Arlington, VA

Gatherings of dozens — let alone thousands — of people are now criminal acts in Virginia, which is helping to put the kibosh on an annual series of spring races in Crystal City.

The Crystal City 5K Fridays series, which would have started up at the end of this week, is being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the hope of reviving the races later this year.

“At this time we’ve postponed this year’s series and plan to reschedule,” Crystal City Business Improvement District events manager Cassie Hurley told ARLnow last week.

No word yet on a possible return date for the month-long series of races. In the meantime, the governor’s stay-at-home order allows outdoor exercise while practicing social distancing, so solo 5K runs around Crystal City (and anywhere else) can continue.

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After quietly launching in October, car-sharing service Penske Dash is quietly closing down in Arlington and D.C.

In an email to customers, the company said the coronavirus outbreak has affects its ability to serve its customers. It will be ceasing local operations effective Friday, April 10.

The full email is below.

As you all know, we are living through an unprecedented time in history. The ripple effects of the current situation extend far and wide and have affected many businesses’ ability to serve and support their customers. Unfortunately, Penske Dash is no exception. It is with great regret that we must cease our operations in Washington DC and Arlington, including the cancellation of your membership. Our last day of service will be Friday, April 10, 2020.

Please know, this was not an easy decision for us to make, and we apologize for any inconvenience we may cause by ceasing our operations.

Please note the following information regarding your membership:

  • Vehicles are available to rent through April 10, 2020, but all rentals must end inside the Dash Zone by 11:59 pm EST on April 10, 2020.
  • Fewer cars will be available for rent during the next two weeks.
  • Your member account will remain active through April 10, 2020.

We want to express our gratitude to our many members for your loyalty; it is a privilege to have served you. Our thanks also extend to the District Department of Transportation and Arlington County for their collaboration and support since our launch.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our member support team at 833-9-GO-DASH (833-946-3274) or email us at [email protected]

Again, thank you for being a member of Penske Dash, and we wish you safe journeys in the future.

Sincerely,
The Penske Dash Team

Hat tip to Patricia H.

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The number of known COVID-19 cases in Arlington County has risen above the 100 mark.

There are currently 104 reported cases in the county, a 20% jump from just a day earlier. There are now 1,250 cases, 165 hospitalizations, 27 deaths, and 13,401 people tested statewide, according to new Virginia Dept. of Health data. Arlington’s larger neighbor, Fairfax County, is now reporting 244 cases.

On Monday, Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay at home order for the Commonwealth through June 10, with potential criminal penalties for many gatherings of 10 or more people, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. There are exceptions for buying food and beverages, caring for family members, going to work, certain volunteer work, and exercising outside.

County officials echoed Northam’s call for hunkering down at home.

“Every Arlingtonian must do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19,” Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a press release. “It will take all of us complying, not just most of us. Social distancing and frequent handwashing are the best way to combat the coronavirus. So stay at home to help save lives.”

“We have to protect our most precious asset in Arlington — people,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “The coronavirus affects people of all ages. People who are gathering still put themselves, their neighbors, our healthcare workers and other frontline personnel at risk.”

Garvey promised enforcement of the governor’s order.

“Those few people who have not been taking the COVID-19 crisis seriously and who have not been taking the responsible measures we all must take with social distancing are likely to experience increased enforcement,” she said.

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The calendar turns to April tomorrow, after a momentous March.

There are only a few times in one’s life that you know for sure that you’re living through a boldface entry in the history books. The coronavirus outbreak and the resulting disruption of much of the economy and daily life is one of those times.

We compiled some of the photos readers and our intrepid staff photographer, Jay Westcott, have taken around town over the past couple of weeks. The images are those of isolation and disruption, but also hope and those trying to make the most of a bad situation.

Here’s how Jay described his observations from out and about in Arlington:

A typical morning rush hour in Rosslyn is a cacophony of sight and sound. Whistles shriek as ACPD directs traffic and pedestrians at Wilson and Lynn. Jets departing and arriving to DCA reflect and reverberate off the tall glass towers. Construction up the hill at 1500 Wilson. Traffic. Pedestrians. Metrobuses. 

Not anymore. 

Monday, Mar. 16 was the first work day after the region began teleworking in earnest and schools were closed. The intersection of Wilson and Lynn felt like the opening scene to the movie “I Am Legend.” In an hour’s time I saw less than 10 pedestrians. To call this surreal is an understatement. 

But that was the first morning. As the weather has warmed, people are venturing out more and more, and people are being really cavalier about social distancing. This is not a time for picnics in the park or group bike rides. And people don’t seem to realize how far six feet actually is. Sure, you may be six feet behind someone ahead of you on the trail, but people coming at you from the other way are passing within a foot of you. You have to remember this virus can live in the air for 3 hours. You can’t bump into people, you can’t try to squeeze past someone in the grocery store. You have to actively pay attention to your surroundings and people just don’t seem to be doing that. 

Around Arlington, rush hour seems to be non-existent. Don’t get me wrong, people are still out driving around, but from what I have been seeing traffic at 8:30 a.m. is no different than traffic at 1 p.m. or 6 p.m. From my place in Shirlington to the Key Bridge takes less than 15 minutes. I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if the majority of people that can do so continue working from home as much as possible after this pandemic has been contained. 

Seeing the COVID-19 test site open up on Quincy St. N was both welcome and frightening. 60 tests a day. 60. That is a lot, right? Is it enough? 

I am encouraged to see businesses find new and creative ways to continue operating through this, like Acme Pie and El Pollo Rico offering delivery. I had El Pollo Rico last week and if there was ever a comfort food to have in a time like this, it’s their amazing chicken. 

I hope my fellow Arlingtonians take this seriously. I have a friend in Colorado that has COVID-19. He flew through Seattle for work at the end of February and likely picked it up there. He’s now two weeks into the illness. His fever hit 103 last week, and he went to the ER on Friday with pneumonia-like symptoms. He is retired military, physically fit and it’s wiped him out. Before the ER trip he was in bed for three days straight. “It’s no joke,” he said. 

Please, stay safe. Stay home. Stay away from people.

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Morning Notes

Fire at Columbia Pike Apartment Building — One person was hospitalized and subsequently arrested after a fire at the Serrano Apartments on Columbia Pike Sunday night. [Twitter]

State Funds to Stabilize ART Service — “The Arlington County Board today accepted $420,926 in state grant funds to support Arlington’s local transit operations during the COVID-19 emergency… Arlington Transit (ART) buses, like transit services across the region, have experienced significant declines in ridership and revenue.” [Arlington County]

Arlingtonian Recounts Coronavirus Experience — Roy Schwartz, an Arlington resident and the co-founder of Clarendon-based Axios, tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month. In a brief podcast interview, he recounted the experience, the delays in getting test results, and the contact from Arlington’s health department. [Axios]

Construction Projects ContinueUpdated at 9:10 a.m. — “While shuttering many businesses to try to slow the virus’s spread, officials in the District, Maryland and Virginia have designated construction as ‘essential,’ along with hospitals, grocery stores, banks and a handful of other businesses. All three jurisdictions have also allowed private construction, including home building and commercial developments, to continue.” [Washington Post]

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Virginia Hospital Center has received a sizable donation of surgical masks and gowns amid a nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

Arlington-based Marymount University donated 550 surgical masks, 110 isolation gowns, 60 full-body suits and seven reusable goggles from its Department of Nursing, the school tells ARLnow.

“When I became aware of the dire circumstances that the nurses at VHC were in, I responded without hesitation,” Dr. Catherine Hillberry, technology coordinator for the nursing school, said in a press release. “[We] are committed to serving others and supporting the community in difficult times – and stepping up to help those who put their lives on the line daily to help save lives is a privilege.”

The donation was greeted with appreciation from workers at the hospital.

“The generous donation of PPE is having a direct and positive impact in my unit. Having it available means we have the tools and resources necessary to do our jobs,” said Karin Kutscher, an ICU nurse at Virginia Hospital Center and a Marymount grad.

“When we leave the hospital, there is a risk of increased exposure if we do not have proper supplies when caring for our patients,” said Alicia Marconi, a Marymount instructor and another ICU nurse at the hospital. “If we, the health care workers, get sick, then there are fewer of us to take care of patients in need.”

Virginia Hospital Center is currently accepting donations of goggles, hand sanitizer, face shields, medical isolation gowns, bleach and bleach wipes, but only in unopened boxes, according to a “community support” web page set up by the hospital.

“Please email [email protected] to connect with our team,” VHC said, adding that it is “not accepting donations of homemade masks for safety reasons.”

The hospital is also accepting donations of individually packaged food via restaurants and catering companies. For others who want to help during this trying time, VHC notes that “blood donations across the country have dropped significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic response” and “individuals are not at risk of contracting COVID-19 from donating blood.”

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(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is ordering residents to stay at home until June 10, except under a limited set of circumstances.

The order, announced Monday afternoon, takes effect immediately and is intended to dramatically slow the rapid spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. There are currently 86 reported coronavirus cases in Arlington County and 1,020 cases statewide, according to the Virginia Dept. Of Health.

Northam’s executive order follows a similar stay-at-home order from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) this morning, and Northam’s March 23 order closing many businesses deemed non-essential.

“The message today is very clear: stay home,” Northam said. “As you go through your day to day activities and make decisions about what’s essential and not essential, think of those healthcare providers… what they’re going through every day to take care of sick folks across the country. I ask you to do the right thing.”

“We know that social distancing and frequent handwashing will help minimize the spread of this virus,” he added.

More from a press release:

Governor Ralph Northam today issued a statewide Stay at Home order to protect the health and safety of Virginians and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. The executive order takes effect immediately and will remain in place until June 10, 2020, unless amended or rescinded by a further executive order.

The order directs all Virginians to stay home except in extremely limited circumstances. Individuals may leave their residence for allowable travel, including to seek medical attention, work, care for family or household members, obtain goods and services like groceries, prescriptions, and others as outlined in Executive Order Fifty-Three, and engage in outdoor activity with strict social distancing requirements.

The executive order also directs all Virginia institutions of higher education to stop in-person classes and instruction. Private campgrounds must close for short-term stays, and beaches will be closed statewide except for fishing and exercise.

“We are in a public health crisis, and we need everyone to take this seriously and act responsibly,” said Governor Northam. “Our message to Virginians is clear: stay home. We know this virus spreads primarily through human-to-human contact, and that’s why it’s so important that people follow this order and practice social distancing. I’m deeply grateful to everyone for their cooperation during this unprecedented and difficult time.”

Under Northam’s executive order, the following will still be allowed:

  • Exercising outside while maintaining social distancing
  • Going to grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential businesses for food, drinks and other supplies
  • Seeking medical attention, social services or emergency help
  • Taking care of people, animals, or visiting family
  • Going to and from work, an educational institution or a house of worship
  • Volunteering or providing social services
  • Providing food for pickup or delivery

“Nothing in this Order shall limit: (a) the provision of health care or medical services; (b) access to essential services for low-income residents, such as food banks; (c) the operations of the media; (d) law enforcement agencies; or (e) the operation of government,” the executive order also said.

The order makes “all public and private in-person gatherings of more than ten individuals,” including “parties, celebrations, religious, or other social events, whether they occur indoor or outdoor,” a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine up to $2,500. The operation of businesses deemed essential is excluded from prohibition, as is a gathering of family members who live in the same residence.

Local officials urged residents to take the order seriously and stay at home.

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Making Room is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

This piece was cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.

When I moved to Arlington in 2015, it was the largest metro area I had ever lived in, with the most extensive public transportation and the best examples of mixed-use development. My husband and I picked an apartment building next to a Metro station to facilitate an easy commute. We are fortunate to be able to afford the cost premium of living in such a great location.

I grew up in a large suburban home. We literally had an entire bedroom devoted to our Barbie doll collection and a whole closet for Legos. We had a yard big enough for a garden and a playhouse. But I never had friends over who didn’t come by car.

Now I am raising two kids in a two-bedroom apartment. I never saw these close quarters as a problem because we have playgrounds, museums, libraries, and even a mall at our fingertips. Our apartment has common space when our preschooler needs a change of scenery. I have always embraced our limited private space because it pushed us out into the community. Spending so much time in the neighborhood has made Arlington feel like home. But social distancing has taken all of this away.

We know from public health experts that social distancing — limiting our proximity and interactions with people outside of our families — is critical for slowing the spread of coronavirus and preventing our medical system from becoming overwhelmed. I need to acknowledge that we are incredibly privileged to have secure jobs, deep savings, and many layers of support. We will weather this crisis. But being stuck in the house is a real drag. It’s not just the lack of space. It’s the limitations on social connections.

It is in public social spaces — the playground, the library — that we’ve built our community. What I love about our neighborhood is the ability to see friends and acquaintances as we go about our day. On a walk to the library, I can see half a dozen people that I know just by chance. What’s the point of paying a premium for Metro access when the Metro is essentially closed and all of the things I would visit downtown — my office, museums, restaurants — are closed?

The point of living in a walkable urban place is to connect with people. Right now, it would be great to have my own private yard, basement, and home office. But these features of suburban life create a default social distance that I don’t want under normal circumstances.

For the past five years, density has given me everything I wanted in a community. Now, the virus has taken all of that away. But when this crisis passes, I won’t be looking for a house out in Fairfax County. Instead, I’ll be looking to rebuild the social connections with friends and neighborhood acquaintances that I haven’t been able to see.

For now, I am grateful for a few remaining outlets for enjoying public space such as bike lanes and the community garden. I am thankful that my family and friends are healthy. And I am wishing health, safety, and sanity for everyone, no matter how many square feet you have.

Jane Fiegen Green, an Arlington resident since 2015, proudly rents an apartment in Pentagon City with her husband and son. By day, she is the Development Director for Greater Greater Washington and by night she tries to navigate the Arlington Way. Opinions here are her own.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. Monday Properties is proudly featuring a rare leasing opportunity at 1101 Wilson Blvd: 5 contiguous floors with exceptional views, building signage opportunity and brand new amenities. Enjoy all the perks of easy access and ample parking; a variety of food trucks at your front door; and enviable walkable amenities. Join YEXT and other leading tech companies at this vibrant location.14

The international coronavirus pandemic has put a brick on the gas pedal for one Ballston startup called GoTab, which was facilitating social distancing before it went mainstream.

GoTab locates nearby eateries and pulls up the menu, allowing customers to place their own orders directly into the business’s system and schedule a pickup. It’s more efficient than phone orders and is less costly to restaurants than delivery services like GrubHub.

“We do think the world is going to more online, it just went more online a lot faster,” said Tim McLaughlin, CEO of GoTab.

McLaughlin said the original design for GoTab was use in-restaurant for things like placing orders on your phone rather than waiting in line. It’s an idea that McLaughlin said is increasingly popular, pointing to Starbucks’ mobile order program. GoTab also benefits from having no need to create a profile or download an app.

Placing orders for takeout and delivery (by the restaurant’s own drivers) was just a side feature of GoTab, but COVID-19 changed that. McLaughlin said while the eventual goal is to get back to in-restaurant use, takeout and delivery orders have taken the spotlight.

“It had always been a feature but not something we sold by itself,” McLaughlin said. “Takeout was not usually the majority of the revenue, it was always something that was bundled along with on-premises. Now that’s changed. Because it’s cost-effective, we just kind of said ‘let’s help restaurants get online quickly and easily.'”

As also reported by Washingtonian, the company is offering its tool for free to restaurants, taprooms, breweries and others that have been affected by COVID-19 related shutdowns.

Seeing heavier use than normal, the website had some technical bumps last week, but McLaughlin said they’ve been worked out. The main struggle has been adapting the tool even further to the extremes of social distancing.

“There’s things that are different now that we’ve had to implement quickly,” McLaughlin said. “People used to come in and talk to the host, but now people are standing outside the restaurant. People might bring [food] out and never exchange cards. It’s clean and low-to-no contact, but in order for that to work, need a way to communicate without face to face.”

McLaughlin said the company took the texting tools utilized already for the hotel side of GoTab and repurposed those for restaurant use.

Even once the pandemic is over, McLaughlin said he thinks there will be an permanent impact on the restaurant industry, and more mobile ordering is going to be a part of that.

“We’re not going back,” McLaughlin said. “There’s a population shift towards using your phone to do that for a whole host of reasons, one of them is that you know your order is right because you put it in. People also don’t want to stand in line… I think this is just going to push it a lot further in that direction. People are going to be fearful for a while about germs and it’s just convenient.”

Photo via GoTab/Facebook

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(Updated at noon) Arlington County is encouraging residents to open a window or step outside and give healthcare workers a round of applause tonight.

The 8 p.m. clap is part of a worldwide phenomenon that has seen cities echo with the sound of cheers, in support of those on the frontlines of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. It also coincides with National Doctors’ Day.

“Join your fellow Arlingtonians in a salute to our healthcare workers during this challenging time,” the county said in a social media post. “You can clap from your yard, your window, your balcony, or your car.”

Here’s what similar cheers have sounded like in cities around the globe:

File photo

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With much of the Arlington population confined to their homes, it’s little surprise that residents are generating more trash.

But the scale of the increase — more than 30% by weight — is straining the trash collectors, who are trying to stay on the job and stay healthy during the outbreak.

Over the weekend, Arlington County renewed its call for residents to try to limit their trash generation, if at all possible. That includes pausing any spring cleaning.

“Obviously a lot more people are home all day,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Peter Golkin told ARLnow. “They’re cleaning out more than usual, listening to their inner Marie Kondo as they stare at the walls and what’s piled up in front of them. They should indulge themselves with the couch and ARLnow and a few books and put off the big clean-ups for a few months.”

“The rise in trash left out for weekly collection has slowed the crews on the trucks of our contractor,” Golkin said, explaining why some residents may be seeing later than usual pickups. “[Crews] deserve great respect as they continue to do a vital job while facing increased health concerns and the other issues we’re all dealing with.”

The county has also suspended curbside bulk trash pickup and cancelled its popular spring E-CARE recycling and disposal event.

“Unfortunately, our spring 2020 E-CARE on April 18 has been canceled,” the county said. “Updates will be posted regarding an E-CARE event in the fall or later.”

Arlington’s residential trash collection serves all single-family homes, duplexes and some townhomes. Apartment and condo residents are served by private, commercial trash haulers.

The press release about the county’s call for less trash is below.

Curbside trash and recycling collection is an important service provided to ensure the health and safety of our community. Our crews play a critical role in providing these services, while balancing the same life and home challenges we all are facing during this time.

Over the last week, residential trash tonnage has increased more than 30%. The residential collection system is becoming stressed and we all need to do our part and limit the amount of trash, recycling and yard waste being placed out for collection.

To help ensure their health and safety and maintain our collection schedule, Arlington County is issuing additional guidance:

  • Please minimize setting extra bags outside the cart.
  • Keep your spring cleaning pile in your basement or garage for now.
  • Flatten your cardboard boxes to create more room in your recycling bin
  • If you have a large quantity of cardboard boxes, drop them off at one of our recycling drop-off centers.
  • Drop off glass at one of our recycling drop-off centers instead of throwing it in the trash.
  • Make an appointment and drop-off your household hazardous materials, now available Monday through Thursday (by appointment only. Call 703-228-5000 to schedule.)
  • Grasscycle your lawn clippings.

Photo courtesy Arlington County

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