Arlington, VA

Firefighters battled an apartment fire in the Penrose neighborhood Thursday morning.

The fire in a second floor unit of a three-story, garden-style apartment building on the 2000 block of 4th Street S. was first reported around 9:45 a.m. Firefighters from nearby Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall encountered heavy smoke upon arriving on scene, but were able to quickly extinguish the flames.

Residents in the apartment were able to get out as the fire spread and there were no injuries to the occupants or firefighters, we’re told.

A dog that was inside the apartment, however, was not able to get out. Firefighters attempted CPR after removing the dog from the apartment, but it succumbed to its injuries, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli. The dog’s body was wrapped in a blanket by rescue personnel.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

Map via Google Maps. Staff photographer Jay Westcott contributed to this report.

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Morning Notes

More Coronavirus-Related Dispatches — ARLnow is starting to hear the Arlington County Fire Department responding to more suspected COVID-19 cases. Medics were just dispatched to assist a 44-year-old woman with severe trouble breathing and other symptoms consistent with the disease.

May Could Be Worse Than April — “It could still be weeks before the worst of the coronavirus crisis hits Virginia. State officials are preparing for a surge in the number of people who test positive between late April and late May, Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that analysis of the latest models shows. Northam told residents he was planning for the worst and hoping for the best.” [NBC 4]

Prosecutors Have Video Evidence in Store Shooting — “The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office showed the judge security video from the Shirlington Road business, which prosecutors said captures Abushariah shooting one of the burglars ‘point-blank in the back…’ The prosecutor called the case a ‘callous disregard for human life’ because Abushariah had other options, such as hiding in the backroom and calling the police. Or running to safety out the back door.” [WJLA]

Arlington Resident’s YOLO Money Diary — “We then took some mushrooms around 12 PM and went on a long, trippy, and fun-filled walk through Rosslyn. We stopped at Northside Social for some pastries and a Bitburger beer while on our walk–more illegal public drinking, but we kind of just don’t care anymore.” [Washingtonian]

Two Green Pig Employees Test Positive — “We regret to inform you that two of our employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Both… had been working with customers assisting with order-pickups. Neither were working in the kitchen or with food prep.” [Instagram]

Bakeshop Now Mailing Some Items — Bakeshop in Clarendon is now taking orders of cookies, cream pies, bars and bread slices online. Orders are shipped on Mondays to ensure freshness. [Bakeshop]

Marymount Prof is 3D Printing Face Shields — “Marymount University professor Dr. Eric Bubar is getting in on the action, with hopes of utilizing his unique skills to make a difference. A longtime provider of 3D printed upper-limb assistive devices, he is now shifting his focus to creating 3D printed, reusable face shields for use at hospitals in Washington, D.C., New York and beyond.” [Press Release]

APS to Distribute Week of Meals to Families in Need — “On Fri, April 3, APS will provide a week’s worth of meals to families who come to one of the five grab-and-go meal distribution sites to ensure students have food during spring break. There will be no APS meal service provided April 6-10… Meal services will resume on Mon, April 13, with an expanded list of sites to include Key and Hoffman-Boston elementary schools. Additionally, the USDA has provided a waiver to the rule that children must be present to receive meals.” [Arlington Public Schools]

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Update on 4/2/20 — The repairs were completed and the roadway is back open.

Update at 4:50 p.m. — Walter Reed Drive is now closed in both directions while crews work to stop the leak and repair the line. 

Earlier: The southbound lanes of Walter Reed Drive are blocked due to a significant outdoor gas leak south of Columbia Pike.

The leak was reported shortly before 2:30 p.m., near the intersection of Walter Reed and 11th Street S. Arlington police and firefighters are on the scene.

Initial reports suggest a gas line larger than 2 inches was struck by a construction crew, prompting the closure and extra precautions. First responders are now checking natural gas levels on the ground floor of the adjacent apartment building while awaiting the arrival of Washington Gas.

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There are now 63 known coronavirus cases in Arlington County, up from 54 yesterday.

That’s according to the latest data from the Virginia Dept. of Health, which now lists 604 cases, 83 hospitalizations, 14 deaths and 7,337 people tested statewide. The cases in Arlington as of Friday represent a nearly four-fold increase since a week ago.

County leaders, meanwhile, continue to urge additional caution — and action — to fight the spread of the virus. But the effort is being hampered somewhat by people continuing to congregate in groups and a lack of available tests.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, in her email newsletter to constituents this morning, listed the following “ongoing challenges” in Arlington.

  • Groups congregating in our parks continue to be an issue and our Police are enforcing safe distancing and activities. While our park equipment should not be used, people are encouraged to continue to take walks on our trails and enjoy the outside (maintaining at least 6 feet of social distance).
  • COVID-19 testing also continues to be an issue in Arlington as it is nationally. Virginia Hospital Center has received more kits and gotten more efficient about doing the sampling at their drive-through facility on Quincy Street. The fact remains, however, that a limited number of kits continue to be an issue and it will be that way for some time.

At the Washington-Liberty High School track this morning, police could be seen inspecting a vandalized, temporary barrier, intended to keep people out while local recreational facilities are closed.

Arlington County firefighters, meanwhile, were ordered Thursday night to start wearing surgical masks “for the entirety of their scheduled work day,” according to a memo obtained by ARLnow.

ACFD spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli said the mask-wearing order applies when firefighters are within six feet of anyone else. It follows Tuesday’s announcement that a firefighter had tested positive for COVID-19. The firefighter’s colleagues were allowed to stay on the job, following guidance from Arlington’s health department, despite concerns from the fire union.

No other firefighters have tested positive or exhibited symptoms since, Tirelli said.

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Morning Notes

Fire Union Raises Alarm About Lack of Quarantining — “An Arlington County firefighter tested positive for coronavirus this week and the union is concerned that colleagues were not told to quarantine.” [NBC 4]

The Toll for First Responders During the Outbreak — “We are starting to see the mental and physical toll that this pandemic is having on our members and their families. Please continue to practice social distancing and listen to the local leaders.” [Twitter]

Signs of Support From the Community — Signs and other expressions of appreciation for first responders have been popping up around Arlington, as have signs urging continued social distancing. [Twitter, Twitter, Twitter]

GMU Prof Trying to Spur Coronavirus Solutions — “George Mason University professor Tyler Cowen hopes to incentivize a stronger response to the coronavirus by distributing more than $1 million in prizes for research leading to immediate help in fighting the pandemic.” [George Mason University]

Beyer Supports Relief Bill — Said Rep. Don Beyer, regarding the record 3.3 million new unemployment claims: “These numbers are far worse than anything we saw during the Great Recession. We need to move quickly to help those that are getting hurt… That is why the bill passed by the Senate to increase unemployment insurance by an extra $600 a week for four months and make billions available for small business grants and loan payments is so important.” [House of Representatives]

Local Testing is Taking a Long Time — “An Arlington, Virginia, resident told Axios he got tested a week ago, but his results have now been delayed twice; he’ll likely end up waiting nine to 10 days for his results.” [Axios]

Ambar Offering Family-Style Meals to Go — “Street Guys Hospitality, renowned for its neighborhood restaurants that offer set price, next-level Balkan & Mexican dining without limits, is stepping up with a plan to help feed the communities it serves while supporting its staff members during this crisis.” [Press Release]

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(Updated at 5 p.m.) An Arlington firefighter has tested positive for the coronavirus, a fire department spokesman confirms to ARLnow.

Officials are not revealing the fire station at which the firefighter worked, citing privacy concerns. The spokesman told ARLnow that the county’s health department has notified people the firefighter might have come into contact with, but ACFD personnel who worked with him or her are staying on the job.

“Because they’re not showing symptoms they’re still working, and that’s at the direction of Arlington public health,” said Capt. Justin Tirelli. “We’re monitoring everybody constantly for possible symptoms.”

Tirelli said that the fire department has plans in place, dating back to the 2009 H1N1 outbreak, for how to keep staffing levels up even if more firefighters start falling ill. Those plans include shifting trained firefighters from department staff jobs to the field, and calling in volunteers if needed.

“We’ll flex and move our staffing as needed,” he said, noting that there are also “high level” discussions for how to maintain fire department staffing as a region.

Across the river, eight members of D.C. Fire and EMS have tested positive for COVID-19 and, as of Sunday, 118 firefighters were under self-quarantine.

ACFD says it has prepared for the outbreak and has protective gear for firefighters responding to illness calls. Still, the department has been urging people who are feeling ill to contact their medical provider and only call 911 in the event of a life-threatening emergency.

There has thus far been only “a very small” increase in calls for people experiencing flu-like symptoms, Tirelli said, but ACFD expects such calls to increase significantly in the coming weeks.

One change that is being made in procedure is reducing the number of personnel who make initial contact with those reporting flu-like symptoms. Instead of a full crew assessing the patient, now a smaller assessment team will go in while others stay back, prepared to assist as needed, according to Tirelli.

As of noon today there were 36 known coronavirus cases in Arlington County, and 290 cases statewide, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.

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(Updated at 10:25 p.m.) In a small press conference, local officials explained that the second day of drive-in coronavirus testing went well but efforts are hamstrung by a lack of coronavirus tests.

“We’ve been able to process 63 patients,” said Melody Dickerson, Virginia Hospital Center’s Chief Nursing Officer. “We are training more laboratory staff to help with the process. The limiting resource is the testing supplies. That is a finite resource and we continue to monitor that closely.”

Dickerson said the facility, on county-owned property across from Washington-Liberty High School, could test 12 people per hour, but the number of available tests limited them to 63 patients.

Aaron Miller, Director of Arlington’s Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management, said the efficiency of Arlington’s operation can and should be applied elsewhere.

“We’ve taken the successful model you’ve seen here and the plans we’ve worked on and provided that with our regional partners as a templated guidance,” Miller said. “We’ve encouraged not only regional partners but state partners to use this as an example of what can be accomplished with these public-private partnerships.”

Arlington is supporting the requests from other state and regional leaders to get more testing from the federal government, he added.

Following the announcement that Arlington has set up a coronavirus hotline — 703-228-7999 — for resident questions, Miller requested that Arlingtonians save 911 calls for emergencies.

“We saw a spike in calls to 911 asking about testing,” Miller said. “Please, if you do not have an emergency, please don’t call 911.”

Also Thursday, Arlington County released a video showing the new protective gear firefighters might be wearing on medical calls to protect them from disease.

“Please, do not be alarmed,” the video said. “This does not mean that the patient we are attending to is sick with the coronavirus.”

The extra precautions are necessary to keep first responders healthy at a time when there is evidence of “community transmission” in Northern Virginia.

More from Arlington County:

As of March 19, 2020, public health officials have noted evidence of community transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus in parts of Northern Virginia.

Local governments in Northern Virginia have already taken a number of actions to promote social distancing and protect those at increased risk for severe illness. Individuals are urged to:

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Avoid close contact with those are sick
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow and wash your hands afterwards
  • Avoid crowded areas and non‐essential travel if you are over age 65 or have a chronic medical condition
  • Follow local government social distancing guidance.
  • Infectious diseases do not respect boundaries. Each individual is a critical part of slowing the spread of COVID-19, in addition to government action at the local, state and federal levels.

For more information about the COVID-19 coronavirus and how you can help protect yourself and those around you, visit arlingtonva.us/Coronavirus.

Photo via Jay Westcott

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The front porch and attic of a home in Arlington’s historic Maywood neighborhood caught fire early this morning.

The fire broke out around 4 a.m. on the 3200 block of 23rd Street N.

“Crews were able to extinguish the fire with very little interior damage,” the Arlington County Fire Department said via Twitter. “All 4 occupants and a hamster escaped without injury.”

Photo courtesy Arlington County Fire Department

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Arlington County firefighters and the U.S. Park Police helicopter helped rescue a man suffering an apparent medical emergency along the Potomac River Sunday evening.

The rescue happened around 6 p.m., on the rocks below 44th Street N. A portion of Chain Bridge Road was temporarily closed during the emergency response, which involved firefighters repelling down to the patient, who was ultimately hoisted onto the helicopter.

“A bystander called 911 to report what appears to be an adult male lying near the water’s edge,” Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Justin Tirelli tells ARLnow. An “ACFD technical rescue team made their way to the patient and rendered medical care to a 40 year old male who suffered an apparent medical emergency. [The] helicopter was used because the terrain made it very difficult to lift the patient manually.”

The man was reported by rescuers to be in stable condition.

Several boats, including a D.C. Police boat, also responded to the scene. A video of the rescue is below and more photos can be found here.

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With two cases now confirmed in Arlington, coronavirus is here and spreading. The Arlington County Fire Department, however, says it’s prepared.

“As other organizations begin taking steps to limit chances of exposure to coronavirus, we are prepared to respond to it,” the department said today on social media. “In consultation with [the Centers for Disease Control] and [Arlington Dept. of Human Services], we have the plans and equipment to safely handle potential cases while keeping our members safe.”

“We’re going to be restricting some of our activity,” ACFD spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli tells ARLnow. While firefighters will still be responding to calls as usual, activities like school groups visiting firehouses and other public events at stations will be cancelled.

Tirelli said firefighters already take “standard precautions” for flu cases — precautions are applicable to coronavirus.

For calls involving patients with flu-like symptoms, firefighters will wear masks, eye protection, gloves and gowns, and will then put a mask on the patient, Tirelli said. After a transport to the hospital for a patient with flu or coronavirus-like symptoms, per standard procedure, the ambulance’s passenger compartment and stretcher will be cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant.

Tirelli noted that the fire department has not seen a noticeable uptick in calls for people with flu-like symptoms, but ACFD is expecting such calls to increase as the outbreak worsens.

“The question is whether it’s a drastic and sudden increase or a gradual increase,” he said. “We’re hoping for [gradual].”

Tirelli has some suggestions for Arlington residents. First, don’t call 911 or the Emergency Communications Center for general questions or advice, as many people have been doing — the Virginia Dept. of Health has a call center for that: 1-877-ASK-VDH3 (275-8343).

Second, follow the advice of experts to help prevent the spread of disease — everything from frequent hand washing to avoiding large crowds.

“Taking on the extra responsibility of not being around a lot of people is really key,” Tirelli said. “People have to live, we know you have to go to the grocery store, but if you can avoid large gatherings and events… it’s not going to eliminate the illness, but it’s going to slow the spread. A rapid increase [in cases] is going to overwhelm the system and that’s what we don’t want.”

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Morning Notes

It’s Primary Day — Today is Super Tuesday, the presidential primary day in Virginia and 13 other states across the U.S. In Arlington, polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Arlington public schools are closed to students today. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Beyer, Lopez Endorse Biden — Following his decisive victory in the South Carolina primary, former Vice President Joe Biden has picked up endorsements locally from Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Del. Alfonso Lopez (D). Lopez and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe were stuck in an elevator in Richmond for a half hour yesterday while heading to a Biden event. [Press Release, Twitter]

County OKs Five Scooter Companies — “The lone applicant seeking to provide electric-bicycle service in Arlington has been rejected by county officials, but five operators of electric-scooter devices did make the grade, County Manager Mark Schwartz told County Board members on Feb. 25. The five e-scooter firms – Bird, Jump, Lime, Razor and Skip – were among eight that had sought permission to operate in the county. The other three were rejected for various reasons, including having no speedometers on their devices.” [InsideNova]

Cristol Encourages Volunteering for Erik — “As you may have seen in the news, our colleague and friend, Erik, is facing a tough health challenge…  here’s what we can do for him: Go to a civic association or commission meeting. Volunteer. Embody Erik’s example & make this place better by showing up. And take a picture, and tag it #HereForErik so we can share.” [Twitter]

I-66 Tolling Deemed a Success — “About 700 more people each day total are commuting along the Interstate 66 corridor inside the Capital Beltway now compared to before tolls for solo drivers and an expanded rush-hour period began, and there are also fewer car trips each morning… Virginia state officials have said the goal of the tolls has been to move more people in the corridor, and see the higher count of commuters as a sign the system is working.” [WTOP]

Coworking Space Coming to Courthouse — “Flexible workspace provider Venture X is making its first foray into the Washington, D.C., market, after reaching a deal to take the top floor of the Navy League Building in Arlington, Virginia.” [CoStar]

Cupid the Cat Now Up for Adoption — “Two weeks after undergoing emergency surgery to remove an arrow from his head, Cupid is ready to find a new home. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s veterinary director cleared Cupid on Monday, March 2, for adoption.” [Patch]

ACFD Assists With McLean FireUpdated at 8:25 a.m. — Arlington County firefighters helped Fairfax County’s fire department battle a massive house fire in McLean last night. [Twitter]

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