Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Northam Announces COVID Changes — Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesdays that, starting today, Virginia residents can start having nonemergency surgeries and dental procedures again. The governor also announced that the state Dept. of Health will soon start releasing ZIP code-level coronavirus case data. [WTOP, @kamamasters/Twitter]

County Announces New Housing Director — “Arlington County has selected Anne Venezia to be the County’s new Housing Director… She most recently served six months as the Acting Housing Director and was the Housing Finance Manager for four years prior. Venezia joined Arlington County in 2008.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Pushing for More Census Participation — “Arlington government officials say the county’s census-response rate has passed 60 percent, and local efforts will now be made to reach out to low-response hotspots across the community… the 2010 response rate of 74 percent [was] slightly below the overall Virginia average that year.” [InsideNova]

County’s Memorial Page for Erik Gutshall — Arlington County has established a “Remembering Erik” page on its website, memorializing the late County Board member Erik Gutshall, who passed away earlier this month from brain cancer. [Arlington County]

Library Seeks Material for New Archive — “Arlington Public Library announces the COVID-19 Archives project, designed to create a comprehensive picture of Arlington during an extraordinary period in our history. The Center for Local History (CLH) seeks donations of journals, photos, and objects to help document this time of difficulty and struggle, but also of resilience and hope.” [Arlington County]

Overnight Crash on Carlin Springs RoadUpdated at 9:10 a.m. — “Video appears to show a car crash took down electric lines on Carlin Springs Rd near 7th St. S.” [@statter911/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

County Board Defends COVID-19 Response — “Arlington leaders continue to push back against accusations they could be doing more to address the COVID-19 crisis within the county’s 26 square miles. A number of civic-activists used the public-comment period of the County Board’s April 25 meeting (held ‘virtually’ after the government received state authority to do so) to rap officials for not imposing more aggressive regulation of daily life.” [InsideNova]

More Contributions for Small Biz Grant Fund — “The Arlington County Industrial Development Authority has joined Arlington Economic Development’s (AED) efforts to help small businesses… [The authority] approved a contribution of $326,000 of its own funding. Together with the $674,000 of funding from the County, and the recently announced contributions of $100,000 each by the Crystal City and Rosslyn Business Improvement Districts, total GRANT program funding has reached $1.2 million.” [Arlington County, Rosslyn BID]

Ballston Hotel Donates Rooms to Healthcare Workers — “The Ballston BID is collaborating with local organizations to coordinate free accommodations at the Holiday Inn Arlington at Ballston for essential healthcare workers in the community. Chesapeake Hospitality, which manages the Ballston-based Holiday Inn on North Fairfax, is donating a complimentary block of 50 rooms per day… to frontline medical staff, their families, and those most vulnerable within the community.” [Press Release]

Arlington Gets Okay Social Distancing Marks — “Falls Church has a C+, Fairfax County has a C and Arlington gets a B- in social distancing grades from @Unacast. Virginia’s grade is D- and the U.S. as a whole gets a D+.” [Falls Church News-Press, Twitter]

New Deputy Chief for ACPD — “Arlington County Police Chief M. Jay Farr is pleased to announce the appointment of Captain Adrienne Quigley to the position of Deputy Chief of Police, effective Sunday, May 10, 2020. Deputy Chief Quigley will assume command of the Systems Management Division at a later date.” [Arlington County]

Historic Home and Huge Lot Not for Sale, Yet — “Long coveted by developers and planners for schools and parks, the home built just after the Civil War has stirred interest since the death in 2017 of owner Randy Rouse, the homebuilder and equestrian. But his widow still lives in the home. And this week, it appears that some speculation on marketing the house was premature, the chances that the county could purchase it almost nil.” [Falls Church News-Press]

COVID Case Shuts Down Credit Union Branch — “The Arlington Community Federal Credit Union is closing one of their branches after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, the credit union announced Monday morning.” [Patch]

Bankruptcy for Hair Cuttery, Bubbles — “Ratner Cos., the Vienna-based parent company of hair salon chains including the Hair Cuttery, Bubbles and Cielo, has filed for bankruptcy protection after closing more than 80 locations across the country in March. The company and related entities, including Creative Hairdressers Inc., filed for Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

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Being a police officer or firefighter during the coronavirus outbreak is not easy.

Every day public safety personnel are out in the community doing their jobs, they risk exposure to the deadly virus. Even taking all the safety precautions, cops and firefighters in Arlington and elsewhere are getting sick.

But that didn’t stop ACPD and ACFD personnel from showing up at Virginia Hospital Center last night and cheering on those other heroes of the pandemic — healthcare workers — amid growing hospitalizations in the county.

“Our healthcare personnel are working tirelessly on the front lines of the #COVID19 pandemic,” the police department said in a social media post. “To show our support and appreciation, we saluted Virginia Hospital Center staff during tonight’s shift change. Thank you for all you do!”

The hospital responded with gratitude in its own Facebook post.

“Thank you to all of our incredible partners who came out to show your support tonight,” said the hospital. “We are honored to work alongside you in protecting our community! #StrongerTogether”

The show of support from Arlington’s public safety community follows another heartwarming scene: residents across the county giving healthcare workers and caregivers a round of applause from their homes on Monday night.

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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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Morning Notes

County Forms Hunger Task Force — “In anticipation of increasing need, County Manager Mark Schwartz and APS Interim Superintendent Cintia Johnson have created the Cooperative for a Hunger Free Arlington (CHFA) and tasked it to help coordinate efforts to make sure that every Arlington resident who needs food has it during the pandemic.” [Arlington County]

ACPD, Bayou Bakery Distribute Free Meals — “Yesterday, ACPD assisted with the distribution of over 100 meals and school supplies to families in our community. This successful event was a collaborative effort by Real Food For Kids, Bayou Bakery, Abingdon Elementary PTA and private donations.” [Facebook]

Del. Lopez Celebrates Va. Dream Act Signing — “After years of work in the legislature — and decades of activism from educators, students, and advocates across the Commonwealth — the Virginia Dream Act has finally been signed into law, expanding in-state tuition to undocumented students for the first time.” [Press Release]

Wardian Went to Work After 63 Hour Race — “Q: How much did you sleep when you were done with the race? A: I didn’t sleep at all. I came right back from the race and I had a work deadline Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. I work from home, so I came right to my desk. I started working until I passed out on my keyboard. I told everyone to please double check all my work.” [New York Times]

County Again Encouraging Clapping Tonight — “Join us in saluting healthcare workers on Monday night! At 8 p.m., clap in front yards, balconies, windows and cars to show gratitude.” [Facebook]

Rosslyn Couple’s Very Mini Golf Course — “When your fiancée sets up a 9-hole mini @TheMasters for your quarantine birthday, you want @Buck to call play-by-play on the disappointing 9th hole.” [Twitter]

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(Updated at 1:35 p.m.) During the coronavirus outbreak, healthcare workers are being hailed as heroes.

But one Arlington doctor had the police called to her office this week by a resident who was outraged that she was conducting in-car COVID-19 tests in the building’s parking lot.

Dr. Lillian Hunt owns a ground-floor office condo at The Chatham condominium building, located a mile south of Ballston at 4501 Arlington Blvd. She says she started testing her patients last Monday “as soon as my commercial labs could give me the test kits.”

“I started testing because patients and colleagues with exposures and/or viral symptoms could not get tested by the overwhelmed public sector,” Dr. Hunt told ARLnow. “When Arlington announced public testing the prior week, I sent an order to a patient who returned from Europe just before the international flights were restricted. The patient had a fever of 102.5, dry cough, sore throat, and severe malaise. She drove to the site across from W-L high school but was unable to get the test done due to excess demand.”

Despite her testing protocol reportedly following health department guidelines, some condo residents were incensed and wrote complaints to building management. (An Arlington health department spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.)

“Management received some emails yesterday from residents with concerns about the doctor testing patients in their vehicles in the parking lot,” said a notice set to residents this week, adding that the condo association board and its attorney have been informed of the situation.

One resident went so far as to call the police. That resident, whose first name is Erika, reached out to ARLnow with her concerns.

“At the Chatham condominium in Arlington, Va. there is a rogue doctor’s office — Dr. Lillian Hunt — doing COVID-19 tests in the condo parking lot, much to the dismay of its hundreds of residents who live there,” she wrote. “With the closure of the gym at the building, many residents also use the parking lot as a home gym — many unknowingly exercising right next to COVID patients in their cars lining up for tests. Arlington is destined for a spike in COVID cases. And Chatham is going to be the epicenter.”

Erika also posted about her concerns on a Facebook group for the building.

An employee in the doctor’s office says they were “shocked” when police showed up and knocked on the door. Dr. Hunt said she was surprised and “saddened.”

“I was frankly stunned to have the Chatham residents call in a police complaint on me without any communication of their concern directly,” she said. “The officer was unaware that I was operating from a licensed medical office in a condo I own. The officer seemed as confused as my staff as to the complaint and quietly left.”

“My patients in the building did however call to express their support,” she added.

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(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 following Letter to the Editor was written by long-time Arlington resident John Seymour.

In a video panel discussion held this week with local Democratic leaders, several Northern Virginia members of the General Assembly were asked to select the piece of legislation passed this session of which they were most proud.

Del. Patrick Hope (D), six-term House of Delegates member representing much of Arlington County, did not choose one of the Democrats’ marquee accomplishments — expansion of voting rights, gun control measures, increased transportation funding, raise in the minimum wage, or even a Clean Energy Act which signaled a transformation in the energy sector. Instead, Delegate Hope picked a little known — but now seemingly prescient — bill intended solely to increase Virginia immunization rates.

Championed by Delegate Hope for years, the bill’s final vote was a close thing. In a deeply divided House and Senate, the bill passed on party lines with razor thin margins. One Republican Senator, a physician representing Henrico County, broke party ranks and voted for the bill. She reminded her GOP colleagues that “this is the 21st Century” and that the proposed legislation simply represented what the Commonwealth should be doing to protect its citizens from communicable diseases.

Delegate Hope echoed that conviction and also expressed his belief that the bill will expedite responses to the current coronavirus crisis and future pandemics, when and if vaccines become available. The bill is on the Governor Northam’s desk awaiting signature.

In earlier times, when our nation’s citizens displayed higher levels of trust in science and professional health expertise, the bill would have been viewed as unremarkable and commonsense. In a very few lines of text, the bill simply elevates science over politics. It gives the Virginia Department of Health the authority to align Virginia’s school immunization schedule with the recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the nation’s preeminent health authority.

Under current law, in contrast, only illnesses identified and recommended by non-physicians– the Assembly itself — can be added to the Department of Health schedule. Unsurprisingly, no disease has been added since 2008. Republicans controlling both Houses blocked periodic efforts to add vaccines recommended by the CDC.

The immediate effect of the bill is to add several additional vaccinations — for rotavirus, hepatitis A, meningitis, and human papillomavirus (HPV) — to the Commonwealth’s vaccination schedule. Its long-term import is to introduce an evidence-based and scientifically rigorous process, free of partisan wrangling, for amending Virginia’s immunization schedule to address existing as well as new and emerging public health threats.

Although health groups overwhelmingly supported the bill, opposition to the bill was fierce. The bill was opposed by such groups as the National Vaccine Information Center, an organization criticized by national and international health organizations as a leading source of false and inflammatory anti-vaccine propaganda.

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Inova Urgent Care along Lee Highway in Arlington is now serving as a COVID-19 testing site.

Healthcare workers in protective gear could be seen going in and out of the clinic at 4600 Lee Highway this morning, testing at least one patient in his car. According to Fairfax County, it’s one of three Inova Urgent Care locations to offer the testing service.

The North Arlington clinic, along with the Inova Urgent Care clinic in Tysons, is now only being used to evaluate patients with respiratory illness symptoms who have received testing orders from their physicians. At the Tysons location this morning, our sister site Tysons Reporter saw eight people tested over the course of an hour.

In Arlington, Virginia Hospital Center has also been conducting drive-through testing, at a county-owned site near Washington-Liberty High School.

More on the Inova clinics, from Fairfax County:

Starting today, Wednesday, March 25, Inova Urgent Care (UCC) locations at Dulles South, North Arlington and Tysons will staff Respiratory Illness Clinics to evaluate all patients with respiratory illness symptoms. The three clinics will also be able to collect COVID-19 vehicle-side samples that have been ordered by physicians.

Upon arrival at the Inova Respiratory Illness Clinic, a clinician will greet the patient at their vehicle to escort the patient into the respiratory clinic for evaluation or to collect samples for a physician-ordered test.

For patients who undergo COVID-19 testing, a UCC nurse will contact those whose results are negative. For patients with positive results, a UCC nurse will coordinate with the patient’s regular physician for notification and further instructions. Patients who are tested can expect results in roughly 4-7 days.

Before visiting any Inova Respiratory Illness Clinic, contact your regular physician for evaluation. For assistance with recommendations, to arrange for a physician appointment, or if you do not have a primary care physician, call 1-855-IMG-DOCS. Your regular physician can evaluate your symptoms to determine if testing is indicated based on COVID-19 testing criteria and provide a testing order, or refer you to the Inova Respiratory Illness Clinic for evaluation.

These clinics will be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Addresses and contact information for the Inova Respiratory Illness Clinics are:

Inova Urgent Care – Dulles South
24801 Pinebrook Rd. #110
Chantilly, VA 20152
703-722-2500

Inova Urgent Care – North Arlington
4600 Lee Hwy.
Arlington, VA  22207
571-492-3080

Inova Urgent Care – Tysons
8357 Leesburg Pike
Vienna, VA 22182
571-665-6440

Inova Urgent Care Center at North Arlington and Tysons will operate exclusively as respiratory illness clinics.  All other urgent care centers, including Inova Urgent Care – Dulles South, remain open to see all patients.

Jay Westcott contributed to this report

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Morning Notes

Reminder: Metro Station Closures — The Clarendon, Virginia Square and East Falls Church Metro stations are closed starting today. The closures will impact several ART bus routes, as well. [Arlington County]

Kaine Lauds Passage of Coronavirus Relief Bill — In a statement late Wednesday night, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed by the Senate “will backstop the American economy by protecting workers and their families.” [Press Release]

County: Hold Off on Spring Cleaning — “Although it is tempting to use the increased time in our homes to start ‘spring cleaning,’ please delay these activities or hold on to these items during this challenging time. Refuse collection crews are dealing with an increased volume of waste and disposal requests, while incorporating new protocols to limit their risk of exposure to COVID-19.” [Arlington County]

First Coronavirus Case at Pentagon — “A Marine assigned to the service’s headquarters office at the Pentagon has tested positive for COVID-19… becoming the first service member assigned to the Defense Department’s home base to contract coronavirus. The Marine tested positive March 24, Capt. Joseph Butterfield told Military Times, after a period of isolation spurred by symptoms in his wife.” [Military Times]

HQ2 Construction Still on Track — “Construction of the first of Amazon.com Inc.’s HQ2 towers remains on schedule, but the planning process for the green space around them may slow as the spread of the novel coronavirus forces public meeting cancellations. Clark Construction, lead contractor on Amazon’s first 2.1 million-square-foot office building, said that work at Metropolitan Park in Pentagon City is advancing with added coronavirus safety measures.” [Washington Business Journal]

Governor Orders Elective Surgeries Delayed — “Governor Ralph Northam and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA today directed all hospitals to stop performing elective surgeries or procedures to help conserve supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). The public health emergency order does not apply to any procedure if the delay would cause harm to a patient.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

Ballston’s Punch Bowl Social in Trouble — “Cracker Barrel announced Wednesday that eatertainment brand Punch Bowl Social has closed all of its 19 locations and laid off most of its restaurant and corporate staff and that it would not prevent foreclosure on the brand.” [FSR Magazine, Marketwatch]

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Morning Notes

Another Celeb Backs Ballston-Based Hungry — “Arlington catering platform Hungry Marketplace has raised $20 million from actor Kevin Hart, former Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb and others to fuel a 23-city expansion as the company’s revenues grow into the tens of millions of dollars.” [Forbes, Washington Business Journal]

Public Meeting for Athletic Field Feedback — “Help Arlington County ensure its athletic fields are utilized effectively and efficiently… Whether you play on an organized team or enjoy one of our many fields for casual recreation, share your thoughts and help us determine community needs.” [Arlington County]

Nearby: Region’s First Coronavirus Cases — “Maryland’s first three cases of coronavirus disease are Montgomery County residents who took an international trip together, Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday. He said he has declared a state of emergency for Maryland, which has been preparing for the first cases of the disease.” [Bethesda Beat, WTOP]

Nearby: New Inova Facility Near Potomac Yard — “Inova Health System plans to open a new health care facility on part of Oakville Triangle, giving another try to the 13-acre site on Richmond Highway in Alexandria across from a planned Virginia Tech campus and a short distance from Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters.” [Washington Business Journal]

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