Arlington, VA

(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Arlington is starting its gradual reopening today, amid a mixed picture of local coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

The Virginia Dept. of Health reported 50 new COVID-19 cases in Arlington overnight, bringing the total to 2,098. The past seven days have added 326 new cases, the highest seven-day total since May 9.

More tests are now being conducted in Arlington, however. On May 9 the seven-day moving average of daily tests was just over 150. The latest data from VDH puts it at 251 and rising.

Hospitalizations, meanwhile, are at the lowest point in at least four weeks. VDH subtracted one from Arlington’s cumulative hospitalizations overnight, bringing the seven-day total of new hospitalizations to 26.

Disparities within Arlington’s 26 square miles are increasingly evident in the state health department data. Cases among those who are Hispanic or Latino are now 54% of the county’s total, when ethnicity is listed, up from 51% when we first reported on demographic disparities last week. Only 15% of the population is Hispanic or Latino

And Arlington’s 22204 zip code, with a preponderance of lower-income and immigrant residents, now has three times as many cases as the next-closest zip code: 22203, another area with a sizable immigrant population. (The 22204 zip code also has more than twice as many tests reported as the next-highest Arlington zip, 22207, which includes much of residential North Arlington.)

Together 22203 and 22204 also have Arlington’s highest test positivity rates — 25.6% and 27.3% respectively.

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The Armed Forces Cycling Classic, an annual series of cycling races around Clarendon and Crystal City, has been cancelled by the pandemic.

In its place, however, organizers are using a pair of apps — Strava and Zwift — to host virtual rides this coming Saturday.

More from a press release:

Armed Forces Cycling Classic will kick off the weekend with a virtual Challenge Ride on their Strava Club. For those in the Washington D.C. area, three routes have been created to enjoy while riding safe and solo. For anyone outside of the D.C. area, we encourage them to ride, and we ask all participants to post photos to the AFCC Strava Club page or Instagram and tag @af_cyclingclassic to show that we are all riding together.

Saturday, May 30th at 11am, Armed Forces Cycling Classic will host a no-drop ZWIFT ride in partnership with Rapha. Athletes Justin and Cory Williams of Legion of Los Angeles will serve as ride leaders for this exclusive virtual event. AFCC and race announcer Brad Sohner will also host an Instagram Live during the event at instagram.com/af_cyclingclassic.

There will be no fees to participate in any of the Virtual Ride options and we do encourage participants to fundraise for our beneficiary, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). All riders who raise $200 or more will receive a limited edition Team TAPS jersey. Interested riders can set up their fundraising page at http://team.taps.org/cyclingclassic.

For those who want to relive last year’s Armed Forces Cycling Classic, video coverage of the races is available for free online.

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Morning Notes

Reopening Starts Today — Arlington and Northern Virginia is starting Phase 1 of a gradual reopening of the regional economy today. You’ll be able to dine outside, get a haircut, and shop at non-essential businesses, with restrictions. Additionally, starting today, Virginia is requiring people to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Face coverings are also required in ART buses. [Arlington County, Arlington Transit]

Local Leaders Promote Mask Usage — Leaders of Northern Virginia’s local governments, including Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, star in a new video encouraging the use of masks as the region reopens. [YouTube]

Arlington Orgs Providing Food During Pandemic — “Since May 1, CHFA volunteers have delivered 6,174 meals to homebound COVID-19 positive patients and immunocompromised clients, with plans to provide an additional 14,000 meals over the next two months, in partnership with Jeffrey’s Catering. Since the state of emergency declaration on March 15, referrals to AFAC increased by 36 percent, from 3,606 individuals to 4,902 on May 10.” [Arlington County]

Marymount Holding Graduation Parade — “On Friday afternoon, members of Marymount University’s graduating class will celebrate their accomplishments through a Graduation Parade, with faculty and staff cheering them on along a four-mile route that loops between Main Campus and the Ballston Center.” [Press Release]

Local Snakes Face Sticky Situation — “Our Animal Control officers are always on hand to help animals in need, even the scaly ones! Today we got a call that 2 snakes were stuck to a glue trap. Sgt Ballena and Officer Citrone worked hard to gently un-stick the snakes and release them safely nearby.” [@AWLAArlington/Twitter]

ARLnow Receives Google Grant — ARLnow has received a modest grant from Google’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund. The grant will allow ARLnow to host a paid intern this summer. The pandemic has negatively affected ARLnow’s business, and at the same time has also caused a shortage of internships nationwide. We’re grateful for Google helping us to offer an internship to a promising young journalist.

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Like many community members in Arlington, Amanda and Michael Sutton were concerned that the pandemic could lead to a wider education gap between those with resources at home and those without. So they decided to do something about it.

The Suttons have so far raised more than $6,400 via an online fundraising campaign called “My Job Bags.”

“A child’s ‘job’ is to imagine, create, learn and play,” the couple said on the GoFundMe page, which is nearing its $7,000 goal. “We’re working to assemble bags for children in need and to provide them with supplies to learn and be creative while at home. We’re accepting monetary donations as well as donations of the supplies below that will be included in the bags. All money collected will be used to purchase supplies and the bags will be assembled and distributed by volunteers.”

Amanda said she was among those trying to find ways to help out, knowing that many families were losing their jobs and students relied on the public schools for food and support. Other restaurants and teachers stepped up to help cover food needs, but there were other needs that were going unmet.

“We initially looked at ways we could help to provide food, in addition to financial support — and luckily, we found there are many organizations out there to help,” Amanda said. “Then as I was perusing Amazon for more homeschooling activities for my three sons, I couldn’t help but think of all the local families who are unable to do that. With all schools being closed, students are now forced to stay at home without basic school supplies, books and toys.”

That’s when Amanda and Michael came up with the My Job Bags campaign, thinking that children should be focused on playing, creating, imagining and learning.

“The hope was that during this scary and unprecedented time, students may have some comfort in knowing they can still continue their ‘job,'” Amanda said. “We brainstormed what to put in the bags — our goal was to include items that help keep a child entertained for long periods of time, have endless options for play, and enhance imagination and creativity.”

Among the additions to the bags was a jump rope, based on the suggestion of a local PE teacher. In total, Amanda said the contents of My Job Bags are:

  • crayons
  • markers
  • pencils
  • pencil sharpeners
  • dry erase board with marker and eraser
  • construction paper
  • spiral notebook
  • scissors
  • glue stick
  • jump rope
  • bag of Legos
  • book

“I then spent some time researching the cost of these items — and was ultimately able to get the price down to about $7.00 per bag thanks to bulk ordering,” Amanda said. “Once our idea was solidified, my husband and I decided to begin by donating about 250 bags. However, we knew the need was much greater in the community which prompted us to create the GoFundMe campaign.”

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With parks reopening on Saturday, some Arlingtonians were eager to walk around some of the county’s nationally ranked parklands, only to find a padlock secured across the front entrance.

At Hayes Park, the front gates were secured, keeping visitors away from the three-acre park north of Virginia Square.

Arlington County Parks & Recreation said on Twitter that the park remained closed because the playground on the site could not be secured. Playgrounds across the region remain closed, with leaders in neighboring Alexandria suggesting they could remain closed until September.

Hayes Park was still locked up last night (Wednesday) but Susan Kalish, spokeswoman for the parks department, said the padlock has been removed and the park reopened this morning (Thursday).

“In our efforts to reopen park spaces for May 23, we had some bumps,” said Kalish. “The park spaces at Hayes Park are open for people to enjoy if they social distance. The playground and tennis courts, like all in Arlington, are off-limits.”

With parks back open for passive recreation and Arlington about to enter “Phase 1” of a regional reopening, county officials are hoping that locals abide by the remaining restrictions.

“Our park spaces are open and people should be able to access them now,” Kalish added. “We should have caution tape around the playgrounds and specific signage that the playground, shelter, field, court and other amenities are closed. If people are confused, they can connect with us on Twitter or Facebook or at [email protected] or 703-228-4747.”

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A day before Arlington starts to reopen, hospitalizations in the county have hit a multi-week low.

Overnight, the Virginia Dept. of Health reported 51 new coronavirus cases, two new hospitalizations and no additional deaths in Arlington. That brings the total known cases above the 2,000 mark, to 2,039. Cumulative hospitalizations are now 373, while 109 people have died.

The seven-day trailing rate of new hospitalizations in Arlington is now 27, the lowest figure since at least May 1, after VDH started consistently releasing such data.

While new cases continue to rise at a weekly rate only about 10% off the peak three weeks ago, the rate of testing has also been rising. VDH data shows a big increase in testing over the past two days, presumably attributable to the county’s free testing event, at which some 1,000 tests were administered.

The latest reported test positivity rate for Arlington is 16.8%, down from more than 25% two weeks prior. The seven-day moving average of daily tests administered is 236 and rising.

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Arlington and the rest of Northern Virginia are set to begin the first phase of the region’s reopening on Friday.

With coronavirus cases increasing steadily, but not exponentially, and hospitals having sufficient extra capacity, local health officials say localities can start reopening relatively safely. (Much of the rest of the Virginia started reopening on May 15. D.C. is also partially reopening this coming Friday.)

Wearing masks indoors in public spaces will be mandatory in Virginia starting Friday, with some exceptions, and businesses will only be partially reopening, with extra safety precautions. More from a county press release:

Highlights of the Governor’s Forward Virginia Phase 1 – Effective May 29

  • Non-essential businesses can open at 50 percent capacity, with strict requirements.
  • Take-out and curbside pickup for restaurants and beverage services can continue and outdoor seating will be allowed at 50 percent capacity (see more on this below).
  • Gyms and fitness facilities can offer limited outdoor exercise options.
  • Outdoor swimming pools may be open for lap swimming only, with one person per lane.
  • Beauty and nail salons, barbershops and other personal grooming services can provide services by appointment only and must follow strict guidelines.
  • Places of worship can open for drive-in services or services inside at 50 percent capacity.
  • Spray parks, basketball courts, and racquetball courts must remain closed, as well as entertainment facilities such as movie theaters.
  • Social gatherings of more than 10 people are still banned.

There are mixed feelings about reopenings, in debates that have played out in states and counties across the country.

Some say reopenings will unnecessarily cause further disease and death. Others say the stay-at-home orders are no longer needed and are only causing more economic hardship. Still others are just happy to be able to get a haircut and spend some more time outside of the house.

In a word, how are you feeling about Arlington’s reopening?

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Morning Notes

Business Concerns About Mask Mandate — “Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol says she’s heard concerns from businesses owners about enforcing the mask policy. ‘We’ve definitely heard from some grocers and some others that they don’t want to be in the business of enforcing and I think you’ve seen, nationally, examples of altercations between grocery employees and individuals who don’t want to wear masks and get belligerent about it,’ Cristol said.” [NBC 4]

More Local COVID Grants — “The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia has approved $280,000 in Round 4 grants from its COVID-19 Response Fund for Northern Virginia to five organizations, including ALIVE!, Arlington Thrive, CASA de Virginia, and Northern Virginia Family Service.” [InsideNova]

Interview with Gillian Burgess — “Why hasn’t Arlington closed some streets to cars, to make more room for pedestrians and cyclists? What can be done about overcrowded trails? Should the Arlington Way move mostly online? Those are a few of the things we discussed tonight with Gillian Burgess, a local civic leader and cycling advocate.” [Facebook, Apple Podcasts]

Photo courtesy James Mahony

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As Arlington prepares to move into Phase 1 of the reopening, some local barbershops and salons are ready to reopen with a different look.

Illusions of Shirlington (4033 Campbell Avenue) is planning to reopen this Friday, though its owner acknowledged that the new restrictions will make her work and that of her staff a bit harder.

“I’m very excited about reopening,” said Irma Wheeler, owner of Illusions of Shirlington. “We’ve been very anxious and have been getting ready since the beginning of the shutdown.”

Illusions has been open for 27 years, but when it reopens on Friday, Wheeler said things will be a little different. There are plexiglass shields at the front desk to separate customers and employees. No more than 10 people, including staff, will be allowed in the salon at any given time. Each appointment will be longer to allow plenty of time to clean stations and tools between clients. Wheeler said that will mean longer hours for her and her staff.

“It’s been difficult to find supplies, even disinfectant,” Wheeler said. “We have face shields and masks, and we’re taking the temperatures of clients and staff. We’re trying to take every precaution… it’s going to be difficult, but we’ll be ready.”

Wheeler said masks, gloves and face shields will be work by all the staff, while clients must wear a mask. (Face shields will be provided at the shampoo station to keep the masks dry.)

Like other Arlington businesses, Wheeler said Illusions of Shirlington struggled with the closure but was able to maintain connections with their clientele through online tutorials on how they could trim their hair at home.

“We’ve done a lot of social media,” Wheeler said. “We’ve had requests from clientele, so we sent out instructions on how to do things themselves. Stylists were available to help people through it, sometimes explaining things outside in person. We were able to keep in touch.”

Meanwhile, in Ballston, the Bearded Goat Barber at Ballston Exchange (4201 Wilson Blvd) is preparing to reopen for haircuts and hair washes but without the signature beard trimming.

Like Illusions, Bearded Goat Barber said appointments will be prolonged to allow for proper disinfection and sanitation between clients. The shop will operate at 50% capacity, with every other chair being empty to allow for social distancing.

Further east, Clarendon salon Urban Halo (2900 Clarendon Blvd) had signs on the front door saying it too will be reopening on Friday.

Photo via Illusions of Shirlington/Instagram

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(Updated at 2:35 p.m.) On Friday, as Northern Virginia reopens, local gentlemen’s club Crystal City Restaurant will be just what its understated name suggests: a restaurant.

CCR, as the club is known, is planning to open a new, 17’x24′ outdoor seating area recently constructed in its front parking lot. There will be six tables, 24 chairs and no dancers.

The long-time establishment along 23rd Street S., just west of Route 1, reopened for carryout on Friday, May 22, and will now — during Phase 1 of the reopening — serve its reasonably-priced prime rib, as well as beer and wine, to outdoor diners.

Owner Billy Bayne tells ARLnow that he’s eager to “get back in the groove, get my people back, try to get back to work.” CCR, he said, will as always offer “good food, good service, clean facilities.”

Bayne describes the gentlemen’s club as “a neighborhood restaurant, with dancers.” The dancers, however, will have to wait until the Commonwealth moves to a new reopening phase that allows indoor restaurant seating. Still, reopening even in a small way will help alleviate some of the pain of the shutdown.

“Everybody needs to open their doors, or they’re done,” said Bayne.

As for the potential name change to “National Landing Strip,” in honor of the area’s new identity, Bayne said that will also have to wait.

“Right now, I’m worried about survival of my business, about getting my kids through college,” he said. “I’m not worried about a name change.”

In addition to a two month closure, Crystal City Restaurant — and other nearby eateries — will be dealing with the coronavirus fallout for months to come. Crystal City is usually chock full of office workers, hotel guests and conference-goers. Now the offices are largely empty, with employees working from home, and hotels that would usually be 90% full are 20% full. Conferences have been cancelled through the end of the year and Rolling Thunder, which would have rolled into Crystal City this past weekend, was instead held virtually.

Bayne maintains his prediction that some 30% of restaurants will ultimately go out of business due to the pandemic. He said he’s grateful for the support he’s received from customers, even though business is way down.

“Restaurants are in dire straits,” he said. “We appreciate everyone out there who has come out and ordered from the local restaurants and helped us.”

As co-owner of the nearby Crystal City Sports Pub, Bayne said he’s also grateful to two individuals in particular: Freddie’s Beach Bar owner Freddie Lutz and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

During the spring, the Sports Pub would normally have been packed with nearly 500 paying customers during the NCAA basketball tournament and other high-profile sporting events. Instead, it’s doing only 10-20% of its usual revenue through takeout.

Freddie, Bayne said, helped give the pub a boost when he received a large takeout order from Amazon, for distribution to local first responders and Virginia Hospital Center, and then distributed large chunks of the order to other restaurants along 23rd Street S.

Bezos is “a class act for trying to help Crystal City… and the little local small businesses,” Bayne said, adding the Lutz is likewise to be commended for his generosity toward fellow local businesses.

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Arlington County is likely to top 2,000 known coronavirus cases overnight, as infections continue at a somewhat steady pace.

As of Wednesday morning, the Virginia Dept. of Health reported 1,988 cases, 371 cumulative COVID-related hospitalizations, and 109 deaths. That’s an increase of 53 cases, four hospitalizations and five deaths overnight.

The latest demographic data for the county continues to show a dichotomy between young and old. Younger adults — those ages 20-49 — account for the majority of COVID-19 cases in Arlington and across the state, but those 60+ still account for the vast majority of deaths.

Younger adults are still getting sick enough to require hospitalization, state health department data shows, though hospitalizations skew toward the older population.

Statewide, VDH is reporting 40,249 cases, 4,385 hospitalizations and 1,281 deaths

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