Arlington, VA

As the global coronavirus outbreak spreads and the stock market sinks, both Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools are ramping up their public outreach on the disease.

While there are no confirmed cases locally, and only one “possible” case being investigated in Northern Virginia, local governments, agencies, hospitals and schools throughout the D.C. region are continuing to make emergency preparations.

This morning APS sent parents an update on its preps for a possible local outbreak of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

APS says it is “monitoring new developments and following the guidance of health officials,” as well as continuing “to monitor student health and absentee rates at all schools.” It is also encouraging students and staff to frequently wash their hands and to stay home when sick.

In the letter, school officials hint at plans to keep educating students in the event schools need to temporarily close.

“APS is reviewing our existing plans and procedures for communicable diseases and responding accordingly based on recommendations from health officials,” the letter says. “Our planning for COVID-19 is focused on specific steps necessary to maintain a safe environment for students and staff and to ensure we are well equipped and prepared to continue to educate students, in the event of a change in operations.”

Arlington County, meanwhile, has been updating its coronavirus information page and posting information on social media. Late last month county health officials said they were preparing for a worst-case scenario.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said today that residents can expect to hear more public health information from the county next week. A disease outbreak on this scale is something the county has been preparing for, she said.

“This is something we’ve been looking at for a long time — what do you do when you have a pandemic,” Garvey told ARLnow. “Stay tuned.”

Garvey also passed along some initial advice for residents.

“If you have not signed up for Arlington Alerts, please do so,” she said, “and everyone should be washing their hands, a lot.”

The county website details steps Arlington’s health department is taking to prevent COVID-19 here:

What is ACPHD doing to prevent the COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) in the community?

  • ACPHD staff are contacting, assessing and monitoring any returning travelers from areas affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • ACPHD is providing guidance to our government and community partners to respond to this outbreak.
  • ACPHD staff continue to update hospital and healthcare communities with guidance on how to identify and respond to possible cases.
  • ACPHD will arrange appropriate lab testing.
  • If there are any cases in Arlington, ACPHD staff will follow CDC guidance about identifying and monitoring close contacts of a case.
  • Staff are available 24/7 to provide this support.

At last check, there were 62 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.

File hoto by CDC on Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Amazon Leases Former PBS Building — “Amazon.com Inc. is gobbling up more office space in Crystal City, signing a lease for another full building owned by frequent partner and current landlord JBG Smith Properties. The tech giant is now set to occupy another 272,000 square feet at 2100 Crystal Drive… The building is currently home to the Public Broadcasting Services’ headquarters, though the nonprofit announced plans last year to move to a different building within Crystal City.” [Washington Business Journal]

W-L vs. Wakefield in the Semis Tonight — “Having been blown out by the Yorktown Patriots a few days earlier, the Washington-Liberty Generals turned the tables on their Arlington rival, winning 66-61 Feb. 25 in a quarterfinal game of the 6D North Region boys high-school basketball tournament… Washington-Liberty will now face another big Arlington rival – the Wakefield Warriors (17-9) – in the Feb. 27 region semifinals at Wakefield at 7 p.m.” [InsideNova]

JBG Selling Properties to Fund Development — “JBG Smith Properties sold a 50% stake in its 552,000-square-foot Central Place office tower in December for $220 million… The sale to PGIM Inc. of the Rosslyn asset netted JBG Smith $53.4 million and comes as the company seeks to both shed properties outside of its core business and fuel a development pipeline.” [Washington Business Journal]

Another Possible N. Va. Coronavirus Case — “Health officials in Virginia said Tuesday they are monitoring two residents for possible coronavirus, including one in Northern Virginia.” [Washington Post]

DMV Urging Residents to Get REAL ID Now — “More than 850,000 Virginians in 2019 took the steps necessary to get a ‘REAL ID’-compliant driver’s license or identity card, but perhaps twice that many are still in need of one, state officials say. ‘We estimate approximately 1.5 million more Virginians will want to get a REAL ID between now and October,’ said Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Richard Holcomb.” [InsideNova]

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Amid ongoing fears about the coronavirus outbreak, Arlington Public Schools is barring recent visitors to China from schools.

The action is in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. In a letter to parents last night, APS said any student who has returned from mainland China since Feb. 2 will need to wait at least 14 days before returning to school.

“APS will provide support to any student who is unable to attend school by providing take-home educational materials,” the school system said. “Please contact your child’s school to receive these materials by mail.”

One parent who contacted ARLnow questioned why parents were only being notified of the policy now, saying APS should have implemented the CDC-recommended, 14-day quarantine earlier.

Currently there are no known cases of coronavirus in Virginia, D.C. or Maryland.

The full letter is below.

Dear APS Staff and Families:

We have received inquiries from families about our procedures for students who may be returning to the United States from China.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers returning from Mainland China (excluding Hong Kong and Macau) to the US after 5 pm on February 2, 2020, should remain at home for 14 days after their return date to the US. Therefore, APS students returning from Mainland China after the date above will not be allowed to attend school for 14 days. This will help us reduce the possible risk of coronavirus spread in our schools.

APS will provide support to any student who is unable to attend school by providing take-home educational materials. Please contact your child’s school to receive these materials by mail.

Based on Arlington County Public Health Division guidance, APS continues to take the following effective steps to prevent students and staff from becoming ill in schools:

Cleaning and disinfecting touched objects and surfaces frequently with materials that meet the criteria recommended by the CDC and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for control of coronavirus.
Reinforcing the following effective behaviors in schools with students and employees:Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible.
Cover mouth and hands with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
Stay home when sick – and only return to school when children and staff are symptom free for 24 hours.
Keep their distance from people who are sick – and encourage sick people they encounter to go home and seek care as needed.
Avoid non-essential travel.
To further protect all our students, our employees, and our community, we need your help to reinforce the messages above. Have your student(s) practice these behaviors at home – it will make it easier to follow these same recommendations in school.

APS will continue to work with Arlington County Public Health Division and the School Health Bureau as the situation evolves. This is a rapidly developing situation, and we will publish updated guidance as warranted.

For up-to-date information about the coronavirus, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/ 2019-ncov/about/index.html.

Cintia Johnson
Interim Superintendent
Arlington Public Schools

Reuben K. Varghese, MD, MPH
Health Director and Arlington County Public Health Division Chief

Photo via CDC

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Morning Notes

No Coronavirus in N. Va. So Far — “UPDATE: Tests came back negative on a second Northern Virginia resident suspected of having the novel coronavirus.” [Twitter]

HQ2 Search Was Intended to Extract Handouts — “When Elon Musk secured $1.3 billion from Nevada in 2014 to open a gigantic battery plant, Jeff Bezos noticed. In meetings, the Amazon.com Inc. chief expressed envy for how Musk had pitted five Western states against one another in a bidding war for thousands of manufacturing jobs; he wondered why Amazon was okay with accepting comparatively trifling incentives.” [Bloomberg]

Todd Hitt’s Path to Fraud — “Todd Hitt had never worked for the family company. He’d built spec houses around the same North Arlington neighborhoods where he’d grown up, but according to a court document, his homebuilding business had collapsed… now solidly into midlife, Hitt suddenly seemed eager to leave his fingerprints on the Washington landscape.” [Washingtonian]

Ballston Homicide Investigation Update — An update on last month’s homicide in Ballston, from an Arlington County Police spokeswoman: “The homicide investigation remains a top priority of the department with detectives continuing to process evidence, interview witnesses and follow-up on investigate leads. At this time, there is no new information to provide regarding the investigation. Arlington County Crime Solvers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for tips leading to the arrest of a suspect. Report tips anonymously by calling the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at ‪1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

Virginia’s Favorite Valentine’s Candy — Virginia’s favorite Valentine’s Day candy is conversation hearts, followed by heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, according to a candy website. [CandyStore.com]

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Kabob Palace restaurant in Crystal City has sent a cease and desist letter to ARLnow, threatening legal action over an article that reported on a possible measles exposure there.

The article was published Friday evening, after Arlington County and the Virginia Dept. of Health issued press releases warning that a person with measles had traveled to a number of places in Northern Virginia, including the restaurant on the 2300 block of S. Eads Street.

“Out of an abundance of caution, Health Districts in northern Virginia are informing people who were at various locations — including Kabob Palace (2333 S. Eads St., Arlington, VA 22202), on Jan. 26-27, 2020, 9 p.m. – 1 a.m. — that they may have been exposed to a person with measles,” Arlington’s press release said.

“Northern Virginia area health officials are mounting a coordinated effort to identify people who may have been exposed,” the press release continued. “Based on the date of exposure, we have determined that if you were infected with measles, you may develop symptoms as late as February 19, 2020.”

The cease and desist letter, below, demands that ARLnow’s article relaying the information from the county “be removed from your website immediately, as the article contains misinformation that has had a direct negative and significant impact on Kabob Palace’s business.”

Kabob Palace was the only Arlington location mentioned by authorities as having been visited by the measles patient. The cease and desist letter says the ARLnow article, and accompanying photo, “unfairly single out Kabob Palace.”

“Your voluntary removal of the picture of my client’s business as well as a more balanced and factually accurate report of the facts will be appreciated,” the letter says. “Failure to comply with these reasonable requests may force my client to take further legal action, which we all would hope to avoid.”

The full letter is below.

Photo via Google Maps

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A person with measles might have exposed people to the disease at a local restaurant last weekend.

Arlington County and the Virginia Department of Health disclosed today that the measles patient visited Kabob Palace in Crystal City, at 2333 S. Eads Street, from about 9 p.m. Sunday to 1 a.m. Monday. The patient also spent time Dulles International Airport and sites in Fairfax County, including a hotel and Inova Fairfax Hospital.

The state health department’s accounting of where the patient visited suggests he or she was visiting from outside the country.

In a press release Friday evening, Arlington County provided advice for anyone who thinks they might have been exposed to the highly-contagious disease:

Out of an abundance of caution, Health Districts in northern Virginia are informing people who were at various locations — including Kabob Palace (2333 S. Eads St., Arlington, VA 22202), on Jan. 26-27, 2020, 9 p.m. – 1 a.m. — that they may have been exposed to a person with measles.

Northern Virginia area health officials are mounting a coordinated effort to identify people who may have been exposed.

Measles is a highly contagious illness that is spread through coughing, sneezing, and contact with droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of an infected individual. Measles symptoms usually appear in two stages. In the first stage, most people have a fever of greater than 101 degrees, runny nose, watery red eyes and a cough. The second stage begins around the third to seventh day when a rash begins to appear on the face and spreads over the entire body. Based on the date of exposure, we have determined that if you were infected with measles, you may develop symptoms as late as February 19, 2020.

What should you do if you were at one of the locations at the time specified?

  • If you have received two doses of a measles containing vaccine (either the measles, mumps and rubella [MMR] vaccine or a measles only vaccine which is available in other countries) you are protected and do not need to take any action.
  • If you have received only one dose of a measles containing vaccine, you are very likely to be protected and your risk of being infected with measles from any of these exposures is very low.  However, to achieve complete immunity, contact your health care provider about getting a second vaccine dose.
  • If you have never received a measles containing vaccine nor had a documented case of measles, you may be at risk of getting measles from this exposure. Contact your local health department or health care provider for advice, or come to one of Arlington County Public Health Division’s weekly walk-in clinics. Visit the Immunization Clinic page for more information about times, locations, and costs.
  • If you notice the symptoms of measles, stay home and away from others and immediately call your primary health care provider or health department to discuss further care. Call ahead before going to the office or the emergency room and tell them that you were exposed to measles.

Measles is easily preventable through a safe and effective MMR vaccine. The best protection against future measles cases is the vaccination of all susceptible persons. Two doses are recommended for most individuals with the first dose given at age 12-15 months and the second prior to kindergarten entry (age 4-6 years).

Measles is common in many parts of the world, including popular tourist destinations. All persons who will be traveling internationally should be evaluated for measles immunity and vaccinated as needed. Infants too young to be vaccinated should avoid travel to areas with measles until they can be vaccinated.

Residents with additional questions about this measles investigation can call 703-267-3511. For more information on measles, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s measles page.

Photo via Google Maps

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With the Virginia Health Department investigating a second possible case of coronavirus in Northern Virginia, Arlington County is preparing for the worst-case scenario: a local outbreak.

Kurt Larrick, assistant director of the Arlington County Department of Human Services, said in an email that the Arlington County Public Health Department is taking several steps to monitor the disease.

Per an email from Larrick:

  • ACPHD staff continue to update hospital and healthcare communities with guidance on how to identify and respond to possible cases.
  • ACPHD will arrange appropriate lab testing
  • If there are any cases in Arlington, ACPHD staff will follow CDC guidance about identifying and monitoring close contacts of a case.
  • Staff are available 24/7 to provide this support.

Larrick said the department has a new page on the coronavirus outbreak that includes the latest info, who’s at risk, and what people should do to protect themselves and others.

“The Virginia Department of Health is a good resource,” Larrick said. “They plan to provide updates every Thursday and/or as warranted.”

Several health tips are available on the County website, mostly the usual of “wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds” and to stay home if you’re feeling sick. Also, you should probably avoid traveling to China.

While coronavirus is in the spotlight, the truth is that standard influenza is likely to kill more Americans this year.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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Morning Notes

It’s ARLnow’s 10th Anniversary — On this day 10 years ago ARLnow quietly published its first article. It has since grown to be Arlington’s local news publication of record, read by a majority of those who call our county home. Join us to celebrate this milestone tonight at Bronson Bierhall in Ballston (4100 Fairfax Drive) from 5-7 p.m. [Facebook]

County Board Approves Solar Farm Deal — “‘This is a groundbreaking partnership for the County,’ said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. ‘It will take us a long way toward our goal of 100 percent use of renewable sources for all electricity used in government operations by 2025.’ Arlington County is the first locality in the Commonwealth to enter into a power purchase agreement of this scale for off-site solar energy with an investor-owned utility company.” [Arlington County, Dominion Energy]

Local Pharmacies Selling Out of Surgical Masks — Preston’s Pharmacy at 5101 Lee Highway is sold out of surgical masks amid worries about the deadly coronavirus outbreak. The store “reported that people are calling, and coming in asking about surgical masks… they are having re-ordering issues from their supplier.” [WUSA 9]

Investors Buying Up Crystal City Properties — “In another indicator of how sought-after the real estate near Amazon’s HQ2 has become, even an NBA player with no ties to Greater Washington is an investor in the Crystal City market. Jeff Teague, a point guard for the Atlanta Hawks, bought a 935-square-foot apartment at 1200 Crystal Drive.” [Washington Business Journal]

Home Sales Way Down in Arlington — “Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. reports the median price of a home that sold in Arlington County in December was $649,000. That’s up 19% from the median selling price a year earlier. The number of sales in Arlington County was down 24% from a year ago, and, with only 148 homes on the market last month, active inventory was down 51%.” [WTOP]

Another Title for Local Girls Flag Football Team — “Congratulations to the [Arlington-based] Virginia Hurricanes 14U girls flag football team for winning the NFL Flag Football National Championship tournament at the NFL Pro Bowl event in Florida this past weekend. This is the second NFL Flag Girls National Championship title for the Hurricanes.” [Virginia Hurricanes]

Chamber Holds Hospitality Awards — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce today honored 98 front-line workers in Arlington’s hospitality industry at the 16th Annual Hospitality Awards at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel. These prestigious awards are presented each year to hospitality workers who deliver outstanding customer service, exhibit excellence in their roles, and continuously exceed their job descriptions.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

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Morning Notes

County Board Approves Construction Contracts — “The Arlington County Board today approved contracts for projects that will improve the streetscape on 20th Road North, upgrade several intersections along the North Pershing Drive corridor, and rehabilitate a North Glebe Road water main.” [Arlington County]

ACPD Searching for Missing Man — “ACPD continues to attempt to locate critically missing adult Paul Winfred Coleman. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact police at 703-558-2222 or 9-1-1 in an emergency.” [Twitter, Arlington County]

Va. Could Stay Blue Without Arlington — “Virginia Delegate Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun) made headlines when he suggested returning portions of Arlington and Alexandria back to the District of Columbia. Even if this idea were to gain any serious traction with other legislators, it would not help LaRock or Republicans in Virginia hold on to a majority in the legislature.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Ebbin’s Labor Bill Faces Opposition — “The bill has attracted opposition from the state’s commercial and residential development industries, in addition to state Republicans, now in the minority in the General Assembly for the first time in two decades. Even some Democrats expressed skepticism about the legislation in initial committee hearings.” [Washington Business Journal]

Map of Cyclist-Involved Crashes — “Cyclists commuting into the District over Key Bridge have to travel through one of Virginia’s worst areas for vehicle-on-bicycle crashes. Both Clarendon Blvd. and Lee Highway had numerous collisions.” [Twitter, WUSA 9]

Possible N. Va. Coronavirus Case — “The Virginia Department of Health says it is investigating three people, including one in northern Virginia, who ‘meet both clinical and epidemiologic criteria’ for coronavirus.” [Fox 5, Virginia Dept. of Health]

Arlington GRAMMY Connection — At last night’s GRAMMY Awards, one-time Arlington resident Roberta Flack was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) The Animal Welfare League of Arlington reopened today, but its dog kennels remain closed after a disease outbreak.

The shelter near Shirlington said Thursday it was dealing with parvovirus, described as “a highly contagious virus that can affect all dogs.”

Parvo “affects dogs’ gastrointestinal tracts and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. It causes dehydration, is potentially deadly, and can only be cured by the dog’s own immune system.

“Out of an abundance of caution, our dog kennels are CLOSED until further notice due to parvovirus,” AWLA said via Facebook. “The affected dogs are being treated and we are currently deep-cleaning our kennels. We will update you all on the situation in the coming days. Our cat room and small companion animal room will remain open as usual for adoptions.”

AWLA spokeswoman Chelsea Jones said the shelter hopes “not to alarm the public or stop people from coming in to adopt.”

“We do expect the dog kennels to be open tomorrow,” Jones said.

Dog Kennel Update – now that we have finished a thorough deep clean and cared for the affected animals, we wanted to…

Posted by Animal Welfare League of Arlington on Friday, November 8, 2019

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Morning Notes

Arlington’s First West Nile Case of 2018 — “The Arlington County Public Health Division has received its first reported case of West Nile Virus in an Arlington resident for 2018. This case serves as a reminder that West Nile Virus is present in our community and the region.” [Arlington County]

Dirt Bike, ATV Riders Swarm Local Streets — A large group of ATV and dirt bike riders rode through the streets D.C. and Arlington last night. The unruly group rumbled through Rosslyn and stopped at the Exxon station on N. Rhodes Street to refuel. No arrests were made in Arlington, NBC 4 reported. [Twitter, NBC Washington, WTOP]

Police Department Wins Video Award — “Three videos by the Arlington County Police Department… have been selected as winners in the 39th annual Telly Awards. The Telly Awards honors excellence in video and television across all screens and it is judged by leaders from video platforms, television and streaming networks, agencies, and production companies.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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