Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Sheriff Appoints New Corrections Director — “Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur has announced the appointment of Major Gretchen Foster as the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office Director of Corrections, effective Monday, June 22. Foster is the first female Director of Corrections in Arlington’s history.” [Arlington County]

Route 50 Blocked By Police Activity — A portion of Route 50 was blocked near Rosslyn yesterday afternoon after police conducted a traffic stop on a stolen vehicle. The car had been reported stolen by a rental car company, a police spokeswoman said. [Twitter]

Grocery Stores Running Out of Coins — “‘Grocery continues to be an environment where consumers prefer to use cash, with roughly one out of every five transactions being paid with cash,’ said Greg Ferrara, president and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based [National Grocers Association]. ‘Independent grocery serves many communities throughout the U.S. that are underbanked or unbanked, and without availability of coinage, these customers are going to be hardest hit.'” [Progressive Grocer]

ARLnow Launches New IG Series — On Monday ARLnow launched a new Instagram story series featuring a local good news story each weekday evening. The #ARLGoodNews series is sponsored by Arlington Community Federal Credit Union and will run for the next month. [Instagram]

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(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A fight in the Penrose Square Giant led to a series of events that closed portions of two major roads and prompted a massive police response.

Police were dispatched to the grocery store around 2:30 p.m. for a report of a disturbance in the store, potentially involving a weapon. After arriving, an officer was nearly struck by a fleeing vehicle.

“A dispute between known individuals occurred inside a business in the 2500 block of 9th Road S.,” said Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “A responding officer, who was on foot, attempted to stop the vehicle in the parking lot. The driver refused to comply, drove through a parking gate and fled the scene.”

More from Wednesday’s ACPD crime report:

A lookout was broadcast and officers located the vehicle at Arlington Boulevard and 10th Street N. A traffic stop was initiated and the subjects were detained without incident. Victoria Lawson, 26, of Washington D.C. was arrested and charged with Felony Eluding, Felony Destruction of Property, Assault and Battery, Felony Child Abuse and Neglect (x4) and Possession of Marijuana.

The eastbound lanes of Route 50 near Courthouse were blocked by the vehicle stop, which involved nearly a dozen police cars.

“Looks like they arrested someone from a car… then it looked like there were some kids pulled out from the car as well,” a tipster told ARLnow.

While responding to the fight at the grocery store, one officer in a marked police SUV was involved in a crash on S. Walter Reed Drive, which closed a portion of the street for a period of time.

“While responding to the incident, an officer was involved in a crash at S. Walter Reed Drive and 16th Street S.,” Savage said. “The officer was evaluated on scene by medics. The driver of the other vehicle was transported to an area hospital with minor injuries. The crash remains under investigation.”

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Two weeks after the Trader Joe’s in Clarendon temporarily closed due to a COVID-19 case, it has closed again.

The store at 1109 N. Highland Street is closed today after an employee, who was last at the store on Monday, tested positive for the disease, according to a sign on the door.

“We are temporarily closing the store for precautionary cleaning and sanitation because a Crew Member has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19),” the sign says. “As soon as the store has been fully cleaned and restocked, we plan to reopen.”

“The Crew Member was last present at the store on April 13, 2020,” the sign continues. “Our focus remains on doing whatever is necessary to safeguard the health and safety of our Crew Members and customers and [to] best support our communities.”

Trader Joe’s is not the only store in Arlington where employees have tested positive for coronavirus, though it may be the most forthcoming with customers.

The Washington Business Journal reported yesterday that at least two employees at the Pentagon City Whole Foods have also tested positive and are currently in quarantine. The store “performed an additional cleaning and disinfection” after the cases were confirmed, a spokeswoman told WBJ, though it apparently remained open during regular business hours and did not post signs to notify customers.

The paper’s reporting seems to confirm a tip received by ARLnow on April 1, which we were unable to confirm at the time.

“I have a friend… whose roommate works at the Whole Foods in Pentagon City,” the tipster said. “There have been reports of two employees. diagnosed with COVID-19. This information was held from some employees and possibly from the many customers shopping at this location.”

Another store in Pentagon City may also have at least one COVID-19 case among its employees. On Friday, ARLnow received a tip that the neighborhood’s Costco store notified employees of a coworker who tested positive after last working on March 20.

“Costco Pentagon has an employee that has tested positive for coronavirus,” the tipster said. “Last day work was March 20… they just let their other employees know today, April 10.”

As of publication time Costco had not responded to a request for comment from ARLnow.

Grocery stores and other stores offering consumer staples have been deemed essential and allowed to remain open. After the coronavirus crisis prompted a crush of customers in stores many, like Costco, have started limiting the number of people in the stores at any given time and have instituted other social distancing measures.

In Maryland and across the country, a number of grocery employees have died after contracting COVID-19.

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There are more than 250 known coronavirus cases in Arlington.

The county has 254 reported cases, according to Wednesday’s data from the Virginia Dept. of Health. That gives Arlington the second-highest per-capita rate of infections in the state (107.24 per 100,000 people), and the highest per-capita rate in Northern Virginia, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

It has been a month since the first confirmed coronavirus case in Arlington.

Statewide, there are now 3,645 reported COVID-19 cases, 615 hospitalizations, 75 deaths, and 30,645 people tested. Of the fatalities, 23 have been in Northern Virginia.

Local, state and federal officials are continuing to urge people to wear masks to slow the spread of the disease. The virus spreads primarily through respiratory droplets, which masks help to mitigate. Even those without symptoms may have and be spreading the disease, making it more important for everyone to wear masks while out.

In just the past couple of weeks there has been a notable uptick in mask wearing among customers in local grocery stores, ARLnow has observed.

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Morning Notes

VHC Has Supplies, Extra Beds — “Virginia Hospital Center officials said not all of their 394 beds are full at the moment and that the hospital could expand above 400 in the case of a surge… Melody Dickerson, chief nursing officer at VHC, said thanks to changes such as extending the life of personal protective equipment (PPE), under new CDC guidelines, they expect to have enough for at least next month, assuming shipments continue as expected.” [Washington Post]

Bayou Bakery Owner on CNBC — While working to give away food to those in need, Bayou Bakery is facing its own challenges. Chef and owner David Guas appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box Tuesday morning and discussed his decision to close and lay off all of his staff, while also working to apply for loans and eventually reopen. [CNBC]

Pile Driving Starting Soon at HQ2 Site — “Clark Construction Group, the lead HQ2 contractor, is planning to start a particularly noisy bit of work this week… It does have a solution, of sorts, for those nonessential workers who are sheltering in place. ‘They have provided us with ear plugs to help us deal with the noise, knowing that many of you are working from home,’ Aura management wrote.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Grocery Store Changes — Harris Teeter and Giant stores will be limiting the number of shoppers in their stores, in the interest of social distancing. Giant is also implementing one-way aisles. [Washington Business Journal, WTOP]

Beyer Wants Temperature Checks at Airports — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) today wrote to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf urging the adoption of stricter measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at American airports… such as enforcing social distancing, implementing temperature checks for travelers, providing guidance on how to self-quarantine for exiting travelers, and protective equipment for staff.” [Press Release]

‘Virus Vigilantes’ on the Lookout — ARLnow has been getting a deluge of emails, tips and tweets from locals concerned about other people not maintaining social distancing. Surreptitious photos of teens on sidewalks, construction workers at jobs sites, and even unsuspecting people in parks have been sent our way. It’s apparently part of a national trend of “virus vigilantism,” as people take it upon themselves to enforce health guidelines.

Glebe Elementary Choir Performs Online — Barrett Elementary got a shout out from Sir Elton himself for its staff dance video, but Barrett is not the only Arlington school creating music videos. Glebe Elementary made its own video recently, featuring the school’s fifth grade choir together performing “We Want to Sing” from their homes. [YouTube]

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The ever-busy Trader Joe’s store in Clarendon was closed this morning, with a sign on the door saying an employee had tested positive for COVID-19.

The store is now closed for a thorough cleaning and restocking, according to the sign, after which it plans to reopen.

The sign says the employee was last in the store on Sunday. The full text is below.

TEMPORARILY CLOSED FOR CLEANING

We would like to notify customers of this store that we are temporarily closing the store for precautionary cleaning and sanitization because a Crew Member has tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). As soon as the store has been fully cleaned and restocked, we plan to reopen.

The Crew Member was last present in the store on March 29, 2020. We encourage customers who have health-related concerns to review CDC and local health department guidelines and to contact their healthcare providers with any questions. Our focus remains on doing whatever is necessary to safeguard the health of and safety of our Crew Members and customers and best support our communities.

Photo courtesy Peter G.

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Morning Notes

Resources to Assist Those in Need — Arlington County has created a list of food, financial and medical assistance that is available for neighbors in need during the coronavirus outbreak. [Arlington County]

Vihstadt Stands Up for Farmers Markets — “At Saturday’s County Board meeting, former board member John Vihstadt rapped the state government for lumping in farmers’ markets – of which Arlington has nearly a dozen operating throughout the week – with restaurants (which for the most part are now closed to dine-in service and in many cases are shuttered completely) rather than treating them as supermarkets (which remain open and running at full strength).” [InsideNova]

Giant Adjusting Store Hours — “Effective Friday, March 27, most Giant Food stores will adjust hours of operations to be open from 6:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m… The first hour of operations, 6:00-7:00 a.m. is reserved for senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals, including pregnant women and caregivers shopping for the immunocompromised, so that they may shop and practice safe social distancing.” [Press Release]

Va. Liquor Stores Limit Hours — “The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) will reduce operating hours at all of its stores statewide beginning Friday, March 27, due to the expanding nature of the COVID-19 outbreak… stores across the commonwealth will be open from noon to 7 p.m., seven days a week, starting Friday, March 27.” [Virginia ABC]

County to Help Hospital with Bond Sale — “Continuing a 42-year tradition of collaboration, the Arlington County government will assist Virginia Hospital Center in issuing bonds to support new construction. County Board members on March 21 authorized the government’s Industrial Development Authority, or IDA, to issue up to $300 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds to support the effort.” [InsideNova]

Local Catholic Schools Embrace Distance Learning — “The Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Catholic Schools announced the successful stand-up of distance learning in all 41 parish schools and high schools in the Diocese. Distance learning is now in place, offering interactive, personalized instruction to students through the remainder of the academic year.” [Press Release]

Local Leaders Urge Rent Leniency — “There are new calls for landlords to freeze [rent] payments to help mitigate the economic fallout of the pandemic… ‘We need them to show compassion on the front end, and we’ll work to make sure they’re made whole on the back end,’ said Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tomb Sentinels Are Still Guarding — “There is a sacred duty not even a pandemic can stop: a rite of continuity still carried out in Arlington National Cemetery even as much of the country shuts down. The sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier recently marked more than 30,000 days of constant watch over the remains of unidentified U.S. service members — a streak persisting through the pandemic.” [WUSA 9]

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Morning Notes

More on Arlington’s Drive-Through Testing — “Arlington County and the Virginia Hospital Center launched a coronavirus sampling site Wednesday, but a short supply of test kits and limited lab processing ability are forcing them to be selective with who they see.” [WAMU]

Grocery Stores With Senior-Only Shopping Hours — “Some DC-area grocery stores are offering or plan to offer special shopping hours for senior citizens, and in some cases other vulnerable people, during the coronavirus crisis. [Washingtonian, Twitter]

County Asks Landlords for Leniency — “We ask that you consider now what you can do to ease burdens for tenants who may have difficulty paying their rent in the coming months because of illness or financial hardship related to ongoing business disruptions and closures.” [Arlington County]

Cristol to Commercial Landlords: Don’t Fire Cleaners — “These men and women are the unsung heroes of the Coronavirus pandemic and they can least afford to lose wages and benefits during this crisis. At the same time that cleaners and security officers have stepped forward to do their jobs during this outbreak, they are now being threatened with layoffs and reductions.” [Press Release]

St. Patrick’s Day Celebration Questioned — The Celtic House on Columbia Pike is closed now, but it was one of the only local bars to stay fully open on St. Patrick’s Day. Some are questioning that decision as governments and medical professionals urge people to stay at home and maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of the deadly disease. [Facebook, Twitter]

Some Restaurants Decide to Close Completely — Galaxy Hut in Clarendon, which initially stayed open for takeout meals, is instead “shutting this puppy down.” [Twitter]

Arlington Musician Takes Shows Online — “Singer and songwriter Justin Trawick’s livelihood as a stage performer who did more than a dozen shows a month ground to a halt recently as the coronavirus pandemic shut down his concert venues.” [Reuters]

County Permit Office Closed — “The Arlington County Permit Office is now CLOSED for in-person customer service. Many services remain available online.” [Twitter]

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The most consistent advice regarding the coronavirus, besides frequent hand washing, seems to be to practice social distancing — stay at home, avoid crowded workplaces or events, and generally just hunker down.

In apparent preparation for long stays at home, Arlingtonians have been flocking to local stores and picking aisles clean of toilet paper, cleaning supplies, canned soup and even bananas.

The past two nights, in particular, have seen huge crowds at local grocery stores.

At the Ballston Harris Teeter last night, people waited in line to check out for upwards of 45 minutes and had to navigate aisles of empty shelves. Cleaning supplies, toilet paper and paper towels all were in low supply, if at all.

Elsewhere in and around Arlington, readers reported:

Last week we reported that most local grocery stores, drug stores and hardware store were completely out of hand sanitizer and face masks.

The hoarding may have some negative effects, as one reader noted in an email to ARLnow Friday morning.

“I popped into Harris Teeter on George Mason last night and was greeted by barren shelves of produce and meat… What impacted me the most from my trip, was while I was disappointed that I couldn’t grab chicken for tonight’s dinner (there was none) I saw an older lady — perhaps in her 70’s doing her shopping,” the reader wrote.

“I saw her searching the empty shelves for groceries and was struck by the realization that the people who are hoarding resources are also bringing undue risk and hardship to those with the most need,” the reader continued. “I have no idea how difficult it was for this woman to get to the grocery store, but I’m sure her effort was more than mine. To think she may have to go without as a result of others panic broke my heart.”

There is some good news: shelves are getting restocked overnight. At the Shirlington Harris Teeter this morning, there was plenty of toilet paper, plus bleach and Lysol-based cleaners.

Ashley Hopko and Jay Westcott contributed to this report

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Morning Notes

More Signs of Coronavirus Preps — Emptier shelves at local grocery stores, less traffic on the roads: there are signs that locals are taking the coronavirus threat seriously. During the first hour of yesterday’s evening rush hour, traffic on I-395 was relatively light. Last night, there was barely any canned soup left on the shelves at the Lee-Harrison Harris Teeter. [Twitter, Twitter]

Some Churches Close, Others Announce Changes — Episcopal churches in the D.C. area have suspended worship services, while the Catholic Diocese of Arlington announced a series of measures intended to help prevent the spread of disease. [Washington Post, Press Release]

Events Are Being Cancelled in Arlington — “Out of an abundance of caution, the Rosslyn BID has decided to cancel our Arts & Beats series this March and April. We are hoping to run these events later this year and we will be evaluating future events on a case-by-case basis.” [Twitter]

Arlington Conferences Cancelled — “Code for America was scheduled to host its annual summit at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, from March 11 through 13. A Code for America spokesperson told Technical.ly that this would have been the first time the nonprofit was hosting the annual summit in the D.C. area, as it normally takes place in San Francisco. Code for America release a statement on Friday announcing the summit’s cancellation.” [Technically DC]

Local Real Estate Still Hot, Though — “Listing service Bright MLS said closed sales throughout the Washington metro area were up 13% from a year ago to a 10-year high… In Arlington County, Virginia, the median overall price of what sold was $635,000, up 12.4%. But the median price of a stand-alone house that sold in Arlington last month was $1.14 million, up 19.2% from last February.” [WTOP]

Arlington Works on Tree Preservation — “It’s not just housing affordability and increased traffic Arlington County officials are concerned about in the wake of Amazon.com Inc.’s arrival. They’re also watching out for the trees. County officials are proposing to add one urban forester position to the Department of Parks and Recreation. The new hire is needed to expand tree preservation efforts and work through the surge of site plans developers are pitching in the area of Amazon’s HQ2.” [Washington Business Journal]

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(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) If you want to stock up on hand sanitizer and face masks, you’re going to have a tough time finding any in Arlington.

Numerous stores we checked around the county were completely out of both, amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak. Despite there being no confirmed local cases, shoppers in Arlington seem as eager to hoard supplies as others across the U.S.

The CVS store at Ballston Quarter mall was a typical scene. The shelves this afternoon were mostly bare where face masks, hand sanitizer and Lysol once stood.

Elsewhere around Arlington:

  • The Harris Teeter stores in Shirlington and Pentagon City were completely out of hand sanitizer
  • Ayers Hardware in Westover had only a limited supply of face masks and was imposing a per customer sales limit
  • Preston’s Pharmacy on Lee Highway was out of hand sanitizer, but a clerk said customers were buying aloe and rubbing alcohol to make their own “homebrew” hand sanitizer
  • Cherrydale Hardware on Lee Highway was out of masks
  • Target in Rosslyn was out of hand sanitizer

If you feel you must get your hands on some hand sanitizer — or some face masks despite officials cautioning that they’re ineffective — there might be a solution. A pop-up “coronavirus supply store” opened on Florida Avenue NE in D.C. over the weekend, offering both of the above plus bleach and “preparedness kits.”

Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools officials, meanwhile, say they’re monitoring the outbreak and are continuing to make emergency preparations.

Jay Westcott contributed to this report

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