Arlington, VA

(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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The upshot of most Arlingtonians being confined to their homes is that Arlington is seeing fairly high rates of responses to the 2020 census.

County Manager Mark Schwartz said at Tuesday’s County Board meeting that the Arlington is already seeing higher rates of people turning in census forms than at this time in the 2010 census. The rate currently sits at 27.4%.

“We went back and looked at 2010 and we’re doing better than we were doing in 2010,” Schwartz said. “I think part of that is because people are at home… It’s really good for where we are in the process.”

County officials are pushing census participation, the upshot of which is more representation in Congress and more federal assistance. County Board member Katie Cristol said that respondents should remember to “count their babies” in the census, noting that populations under five-years-old were the most underreported demographics in the last census.

Households can respond to the census online, by phone, or by mail until Aug. 14. Households should have recently received census mailers.

Schwartz said county officials are still hoping to set up mobile census assistances stations outside places like grocery stores and community centers once the pandemic concerns have died down.

Many of the traditional methods the county uses to encourage people to fill out the census, like pop-ups, have been canceled. The county government is still finding other ways to promote responding to the census.

“We’re including information about the census with food distribution that’s going on,” Schwartz said. “Several hundred tote bags have been given to AFAC as a way of emphasizing that.”

If you were curious about whether County Manager Mark Schwartz has a poem for the moment, you won’t be disappointed. He recited the following self-written verse at the meeting.

Covid has us all feeling frustration

What a great time to ensure our county’s enumeration

Take a minute or two to complete your census form

Perfect to do while social distancing is the norm

Just go to census.gov and complete all the questions

So Arlington can get our full representation

Schwartz’s full presentation is below.

Image via Arlington County

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Farmers markets in Arlington closed briefly by the coronavirus outbreak will be allowed to re-open this weekend, but with a catch: vendors can only offer food that’s been pre-ordered before the market.

The new rules are meant to bring local farmers markets in compliance with guidance from the state government. A similar policy was enacted for markets in Alexandria.

“To limit the exposure to COVID-19, vendors are not permitted to display food or on-site shopping,” Arlington County said in a press release. “This guidance enables markets to remain open giving Arlingtonians access to fresh, locally-grown food while promoting social distancing.”

While others will be opening later this spring, three Arlington farmers markets are currently in season and expected to reopen for order pickups:

Each of the markets will be limited to no more than ten customers at a time, and customers are being asked to comply with social distancing guidelines to prevent the person-to-person spread of the virus. Food orders will be boxed and the press release said customers are asked to avoid touching or inspecting their orders on-site.

Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said that some of the vendors have options to place orders online, while others might have to be contacted directly by phone or email. While the process may be cumbersome for the first weekend, Kalish said that should be ironed out over the coming weeks.

The Columbia Pike Farmers Market announced today that it will be taking online orders for three vendors.

“To ensure we can continue to support our local farmers and provide the community with needed produce and goods while complying with state-wide guidance on distancing and gathering restrictions, we have temporarily moved our Farmers Market to the web,” said the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. “Customers will now order from our vendors online and pick up their orders at the market on Sundays. We currently have 3 vendors prepared to take orders for pick-up THIS Sunday, March 29. Please note that orders MUST be placed in advance, unless otherwise noted. There will be no shopping at the market.”

The nearby Falls Church farmers market is also reopening this weekend with similar rules in place.

File photo

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There are now 54 known coronavirus cases in Arlington County.

That’s up from 46 cases yesterday, according to the latest data from the Virginia Dept. of Health. Statewide, there have been 460 reported COVID-19 cases, 65 hospitalizations, 13 deaths and 6,189 people tested.

Additional data from the state health department shows that about two-thirds of cases in the Commonwealth are among people ages 40 and up. Only 2.4% of cases involve patients 19 or under.

According to early CDC data, 88% of ICU admissions for COVID-19 — the most severe cases — were among those 45 years of age or older. Those with underlying medical conditions are also at heightened risk. No one is totally in the clear, though — there have been severe cases among some younger, healthy patients, as well.

While Arlington’s cases continue to rise, residents have been doing a relatively good job of social distancing, rogue track users not withstanding.

According to mobile GPS analytics company Unacast, Arington has earned an “A” for residents’ social distancing efforts — something the county touted this morning on social media.

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Morning Notes

Man Arrested After Door Incident at DCA — “A passenger on a flight operated by Frontier Airlines was taken into custody at Reagan National Airport Saturday, after allegedly using the emergency slide to exit the airplane, officials said.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Metrobus Rides Are Free, For Now — “To help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, Metrobus riders will be required to board using the rear doors and will not have to tap their fare cards, according to a letter sent to employees Sunday.
The change, which begins Tuesday, means rides essentially are free.” [Washington Post]

Don’t Flush Wipes Down the Toilet — From Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey: “Do NOT put wipes, paper towels etc in the toilet! They severely damage water treatment.” [Twitter, CNN]

County Trying to Help Small Businesses — “To mitigate some of the challenges and hardships experienced by small businesses as a result of COVID-19 related closures and modifications, Arlington County is finding new ways to reach out to business owners with counsel, resources and other options.” [Arlington County]

County Offers Help with Utility Bills — “If you are struggling to pay a County utility bill (water/sewer/refuse) at this time, please call the DES Customer Contact Center at 703-228-5000, Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. You may be eligible for special payment arrangements without accrual of additional late fees.” [Twitter]

Coronavirus Fraud Task Force Formed — “In response to the increased threat of fraud presented by the coronavirus, federal and Virginia state law enforcement leaders announced today the formation of the Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force.” [Press Release]

Marymount Mulls Commencement Alternatives — “This Wednesday, Marymount University announced to students, faculty and staff that the online-only class period that started this week will be extended through the end of the spring semester, including final exams. It was also decided that the traditional commencement ceremonies scheduled for May 2020 would be canceled.” [Press Release]

Overnight Lane Closures in Rosslyn — “N Lynn St, SB Lee Hwy and the ramps to and from I-66 in Rosslyn will see overnight work requiring lane closures or full closures Mon night 3/23 – Thu night 3/26 in relation to the Lynn St Esplanade project.” [VDOT, Twitter]

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Update at 11:20 p.m. — The Westover Farmers Market announced that it is now “closed until further notice.”

Earlier: At least one Arlington farmers markets is still, as of Friday afternoon, scheduled to be held over the next week, despite calls for closures.

While grocery stores remain open, Arlington County on Friday issued a press release calling for the closure of the open air, weekly farmers markets.

Arlington County is committed to the health and safety of our community and our employees. On March 17, 2020, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the State Health Commissioner issued a Joint Executive Order restricting the number of patrons allowed in restaurants, fitness centers and theaters to 10 or less.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services has interpreted this to apply to farmers markets as well. While Arlington does not have the authority to close all farmers markets, we ask organizers to take responsible action and suspend their operations this weekend, Saturday, March 21, and Sunday, March 22. The County is awaiting further guidance from the Commonwealth regarding mass gatherings and food sources.

The health and safety of the Arlington community is our highest priority and we are grateful for your cooperation.

Please continue to practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently. To stay updated on the status of COVID-19, visit arlingtonva.us/coronavirus.

The Arlington Farmers Market in Courthouse is set to be closed this weekend due to the coronavirus outbreak, while the Lubber Run, Fairlington, Ballston, Crystal City, Rosslyn and Marymount markets have not yet started up for the season. But Westover farmers market, at last check, was still slated to be held on Sunday.

The organizers of the markets posted on social media, asking customers to sign a letter of support for keeping farmers markets open and making the case for why they’re both safe and essential.

We believe farmers markets are essential to our community food security. Please consider signing this letter of support to keep farmers markets.

Posted by Westover Farmers Market on Friday, March 20, 2020

Arlington playgrounds, athletic courts and dog parks, meanwhile, remain open — despite the concerns of some residents, expressed in emails to ARLnow, about a lack of social distancing.

“I live right by Rocky Run Park… I walked by tonight and could not believe how many people were out playing basketball,” one concerned resident said Thursday. “I get little kids having to get out and run around but one court was packed with adults! These people should know better. There are so many old people in this neighborhood — the basketball court looked like the Florida spring break beaches.”

From Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish:

Arlington’s parks, fields, playgrounds, dog parks, courts and trails remain open for self-directed recreation and leisure. These spaces provide a critical connection to the outdoors and green space as well as opportunities for physical activity, which studies demonstrate reduces stress and improves mental health.

While our outdoor facilities are open, we encourage residents to stay home if they don’t feel well, avoid non-essential gatherings of 10 or more people, practice social distancing by maintaining six feet of personal space and to wash their hands often or use hand sanitizer. If they plan on touching equipment, we asked that they wipe it down with disinfectant wipes before and after use.

We are posting signs in English and Spanish in our public spaces over the weekend to emphasize this message.

These are challenging times. The health and safety of the Arlington community is our highest priority and we are grateful for their cooperation. The County continues to monitor recommendations and best practices, and will make adjustments as necessary.

In nearby Falls Church, the city has suspended its farmers market and also closed playgrounds due to concern about community spread of coronavirus.

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Arlington County has established a new hotline to answer questions from the public about the coronavirus outbreak: 703-228-7999.

Officials announced the new hotline last night, on the same day that Virginia Hospital Center and the county opened its new drive-through testing site.

From a press release:

Arlington County is expanding its ability to respond to inquiries and questions from the public by establishing a new call center. This additional call center will free up resources to help the County effectively minimize the public health risk posed by the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Community members who cannot find the information they need on the County’s website or through other resources, should call 703-228-7999 for assistance. The call center will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Local first responders have been urging residents to avoid calling 911 for coronavirus inquiries, except in the event of a life-threatening emergency.

Arlington County provided the following advice for those who are experiencing symptoms that might be consistent with COVID-19, including avoiding the emergency room if you only have mild symptoms:

What to Do If You Feel Sick

  • If you feel sick with fever, develop a cough, or have shortness of breath contact your health care provider to evaluate your symptoms. Call your provider before seeking care and tell them about your travel and your symptoms.
  • If you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms or are having an emergency, call 911 and tell them about your symptoms and travel history. DO NOT call 911 and/or go to the emergency room for mild symptoms that are manageable at home.

As of noon Wednesday, there were 14 reported cases of coronavirus in Arlington, but testing has been limited by a lack of tests.

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Arlington County and Virginia Hospital Center are partnering to set up a drive-through coronavirus testing site.

The temporary site is set to open Wednesday at a county-owned property across from Washington-Liberty High School. The county says to expect additional traffic on N. Quincy Street north of Washington Blvd as a result.

Arlington residents, county and school system employees and Virginia Hospital Center patients, who are experiencing symptoms consistent with coronavirus and have a written order from a healthcare provider, will be eligible for testing. Samples collected will then be sent to a lab; it should take 5-7 days for test results to be available.

Jurisdictions and healthcare providers across the U.S. are rushing to open drive-through testing sites, to cut down on coronavirus exposures at hospitals and doctor’s offices.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Arlington County had 13 reported coronavirus cases, the highest count of any individual locality in Virginia.

More from an Arlington County press release:

Virginia Hospital Center (VHC), a community-based hospital providing medical services to the Washington, DC metropolitan area for 75 years, has partnered with the Arlington County Public Health Department, the Arlington County Police Department, the Arlington County Fire Department, the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Environmental Services to open a temporary drive-through COVID-19 sample collection site at 1429 N. Quincy Street.

“Arlington County is appreciative of our partnership with Virginia Hospital Center to facilitate sample collection for our community at this drive-through center,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said. “This is an important collaborative effort at a critical time.”

  • Samples will be collected from Arlington residents, Arlington County Government employees and Arlington Public Schools employees, and patients of VHC Medical Staff.
  • This site is for sample collection from symptomatic patients (fevers, chills, cough, or shortness of breath) who have received a written order for COVID-19 testing from a licensed healthcare provider. This is not meant for asymptomatic patients, even those who have had a close contact with a known COVID patient.
  • Physicians with symptomatic patients can send orders to the Virginia Hospital Center outpatient lab electronically in EPIC or via fax to 703.558.2448.
  • Once they have received a physician’s order, patients should call the VHC COVID-19 Scheduling Line at 703.558.5766 between the hours of 8:30 am and 3:00 pm. Patients must schedule an appointment before visiting the collection site.
  • Individuals arriving at the drive-through site will be asked to remain in their cars.
  • The sample collection center will officially open Wednesday, March 18 at 9:00 am and will remain open on weekdays from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.
  • Individuals who visit the collection site are encouraged to follow the instructions of their health care provider and self-quarantine while they await their results. Test results will be available to the patient within five to seven business days.

“The opening of this temporary facility allows us to meet the urgent needs of our community while our Emergency Department continues to serve those who require immediate medical attention,” said James B. Cole, President & CEO of Virginia Hospital Center. “We are grateful to our staff as well as our colleagues at public health, police and fire for their exhaustive efforts to make this sample collection site possible.”

To protect patient privacy, media access to the site will be restricted. Photos for use by media outlets are available here and media will be updated regularly as new information becomes available. Information about scheduled media briefings and a media staging area will be provided in a second advisory.

Traffic Advisory

  • Expect additional traffic on N. Quincy between Washington Boulevard and N. 15th Street
  • Expect delays if traveling in the area and/or seek alternate routes if not visiting the collection site
  • Posted signboards in the area will direct those driving to the collection site
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(Updated at 9 p.m.) More than 80% of respondents to our poll this morning think Arlington restaurants should close for everything other than takeout or delivery.

Arlington County’s top officials agree.

Monday night, the county sent out a statement acknowledging that while it does not have the legal authority to force closures, it is urging restaurants to “take responsible action and switch from dine-in service to only offering carryout and delivery.”

The full statement is below.

States across the Country, including DC and Maryland have ordered all bars and restaurants to close for dine-in service as of 10:00 P.M.tonight (March 16). Arlington County does not have the legal authority to order the same.  However, we ask that Arlington bars and restaurants take responsible action and switch from dine-in service to only offering carryout and delivery. We have seen some restaurants get very creative with how to do carryout with social distancing. Encouraging carryout service is a good way to help these small businesses and their staffs make it through this challenging time.

We thank all those that have already done so, but we plead with all our bars and restaurants that have NOT yet closed their dining rooms; to do so as of 10:00 PM tonight (March 16) and not reopen until we can all work out safe ways for patrons to be served in person. Otherwise, we will likely be overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases and the health of everyone in Arlington will be in jeopardy.

We appreciate your partnership in keeping our community safe.

Libby Garvey. Arlington Board Chair
Mark Schwartz. Arlington County Manager

Among the restaurants in Arlington to close completely or offer takeout and delivery only are Ireland’s Four Courts, Jaleo, and — just announced tonight — The Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall, and Northside Social.

It’s unclear how long local restaurants will be able to survive on takeout and delivery alone. Delivery apps take a large percentage of sales, while alcohol sales to dine-in customers make up a sizable portion of a restaurant’s profit margin.

Some are predicting an apocalyptic outcome.

“Many of the restaurants that close during the pandemic will not reopen their doors,” predicted an Eater article today. “Diners should also brace for a restaurant landscape that will be entirely different by the time — however near or far off it may be — they can be safely encouraged to enjoy a crowded night out again.”

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Over the weekend, in the midst of a pandemic, some local restaurants and bars were surprisingly crowded.

With sports leagues, recreational programs, major events, schools and many other facets of everyday life suspended or cancelled, in an effort to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, the sight of revelers crowding D.C. area bars and restaurants prompted some outrage on social media.

While Gov. Ralph Northam banned public gatherings of 100 or more people on Sunday, that’s below new guidance from the CDC to nix any gathering of 50 or more people.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows and urged young people to stop flocking to bars.

“Remember that you can also be a vector or a carrier,” he said, according to Axios. “And even though you don’t get seriously ill, you could bring it to a person, who could bring it to a person, that would bring it to your grandfather, your grandmother or your elderly relative. That’s why everybody has to take this seriously, even the young.”

Some states and cities are taking the spread of disease through bars and restaurants seriously.

New York, Los Angeles and the District, along with states like Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, California and Washington, have imposed varying degrees of restaurant and/or nightclub closures. In most cases, takeout and delivery are still allowed.

Elsewhere, Arlington’s pseudo sister city of Hoboken, New Jersey has imposed a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., for all but those required to be at work.

Some Arlington restaurants, including Ireland’s Four Courts and Jaleo, have already closed.

Unfortunately, restaurant closures will have a devastating effect on all but the strongest restaurant businesses — read: mostly chains — at a time when restaurants in the D.C. area, along with their employees, are already hurting. On Saturday, restaurant reservation website OpenTable reported that across Virginia, reservations on its platform were down 39% and continuing to fall.

While Arlington may be limited in what it can do by the Dillon Rule, ideally what do you think the county should do?

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Morning Notes

List of County Gov’t Changes — “With cases in the region, including Arlington, we are taking critical steps to slow down the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), as the health and safety of our employees and our community is our top priority. While we will be making changes to some programs and services, we will continue to operate essential government services for our residents and businesses.” [Arlington County]

Visits Cancelled at County Jail — “All Professional Visits will be non-contact for a minimum of 30 days. All Personal Visits will be cancelled for a minimum of 30 days. All programs will be cancelled for a minimum of 30 days.” [Arlington County]

Jury Trials Postponed — “As of March 15, the Circuit Court has postponed all jury trials & released witnesses from subpoenas through March 31. Other hearings & sentencing dockets are also postponed. See attached. Arraignments & bond motions will still be heard.” [Twitter]

Metro Reduces Service — “As of 2 p.m., Friday, March 13, Metro has further escalated its response to Phase 3 of its Pandemic Flu Plan. Phase 3 is the highest level of response and will include all subsequent mitigation steps required during the public health emergency… Monday-Friday: Trains will operate every 12 minutes on each line throughout the day. The rail system will maintain normal hours, opening at 5 a.m.” [WMATA]

Visitor Restrictions at Va. Hospital Center — “Effective March 12, we have implemented new visitation restrictions to protect the health and safety of our patients and staff from the spread of COVID-19.” [Instagram]

Restaurant Delivering Free Meals — “Between the empty grocery store shelves, scary headlines, and mass closures, it’s hard not to feel like the world is ending. Which is why Medium Rare owner Mark Bucher wanted to do something to make people’s lives a little easier. So yesterday, he posted a message on Twitter: If anyone over the age of 70 needed a meal, his restaurant would make sure they got one.” [Washingtonian]

Few Crowds at Pentagon City Mall — The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall was “almost dead” at noon on Saturday as most shoppers sayed away. Meanwhile, a reader took a video of people in full body suits in the Victoria’s Secret store; it’s unclear whether they were cleaning the store or otherwise. [Twitter, Twitter]

Crash on N. Glebe Road Saturday — A crash at N. Glebe Road and Pershing Drive sent a car careening into a lamp post, over a sidewalk and smashing into the parking lot of the Buckingham Center strip mall on Saturday. [Twitter]

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