Press Club

(Updated at 11 a.m.) Arlington saw the biggest one-day rise in reported coronavirus deaths since April 30 overnight, while the rate of new cases continues to fall.

According to the latest Virginia Dept. of Health data, there are now 1,416 known COVID-19 cases in Arlington, up just 17 since Monday. Hospitalizations are up two overnight, to 288, while reported deaths — which typically trails reported cases by a week or two — jumped from 60 to 66, a 10% rise.

Statewide, VDH reports 25,800 cases, 3,395 hospitalizations, 891 deaths, and 171,239 “testing encounters.”

The number of cases per capita in Arlington is roughly twice that of the state as a whole, according to a Virginia Public Access Project analysis.

Sorted by zip code, VDH continues to show the highest number of cases and test positivity rate in the 22204 zip code, along the Columbia Pike corridor. The 22203 zip code, centered around Ballston, has the second-highest positivity rate in the county.

Arlington officials say they want to see a number of trends and milestones before the county starts reopening, as other parts of the state are set to do as early as Friday.

Among those metrics is a 14-day downward trend in hospitalizations. Currently, the trailing 7-day hospitalization rate is at a peak of 92.

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Arlington’s coronavirus outbreak is continuing to take a grim toll.

The latest figures from the Virginia Dept. of Health report 967 known COVID-19 cases, 167 hospitalizations and 41 deaths in Arlington. That’s up from that 912 cases, 163 hospitalizations and 32 deaths reported yesterday (Wednesday).

The growth of 55 cases ties the county’s previous record for new daily cases, set on Sunday, April 19.

VDH reported 206 new test results in Arlington today, up from 115 test results yesterday.

Statewide, the health department reports 15,846 cases, 2,322 hospitalizations, 552 deaths and 90,843 people tested. The number of new positive cases across the Commonwealth rose by 885 overnight. Arlington’s neighboring jurisdictions of Alexandria and Fairfax County now have 754 known cases and 3,611 cases respectively.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s blueprint for starting to ease restrictions, released late last week, calls for “a 14-day downward trend in confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.”

Arlington officials, meanwhile, detailed efforts to improve the coronavirus information on the county’s website at Tuesday’s County Board meeting. The efforts have included a revamped COVID-19 landing page, which attempts to make it easier for residents to find key information, and a new data dashboard page that includes charts and graphs that will be updated daily.

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Morning Notes

Local Business Owners Still Waiting for Loans — “Like many business owners across Northern Virginia, Cyrille Brenac is still waiting to hear back from his bank about his application to the Paycheck Protection Program… For Brenac, who lives in the Cherrydale neighborhood of Arlington, the money would help him rehire about 50 employees of his two French restaurants he laid off when the economy abruptly shut down as the result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.” [Connection Newspapers]

County Board Salary Raise Unlikely — “The COVID-19 health pandemic and resulting economic downturn have snagged another victim – big pay raises for Arlington County Board members. Raises totaling more than $50,000 spread across the five board positions, which were included in County Manager Mark Schwartz’s pre-virus budget proposal in February, have been red-lined out.” [InsideNova]

Bearded Goat Barber Dies During Home Isolation — “We’ve already had quite a tragedy of our own — a barber who was in recovery from heroin addiction. He told us a couple times in the first few weeks, ‘It’s not good for me not being busy like this… not being able to work.’ We didn’t know just how bad it would be for him. He relapsed and got a bad batch and died.” [InsideHook, Facebook]

Campaign to Help Nurses, Restaurants Raises $30k — “The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) began its ‘Buy a Nurse Lunch’ initiative several weeks ago to raise money for restaurants along Columbia Pike in Arlington, while simultaneously providing meals for nurses and medical staff at the Virginia Hospital Center. In just two weeks, the organization says that over $30 thousand was raised, providing much-needed revenue for small, locally-owned restaurant.” [WJLA]

County to Consider More Retail Conversions — “For many years, county officials were insistent that retail be placed in office and residential buildings in certain areas. The problem – as developers apparently knew but county leaders seemed to miss – is that retail spaces are dependent on visibility and foot traffic, which each can vary widely even within the same building. (At one business-organization meeting years back, developers simply shrugged their shoulders, saying they often penciled in ‘zero’ for the expected revenue.)” [InsideNova]

Local Man Recounts Coronavirus Experience — “He had been in the hospital for seven days when doctors declared he might not make it out alive. His blood oxygen levels sank. His lungs struggled. The ventilator helping him breathe, doctors at Virginia Hospital Center said, did not seem to be doing much good. Nurses called his family. His family called a priest. They wanted to make sure Francis Wilson, 29, received last rites before the end.” [Washington Post]

Raccoons Rescued from Trash Can — “Officer Cameron got a surprise yesterday when she responded to a call about a raccoon stuck inside a bag inside a trash can. After she ‘unstuck’ the raccoon, she found 2 raccoon kits with her! Officer Cameron made sure they were all safe, releasing them to a quiet place nearby.” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington]

Arlington Musicians Play Mozart From Self-Isolation — A group of Arlington musicians joined those from elsewhere to perform Mozart: Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K. 525 ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ (1st movement) remotely. [YouTube]

Falls Church Senior Care Centers Face Outbreaks — “Three Falls Church area senior homes are now confirmed to be fighting outbreaks of the coronavirus, with Chesterbrook Residences telling the News-Press today that a total of 17 of its residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Flickr pool photo by P Ranfone

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Twelve people have died from COVID-19 complications in Arlington, according to new data from the Virginia Dept. of Health.

That’s up from just three reported deaths yesterday. VDH is also reporting 36 hospitalizations in Arlington, and 401 known coronavirus cases among 1,951 reported test results.

The 401 confirmed cases in the county is up from 390 the day before. Arlington has seen three consecutive days of lower reported new cases, after reaching a peak of 37 new cases on Saturday — though a similar pattern played out two weeks ago before the number of new cases started going back up.

Statewide, VDH is reporting a total of 6,171 known cases, 978 hospitalizations, 154 deaths and 42,763 people tested.

Northern Virginia local government leaders are continuing to urge residents to stay at home and practice social distancing to slow the spread of the disease. In a public service announcement video, released late last week, leaders including Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey also encouraged residents to wear face coverings and to check in on neighbors who might need assistance.

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Morning Notes

Ballston Residents Cheer for Healthcare Workers — A video shows residents in Ballston giving healthcare workers and other essential caregivers a round of applause at 8 p.m. last night. [Twitter]

New School Budget Coming Soon — “Arlington Superintendent Cintia Johnson this week will formally outline her plan to reduce spending in the wake of the health and economic crisis. Johnson will report to School Board members on April 16 with an updated budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning in July, supplanting one she had detailed less than two months ago.” [InsideNova]

‘Strong Response’ to School Board Caucus — “Less than a week after announcing a transition to a vote-by-mail process for its School Board candidate endorsement caucus, the Arlington County Democratic Committee (Arlington Dems) has received more than 2,000 ballot requests representing all 54 Arlington voting precincts.” [Press Release]

Former Va. Hospital Center Patient Donates Gowns — “In light of the coronavirus pandemic, a breast cancer survivor decided to donate her colorful hospital gowns to people going through the same thing she did.” [NBC 4]

Local TSA Employee Dies — “A second Transportation Security Administration employee died from coronavirus the same day the agency announced its first worker had died. Alberto Camacho, a branch manager for the TSA’s Acquisition Program Management in Arlington, Virginia, died April 3, according to a TSA news release.” [USA Today]

‘Buy a Neighbor Lunch’ Pilot Program — “Volunteer Arlington… announced today a new initiative to facilitate community support for local families in need of meals called Buy a Neighbor Lunch. The program enables supporters to donate individual meals to be delivered to families in need.” [Volunteer Arlington]

Dog Daycare Owner On Coronavirus Challenges — “We lost over half our business in just three short weeks… Every day puts us more and more at risk of losing everything. I’m not one who backs down from a challenge easily, but the uncertainty of this one is life-crushing and breaking my soul.” [Arlington Magazine]

Photo courtesy Amy Kelly

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(Updated at 2 p.m.) Two locals have died after contracting COVID-19, the first reported deaths from the disease in Arlington.

Arlington County announced the deaths Sunday afternoon. The victims were older and had “chronic medical conditions,” the county said.

“The first patient was a 72-year-old with chronic medical conditions, who had been ill with COVID-19 for a few weeks,” the county said in a press release. “The second was a 60-year-old with chronic medical conditions, identified with COVID-19 this past week. The close contacts of both patients have been identified.”

“We are saddened by the deaths of two Arlington County residents related to COVID-19. Our hearts go out to their loved ones,” Arlington Health District Director Dr. Reuben Varghese said in a statement. “These deaths, along with the increasing numbers of coronavirus cases we are seeing in the region, are a reminder that we all must be vigilant to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The health of our residents is our top priority and we know our residents and our community share that priority. We ask that everyone do their part to prevent germ spread: practice social distancing, wash your hands, and cover your coughs and sneezes.”

As of Sunday, there were 84 known cases of COVID-19 in Arlington, up from 26 seven days earlier. Statewide, there have been 890 reported cases, 112 hospitalizations, 22 deaths, and 10,609 people tested, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.

Also today, the Fairfax Health District — which includes Fairfax County, City of Fairfax, City of Falls Church and towns within the county — reported 188 positive cases, including 32 new cases, and two deaths. As of Saturday, the District of Columbia has reported 342 positive cases and five deaths.

To slow the spread of the virus, Arlington County is advising residents to stay at home, frequently and thoroughly wash one’s hands, and avoid close contact with others. More from the county press release:

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can cause mild to more severe respiratory illness. Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person. COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

To decrease the potential for the virus to spread, the Arlington Health District recommends:

  • Avoid non-essential travel and public gatherings, especially if you are an individual who is at increased risk for severe illness, including pregnant women, older adults and person of any age with underlying health conditions.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Immediately wash your hands if you used a tissue.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects or surfaces with an EPA approved agent effective against human coronaviruses and flu.
  • Practice social distancing by staying six feet or more away from others.
  • If you are mildly sick with a fever, stay home. If you need medical care, call your healthcare provider prior to going to their office. If it is an emergency, as always, call 911 immediately.
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The number of known coronavirus cases in Arlington has jumped from 17 on Friday to 26 on Sunday.

That’s according to new numbers from the Virginia Dept. of Health, which is now reporting 219 cases statewide and 3,337 people tested. Arlington has the third-highest number of positive COVID-19 tests in the state, after Fairfax County (31) and James City (32).

As of Friday afternoon, 173 people had been tested at Arlington’s new drive-through testing site, which opened on Wednesday on N. Quincy Street near Washington-Liberty High School. Officials from Virginia Hospital Center expected to conduct another 60 tests on Monday, having received a new shipment of tests on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced Sunday that a Defense Security Cooperation Agency worker has passed away after contracting COVID-19. As reported on March 9, the worker had spent time at the agency’s offices in Crystal City, leading to tenants in a pair of buildings being notified of the possible coronavirus exposure.

Also today (Sunday), Arlington Transit announced that it would be temporarily increasing service on one of its routes due to an unexpected rise in ridership.

“The ART 41 is seeing an increase in ridership this afternoon,” the local transit agency said. “We encourage social distancing on buses, so there will be an increase in frequency this afternoon to accommodate our passengers and keep everyone safe and healthy.”

Jay Westcott contributed to this report

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Morning Notes

Arlington Man Dies in Pa. Ski Accident — “A skiing accident at an eastern Pennsylvania resort claimed the life of a Virginia man, authorities said. Matthew Rosenstein, 23, of Arlington, Virginia died Monday of multiple blunt force injuries, the Lehigh County coroner’s office said Wednesday.” [NBC 4]

Fairlington Among Most Competitive for Homebuyers — “Two locales in Greater Washington have cracked Redfin’s list of the most competitive neighborhoods for homebuyers in 2019 — one in Arlington and one in the District.” [Washington Business Journal, Redfin]

Free Drinks Today at a Local Starbucks — The Starbucks store at Market Common Clarendon (2690 Clarendon Blvd) will be giving away free tall espresso drinks from 1-2 p.m. today. [WUSA 9]

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Arlington County is pledging to eliminate road deaths and serious traffic-related injuries — but it’s not yet clear how officials plan to accomplish that goal.

The Arlington County Board unanimously passed the “Vision Zero” resolution during its meeting Tuesday night that aims to bring the number of traffic casualties to zero. However, officials expect the details of the plan won’t be ready for another two years.

Now the county plans to gather public input on the proposal this fall, decide specific goals before January, and share a draft plan by next fall, per a county press release.

The final version of the Vision Zero plan isn’t likely to be completed before 2021.

County Board Chair Christian Dorsey noted that the number of accident-related deaths and injuries in Arlington remained steady for the past five years despite Arlington’s quickly growing population.

“But we can, and must, do better,” said Dorsey during the Tuesday meeting. “As our population continues to grow, and more cars, buses and bicycles share our streets, it is important that we work with the community toward the goal of completely eliminating deaths and serious injuries from traffic collisions.”

The resolution puts Arlington among network of governments, including neighboring jurisdictions like D.C., Alexandria and Montgomery County, which have passed similar “Vision Zero” promises to rethink traffic deaths as preventable, instead of inevitable.

However, advocates from New York to San Francisco have criticized officials for failing to live up to the goals in recent years. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has also faced pushback for raising traffic fines and increasing the number of speed cameras, but doing little to prevent a rising tide of deadly collisions.

In Arlington, two people were killed last year in crashes, versus six in 2017, and one in 2016. This is the about on par with Alexandria (five fatalities in 2018, and four in 2017) but much lower than in D.C. where 34 people were killed in 2018 alone.

Almost 60 people were reported to have been seriously injured in crashes in Arlington last year — a number that’s remained relatively steady since 2013.

As a condition of the newly-approved resolution, Arlington will publish regular reports on traffic fatalities and injuries, as well as an annual update on overall progress.

Officials in Arlington have discussed a Vision Zero resolution for years. Former Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze promised to enact the pledge during his 2014 unsuccessful campaign for County Board.

This year, as the county updated the bicycle portion of Arlington’s Master Transportation Plan, officials said that they would put forth a formal Vision Zero proposal this summer.

Some took to social media to criticize the slow-moving process, including Chris Slatt, who chairs the Transportation Commission.

“After all this time I expected a plan, not a one-page resolution,” Slatt said.

“For now, we celebrate and strategize,” replied Gillian Burgess, who chairs the county’s Bicycle Advisory Committee.

“We are making progress,” Burgess added. “This is a good step.”

File photo (top). Graphs via Arlington County.

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Local restaurateur Wilson Whitney, 60, has died of lung cancer, family and co-workers say.

Whitney passed away Wednesday, April 10, after being diagnosed with cancer last May, according to his business partner Chris Lefbom and his father Herbert “Bud” W. Whitney.

The restauranteur was behind some of Arlington’s most enduring watering holes, including Rhodeside Grill in Rosslyn, Ragtime in Courthouse and William Jeffrey’s Tavern on Columbia Pike. He also opened several restaurants in Falls Church.

Whitney was born in Tyler, Texas in 1958 and studied construction before finding a taste for the restaurant industry while working part-time at a barbecue joint in Lubbock, Texas, according to an obituary written by his father.

After moving to Arlington in 1988 as the local manager of the Black-Eyed Pea restaurant chain, Whitney delved into his first venture by buying eatery T.T. Reynolds in Fairfax. Then in 1994 he re-opened U Street’s Republic Gardens and later sold it. In 1994 he founded the Rhodeside Grill on 1836 Wilson Blvd which remains open today.

It was at Rhodeside Grill that he hired Adam Lubar and Lefbom as bartenders, later opening Ragtime (1345 N. Courthouse Road) together with them in 2001.

Whitney also partnered with three other Grill employees — Aimee Suyehiro, Stephen Scott, and Adam Roth — to open fine Italian dining spot Argia’s in Falls Church which closed after 18 years in September.’

One of Whitney’s most recent ventures was William Jeffrey’s Tavern at 2301 Columbia Pike, which he opened with business partners with Lubar and Lefbom in 2011. Previously, the trio opened Dogwood Tavern in Falls Church.

To Lubar and Lefbom Whitney was “a mentor, boss, manager, partner and friend to hundreds of restaurant employees over the years,” the two said in a Facebook post last week.

When he wasn’t helming his armada of restaurants, Whitney enjoyed boating on Lake Barcroft, practicing carpentry, and the Washington Nationals, Lefbom told ARLnow.

“He was scheduled to retire in July and didn’t quite make it,” Lefbom said. “I would’ve loved to see him relaxed in retirement with zero stress from the restaurant industry. He deserved it.”

Whitney lived in Arlington for the past 23 years and is survived by his wife Alica Lima-Whitney and two daughters Emma and Clara as well as his extended family: parents Herbert “Bud” W. Whitney and Elaine Whitney and sister Merrie Whitney of Richardson, Texas, brother David Whitney of Montrose, Colorado, and sister Laura Daly of Austin, Texas.

Rhodeside Grill, Ragtime and William Jeffrey’s Tavern were all closed for lunch today (Monday) to allow restaurant employees to “say goodbye to and celebrate the life of our friend, co-worker and boss,” according to social media posts.

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A 64-year-old Arlington man was killed while riding his bike to work in D.C., according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

The crash occurred yesterday (Monday) morning on the 1200 block of Constitution Avenue NW. A driver in a dark sedan ran a red light at a high rate of speed, struck Thomas Hendricks Hollowell in the crosswalk and drove off without stopping, according to police.

Despite a quick response from police and passersby, Hollowell died from his injuries. NBC 4’s Adam Tuss reported that Hollowell rode his bike to work at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History every day.

Image via Google Maps

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