Press Club
Covid cases in Arlington on 4/12/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

The CDC’s elevated “Community Level” for Arlington may not tell the full story, county health officials say.

Yesterday ARLnow reported that Arlington was the only jurisdiction in the immediate D.C. area to have risen to a “medium” Community Level, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While hospitalizations here remain relatively low, the county has been above 200 new cases per week per 100,000 residents for a few days, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data, prompting the CDC’s designation.

But local officials argue that there are factors in play that may explain why the case rate is higher than elsewhere in the region, including a rise in testing leading up to the current Arlington Public Schools spring break.

“Ongoing transmission and recent increased testing contributed to the rise in cases as well as the delayed reporting of cases that are over 10 days old,” said county spokesman Ryan Hudson.

Arlington County Public Health released the following statement to ARLnow.

The increase above the 200 cases per 100,000 persons threshold is likely attributable to 3 factors First, there has been continued transmission in Arlington, and since March the northern Virginia region – including Arlington – has seen increases in weekly case rates. Second, there has been a 16% increase in the number of Arlington residents getting tested compared to the previous week, which is likely related to the good preparation by residents before beginning travel for Spring Break and the approaching religious holidays. Finally, we know that there has been delayed reporting of test results from before March which keeps being reported. […]

Fortunately, our Washington, DC metropolitan area hospital systems have the capacity to respond should there be a need due to COVID-19, especially because our area enjoys high rates of vaccination among those 5 and older.

With the start of Spring Break and the religious holidays, we remind residents of the actions you can take to reduce a Spring surge in cases using layered prevention strategies including testing, vaccination, choosing to wear a mask when appropriate, following CDC isolation and quarantine guidance, and getting treatments if and when necessary.

Regarding testing, consider testing to detect infection before and after traveling or when gathering with people at high risk for severe disease. Get tested at one of our five Curative testing kiosks, find other testing sites through the VDH Testing Locator, or order your second set of free at-home tests at

With respect to vaccines, everyone 5 years and older should get fully vaccinated and everyone 12 years and older should get a booster to strengthen protection against Omicron and other variants. To find a vaccine location near you visit, walk-in to one of the County’s clinics, or call our COVID-19 hotline at 703-228-7999.

Our individual and collective actions are the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones, to keep children well to attend school, and to keep society functioning by limiting a potential surge.

As of Tuesday, VDH was reporting a seven-day moving average of about 90 daily cases in Arlington, up from 24 cases per day a month ago. Local wastewater data similarly shows a sharp uptick in detected Covid levels.

Covid “Community Level” for Arlington (via CDC)
Covid levels in the D.C. region on 4/12/22, according to the CDC

(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) Arlington is now the only jurisdiction in the immediate D.C. area to reach a “medium” level of Covid infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC’s “Community Level” map shows Arlington in yellow while the rest of the metro area is in green, with levels of infection and hospitalization considered to be low.

A weekly rate of more than 200 new Covid cases per 100,000 in population is what pushed Arlington from low to medium on the CDC’s recently-revamped scale. Covid-related hospitalizations in Arlington remain relatively low, at just under 2 weekly admissions per 100,000 people.

As of this morning, Virginia Dept. of Health data shows a seven-day moving average of 90 cases per day in Arlington, up from a seasonal low of 24 daily cases just over a month ago. Arlington’s test positivity rate currently stands at 5.4%, twice the 2.7% low point one month ago.

Covid cases in Arlington on 4/12/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Wastewater data similarly shows a sharp uptick in detected Covid levels in Arlington. According to the monitoring data from Biobot, the highly contagious BA.2 subvariant accounts for over half of the detected Covid strains in Arlington.

Virginia Hospital Center ER chief Mike Silverman said in his most recent update on social media that locals should expect “rapid changes… for a while” as Covid numbers fluctuate. While the recent lull in cases after the winter surge — combined with relatively low levels of severe illness — prompted Silverman to relax some precautions, he said it’s too early to totally let one’s guard down.

“Although our ER numbers still look good regarding COVID, we saw another increase in the number of patients we diagnosed with COVID this week, compared to previous weeks, and another bump in the percent positivity rate,” he wrote. “This is the highest number of cases we’ve had since mid-February. I think it speaks to COVID being part of daily existence, and that we still need to track the numbers”

“The Coronavirus is not done with us yet,” he concluded. “Get vaccinated (or your booster). Keep a mask handy.”

Separately, on Tuesday afternoon, County Board member Matt de Ferranti sent an email to supporters says he had recently tested positive for Covid.

On Sunday morning, I tested positive for COVID 19. I am fully vaccinated and boosted and have been in touch with my doctor. I am isolating at home.

This morning, the coronavirus count for cases in Arlington is up 128% from the count 2 weeks ago. The count is an indicator, but, as you may know, the hospitalization rates are what the CDC uses now as the best metric for COVID in a community. We have not yet seen a significant uptick in hospitalizations according to Dr. Mike Silverman’s most recent post from the Virginia Hospital Center’s emergency room, but we do know, and I can tell you firsthand, that you don’t want to get Covid. For the first time in a long time, Arlington is seeing more cases than other parts of Virginia and the nation. Get boosted. Wear a mask when in doubt. Please, please take care of yourselves and your health.

Sleeping and hydrating with your health and safety on my mind and in my heart.

The COVID-19 vaccine (via Arlington County/YouTube)

Arlington County is now offering second COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to eligible residents, following updated CDC guidance.

Late last month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the administering of second booster shots for those who are 50 years  of age and older, immunocompromised, or who received a single shot and booster of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Two days later, on March 30, county vaccine clinics began allowing those residents to schedule appointments as well as accommodating walk-ins to get their second booster shots. This change was first announced in the county’s COVID-19 update newsletter sent that day, though some might have missed the news.

“I was unaware of this until I dropped by Walter Reed for pickleball this morning and saw the line of folks waiting for their booster,” one Arlington resident told ARLnow yesterday.

The county currently has two clinics open for vaccines. Arlington Mill Community Center and Walter Reed Community Center are both providing booster shots Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Walk-ins and appointments for residents 5 to 11 years old are only offered 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

The clinics are closed Sunday and Monday.

As of yesterday (Tuesday) evening, appointments were generally available for this week. Additionally, local pharmacies are offering boosters and availability can be found on Last month, locals started getting calls and texts from the Virginia Dept. of Health to remind them to get their first booster shots.

Evidence continues to mount that the effects of the vaccine wane over time and booster shots provide additional protection from Covid infection and serious illness, including hospitalization and death.

However, some scientists remain skeptical about the need for a second booster shot at this time — a fourth shot overall, for some — due to a lack of data. The main data point is an Israeli study that found those who received a second booster were 78% less likely to die from Covid than those who only got three shots. But the study was considered by some to be somewhat flawed.

A total of 177,000 Arlingtonians, or 78% of the county’s population, five years or older are considered “fully vaccinated,” according to the latest county data. However, the number of those who have gotten their first booster shot is lower.

Nearly 97,000 residents, or about 41.5% of the total population, have gotten at least their first booster shot, according to Virginia Dept. of Health statistics. That does exceed nationwide stats, however, with only about 30% of the American population having gotten their booster, according to the New York Times.

Kids under the age of five are still not eligible to get a Covid vaccine, much to the worry of some parents. But that could be changing soon with Moderna likely asking the FDA “in the coming weeks” to authorize its vaccine for kids six years and younger.

Covid cases in Arlington, meanwhile, are slowly rising but still well below this winter’s record levels. The county’s seven-day moving average of daily cases is now 70, up from a seasonal low of 24 one month ago, according to VDH data.

Arlington’s Covid “Community Level” is still considered low, with only 1.2 weekly hospital admissions per 100,000 residents, according to the CDC.

Covid cases in Arlington on 4/6/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)
The Water Pollution Control Plant near Crystal City (via Arlington DES/Flickr)

For the last two months, Arlington County has been getting your sewage tested to measure community Covid infection levels.

The Department of Environmental Services is sending weekly samples to Biobot, a Massachusetts-based health tech startup that got its start monitoring wastewater for opioids but pivoted to COVID-19 testing during the pandemic. The company now tests wastewater samples for municipalities nationwide.

Wastewater surveillance is seeing more interest as reported Covid testing rates wane and the focus of the federal government and some cities shifts from counting Covid cases to tracking hospitalization rates. Indeed, wastewater surveillance is one way the Centers for Disease Control is tracking the rise of the new Omicron subvariant BA.2, now the dominant Covid strain in the nation.

“The case counts aren’t as reliable as they used to be, so we’ve seen more interest in wastewater analysis as an unbiased look at what’s going on in their communities,” Biobot’s Jennings Heussner tells ARLnow. “People aren’t getting tested because they’re being tested at home, they don’t know they’re sick, or they don’t feel the need to get a test — they feel poorly and decide to stay home.”

Even if people stop seeking out tests, there is one place where their viral load will show up: the toilet.

“You start shedding the virus in your fecal matter at the point of infection,” Heussner said. “That increases until you become symptomatic and then begins to fall off from there. You have a window of — it varies from person to person — up to a week before you know you’ve been sick that you’ve been shedding the virus in your fecal matter.”

Biobot uses PCR testing to ascertain the concentration of viral RNA per milliliter of sewage, which is the unit it reports on its webpage. Regular wastewater samples can give municipalities anywhere from a two to 10 days’ heads-up of what might be coming in terms of community infection levels, before the infections show up in testing data, Heussner said.

Covid viral load in wastewater versus case rates in Arlington County (via Biobot)

According to the Virginia Dept. of Health, the average rate of new cases in Arlington hit a seasonal low point on March 6. Biobot’s wastewater data, meanwhile, hit its low point two days earlier, on March 4.

The local case rate has since nearly doubled, rising from 24 daily cases on March 6 to a seven-day moving average of 46 daily cases today, according to VDH data. Biobot’s wastewater data, meanwhile, continues to point to an upward trajectory of infections in Arlington.

Most cases in Northern Virginia stem from the dominant Omicron variant, with subvariant BA.2 comprising a growing portion of total case numbers, according to a new state dashboard tracking variants of Covid. Biobot can detect which variants are present, although that information is currently not available for Arlington.

Cases by variant in Northern Virginia (via Virginia Department of Health)

As for the gap in wastewater sampling data on the chart above, Heussner said Biobot received samples from Arlington County last summer through a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Sampling stopped when that partnership ended, until Arlington again began sending samples in February.

While the county is submitting wastewater to weekly testing, it is not rushing to adopt this method as a gold standard for tracking the virus.

“The Arlington County Public Health Division reminds everyone that wastewater surveillance for the virus that causes COVID-19 is a developing field,” public health spokesman Ryan Hudson said. “Wastewater testing over time may provide trend data that can complement other surveillance data to inform decision-making about the response to COVID-19.”

He noted that currently, wastewater testing cannot “reliably and accurately predict” the number of infected individuals in a community.

“As for the uptick in cases, now is the time to get your COVID-19 booster if you haven’t,” Hudson said. “It is recommended that everyone 12 years and older receive the appropriate booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

Photo via Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services/Flickr

Covid cases in Arlington on 3/17/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

If you haven’t received a Covid vaccine booster shot yet, expect a call or text message from the state health department.

Arlington residents started getting the reminders from the Virginia Dept. of Health this week, at a time when the local decline in Covid cases is showing signs of bottoming out.

The seven-day moving average of cases has risen modestly over the past week or two, from a low of 24 cases per day on March 8 to about 35 cases per day today.

The county’s test positivity rate has continued to fall, however, reaching 3.2% today, the lowest point since late November. And Arlington is still well within the CDC’s new definition of a “low” level of disease, under which the federal agency recommends making masks optional.

Arlington Public Schools, meanwhile, has reported 54 positive tests among students over the past week, equal to the number of cases over the previous seven-day period. Most of the newer APS cases are in the 22207 zip code of North Arlington, with Nottingham Elementary School, Williamsburg Middle School, Yorktown High School and Jamestown Elementary School reporting the highest number of cases weekly cases.

Covid cases in Arlington Public Schools, by zip code (via APS)

No Covid-related deaths have been reported in Arlington over the past week. There is renewed concern, however, about the long-term implications of even mild cases of Covid, with articles published over the past week or so citing new research about loss of brain matter and cognitive decline among those who contracted the disease.

Elsewhere, officials are closely monitoring a pair of new trends: rising cases and hospitalizations in Europe and particularly the UK, attributed to the BA.2 subvariant, and rising Covid levels observed at some U.S. wastewater treatment sites. Cases and hospitalizations are also quickly rising in Hong Kong, South Korea, and China.

The Arlington County press release about the new booster shot push is below.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is sending text and voice messages to Arlington residents who are eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot.

The message will read: “Virginia Department of Health records indicate you are eligible for a Booster COVID-19 vaccine. For walk-in clinic times and appointments, visit or call our COVID-19 hotline at 703-228-7999. Please disregard this message if you have already received your Booster.”

The message will also be sent in Spanish.

COVID-19 vaccine boosters are recommended for everyone age 12 years or older who completed their primary series of Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines at least five months ago. If you received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at least two months ago, you are eligible to receive a booster. If you are moderately or severely immunocompromised and received three doses of Pfizer or Moderna at least three months ago, you, too, are eligible for a booster shot.

Arlington residents who are eligible for COVID-19 booster shots will receive the texts and calls. These voice or text messages are legitimate messages, not a hoax or scam. VDH will use contact information provided during your initial appointment sign up.

Not everyone will be contacted at first, and individuals do not need to wait for this notification to get a vaccine booster. To find a vaccine location near you, visit vaccines.govwalk-in to one of the County’s clinics, or call our COVID-19 hotline at 703-228-7999.

Leaves and a face mask on the ground in Crystal City (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County is making masks optional in county facilities — from community centers to County Board meetings — starting tomorrow (Thursday).

The county made the announcement this afternoon, following the lead of Arlington Public Schools, which made masks optional for students and staff on Tuesday.

“This decision follows new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued on Feb. 25, 2022, which updated how it monitors COVID-19’s impact on our communities,” the county said in a press release. “For the public and most employees, masks will no longer be required inside County facilities, so long as Arlington is in the ‘Low’ level,” as defined by the CDC.

Only about 13 daily cases and 0.3 daily hospitalizations are being reported per 100,000 Arlington residents, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. That’s well below the threshold for Covid levels to be considered low by the CDC. All full-time Arlington County government employees, meanwhile, have been vaccinated or obtained valid vaccine exemptions, the county said this week.

Covid cases in Arlington as of 3/2/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Earlier today neighboring Falls Church also announced that masks would be “welcome [but] no longer required in city facilities.” Additionally, the biggest office building in Arlington — the Pentagon — is now a mask-optional zone.

The dropping of mask mandates in Arlington is a dramatic reversal from just over a month ago, when the County Board expressed support for Arlington Public Schools suing the state over Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order to let parents opt kids out of mask wearing at schools.

At the time, in late January, the average rate of new Covid cases in Arlington was roughly ten times the current level.

As of today daily Covid cases in the U.S. have dropped to the lowest level since July 27, 2021, CNN reports.

The full county press release about the masking change is below.

Effective Thursday, March 3, 2022, Arlington County will no longer require masks for the public and most employees while inside County government facilities.

This decision follows new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued on Feb. 25, 2022, which updated how it monitors COVID-19’s impact on our communities.

The CDC’s new tool – COVID-19 Community Levels – looks at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area to determine a level of low, medium, or high.

Currently, Arlington County is “Low,” meaning individuals may choose to wear a mask based on personal preference and level of risk of developing severe illness.

For the public and most employees, masks will no longer be required inside County facilities, so long as Arlington is in the “Low” level.

Masks are still required in some specific locations, such as public transportation and where health or medical services are provided. People may choose to mask at any time. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask.

People who are at increased risk of severe illness–and family, friends, and coworkers who spend time with them–should consider taking extra precautions even when the COVID-19 Community Level is low.

This change in the County’s mask policy is consistent with the recent guidance issued by CDC and Virginia Department of Health, as well as Arlington Public Schools.

The pandemic is not over, but we are in a new phase. Although COVID-19 continues to circulate, we now have vaccines, tests, and treatments that work, and most Arlingtonians have some immunity from vaccines or past infection.

Vaccination remains the leading public health prevention strategy to protect individuals and communities from COVID-19. The CDC recommends everyone 5 years and older be up to date, meaning a person has received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including any booster dose(s) when eligible. To find a vaccine location near you, visit, walk-in to one of the County’s clinics, or call our COVID-19 hotline at 703-400-5368.


(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools is effectively repealing its mask mandate for all students and staff.

The move, which takes effect tomorrow (March 1), responds to new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, which was released on Friday. No opt-out form is required for those who do not wish to wear masks.

The CDC changed how it measures the severity of Covid at the local level and relaxed its masking guidelines. Now, it advises most Americans to wear a mask only when Covid-related hospitalization rates are high so as not to overwhelm hospitals. When that rate is low or moderate — it’s currently low in Arlington County, according to the CDC — people can forego face coverings.

More from a School Talk email sent to APS families this afternoon:

Dear APS Staff and Families,

On Friday evening, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published updated guidance that included new metrics for measuring COVID-19 community levels.

The CDC’s new guidance lists Arlington’s current COVID-19 community level as low, and states that masks should be optional in communities at the low level.

APS will continue following the CDC’s guidance for operating safely to allow everyone — students, families, staff and visitors — to decide whether they will wear a mask at school and on the school bus. This change takes effect March 1, and there is no opt-out form required. APS will adjust these requirements, should community levels change. More information is available online.

Mask-wearing is a personal decision based on individual circumstances, and I ask everyone to support our students and each other. We will continue to foster inclusive, safe and supportive learning environments for all. Families, please talk to your student(s) regarding your expectations for mask-wearing and remind them to be kind and respect their peers as they exercise decisions to wear a mask or not.

Although APS is dropping its mask mandate, Arlington’s Public Health Division is waiting for more guidance from the state, says spokesman Ryan Hudson.

The county has required visitors to county facilities to wear masks if they can’t maintain six feet of distance from others. Arlington Public Library has required visitors age two and older, regardless of vaccination status, to mask up since August, which also won’t be changing right now, says library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist.

“In light of the CDC updating the way it monitors COVID-19’s impact on our communities, Arlington County is awaiting updates on the Virginia Department of Health’s mask guidance,” Hudson said. “At this time, there are no changes to the mask policy for County employees and government buildings.”

Right now, the VDH page on masking recommendations is blank save for the following message: “VDH is currently reviewing its mask guidance. Thank you for your patience; updated information will be available soon.”

Once a decision is made, Hudson said, the county will update residents via newsletter, website updates and social media.

“Layered prevention strategies — like staying up to date on vaccines and wearing masks — can help prevent severe illness and reduce the potential for strain on the healthcare system,” he noted.

There hasn’t been a blanket mask mandate in Virginia since former Gov. Ralph Northam lifted it for those who are fully vaccinated in May of last year. But Arlingtonians have had to wear masks in public schools, county buildings and libraries. Anecdotally, residents also stepped up voluntary masking whenever Covid cases surged.

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Covid test positivity rate in Arlington (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

In another encouraging sign that we’re near the end of the current Covid wave, Arlington’s test positivity rate has dropped back below 5%.

The trailing seven-day average test positivity rate is now 4.8%, according to new Virginia Dept. of Health data. The local rate has generally stayed below 5% except during this winter’s Omicron-variant fueled wave, last winter’s wave, and the initial spring 2020 wave.

Cases are also continuing to fall, dropping to a daily average of 64 today, a tenth of the Jan. 12 peak of 646 cases per day. The last time the average rate of new Covid cases in Arlington was below today’s level was Dec. 10.

Covid cases in Arlington (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Covid-related hospitalizations, meanwhile, have fallen to three per week as of this morning. Four Covid deaths have been reported over the past week in Arlington. Deaths are a lagging indicator that generally follow earlier rises in cases and hospitalizations.

At Tuesday’s County Board meeting, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said that “Arlington continues to see a decrease in our cases and hospitalizations.”

“While cases continue in the right direction, I just wanted to take the opportunity to remind everybody that they still need to use multiple strategies to keep themselves safe from COVID-19,” Schwartz said. “The best defense that we have against hospitalization and death is still vaccination and staying up with boosters.”

“In Arlington County, approximately 86% of eligible residents have received at least one dose, and 64% of the kids in the 5-11 year old range have at least one dose,” he noted.

Cases are falling across the Washington region. Earlier this week D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that the District would lift its vaccine mandate for businesses and “dial back” some of its indoor masking rules. Virgina, which has generally had lighter restrictions than neighboring D.C. and Maryland during the pandemic, is set to make masks optional for public school students on March 1.

New Covid cases in Arlington as of 2/7/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Covid continues to infect Arlington residents at rates higher than most of the pandemic, but the slope of new cases is still pointing downward.

Sixty-seven new local cases were reported today by the Virginia Dept. of Health, bringing the seven-day moving average down to about 124 cases per day. That’s down more than 80% from the peak average of 646 cases per day on Jan. 12.

The test positivity rate in Arlington, meanwhile, continues to fall. It’s now 8.2%, down from the peak of 29.3% on Jan. 2.

Covid test positivity rate in Arlington as of 2/7/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

The sustained decline of the current Omicron wave in Arlington is indisputably good news, but there are caveats.

First, 124 cases per day is still well above the average rate of new cases for everything other than the previous peak of the pandemic roughly a year ago.

Second, the downward trend is flattening, suggesting that the baseline rate of new cases may be higher with the more infectious Omicron variant.

Finally, people are still getting seriously ill with Covid. In the week since the start of the month, four people have been hospitalized due to Covid symptoms. The number of Covid-related deaths in Arlington, meanwhile, has increased by a net of 10 during that time.

(The Virginia Dept. of Health’s reporting of Covid deaths has been uneven during the past few months, however, with pauses and jumps due to new practices, identified issues, and backlogged processing.)

Virginia Hospital Center ER chief Mike Silverman said in his latest public social media update that the emergency department is also seeing a big drop in cases, though the overall picture is a mixed bag due to complications from prior Covid infections during this winter’s wave.

“In my last shift, I actually did not diagnose any patients with Covid. That is pretty amazing,” he wrote. “We have seen the number of patients who present with symptoms that we diagnose come down by about 90% over the last 6 weeks… We were diagnosing more than 200 patients a week who presented with symptoms a month ago and now, over the last couple of weeks, we’re in the range of 10-20 patients/week.”

“However, I saw several patients with persistent shortness of breath 2-3 weeks after having COVID and despite a fair amount of testing, I wasn’t able to determine a cause,” he added. “I haven’t written much about long COVID because we don’t typically see it in the ER, but I do wonder if we’ll start to see more Omicron patients who present with persistent respiratory symptoms.”


Morning Notes

Rain and fog looking into Georgetown from Freedom Park in Rosslyn (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

New Covid Testing Location — “Arlington County is opening an additional no-cost COVID-19 testing kiosk at Sequoia Plaza. The kiosk is in partnership with Curative, which operates four additional sites in the County. The kiosk is located at 2100 Washington Blvd, on the service road behind the Stambaugh Human Services Center building (Sequoia 1). Beginning on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, the kiosk will operate Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.” [Arlington County]

Va. Changing Covid Tracing Efforts — “Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced it is changing from attempting to investigate every case of COVID-19 and trace all contacts to focusing on follow-up of outbreaks and cases in high risk settings. This response is more effective when a virus spreads very easily and quickly and many infected people do not have symptoms.” [Virginia Dept. of Health]

Hurt Hiker Rescued Along Potomac — “First responders from three agencies worked together to come to the aid of an injured hiker along the Potomac River Wednesday morning. DC Fire and EMS deployed fireboats to work with DC Police in assisting Arlington Fire and EMS. DC Fire’s Fireboat 1 used its ice breaking capabilities while DC Police sent an airboat… The injured hiker was taken to Roosevelt Island and an Arlington EMS unit took the hiker to be treated.” [WJLA, Twitter]

Another Arlington Reference on Jeopardy! — Arlington and its first-in-the-state school integration effort on Feb. 2, 1959 was the subject of an answer on quiz show Jeopardy! last night. [Twitter]

Big Donation to Local Nonprofit from Bezos Ex — “The Arlington, Virginia-based National Council on Aging has received an $8 million donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, its largest single gift in the nonprofit’s 72-year history. The council [said] the donation is unrestricted, and will be used to support its work addressing inequities that make it difficult for women, minorities, LGBTQ, low-income and rural Americans to age with dignity.” [WTOP]

Betty White Posthumously Helps AWLA Fundraise — “She died three weeks earlier, but the centennial of the birth of Betty White still allowed animal-welfare agencies across the nation to raise funds. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington received more than $37,000 from 740 donors during the “Betty White Challenge” event on Jan. 17, which would have been White’s 100th birthday.” [Sun Gazette]

W-L Gymnasts in Regional Tourney — “Winning a fourth straight district title would have been the ultimate [prize] for the Washington-Liberty Generals. But since the girls high-school gymnastics team was far from being at full strength, a more realistic goal was to at worst earn a region-tourney berth by finishing among the top three. Mission accomplished.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Thursday — Rain today, mainly before 1 p.m. High near 54. South wind 7 to 9 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph. Sunrise at 7:11 a.m. and sunset at 5:32 p.m. Rain tomorrow before 4 p.m., then a mix of rain and snow likely, possibly mixed with sleet. High near 47. Northwest wind 11 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. []

Arlington County Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese in March 2020 (via Arlington County)

Local child care centers will have to stay the course with longer quarantine and isolation periods, says Arlington County’s Public Health Division.

That could mean multiple contingency plans for parents with kids in child care, who have already weathered holiday closures and winter-weather closures. (Many facilities follow the snow closure or delay lead of Arlington Public Schools, which was closed all week.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened isolation and quarantine periods last month to five days for the general population. This week, the CDC announced it will be bringing its guidelines for K-12 schools in alignment with the shortened quarantine and isolation.

But the changes have been met with some criticism. The American Medical Association called them “confusing and counterproductive” and other medical providers have said they’re “reckless.”

There’s one place where the new quarantine and isolation guidelines won’t go into effect, save for fully vaccinated and boosted staff: Arlington’s child care settings.

That’s because Arlington’s littlest kids either should not wear a mask or do not wear them reliably, meaning the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant is highly likely in these settings, according to the public health division.

“A full 10-day isolation and quarantine period was recommended because of the difficulty to enforce mask wearing in such a young population (i.e. children under 2 years old should not wear a mask),” Public Health spokesman Ryan Hudson told ARLnow.

The interim guidance came out Wednesday, as Arlington and the Northern Virginia region continue to see high levels of COVID-19 transmission, and will be in effect until the CDC comes out with guidance specific to child care settings — which are known as places where kids pick up all kinds of germs.

“The CDC’s recent updates to shorten the isolation and quarantine period are for the general population, including K-12 school settings,” Hudson said. “In absence of specific guidance from the CDC regarding child care centers, Arlington County Public Health provided interim guidelines, subject to change based on updates from the CDC.”

One local child care provider that had started implementing the new CDC guidance acknowledged the flip-flop may cause disruption for families.

“We had been following the recent CDC 5 day isolation period, which we confirmed with [the Virginia] Department of Health last week,” the facility’s director wrote. “However, in light of the omicron variant and the current surge, Arlington County has recently announced interim guidelines for child care settings which we must follow. We understand that this recent change is frustrating but we are our trying our best to follow the policies, which do keep changing.”

Pre-pandemic child care was in short supply in Arlington, as it was in many parts of the country, in part because of a shortage of child care workers. The pandemic has exacerbated these realities and forced many parents, especially mothers, to quit their jobs.

Board Chair Katie Cristol, who has worked on a number of efforts to fight the local child care shortage, says she’s still learning about the new recommendations and the tensions that public health professionals and child care providers have to navigate right now.

But the biggest challenge facing child care providers during the pandemic remains staffing, which the guidelines could exacerbate.

“From my conversations with providers, their biggest challenges over the last year have been with staffing,” Cristol said. “I think this reflects the general upheaval in the labor market, as well as the ongoing difficulty of affording high-quality staff in a very low-margin business, and — at least anecdotally — the challenge of recruiting and retaining staff seems to be making it hard for some providers to expand hours or capacity as they try to adjust back to ‘normal’ after the first year of the pandemic.”

To boost child care employee recruitment during this time, the county has provided training and is working with the local Richmond delegation to pass legislation that would improve how benefits like retirement and health care get to employees.

“It remains a big challenge, for certain,” she said.

The county also supports centers through ongoing health consultations and informational resources, and has run targeted vaccination clinics for child care providers and employees, Cristol noted.

The new Arlington Public Health guidelines for local child care providers are below.

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