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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Ballston-based Evolent Health is set to expand with a $130 million purchase of telehealth company Vital Decisions. The company expects the deal to close later this year.

One of Arlington’s largest growth companies, Evolent Health was founded in 2011 — just in time to help medical providers adjust to the changes prescribed by the Affordable Care Act. Ten years later, it is still developing solutions to address the rising costs of healthcare in the U.S.

And now, it is bringing on Vital Decisions to target the high healthcare costs borne by people with serious illnesses and their insurance providers. The New Jersey-based company uses digital services to help such individuals find advanced care throughout their health journey, especially as they approach the end of their lives.

“We believe Vital Decisions is a strong strategic fit for Evolent,” said Evolent Health Chief Executive Officer Seth Blackley in a release. “We believe this transaction… unlocks patient engagement and telehealth as levers for ensuring patients with complex illness receive high-quality, coordinated care.”

Evolent logo at its Ballston office (file photo)

Evolent first expanded into specialized care in September 2018 when it spent $217 million to acquire New Century Health Management, which helps both healthcare providers and insurance companies provide better treatment for cancer or heart conditions while saving money. Vital Decisions will report to New Century after the acquisition.

“This acquisition will help ensure that the care plans created by our Vital specialists find their way into the hands of the providers responsible for ensuring these individuals receive the care they want as their illness progresses. New Century Health has developed a robust provider engagement platform and it’s a privilege to combine capabilities,” Vital Decisions CEO Leah Puccio said.

New Century Health CEO Dan McCarthy said the addition will help ensure that individuals with advanced illnesses have care plans that align with their personal preferences for the kinds of treatment and end-of-life care.

Since its launch, Evolent Health — headquartered at 800 N. Glebe Road — has grown from a startup into a publicly-traded company. After just four years in business, it debuted on the New York Stock Exchange, where it raised $195 million on the first day of trading. Shortly after, its market valuation hit $1 billion.

The company’s stock price has more than quadrupled since the start of the pandemic. After hitting an all-time low of $4.81 in March 2020, it rebounded to around $24 today.

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A new business offering high-end therapeutic and wellness treatments — including cryotherapy — is opening in Pentagon City.

Texas-based Restore Hyper Wellness started offering treatments to help people facing pain, inflammation and chronic dehydration in 2015. There are now Restore franchise locations throughout the U.S., with one set to open at Westpost, the shopping center formerly Pentagon Row.

It will replace the T-Mobile that was at 1101 S. Joyce Street, according to a permit filed with Arlington County last week.

The 2,202 square-foot facility will offer cryotherapy, a treatment often utilized by athletes, post-operative patients, and those suffering chronic pain.

“We believe everyone can benefit from cryotherapy,” according to the Restore website. “Cryotherapy has shown to reduce inflammation and releases endorphins that help alleviate pain, boost energy and metabolism, and increase the body’s natural healing abilities.”

Restore also offers cryoskin therapy to localize the effects of the cold temperatures on the skin.

The website says the service is “the most advanced non-invasive treatment solution for slimming and toning. If you’re looking to lose fat on your stomach, thighs, arms or back this is the solution for you.”

Other offerings include assisted stretches, infrared sauna therapy, IV drip therapy and compression therapy.

Though prices have not yet been set for the new location, at other Virginia locations prices start at $39 for an individual cryotherapy session and $59 for a monthly membership. So far there’s no word on when the business plans to open.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt. Photos courtesy of Restore Hyper Wellness.

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Amid a rise in coronavirus cases, community leaders and the Arlington County Public Health Division are continuing to find ways to target particular demographics for which more outreach is needed.

So far, 70% of the adult population in Arlington and 61.8% of the county’s entire population has at last one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, excluding federal doses, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health dashboard. Nearly 64% of the adult population and 56% of the overall population is fully vaccinated. But these percentages start to vary more when broken down by age group, race and ethnicity.

For example, vaccination rates differ by nearly 20 percentage points between Asian or Pacific Islander and Latino Arlington residents, whose rates surpass 70%, and Black and white residents, whose rates hover around 56-58%. Meanwhile, the age group with the lowest vaccination rate is 25- to 34-year-olds, 59% of whom are vaccinated, while the highest rate is among 16-17 year olds, of whom 96% are vaccinated, according to VDH data.

Some disparities, particularly in sub-groups with larger population counts, can be tied demographic factors. But some data points, especially for smaller population sub-sets, may be tied to estimation errors, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.

According to VDH spokeswoman Cindy Clayton, certain demographics with smaller population counts can lead to these high percentages.

“This is likely due to estimation error in the population data, especially when the denominator is a small group, like 16-17 year-olds or Native Americans,” she said. (More than 106% of local Native Americans appear to be vaccinated, according to the state dashboard).

The state health department uses census data compiled and modeled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to calculate vaccine percentages at the local level.

“Although efforts were made to use the best available data and methods to produce the bridged estimates, the modeling process introduces error into the estimates,” according to the CDC’s explanation of the demographic data it stores.

Vaccination rates by race and ethnicity (via Virginia Dept. of Health)
Vaccination rates by age (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

Although some numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt, at this point, both community leaders and the county are now tailoring their vaccine outreach efforts toward “myth-busting” and focusing on particular subgroups.

“Arlington continues to encourage everyone 12 and older in Arlington to get vaccinated to protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities,” said Ryan Hudson, a spokesman for the Arlington County Public Health Division. “Vaccines are free for everyone, and offer the best form of protection against COVID-19.”

The county operates two vaccine clinics, open seven days a week, to accommodate everyone in the community, he said. The division also conducts “field missions” with targeted vaccine clinics at strategic community locations, including libraries.

“Additionally, the County continues to explore creative initiatives (the previously-covered coasters and cocktail napkins; vaccine QR codes at the recent Bands & Brews on the Boulevard; outreach by the Complete Vaccination Committee; etc.),” Hudson wrote.

More recently, the division’s communications have focused on “myth-busting,” which he says is “in an effort to dispel much of the misinformation that exists. Some examples he said include the impact of the vaccine on puberty, fertility, pregnancy and breast-feeding, as well as concern about corner-cutting due to how quickly the vaccine was developed.”

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

In 2017, while a graduate student at Georgetown University, Shavini Fernando’s heart suddenly stopped beating.

“I was working, and my friend started to scream that my entire face was blue,” said Fernando, who now lives in Arlington. “It didn’t even take one minute. I couldn’t breathe and my heart stopped.” 

Fernando managed to revive herself by self-administering CPR before the oxygen supply to her brain cut out, but the incident frightened everyone around her. Fernando’s doctor at The Johns Hopkins Hospital suggested that it was no longer safe to live on her own.

But Fernando, who was unwilling to let the condition control her life, refused. Instead, she decided to develop a wearable device that continuously monitors her flow of oxygen with the help of her graduate school program director and fellow students. Whenever Fernando’s blood oxygen levels fell below a normal threshold, the ear-worn device sends an emergency alert to her doctor.

“I’m sort of a rebel. When people tell me ‘you can’t do this,’ I want to show them that I can,” Fernando said.

OxiWear founder Shavini Fernando (courtesy of Shavini Fernando)

She channeled that fighting spirit two years prior, when a cardiologist told Fernando — who was 33 at the time — that she had just two years left to live. She flew from her home country of Sri Lanka to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for a second opinion and treatment. There, she received medicine and equipment to help manage severe pulmonary hypertension, a condition in which the heart has trouble pumping blood through the lungs. The condition leaves people vulnerable to sudden and undetected drops in oxygen, known as silent hypoxia.

This condition makes it dangerous to live in high altitudes, so rather than return home to Sri Lanka, she settled in the D.C. area to keep receiving medical treatment and start her master’s degree at Georgetown. That decision ultimately set her up to establish OxiWear so that she could share the product that she wears to survive with others.

“Most of the deaths happen in the pulmonary hypertension and cardiovascular patient community because they don’t get the help in time,” Fernando said. “If they have an alert and a way of calling for help, these deaths can be prevented.”

By the end of this year, Fernando and OxiWear plan to launch a product to be used by the public for fitness. A medical device for those with heart conditions will come later, once it gets approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Both devices connect to a smartphone to show users their oxygen levels and enable them to contact emergency services during sudden drops.

A prototype of a forthcoming device from OxiWear (courtesy of Shavini Fernando)

OxiWear is now closing in on $1 million in funding since its launch in the spring of 2019. Most recently, after securing patents in the U.S, China and Japan, the company received investments from CIT Gap Funds and Tie DC. Before that, Fernando obtained funding through her connections at Georgetown and a crowdfunding campaign.

“Currently, there is no other device available to continuously monitor oxygen levels. OxiWear is a game changer for those affected by the complications of pulmonary hypertension, and could be the difference between safety and danger,” Tom Weithman, Managing Director of CIT GAP Funds, said in a press release.

Fernando says that investors and potential consumers initially expressed doubt about the importance of the product. As COVID-19 raised awareness of the dangers of silent hypoxia, however, OxiWear gained traction.

“Because of COVID-19, fundraising became really slow. At the same time, a lot of people started contacting us, asking, ‘Is there a way we can purchase this device?’ I’m like ‘I wish I could get it out fast, but we don’t have enough money,'” Fernando said.

In the early stages of the company, as funding dried up, Fernando and her employees went months without pay. Still, the OxiWear founder carried on.

“Even if it kills me, I will get this done. That’s why, even without funds, we’ve managed to get so far in such little time,” said Fernando. “For me, this is not about making money. It’s about helping those like me. Once you get silent hypoxia, even if you are recovered, you will end up with life-long after effects.”

Fernando and her OxiWear employees work remotely. The company’s address is publicly listed as a condo in Rosslyn.

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Morning Notes

Preservation Battle Brewing — “The historic-preservation advocate who launched a community-driven, albeit ultimately unsuccessful, effort to save the Rouse estate on Wilson Boulevard, is on a new quest. Tom Dickinson has filed paperwork with county officials seeking historic-district status for an East Falls Church home, despite the likelihood that the current property owner aims to raze the home and redevelop the 0.29-acre parcel.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Ranks No. 39 Healthiest in U.S.Updated at 9:20 a.m. — “U.S. News and World Report, in its annual assessment of the ‘healthiest communities in the U.S.,’ has given a staggering third place finish to the City of Falls Church in its latest edition. That’s ahead of all other entities in the entire nation, except for Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Douglas County, Colorado. The magazine listed the top 500 entities in the U.S., and others in this area to finish near the top were Loudoun County at No. 4, Fairfax County at No. 14 and Arlington County at No. 39, the City of Alexandria at No. 124 and Fauquier County at No. 195.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Tattoo Shop Opening New Clarendon Location — “Regency’s The Crossing Clarendon is excited to welcome Lady Octopus Tattoos to its second local storefront in the Arlington, VA area later this year. Run by artist Gilda Acosta and co-owner Jonathan Reed, the custom tattoo shop offers high-quality tattoo artistry in addition to selling brand merchandise including t-shirts, enamel pins and more.” [Regency Centers]

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Amid a local surge in opioid-related overdoses, George Mason University announced its Arlington campus will now house a $20-million, 5-year program studying opioid addiction.

GMU is part of a network of a dozen universities and research institutions that have been studying substance abuse across the U.S since 2019 with funding from the National Institutes of Health. Most of the campuses in the NIH’s Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (JCOIN) conduct research, but GMU’s center has a different focus.

This center takes all that research and communicates it to local and state justice systems and community-based treatment providers, according to NIH. It also funds and researches ways to reach local and state corrections departments, sheriff’s departments and correctional healthcare agencies.

Now, the center will be nearer to the Center for Advancing Correctional Excellence!, which oversees the opioid research center.

“JCOIN is an exciting research enterprise to address the problems of substance abuse among individuals in the justice systems,” said Faye S. Taxman, who leads both centers. “The new location will help us continue break new ground in building the next generation of workforce scientists and clinicians in a field that is vitally important to society.”

Over the last year, opioid-related overdoses have ticked up in Arlington County. According to an annual report from the Arlington County Police Department, police investigated 74 fatal and non-fatal overdoses in 2020, the same as were reported at the peak of the opioid epidemic in 2017.

That trend appears to be continuing in 2021. Last Tuesday, ACPD sounded the alarm on heroin and fentanyl-laced prescription painkillers after it investigated three overdoses in one day — two of which were fatal. As of last week, first responders have administered nasal Naloxone, also known as Narcan, 31 times to reverse an overdose.

“While the investigation into these incidents revealed no direct evidence that the increases are fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely a factor given the timing, the loss of income and jobs and the isolation of stay-at-home orders,” the ACPD annual report said.

Opioid overdoses in Arlington County (via ACPD)

Arlington County received more than $1 million in state and federal grants in January to help fight the opioid epidemic with more staff and treatment options, as well as more Naloxone kits. Meanwhile, the county is fighting back in the courts, suing pharmacies and businesses that it alleges are key players in the epidemic.

Meanwhile, GMU is working to expand its Arlington footprint, with a new building at 3401 Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square, where the old Kann’s Department Store used to be.

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Rep. Don Beyer announced yesterday that he has requested federal funds to go toward a health initiative and two parks projects in Arlington County.

If approved, the funding would fund repaving a section of the Bluemont Junction Trail and repairing replacing a key pedestrian bridge in Glencarlyn Park. It would also purchase vehicles needed by a mobile response team that would respond to behavioral health crises rather than police.

The money would come from the Fiscal Year 2022 Community Project Funding Program, which provides targeted funding for local projects nationwide. Representatives were able to submit requests for up to 10 projects but there is no guarantee of approval. Beyer also requested money for projects benefiting the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church as well as Fairfax County.

“The infrastructure requests would enhance pedestrian routes in the region, support [electric vehicles] and other environmentally friendly initiatives, fund mental health resources, and support a pilot program for the deployment of body-worn cameras for the Alexandria Police Department,” Beyer said. “These are worthy projects deserving of federal funding.”

For the Bluemont Junction Trail, Beyer requested $325,000 to repave a segment of the trail and adjacent connector paths, improvements that the county identified during a 2018 trails assessment.

“The current trail pavement and connectors are in deteriorating condition with limited or poor access from adjacent and intersecting streets,” the announcement said.

Separately, the county is using capital funding to improve where the trail intersects with N. Kensington Street, N. Emerson Street and N. Buchanan Street.

Beyer requested $800,000 to replace the Glencarlyn Park pedestrian bridge lost during the July 2019 flash flooding. So far, only the Lubber Run Park bridge has been replaced, although the Glencarlyn bridge was also included in Arlington’s adopted 2021 Capital Improvements Plan.

“Of the six pedestrian bridges lost in the flooding event, the most important one for connectivity is the bridge in Glencarlyn Park,” Beyer’s announcement said. “This bridge connects the main park area, dog exercise area and neighboring communities to the west of Four Mile Run to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. The bridge connection is important as both a commuter connection and for recreation and leisure walks on the W&OD Trail.”

On behalf of Arlington County, Beyer requested $390,000 to purchase two medically-equipped vehicles to be used by a team tasked with responding to mental health crises. Arlington’s Police Practices Group recently recommended that the county transition from dispatching police to such incidents to sending out a specialized mobile crisis response unit.

“The requested funds will support a ‘Help not Handcuffs’ approach to ensure that persons in behavioral health crises receive the most appropriate assistance needed when and where they need it,” Beyer’s announcement said. “A behavioral health response vs. a law enforcement response will increase community-based mental health care, decrease emergency department use, reduce inpatient admissions, divert from the criminal justice system and supports racial justice.”

In its lengthy report, the Police Practices Group also recommended procuring specialized vehicles or retrofitting existing ones for the mobile crisis unit.

The vehicles would supplement $574,000 in the county’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget to support an enhanced mental health crisis response program in the Department of Human Services. That allocation would fund a physician’s assistant, nurse, clinician, transport van and operating supplies.

Photo via Flickr pool user Tom Mockler

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.

The finish line is in sight for a Clarendon-based startup that has developed a wearable breathing sensor called Respa.

Zansors, located at 3100 Clarendon Blvd, has created an inch-square device that connects to a mobile app, showing wearers their breathing patterns. Originally created to help people screen themselves for sleep apnea from the comfort of their home, Zansors has also tailored the product to fit the needs of fitness enthusiasts who want additional data on their exercise.

The company has been around nearly nine years, during which time the product has gone through research and development and has been beset by engineering and developmental delays, said co-founder Abhijit Dasgupta. Now, Zansors is in the final stages of developing the app and connecting it to the device.

“We’re looking forward to ramping up this spring and getting out the door in the summer,” Dasgupta said. “It’s obviously a good feeling that we’re in the final stretch. It’s a lot of work, effort and sweat equity. The hiccups have been frustrating, but we’re just trying to hammer it home.”

Dasgupta, who has a doctorate in biostatistics and previously worked in medical research, said the idea for a wearable breathing sensor came from seeing how common — but under-detected — sleep apnea is.

“To create a device that can allow you to detect it at home, you wouldn’t have to get wired up, and spend the night in a foreign bed,” Dasgupta said. “We felt sleep studies weren’t reflective of your own sleep experience.”

The wearable sensor detects how sleepers move and breathe and warns doctors of abnormal patterns, he said. But Respa is a screening product, not a diagnostic one, he said.

Over time, Zansors started looking into other areas where breath and motion are synced, and made it work for athletes and fitness buffs.

“It’s the same device, leveraged in different ways,” he said.

Dasgupta and his team have other ideas for repurposing the product for respiratory diseases, something at the forefront of their minds due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Although it has become fodder for future development, the pandemic has also hurt Zansors’ ability to travel, meet buyers and clients and raise investment money, Dasgupta said. When personal protective equipment was hard to come by, Zansors pivoted to selling high-quality masks with filters, which it sold to several U.S. Army and Air Force bases, he said. Now that PPE is easier to find again, Zansors has refocused on the Respa.

The company is also in active talks about possible military usage of the device, Dasgupta said.

“There are plenty of ideas out there but we need to get this out the door so that we can put this in the ‘done’ column,” he said.

Initially, most of Zansors’ work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, through its Small Business Innovation Research grant program, as well as a few investors in Northern Virginia. The Arlington community specifically has been supportive of Zansors, Dasgupta said.

“I think it’s great that we’re in Arlington,” Dasgupta said. “Arlington is a great place to center a business because there’s so much going on: There’s so much networking and the business development groups are good.”

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(Updated 4:30 p.m.) Arlington County officials are acknowledging the fear, anger and frustration people feel and are asking for patience as vaccine plans change.

During the County Board meeting on Saturday, board member Libby Garvey said the state and federal governments are “moving the goalposts, changing the rules and switching out equipment.” County Manager Mark Schwartz said that in the distribution process, “chaos is reigning.”

“I hear the pain and the upset and I don’t blame people for feeling that way,” Garvey later told ARLnow.

About 50% of Virginians are eligible for doses because of their age, job or health condition, but the state is telling local jurisdictions that it will take until March or April to get through this group unless the slow drip of supply from the federal government is sped up.

“There are simply not enough doses available yet for everyone who is eligible to receive them,” said Craig Fifer, a liaison on vaccines between the state and local governments.

During the Saturday County Board meeting, when the news that Virginia Hospital Center had to cancel thousands of appointments was still fresh, Board member Christian Dorsey mused that the county cannot solve the bigger problems, but it can explain them better.

“Maybe we can lean into our role of helping our community understand [the rollout],” he said.

Here’s what we know.

Who has been vaccinated?

According to the state vaccine dashboard, nearly 24,000 doses have been shipped to Arlington County but as of this week, only 7,850 of them have gone to Arlington Public Health Division. Some went to VHC and others are earmarked for the federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate long-term care residents.

Public Health Division spokesman Ryan Hudson also attributed the gap to reporting delays, since providers sometimes take up to 72 hours to log administered doses.

Arlington County is not “holding onto the vaccine, except [to get] ready for the following week,” Arlington County’s Public Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese said on Saturday. He said he saves about 10% of vaccines as a contingency until a new shipment comes.

Hudson said that the county’s public health division and VHC can together administer at least 2,000 doses per day, based on infrastructure, staff and preparation.

“We can do more if we were assured a greater supply of doses from Virginia,” he said.

Virginia is currently receiving approximately 105,000 new doses per week, a pace that could increase by 16% in the near future, said Fifer, who also serves as communications director for the City of Alexandria.

Like Arlington, the Commonwealth is seeing gaps between delivered and administered doses. The state has worked to close these gaps by redistributing doses, reducing data entry backlogs and accounting for the status of doses sent to CVS and Walgreens, Fifer said. About half of doses marked as received, but not administered, are earmarked for second doses.

Who is eligible?

About 50% of Virginia is currently eligible under Phase 1B, which Gov. Ralph Northam has expanded to those 65 and older and those younger than 65 with high-risk medical conditions.

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As you may have noticed by now, wearing our masks can cause unwanted effects on our skin.

The most important thing you can do to prevent breakouts and irritation is to keep your skin clean and well moisturized. Before and after wearing your mask, cleanse your face with a gentle cleanser then apply a fragrance-free, non comedogenic moisturizer to your skin.

For a deeper skin reset, Broadband Light Therapy (BBL) has been a saving grace at ProMD Health during this pandemic. The intense pulsed light energy of BBL can safely penetrate the top layer of skin to stimulate cell regeneration and collagen production, which can clear up acne and prevent its return. Increased collagen production can make your skin smoother, more vibrant, minimize pores and give it an even, glowing tone.

The entire procedure is very quick. You should expect to spend between 30 minutes to one hour getting treated. In the days following treatment, you’re going to notice that your breakouts are healing, fine lines are less noticeable, your pores are smaller and your skin feels smoother.

Call ProMD Health today at 410-449-2060 or visit them online to schedule your free BBL consultation.

High school athletes can start working out in-person next week, regardless of whether they chose distance- or hybrid-learning, Arlington Public Schools has announced.

Starting Monday, Oct. 12, APS will be using stadiums, tracks and fields for student workouts and athletic activities. While students exercise, the facilities will be closed to public use.

“During the APS athletic workouts, staff will be following COVID precautions and therefore all school facilities (stadiums, track, fields) will be closed to the public,” the school system said. “It is important that the community respect the closure and practice social distancing.”

APS is currently conducting remote learning only, but preparing to bring students back in a “hybrid” model, with most students spending two days per week in schools and other students able to opt to continue a distance learning-only program.

The school system previously said it would be screening kids daily, including temperature checks before participating in sports. Students are encouraged to check with their coach and school’s athletic webpage for more information.

School athletic facilities will be closed on the following days and times, according to APS.

Greenbrier Stadium (Yorktown) and fields
Monday, Thursday and Friday, closed from 3:30-8 p.m; Tuesday and Wednesday, closed from 3:30-7:15 p.m.

Wakefield Stadium and fields
Monday through Friday, closed 3:30-6:30 p.m.

Washington-Liberty Stadium and fields
Monday through Friday, closed 3:30-7:30 p.m.

File photo

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