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Covid cases in Arlington as of 8/15/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

The rate of reported Covid cases continues to slowly fall in Arlington, while the number of monkeypox cases slowly rises.

The local seven-day moving average of new Covid cases is now 83 cases per day, down nearly 60% since Memorial Day, according to the latest Virginia Dept. of Health data. Separate data from the CDC suggests that hospitalizations have risen over the past week, from 6.6 per 100,000 residents per week to 8.4.

The county, meanwhile, saw about one new monkeypox case per day over the past week. All seven new cases since last Monday — Arlington has reported a total of 39 cases since the start of the monkeypox outbreak — are among male patients, according to VDH data.

Arlington’s health department says its monkeypox vaccination effort is continuing, with nearly 700 vaccine doses administered as of this past Thursday.

From a county press release:

The Arlington County Public Health Division (ACPHD) continues to respond to the ongoing spread of the monkeypox virus and is working with community partners to ensure those who have been exposed or are at highest risk of exposure to monkeypox receive a vaccination.

ACPHD continues to provide monkeypox vaccine to close contacts of known cases and those at increased risk of exposure to reduce their chances of developing monkeypox. ACPHD has been offering the vaccine since late June and is currently operating clinics by appointment only six days a week. As of Aug. 11, 2022, ACPHD has administered 699 total doses of monkeypox vaccine.

Vaccine appointment invitations are being extended to those who have completed the Monkeypox Vaccine Interest Survey (open to all Virginia residents) AND meet the eligibility criteria. As new vaccine shipments arrive, ACPHD will issue new appointment invitations. The eligibility criteria may change as the outbreak evolves and based on vaccine supply.

Vaccine supply remains limited nationwide. ACPHD has been working with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), which authorizes the priority groups for the monkeypox vaccine and allocates vaccine doses to local health districts.

On the Covid front, Arlington County is ending its local emergency declaration today, as planned. The nearly two-and-a-half year-long state of emergency gave county leaders greater powers to respond to the pandemic.

From a county press release this morning:

The Local Emergency for Arlington County, originally declared in response to the public health threat posed by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), ends on Aug. 15, 2022.

The declaration, which went into effect on March 13, 2020, was established to assist in the response and recovery efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It allowed the County to shift to virtual operations, including online permitting, appointments, remote inspections, County Board and Commission meetings, as well as public comment.

“The declaration has been an important tool offering the flexibility needed to better serve our residents, businesses, and visitors,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “The added authorities under an emergency, such as the ability to alter procurement, hiring and zoning rules has served us well.  However, as we have learned to cope with a pandemic that will be with us for many months to come the need for these emergency authorities has dwindled.”

Many of the new tools, strategies, and approaches borne out of the pandemic will continue as the County moves beyond the local emergency declaration

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Covid cases in Arlington as of 8/9/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Don’t look now but Covid cases are declining in Arlington.

The average daily reported case rate in the county is currently around 90, down from 184 on Memorial Day. At the same time, the number of PCR tests performed in Arlington, as reported by the Virginia Dept. of Health, is also dropping and thus keeping the local test positivity rate high: just over 22%.

A possible explanation is that, unlike earlier in the pandemic when one sometimes had to test even when otherwise seemingly healthy, those testing are overwhelmingly those who are sick — and perhaps those who already tested positive via rapid tests and are just seeking confirmation.

Regardless, the decline in cases has also been noted at the hospital. From Virginia Hospital Center ER chief Mike Silverman’s most recent weekly Facebook post:

I continue to have friends who are getting COVID for the first time so it’s clearly around. However, our numbers show some improvement for the first time in weeks. The number of new COVID cases we diagnosed in the ER fell to its lowest level in a month and is 15% less than last week. Our percent positivity rate also fell from 13.8 to 11.8% over the last few weeks (6 week average of 12.5%). Although the number of patients currently hospitalized remains similar to last week (this number usually falls a few weeks after new diagnoses fall), the number of patients who required our “COVID isolation” protocol fell for the first time in 3 weeks. The number of these patients who required admission is down 20% from last week.

Despite lower cases, Arlington remains in the CDC’s “Medium” level of Covid, which it first entered in April. According to CDC data, Arlington is recording 6.6 hospital admissions for Covid per week, per 100,000 in population.

The good news on local Covid cases comes amid a number of developments, including new research showing that millions are suffering long-term smell or taste problems as a result of the disease, while perhaps 4 million are suffering debilitating “Long Covid” symptoms that are preventing them from working.

Also, the nation’s most prominent Covid case recently resolved, with President Joe Biden testing negative over the weekend after a “rebound” infection following his use of the antiviral treatment Paxlovid.

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Covid cases in Arlington as of 7/21/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

The news this morning brought a good reminder that Covid is very much still circulating.

President Biden has tested positive for the virus and is receiving antiviral treatment and has “very mild” symptoms, the White House said. Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) was among those wishing the president well.

In Arlington, meanwhile, the average number of daily Covid infections has remained remarkably steady over the past month, in contrast to the ups and downs of the past 2+ years.

As of today the county is seeing a seven-day moving average of 124 cases per day. Weekly Covid-related hospital admissions are up slightly from earlier this month, from 5.9 to 6.3 weekly admissions per 100,000 residents, according to CDC data.

Arlington’s test positivity rate is still above 20% — it’s 20.7% as of this morning — amid continued low rates of PCR-based testing, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

Covid test positivity rate in Arlington as of 7/21/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Covid might not be going away any time soon, but Arlington County’s Local Emergency Declaration, made in response to the pandemic, is.

The declaration is being sunsetted as of Aug. 15, County Manager Mark Schwartz announced at Tuesday’s County Board meeting. That will mean a return to more in-person county commission meetings and a need for County Board action to allow expanded outdoor restaurant seating areas past February 2023.

Schwartz declared a local emergency on March 13, 2020. It was approved by the Board the next day.

More from a county press release:

County Manager Mark Schwartz announced the end of the Local Emergency Declaration on Aug. 15, 2022. The declaration was established to assist in the response and recovery efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration allowed the County to shift to virtual operations, including online permitting, appointments, remote inspections, County Board and Commission meetings, as well as public comment.

A few highlights as the County moves beyond the local emergency declaration:

Virtual and Hybrid Commission and Advisory Board Meetings

A new Virginia Electronics Meeting Policy goes into effect September 1, 2022, that will offer additional flexibility for hosting virtual and hybrid meetings. This new policy offers most of our Commission and Advisory Boards the option to conduct an all-virtual meeting two times (or 25 percent of all meetings) annually and allows for remote participation for the public and individual Commission Members on exception.

Temporary Outdoor Seating Areas (TOSAs) for Outdoor Dining

During the pandemic, the County stood up TOSAs as an emergency response to indoor dining restrictions and to provide an expedited process for new or expanded outdoor seating at restaurants. Many people have enjoyed outdoor dining with family, friends, and colleagues and these provisions have been critical to restaurant owners for business operations during this time.

Even with the ending of the state of emergency, the TOSA permissions continue under the Continuity of Government Ordinance for another six months through February 2023. Over the next six months, the County will be working to create longer-term solutions that apply the lessons learned from TOSAs to permanent zoning regulations for outdoor seating. The County Manager will provide an update to the County Board in November.

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Covid cases in Arlington as of 7/8/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

The Covid test positivity rate in Arlington has reached a level last seen in January during the Omicron surge, but cases have been dropping.

The numbers reflect, at least in part, significantly lower testing volumes amid Fourth of July vacations.

The county’s test positivity rate currently stands at 21%, up from a seasonal low of 13.8% two weeks ago. The seven-day moving average rate of new daily cases, meanwhile, is 116, down from 163 one month ago, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

Covid test positivity rate in Arlington as of 7/8/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Encouragingly, Covid hospital admissions continue to slowly fall. According to the CDC, Arlington is recording 5.9 weekly admissions per 100,000 people, down from 7.2 about two weeks ago.

Experts say newer Omicron sub-variants are even more transmissible and can re-infect those who recently recovered from a Covid case just a few weeks ago. That may explain why this summer has so far not seen the usual lull in infections. The test positivity rate in Arlington had its last well-defined bottom point in March.

The county recently started vaccinating children ages 6 months to 5 years and reported more than 400 vaccinations for that age group in the first week that shots were available.

All-time Covid test positivity rate in Arlington as of 7/8/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)
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A vial of the COVID-19 vaccine (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II)

Arlington County has already vaccinated several hundred children ages 6 months to 5 years, in the first week the jab was offered for that age group.

That’s according to a county spokesman, in response to an inquiry from ARLnow.

“Arlington County Public Health began COVID-19 vaccinations for children as young as 6 months last Wednesday, June 22,” said Ryan Hudson. “CDC’s Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) became fully functional later in the week, enabling us to administer a total of 427 first doses so far.”

More on the recently-authorized vaccine offering, from our article last week:

The vaccine shots for young children are currently only being offered by appointment at the county health department’s Sequoia Plaza facility at 2100 Washington Blvd. Vaccine appointments can be booked online, but require registration, the county noted this morning on social media in response to a resident’s question.

The jabs for children 6 months to 5 years old are being offered on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The county is offering both the Pfizer three-dose series and the Moderna two-dose series, County Manager Mark Schwartz said at last night’s County Board meeting.

Schwartz also noted that those who are not online or who need assistance can call 703-228-7999.

“We’re excited to see this milestone,” Board Chair Katie Cristol, herself a mother of a toddler… “Some of us very excited to see this milestone.”

Covid cases in Arlington, meanwhile, have been fluctuating around the same general level over the past 10 days, as the Independence Day holiday approaches.

As of Wednesday morning, the county was seeing a seven-day rolling average of 126 daily cases, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

Covid cases in Arlington as of 6/29/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

The test positivity rate has climbed sharply over the past week, amid significantly lower testing volumes, and currently stands at 17.8%. That’s up from 13.7% about a week ago.

On the plus side, Covid-related hospital admissions in Arlington have fallen slightly during that time period, sliding from 7.2 per 100,000 in population to 6.8 per 100,000 this week, according to CDC data.

Covid test positivity rate in Arlington as of 6/29/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)
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A BP gas station in Shirlington (file photo by Jay Westcott)

The Fourth of July is almost here and if there’s one thing on the minds of people traveling for the holiday, it’s gas prices.

The average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded in Virginia is currently $4.73, though in Arlington you’re more likely to find prices around $5. Only one Arlington station tracked by GasBuddy has a price lower than the state average.

One would think that the high price of fuel would keep more people at home for the holiday, but AAA recently predicted that 2022 will set a new record for Fourth of July car travel.

Earlier this year, an ARLnow poll found that fewer people were planning to travel for Memorial Day (25%) compared to 2013 (35%), when we posted a similar poll. Another ARLnow poll in March, when gas prices were about $4.20 per gallon, found that 25% of respondents reported driving less due to high gas prices.

So some combination of gas prices and other factors — the pandemic, perhaps, either as a result of precautions or practical things like someone testing positive for the virus — is likely to keep some people at home. But how many? Let’s try to find out.

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The COVID-19 vaccine (via Arlington County/YouTube)

Arlington County is starting to vaccinate children ages 6 months to 5 years today, following federal authorization last week.

The new vaccination effort comes as cases have fallen 40% since peaking in late May.

The vaccine shots for young children are currently only being offered by appointment at the county health department’s Sequoia Plaza facility at 2100 Washington Blvd. Vaccine appointments can be booked online, but require registration, the county noted this morning on social media in response to a resident’s question.

The jabs for children 6 months to 5 years old are being offered on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The county is offering both the Pfizer three-dose series and the Moderna two-dose series, County Manager Mark Schwartz said at last night’s County Board meeting.

Schwartz also noted that those who are not online or who need assistance can call 703-228-7999.

“We’re excited to see this milestone,” Board Chair Katie Cristol, herself a mother of a toddler, said of the new vaccine offerings. “Some of us very excited to see this milestone.”

Vaccines are still being offered for older children and adults at the Arlington Mill and Walter Reed community centers, by appointment or walk in. Schwartz said that 89% of all Arlington residents 5 years of age or older have received at least one dose and about 80% are fully vaccinated.

The county, meanwhile, is still seeing falling Covid case rates.

Covid cases in Arlington as of 6/22/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

As of this morning the seven-day moving average in Arlington was 120 daily cases, down 40% from a seasonal peak of 200 on May 25, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

The county’s test positivity rate has also fallen, but more modestly, and currently stands at a relatively elevated 14.6%. That’s down from 16% at the beginning of June.

Arlington is also seeing improvement in hospitalization rates, officials say.

“We’re seeing a drop in hospitalizations,” Schwartz told the Board last night. The most recent CDC data puts the local hospitalization rate at 7.2 weekly admissions per 100,000 residents.

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Covid cases in Arlington as of 6/13/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

The stock market drop aside, some other falling figures in Arlington today are actually good news.

The average rate of new Covid cases and hospitalizations are on a downward trajectory, as is the county’s test positivity rate.

The seven-day moving average case rate has fallen 30% from its 200 cases per day seasonal peak on May 25, reaching 140 daily cases today, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

Arlington’s test positivity rate has been slower to fall, but is now 14.4%, down from a seasonal peak of 16.2% one week prior, according to VDH.

Hospitalizations, meanwhile, are also dropping. According to CDC data, Arlington is currently seeing 5.5 weekly hospital admissions for Covid per 100,000 residents, down from 7.7 two weeks ago. The county remains in the CDC’s “medium” Covid level due to a weekly case rate per 100,000 residents that’s still more than double the agency’s threshold for what would be considered “low.”

Arlington’s Covid test positivity rate on 6/13/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)
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Arlington’s Covid case rate on 6/6/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Arlington has seen a dip in its average daily Covid case counts, but the county’s test positivity rate has continued to rise.

As of this morning the seven-day moving average reached 154 daily cases, down from 200 cases per day in late May. But the test positivity rate ticked up to 16.2%, the highest point since January, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

The dichotomy is not unique to Arlington — Virginia as a whole is also seeing falling daily case counts but rising test positivity rates, per VDH data.

Arlington’s Covid test positivity rate on 6/6/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Hospitalization rates, meanwhile, appear to be falling. The current Covid hospitalization rate in Arlington is 6 weekly admissions per 100,000 residents, according to Centers for Disease Control data. That’s down from 7.7 weekly admissions per 100,000 last week.

Mike Silverman, emergency department chair at Virginia Hospital Center — now known as VHC Health — said in his weekly public Facebook post that patient volumes at the ER are up, but not necessarily due to Covid. He noted that the hospital is also seeing high Covid test positivity rates.

An excerpt from Silverman’s post is below.

Our May numbers finished 24% above our volume last May… Typically, we’ll have a month of super high volumes in the winter, whereas summer volumes tend to be a touch below average. It’s unclear to many of us why volumes are so high. While COVID account for some of the bump, it’s actually only a fraction of the overall volume increase. In theory, there’s not bent up demand for emergency care like there might be for colonoscopies and mammograms, yet across the country, ER volumes are soaring. May was actually our busiest month ever.

Our percent positivity and COVID numbers continue to increase in the ER. We’re at 6 week highs for percent positivity and case numbers for our symptomatic, asymptomatic, and total cases. These are not winter-like Omicron level surge numbers but there’s plenty of COVID around. In fact, the community testing rates are higher than the hospital testing rates.

Whereas last summer felt like a return to normal, it seems like most people are just living their normal lives now. However, Hopkins data shows that the country’s seven-day average of COVID cases is six times higher than it was last year.

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Covid case rate in Arlington (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Has the latest Covid wave peaked in Arlington? Some of the recent data suggests that’s possible.

Calling a “top,” in stock market parlance, is a fraught exercise until a sustained downward trajectory is glaringly obvious. The old joke from an economist in the 1960s is that the stock market predicted nine of the past five recessions.

Indeed, if you were looking at Arlington’s Covid data you might have called a “top” in early-to-mid April, when there was a definite plateau in reported cases. But you would have been wrong — after that cases kept going up.

Today, another plateau in the data raises the possibility of a peak. The seven-day moving average of new cases currently stands at 199, and has fluctuated at or just below the 200 mark for more than a week.

Similarly, the county’s test positivity rate is currently 15.3% and has remained just above the 15% mark during that same time period.

Arlington’s Covid positivity rate as of 5/31/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Covid-related hospital admissions, as reported by the CDC, have been rising and currently stand at 7.7 weekly admissions per 100,000 residents — still below the threshold (10) for the CDC to consider Arlington’s Covid level as “high” rather than the current “medium.”

Virginia Hospital Center emergency department chair Mike Silverman, in his weekly public Facebook post on Friday, said the hospital observed a slight improvement in its Covid stats over the past week.

I’ve worked a lot over the past week. I’ve seen a lot of COVID. Old people, young people, people who got it a month ago and are still wrestling with symptoms. I had a couple of patients who came in for COVID symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath) but what got them admitted was that COVID exacerbated other pretty significant medical issues.

Although I wouldn’t know this from my clinical shifts, our data is a touch better than last week when we look at total numbers of new cases. The number of symptomatic people we diagnosed was up a bit, but the percent positivity rate was down a smidge (0.4%). Our general screen/asymptomatic patient testing numbers was down compared to last week and a drop in the percent positivity. Overall, the total number of patients we diagnosed with COVID dropped a touch compared to the week before and our overall percent positivity went from 9.4% to 7.8% (6 week running average of 6.5%). We’re seeing about 1350 patients in the ER a week and about 45% are getting tested for one reason or another. We also saw a slight decline in the number of patients who required our “COVID isolation” protocol and/or were admitted from this group.

Arlington Public Schools, meanwhile, has recorded 234 student Covid cases over the holiday-shortened trailing seven-day period, including 25 cases at Washington-Liberty High School, the highest among the county’s public schools.

That compares — albeit with a holiday asterisk — to 351 total student cases over the previous seven-day period.

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Morning Notes

Deer in a local neighborhood (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

Memorial Day Closures — County offices and facilities like libraries and community centers will be closed Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Metered parking will not be enforced. But trash collection will continue as normal. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Tree Group Opposes ‘Missing Middle’ — “A tree-advocacy group believes proposed changes to Arlington housing policy could have a cataclysmic impact on existing tree canopy in the community. ‘Tell the county ‘no’ – do not enact policies that further reduce our tree canopy,’ the Arlington Tree Action Group (ATAG) said May 20 in response to a county-government proposal on possible zoning changes.” [Sun Gazette]

Chamber Supports New Ballston Metro Entrance — “I am writing to express our strong support for full Authority funding of Arlington County’s $80 million application for the Ballston-MU Metrorail Station West Entrance. This project is a critical improvement to the regional transit network and supports the Authority’s programming goals of modal and geographic balance… As we move forward, its construction will be very important to the success of businesses in Arlington.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

W-L’s Royal Rowing History — “In the spring of 1958, under the guidance of head coach Charlie Butt, a group of teenage rowers from Washington-Lee High School (now Washington-Liberty) performed so well at stateside races that they earned a spot at the Henley Royal Regatta in England–becoming the first public high school in America invited to the iconic race, which dates to 1839. But first, they needed money.” [Arlington Magazine]

County Now Offering Boosters for Kids — “After federal approvals, Arlington County and other providers are offering the COVID-19 vaccine booster to children aged 5 to 11.” [Patch]

County Polling About Pickleball — “As Arlington’s population continues to grow and sports trends change, the Department of Parks and Recreation recognizes there has been a shift in the use and demand for outdoor athletic courts. Our Outdoor Athletic Court Project includes creating criteria to identify existing courts that are candidates for permanent pickleball lines as well as identify an existing amenity to convert into a permanent pickleball facility.” [Arlington County]

Storms Possible Tomorrow — From the National Weather Service: “We’ll stay mostly dry and cloudy for the remainder of today with highs in the 60s across the area. We are monitoring the potential for an unsettled start to the long holiday weekend this Friday with severe storm/flood threats.” [Twitter]

It’s Thursday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 71 and low of 60. Sunrise at 5:49 am and sunset at 8:25 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

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