middle of a global pandemic, VIDA Fitness is holding a grand opening this Saturday.

“It sounds odd, off the cuff, close to three years after the grand opening to do a party, but this was the first time in the timeline to do it,” VIDA Fitness Director of Operations Aaron Moore tells ARLnow.

The D.C.-native fitness club was waiting for nice weather and a strong enough membership base to throw a party people would attend at 4040 Wilson Blvd. The event is scheduled for May 6 from 3-6 p.m.

Moore credits its fastest-growing program, nutritional counseling, for growing its roster of members. Launched in 2019, it aims to address the health issues Americans are facing — and represents another claim staked on a booming wellness industry some project will be worth $7 billion in 2025.

“The biggest trending term is ‘wellness,’ and that’s a function of being cooped up during the pandemic and leading a sedentary lifestyle,” Moore said. “The average life expectancy has gone down for the first time in decades.”

While the program predates Covid, interest in nutritional counseling jumped after the lockdowns and as people began thinking about health less in silos like “working out” and “eating right” and started viewing these as components of overall wellness. The in-person and virtual 12-week workshop, with group and individual sessions, also demonstrates how better nutrition improves exercise results, work productivity and sleep habits.

“It’s pretty comprehensive and we’ve seen some amazing health outcomes,” he said, even for an area “where people are more in tune with their bodies and taking care of themselves.”

And the benefit sweetening the deal? It is free through many types of health insurance as preventative care, he says. VIDA offers the program directly to individuals and to businesses that want to purchase the benefit for their employees.

Initially, the fitness center focused on generating buzz about the gym’s Covid-era health and safety protocols. Moore said that helped coax customers who were already the 10-15% of people who habitually go to the gym, despite Covid, along with others who were more safety-conscious and planned to return when the pandemic was “over, over.”

“That’s where the communication plan was helpful and productive to talk about our cleaning protocols, our air changeover rate, our check-in and contact tracing system, all that good stuff,” he said.

VIDA Fitness cultivated “the credibility of doing what we said we were going to do” while, at the same time, people got more comfortable living with Covid, Moore continued. Membership rates turned a corner in 2022 because people liked the variety of amenities, services and distinct workout environments provided there.

“That’s when it really started to take off,” Moore said. “We’re thriving now.”

Buoyed by “a great first quarter” and more members, the Ballston location completed a large-scale renovation that included the addition of more strength and squat racks and three Peloton bikes.

“We are now a fixture in the Ballston neighborhood and the Arlington community,” Moore said. “We’ve got a great relationship with the Ballston Business Improvement District, which is an amazing resource, and the Chamber of Commerce is a great partner to us.”

Saturday’s celebration will include tours, opportunities to mingle with trainers and neighbors and free giveaways, per an event page. Food and drinks will be provided by Rosslyn taqueria Taco Rock, Ballston-based True Food Kitchen, Clarendon restaurant Buena Vida, D.C.-area chain Nando’s and Northern Virginia winery Fabbioli Cellars.

Meanwhile, the gym is already building its seventh location, in Reston, which is set to open in the summer of 2024. A would-be Rosslyn location was scrapped last year, the Washington Business Journal reported.

Coronavirus (photo via CDC/Unsplash)

More than 150 weeks have passed since Dr. Mike Silverman, the emergency department chair at VHC Health, started his Friday night posts about the Covid pandemic.

The public Facebook posts have helped provide medical context and clarity, but in layman’s terms, to those seeking a better understanding of the disease and the response to it. ARLnow has regularly quoted Silverman’s posts in our coronavirus coverage.

Now, three years after Silverman’s first pandemic post from the ER, he’s wrapping up the weekly series. While not ruling out occasional updates, Silverman says now seems like a good time to conclude his Friday writing routine. By Silverman’s count, he has produced more than 195,000 words of updates on the local prevalence of Covid, as seen at the hospital, and the latest medical research on the virus and its treatments.

“Stopping on the second Friday in March three years later seems like a good run,” he wrote last month when announcing the decision.

When Silverman published his first Facebook update on March 13, 2020, only five Arlington cases had been confirmed, local grocery stores were being picked clean and Arlington Public Schools had just announced the closure of schools through spring break in April. The first confirmed case in the county had been announced just four days earlier.

Today, with vaccines and three years of exposure to the virus, it is still deadly and debilitating for some, but not nearly to the extent of earlier, when it was still a novel outbreak. As of last week, cases in Arlington were down to an average of just 11 per day, the lowest point since mid-2021, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

Covid cases in Arlington as of 3/13/23 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

The last confirmed Covid-related death in Arlington was reported during the final week of 2022.

“Coronavirus is not quite done with us yet though we’ve learned to live with it,” Silverman wrote on Friday.

That last weekly post is reprinted below with his permission.

It’s been another good week when it comes to the number of COVID cases we’re diagnosing in the ER. Our symptomatic positives are way down, with only a handful of positive cases and a 3% positivity rate this past week (6 week running average 10.3%). This is the second week in a row that is notably less than the previous weeks. Our general screening population (in theory asymptomatic patients or those we think COVID is unlikely) is also below 4% for the second week in a row (6 week average about 6%). The numbers for all comers this week show a 3.7% positivity rate and the last two weeks each had about half the number of cases we saw in the weeks beforehand. These numbers are consistent with other periods of time after surges. The number of hospitalized patients with COVID also dropped about 20% since last week. Hospitalizations climb in the weeks following a surge and are a lagging indicator of when the surge is over. I suspect we’ll continue to see a drop in the number of patients hospitalized with COVID over the next few weeks as well. However, I do anticipate that taking care of COVID patients in the ER and in the hospital will be part of our world for a long time to come.

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One-year view of Covid cases in Arlington (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Covid cases in Arlington reported to health authorities have fallen to the lowest level in a nearly a year and a half.

The Virginia Dept. of Health is currently reporting a seven-day average of about 17 cases per day in Arlington, though VDH notes that it expects an elevated level of cases over the next two weeks “due to a delay in the transfer of case reports from laboratories to VDH.” Nonetheless, that’s the lowest case rate since the summer of 2021.

The county is also seeing a lower rate of Covid-related hospitalizations, with 5.2 per week per 100,000 in population, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. That’s half of the threshold from what the CDC considers a “low” Covid community level — which Arlington is currently in — to a “medium” level.

The decline in cases in Arlington since the start of January mirrors a similar fall from a seasonal peak in Covid cases statewide, down by nearly two thirds during the same timeframe.

While Covid has somewhat faded into the background of the general public consciousness, it is undoubtedly still spreading. In Arlington Public Schools, for instance, outbreaks continue happening with some regularity. Nearly 250 student cases have been reported in APS over the past 30 days, including 23 cases at Williamsburg Middle School and 14 cases at Abingdon Elementary.

Meanwhile, Virginia Hospital Center ER chair Dr. Mike Silverman, who has penned a weekly public Facebook post about Covid since shortly after the pandemic started, says he will be discontinuing the column next month.

“After much consideration, I want to let everyone know that I expect to have my last ‘weekly update’ on Friday, March 10,” Silverman wrote recently. “I wrote my first Friday Night Update on the second Friday in March 2020 and stopping on the second Friday in March three years later seems like a good run. I will write a proper goodbye and thank you with that update.”

Silverman’s Feb. 17 post also provided an update on long-term complications of Covid on the heart, lungs and other organs, also known as Long Covid.

CDC map of Covid levels as of Jan. 17, 2023 (via CDC)

Covid appears to be on the decline in Arlington, but hospitalization levels rose sufficiently last week to move the county to the CDC’s “medium” Covid level.

The level moved from “low” to “medium” as of last Thursday. The latest Virginia Dept. of Health stats, however, show cases falling to a seven-day moving average of 38 per day as of yesterday (Tuesday), from a seasonal peak of 65 cases per day just before Christmas.

The CDC level change was prompted by a rise in Covid-related hospital admissions above the 10 per 100,000 residents per week mark. That metric stood at 12 as of Thursday.

Among neighboring jurisdictions, D.C. and Fairfax County are both at the “medium” level, while Alexandria is now at the “high” community level due to a combination of infection and hospitalization rates.

Virginia Hospital Center emergency department chair Mike Silverman, in his weekly Facebook post Friday night, said the hospital is “full” but Covid cases are declining.

After a couple of weeks of very high emergency department volume, our hospital is full. My colleagues are seeing this all over the country as well. This makes it more challenging to care for the patients coming into the emergency department as we have more patients “boarding” (waiting on their inpatient bed to be available) than typical. Even though our ER volume has come down a little bit compared to recent weeks, it still feels just as chaotic because of all these extra patients waiting for a bed to be available.

Along with a slight drop in volume, we have also seen a decrease in the amount of COVID were diagnosing. Overall, we diagnosed about 20% less patients with COVID this week compared to the prior 2 weeks. Our overall percent positivity fell from about 16.5% to 12.4%. The biggest drop we saw was in our symptomatic patients. Although we had about 20% less patients classified as symptomatic, we had about a 40% drop in the number of positives. This correlates to a 31% positivity rate dropping to a 21% positivity rate. Our general screening percent positivity remained stable at about 11%. For these patients, either the clinician has a low suspicion that the patient has COVID, but COVID is included in the differential diagnosis, or they are asymptomatic and require testing for admission/surgery/etc.

Consistent with the reduction in new diagnoses, we also saw a reduction in the number of patients who required COVID isolation in the ER compared to the prior two weeks. And the hospital has about 20% less admitted COVID patients than we did last week.

Covid cases in Arlington as of Jan. 17, 2023 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)
Covid cases in Arlington as of Dec. 15, 2022 – 13 week view (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Don’t look now, but Covid cases are on the rise again in Arlington.

Daily case averages are still well below the levels seen earlier in the year, but the trajectory is upward, Virginia Dept. of Health data shows. As of Wednesday, the seven-day case average in Arlington was 57 cases per day, high highest point since September.

That follows national trends of rising Covid cases.

According to CDC data, Arlington County’s weekly case rate per 100,000 people is 154, while the weekly Covid hospital admission rate is 7.7 per 100,000 people. The threshold between the CDC’s “low” and “medium” Covid levels is 200 cases and 10 admissions.

Just in time for the rise in cases, the federal government today is restarting its free Covid tests by mail program. The tests can be ordered here.

VDH, meanwhile, announced yesterday that bivalent booster shots are now available to all children six months of age and older in Virginia.

From a press release:

Parents of young children in Virginia are now able to seek a free bivalent pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for their children aged six months and older, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced today, following the recommendation of the vaccines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on December 9.

The Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccine, previously available only to persons aged five years and older, is now available for children aged six months through four years as a third primary series dose. At this time, children aged 6 months through four years who received three doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to complete their primary series are not authorized to receive a booster dose of bivalent vaccine. The Moderna bivalent vaccine, previously available for persons aged six years and older, is now available for children aged six months through five years as a booster dose at least two months after completion of a Moderna primary series.

Both bivalent vaccines target the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that first emerged in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron variant that emerged in the United States in November 2021.

VDH advises parents to discuss this option with their child’s healthcare provider. Vaccination opportunities may be found at

Virginia Hospital Center emergency department chair Dr. Mike Silverman, in his weekly public Facebook post, encouraged parents to consider the bivalent booster for their kids. He also noted that flu and RSV are are still prevalent in the community amid a particularly active fall for respiratory illnesses.

Within VHC, the number of patients we have hospitalized with COVID is similar to last week (and higher than last month). The emergency department remains quite busy. November was among our highest volume months ever, for the most part attributed to Flu and RSV cases. Among our COVID population, we saw another week over week increase in the number of patients testing positive in our “symptomatic” population with a higher percent positive rate than the previous week. That number is 3-4 fold higher than in early November. Among all our testing, we had about twice as many positives as just a few weeks ago.

The CDC reports that “there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations, and 4,500 deaths from flu so far this season,” making this the worst flu season in a decade. Although the number of patients we’re seeing with the flu has declined a bit over the past month, there’s still a lot of flu in the community and I highly recommend getting your flu shot. And fortunately, the flu vaccine this year appears to be a “good match” for the circulating strains, meaning the vaccine works better than average this year.

The FDA approved the bivalent booster for those 6 months to 5 years old. This booster can serve as the 3rd shot after the primary two shot series is complete. This will go to the CDC for review and should be available soon. Please talk to you pediatrician about vaccination. I continue to see a lot of young children that are not vaccinated.

Covid cases in Arlington as of Dec. 15, 2022 – 26 week view (via Virginia Dept. of Health)
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A person receiving a vaccine from Arlington County’s clinic in early 2021 (Image via Arlington County/YouTube)

In another sign that we’ve reached the later stages of the pandemic, Arlington County is permanently closing its public vaccine clinic next month.

The announcement was made this morning.

“Demand has significantly decreased at the County’s clinic, with COVID-19 vaccines now widely available in the community through pharmacies, urgent care centers, and medical providers,” the county said in a press release. “As such, the final day of operations for the clinic at Sequoia Plaza (2100 Washington Blvd.) will be Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022.”

The clinic first opened nearly two years ago and saw long lines for the original vaccine after it was made available. In addition to its closing, the county announced that all but one of its Covid testing booths are closing.

“All County Curative COVID-19 testing kiosks will close on Nov. 30, 2022, except for the Arlington Mill Community Center location,” the press release said. “The closure of kiosks aligns with a significant decline in kiosk testing demand across the County (an 80% decline since Nov. 2021) and the widespread availability of at-home and pharmacy-based tests.”

Covid case rates in Arlington have held relatively steady over the past month and currently stand at a seven-day moving average of 30 cases per day, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. That’s about the middle of the range for what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a “low” Covid level.

Meanwhile, some of the public health attention has shifted to rising levels of flu and the childhood illness RSV.

“The emergency department is pretty much as busy as we have ever seen it,” Virginia Hospital Center emergency department chair Mike Silverman wrote Friday in his weekly public Facebook post. “Our volume this week (and actually last week) is 20+% higher than our typical volume. We are definitely seeing this with the flu and RSV numbers. We’re also seeing this in the increased number of pediatric patients coming to the ER.”

The full Arlington County press release about the clinic and testing booth closures is below.

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Arlington Public Schools headquarters lobby (staff photo)

There are rising regrets about the extended closure of public schools as a result of Covid, the Associated Press reports.

A lengthy article published by the newswire this morning discusses the wide-ranging impacts of pandemic-era learning loss and the inefficacy of “Zoom school.”

From the AP:

But her daughter became depressed and stopped doing school work or paying attention to online classes. The former honor-roll student failed nearly all of her eighth grade courses.

“She’s behind,” said Kargbo, whose daughter is now in tenth grade. “It didn’t work at all. Knowing what I know now, I would say they should have put them in school.”

Preliminary test scores around the country confirm what Kargbo witnessed: The longer many students studied remotely, the less they learned. Some educators and parents are questioning decisions in cities from Boston to Chicago to Los Angeles to remain online long after clear evidence emerged that schools weren’t COVID-19 super-spreaders — and months after life-saving adult vaccines became widely available.

There are fears for the futures of students who don’t catch up. They run the risk of never learning to read, long a precursor for dropping out of school. They might never master simple algebra, putting science and tech fields out of reach. The pandemic decline in college attendance could continue to accelerate, crippling the U.S. economy.

Arlington Public Schools closed in March 2020 at the outset of the pandemic and did not start to reopen, on a two-day-a-week hybrid basis, until March 2021 when mandated by the state and Gov. Ralph Northam (D). During that time, dueling Arlington parent groups formed to alternately push for and urge caution about a return to classrooms.

Most Arlington private schools resumed some degree of in-person learning in the fall of 2020. The Sun Gazette reported this week that APS enrollment is still below pre-pandemic levels; many public schools in the wealthier parts of northern Arlington in particular saw enrollment drop as parents sent students to private schools.

While APS opened classrooms sooner than many school districts in California, for instance, it took awhile to even get most students back in classrooms part time, with the School Board pushing the superintendent later in March 2021 to accelerate the return.

APS finally reverted back to full-time, in-person learning in the fall of 2021 and stuck with it through the Omicron surge that winter. A small minority of students and parents opted for a new full-time virtual learning option, which ended up being beset by problems.

Given what we know now about the health impacts of Covid and about pandemic-era learning loss, do you think — with the benefit of hindsight — APS should have resumed in-person school sooner than it did?


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