Four weeks after the first COVID-19 case was reported in Virginia, the Commonwealth has passed the 2,000 mark.
On Friday morning the Virginia Dept. of Health reported 2,012 cases, 312 hospitalizations, 46 deaths and 19,005 tests administered. Fifteen of the deaths were in Northern Virginia.
Arlington County, meanwhile, now has 135 known cases, more than double the 63 cases reported one week prior. It’s unclear whether a deceleration in Arlington’s case growth over the past few days will hold.
While Arlington’s total cases remains the second-highest in the state, Arlington has the fourth-highest number of cases per capita, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.
Across Arlington, social distancing and the economic fallout of the lockdown continue to take a toll. But the human spirit can be found on display in many corners of the county, including in a largely shuttered Pentagon City hotel, as seen in this recent Reddit post.
“[The] DoubleTree hotel is empty, and so they are just sending love to the community in this difficult time,” a tipster told ARLnow.
There are now 128 known coronavirus cases in Arlington, the second-highest total among Virginia localities.
Only neighboring Fairfax County, with 328 cases, has more. That’s according to the latest Virginia Dept. of Health data, which today (Thursday) reported 1,706 cases statewide, along with 246 hospitalizations and 41 deaths.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said yesterday that the Commonwealth’s projections anticipate “a surge in the number of people who test positive between late April and late May.” With the worse yet to come — and coronavirus-related medical dispatches seemingly on the rise in Arlington — there is an increasing urgency to have plans in place in Arlington and across the state to deal with the potential for overflowing hospitals.
Officials, however, are staying mum on many of the details.
It was reported yesterday that the former ExxonMobil campus in Fairfax County, now owned by Inova Health System, “is one of three sites the state has identified for alternative care facilities if hospitals become overcrowded due to the coronavirus pandemic.” George Mason University’s main campus in Fairfax could also be used in a later stage of the response.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported over the weekend that other aspects of the planning are “mostly under wraps as some projections anticipate a shortage of intensive care beds, tens of thousands of sickened Virginians needing hospitalization and a climbing death toll in the coming months.”
“The state has also shirked repeated questions about how it will approach offering guidance to hospitals on criteria for rationing health care should the need outstrip the supply, as it did in Italy and as it threatens to in New York,” the paper said.
In Arlington, we asked the county’s Dept. of Human Services about the potential use of hotels — or even the former Virginia Hospital Center auxiliary campus on Carlin Springs Road, now owned by Arlington County and slated for demolition — as possible COVID-19 patient overflow or quarantine sites.
A spokesman did not provide specifics, only saying last week that the county was “exploring options.”
“Public safety and public health is our top priority. Our dedicated staff continues to work with local, regional and state partners to explore options for quarantine, isolation, and other measures to support an unprecedented response to COVID-19,” said Kurt Larrick. “We are following plans and protocols we have previously developed, as well as the actions and progress of communities across the country, including those in New York, Louisiana, California and elsewhere, and prudently planning to protect the health and safety of all our community.”
Billy Bayne, owner of the Highlander Motel in Clarendon, told ARLnow that the county has asked about possible use of the hotel, which has separate outdoor entrances and HVAC units for each room.
Arlington is “preparing for the worst” and looked at the Highlander as an “alternate site,” said Bayne, who also owns a pair of restaurants in Crystal City. He noted that there’s plenty of availability — he only had five paying guests to start the week.
In addition to details about the county’s plans, it has also been difficult to gather more information about COVID-19 cases in Arlington beyond the daily numbers provided by the state health department.
Virginia Hospital Center, which has implemented strict visitation policies as part of its COVID-19 response, declined to answer questions from ARLnow about how many confirmed and suspected cases it’s currently treating.
“Virginia Hospital Center is committed to protecting the privacy of our patients and complies with all applicable laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. As always, the Hospital does not share patient-specific information without prior authorization,” said Maryanne Boster, the hospital’s Director of Corporate Communications. “We are collaborating with public health authorities, including the CDC and local public health authorities, as appropriate. These authorities are best-positioned to provide public health information.”
Arlington, it seems, has not yet hit the point at which the curve starts flattening.
The latest numbers from the Virginia Dept. of Health show 119 cases in the county, up from 104 yesterday and 86 on Monday. Statewide, there are 1,484 known cases, 208 hospitalizations, 34 deaths, and 15,344 people tested.
There are questions about just how representative the numbers are of the reality of the ground. For one, emerging research suggests a substantial percentage of people with a coronavirus infection do not have noticeable symptoms, and thus are unlikely to be tested. For another, it’s taking a week or longer for many patients (and local health departments) to receive their test results. Also, some people with presumed cases may not bother getting tested.
In a joint statement yesterday, leaders from Arlington and around the D.C. region urged residents who don’t need to leave the house to stay in.
“As the chief elected officials of 21 local governments in the National Capital Region, we are joining in one voice to implore each of the more than five and a half million individuals in our region to stay home unless you are performing an essential activity as permitted by authorities,” the statement read. “This is the most important thing each of us can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the threat to our most vulnerable neighbors, including older individuals and those with chronic health conditions.”
“The COVID-19 virus ignores jurisdictional boundaries, political viewpoints, and socioeconomic differences. We must be united as one region while we each do our part to protect ourselves and each other,” the statement concluded. “Staying home, practicing social distancing and avoiding gatherings, washing hands frequently, disinfecting surfaces regularly, and staying away from others when sick are simple but vitally important ways to keep each other safe. Please join us in this most critical fight.”
(Updated at 2 p.m.) Two locals have died after contracting COVID-19, the first reported deaths from the disease in Arlington.
Arlington County announced the deaths Sunday afternoon. The victims were older and had “chronic medical conditions,” the county said.
“The first patient was a 72-year-old with chronic medical conditions, who had been ill with COVID-19 for a few weeks,” the county said in a press release. “The second was a 60-year-old with chronic medical conditions, identified with COVID-19 this past week. The close contacts of both patients have been identified.”
“We are saddened by the deaths of two Arlington County residents related to COVID-19. Our hearts go out to their loved ones,” Arlington Health District Director Dr. Reuben Varghese said in a statement. “These deaths, along with the increasing numbers of coronavirus cases we are seeing in the region, are a reminder that we all must be vigilant to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The health of our residents is our top priority and we know our residents and our community share that priority. We ask that everyone do their part to prevent germ spread: practice social distancing, wash your hands, and cover your coughs and sneezes.”
As of Sunday, there were 84 known cases of COVID-19 in Arlington, up from 26 seven days earlier. Statewide, there have been 890 reported cases, 112 hospitalizations, 22 deaths, and 10,609 people tested, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.
Also today, the Fairfax Health District — which includes Fairfax County, City of Fairfax, City of Falls Church and towns within the county — reported 188 positive cases, including 32 new cases, and two deaths. As of Saturday, the District of Columbia has reported 342 positive cases and five deaths.
To slow the spread of the virus, Arlington County is advising residents to stay at home, frequently and thoroughly wash one’s hands, and avoid close contact with others. More from the county press release:
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can cause mild to more severe respiratory illness. Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person. COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
To decrease the potential for the virus to spread, the Arlington Health District recommends:
- Avoid non-essential travel and public gatherings, especially if you are an individual who is at increased risk for severe illness, including pregnant women, older adults and person of any age with underlying health conditions.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Immediately wash your hands if you used a tissue.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects or surfaces with an EPA approved agent effective against human coronaviruses and flu.
- Practice social distancing by staying six feet or more away from others.
- If you are mildly sick with a fever, stay home. If you need medical care, call your healthcare provider prior to going to their office. If it is an emergency, as always, call 911 immediately.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Arlington continues to rise.
An additional dozen cases were reported Saturday, bringing the total known cases in the county to 75. The neighboring jurisdiction of Fairfax County, meanwhile, now has more than twice the number of cases as Arlington, with 156 coronavirus cases reported.
The new data from the Virginia Dept. of Health includes 739 cases statewide, 99 hospitalization, 17 deaths and 9,166 people tested. The first case in the state was announced on March 7.
State officials are continuing to remind residents to stay at home to reduce the risk of contracting the deadly disease. Other tips from Arlington County can be found here.
— VDEM (@VDEM) March 27, 2020
A chart showing when symptoms began for COVID-19 cases in Virginia currently shows a peak on March 17. The CDC says symptoms can appear 2-14 days after initial exposure.
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.
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.
There are now 54 known coronavirus cases in Arlington County.
That’s up from 46 cases yesterday, according to the latest data from the Virginia Dept. of Health. Statewide, there have been 460 reported COVID-19 cases, 65 hospitalizations, 13 deaths and 6,189 people tested.
Additional data from the state health department shows that about two-thirds of cases in the Commonwealth are among people ages 40 and up. Only 2.4% of cases involve patients 19 or under.
According to early CDC data, 88% of ICU admissions for COVID-19 — the most severe cases — were among those 45 years of age or older. Those with underlying medical conditions are also at heightened risk. No one is totally in the clear, though — there have been severe cases among some younger, healthy patients, as well.
While Arlington’s cases continue to rise, residents have been doing a relatively good job of social distancing, rogue track users not withstanding.
Do your part, stay at home. pic.twitter.com/vlrZ4HmU18
— ArlingtonVA (@ArlingtonVA) March 26, 2020
Arlington and Fairfax counties are continuing to report an expected — but concerning — upward trajectory in COVID-19 cases as testing continues to ramp up.
Statewide, the Virginia Dept. of Health reported 391 cases Wednesday, an increase of about 100 cases compared to one day prior. The state is also reporting 59 hospitalizations, 9 deaths, and 5,370 people tested overall. Most of the known cases are in Northern Virginia.
Arlington is continuing to provide a public outreach effort that includes a local hub for COVID-19 information and a hotline: 703-228-7999. It is also seeking volunteers, via the county’s Medical Reserve Corps, to help with the response to the outbreak.
“Arlington Medical Reserve Corps volunteers have been engaged and supporting the Public Health Division’s COVID-19 response since early February,” Arlington Dept. of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick told ARLnow today. “Nearly two dozen volunteers have contributed nearly 400 hours in the past three weeks alone to support call center operations, risk assessment and monitoring, and case investigations.”
Arlington and other Virginia localities are currently taking applications from prospective volunteers.
“We have seen a substantial increase in new volunteers with over 75 new applicants in the past month,” Larrick said. “We are fortunate and proud to have this dedicated team working in our community.”
The county, meanwhile, accepted a grant for the Medical Reserve Corps at its meeting this weekend. From a press release:
The Board accepted $115,000 in federal Urban Area Security Initiative funds for the current fiscal year that will fund a Medical Reserve Corps coordinator position currently funded by the County. The coordinator conducts public health outreach recruitment and training. The County’s Medical Reserve Corps is one of the first groups activated in a public health emergency. Their primary mission is to support the response of the County’s Emergency Support Function 8: Public Health and Medical Services – which is currently activated to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The coordinator ensures the County has enough pre-credentialed, trained volunteers to deal with pandemics and other health emergencies.
As of noon Monday, the number of known coronavirus cases in Arlington again increased — to 34 cases from 26 cases on Sunday and 17 on Friday, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health. Some of those are suspected cases of community transmission, which cannot be traced back to travel abroad or contact with a person known to be infected.
At the Arlington County Board meeting on Saturday, Arlington County Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese provided an update on the county’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We have cases in Arlington, as well as in the region… there is now evidence for local transmission, community transmission,” said Varghese. “[These are] cases where you can’t find a known source related to travel… The cases in Georgetown were a known cause, but we now have evidence without being able to find a known source of transmission.”
Varghese said that this was completely expected and the work being done now on social distancing will help reduce the spread.
“With that evidence of community spread in Northern Virginia we want to remind everyone: infectious diseases don’t respect boundaries and all localities should be vigilant in helping to slow the spread of the virus,” Varghese said.
Varghese advised people to wash their hands frequently and to cover their faces when coughing, complimenting someone else in the room mid-speech with having “good technique” as they started to cough.
Statewide in Virginia, there are now 254 known coronavirus cases, including 38 hospitalizations and 6 deaths. Nearly 3,700 people have been tested, according to the state health department. Fairfax County now has the highest number of cases among individual jurisdictions in the Commonwealth: 43.
Meanwhile, the county is scrapping its previous budget.
“We’re doing the best to get a new budget proposal by April 1,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said. “It will be a very small document with increased demands in certain areas and less revenue.”
Schwartz said that, as the county did after the 9/11 terror attacks, all capital projects will be reprioritized to divert resources to essential needs. Budget work sessions have been temporarily suspended.
“We expect occupancy tax and meals tax to be low,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz said that occupancy rates at Arlington hotels are currently around 2-3% with one closing that week.
Image via Arlington County
There are now 17 known coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Arlington, again giving the county the highest case count of any individual locality in the state.
That’s up from 14 cases in Arlington yesterday. There are a total of 94 COVID-19 cases statewide, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health, after 1,923 tests administered. Across the Commonwealth, two people have died from the disease.
Arlington, which is now conducting drive-through testing, was closely followed on the list by Fairfax County, which has 16 known cases. Virginia Hospital Center conducted 60 tests at the county’s drive-through testing site on Wednesday.
The state health department has started breaking out some additional details about local COVID-19 cases. According to VDH, 3 of Arlington’s cases are “travel-related,” 5 are from “contact with known case,” and 9 are from “unknown transmission” — potentially cases of community spread.
Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said county officials, including health department personnel, have been working around the clock to deal with the outbreak.
“We have some really, really good people and they’ve been working flat out for quite some time,” Garvey told ARLnow Thursday morning.
(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) The number of coronavirus cases in Arlington has risen by one, to 14 cases.
That’s according to the latest figures from the Virginia Dept. of Health, which reported 77 cases statewide but only 1,278 people tested so far.
Arlington is now tied with Fairfax County, which has five times the population, for the most COVID-19 cases of any individual locality (14 each) in Virginia. Yesterday, Arlington was at 13 and Fairfax at 12.
There was a slow trickle of cars arriving at Arlington’s new drive-through coronavirus testing site this morning, after it opened. ARLnow’s staff photographer counted six cars over the site’s first hour in operation, from 9-10 a.m.
At a press conference at 3:30 today, Virginia Hospital Center Chief Nursing Officer Melody Dickerson said that 60 people had been tested and another 22 drive-through tests are scheduled for Thursday. It will take patients, who are being encouraged to self-quarantine, 5-7 days to get the results.
The site is located at 1429 N. Quincy Street, on county-owned property across from Washington-Liberty High School.