(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) The Arlington County Fire Department has seen a reduction in calls amid the coronavirus pandemic, though its members have remained busy.
In a typical day, ACFD dispatches personnel to about 80 calls. Currently, the number of daily dispatches is averaging in the mid-60s, according to spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli.
Calls for things like vehicle crashes, scooter accidents, and workplace slip-and-fall injuries are down sharply, with fewer people commuting to work. Dispatches for possible structure fires are about the same, Tirelli said, but there have been few actual fires over the past few weeks.
“Structure fires are often in places that are not occupied,” he explained. “Now that people are not leaving the house to go to work, they’re at home and they’ve been able to catch it before something happens.”
Medical calls are an key metric to track, a potential harbinger of a worsening outbreak. Tirelli said medical calls are actually down slightly, though that doesn’t tell the full story. Those who are calling are often exhibiting more serious symptoms.
“It could be because people are reluctant to call for help — waiting longer before calling 911,” he said, also noting that with COVID-19 “a lot of people don’t feel the symptoms until it’s very late in the game.”
Anecdotally, ARLnow has heard what seems like an increase in calls for COVID and flu-like-symptoms over the past week. This week alone, we’ve taken note of two life-threatening, CPR-in-progress calls at long-term care facilities. But it’s not just older residents calling for help due to possible COVID-19 symptoms — we also heard a call for a woman in her 20s, in an apartment building, experiencing trouble breathing.
Though slightly reduced in number, on net the medical calls have taken more personnel time due to the increased severity of the symptoms and the need for firefighters to protect themselves, Tirelli said.
“Our [Personal Protective Equipment] process is very methodical,” he said.
Tirelli said there has been no shortage of ambulances in the county and “we’ve been able to manage really well” to meet all needs without issues, thanks in part to some smart planning and actions.
Two-and-a-half weeks ago the county opened a telemedicine line in its dispatch center, to steer those with medical concerns but no symptoms to other resources. More recently, ACFD deployed what it’s calling an “Omega unit” — an SUV staffed by an EMT and an APO, the county’s most highly-trained paramedics. The Omega unit evaluates (in full protective gear) those with minor COVID-like symptoms, while keeping ambulances that can transport patients in service for life-threatening emergencies.
As we go through the COVID-19 pandemic ACFD continues to adjust our response to ensure the best service & safety for our community & first responders. Yesterday we deployed a new non-transport unit, ALS113 staffed with and EMT-B & Advanced Paramedic Officer. pic.twitter.com/zaUubffiAz
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) April 17, 2020
“Medical matchmaking,” Tirelli explained, “using the right resources for the right patients. That reduces both unnecessary ambulance calls and unnecessary ER visits.”
Even though hospitals are doing their best to isolate COVID-19 patients, “the emergency room is not a safe place to be right now…when there’s a very contagious virus like this,” he said.
The fire department expects that Arlington’s COVID cases have not peaked yet, Tirelli said, and the department remains ready to handle a future surge of calls. A second Omega unit can also be deployed, if necessary.
One thing residents can do to help keep firefighters safe and ready to respond to the most serious calls is to dial the right number for help depending on the situation.
“If someone is not having an emergency, the best place for medical advice is the Health Department hotline: 703-228-7999,” Tirelli said. “If they are having an emergency they should call 911.”
Arlington Covid-19 hotline is answering questions until 7. Call 703-228-7999 to discuss symptoms, testing and related issues. Only call 9-1-1 during an emergency. pic.twitter.com/HI88iJGTbE
— Ready Arlington (@ReadyArlington) April 22, 2020
A medical emergency might have been the cause of a fatal crash last night on I-395.
The single-vehicle crash happened around 10 p.m. in the northbound lanes of the highway, near the Pentagon.
The driver of the car, a 54-year-old Maryland woman, was later declared dead at a local hospital. All northbound lanes of I-395 were closed as a result of the crash, which is being investigated by Virginia State Police.
More from VSP:
Virginia State Police Trooper T. Karbowski is investigating a fatal crash in Arlington County. The crash occurred Dec. 3, 2019 at 9:51 p.m. on Interstate 395 at the 8 mile marker.
A 2008 Nissan Altima was traveling north on I-395 when it ran off the left side of the interstate, sideswiped the Jersey wall and then struck an impact attenuator.
The driver, Eddy A. Hernandez-Torres, 54, of Adelphi, Md., was transported to a nearby hospital where she was declared deceased.
A medical emergency is being investigated as the cause of the crash. The Arlington County Fire Department assisted at the scene.
— Dave Statter (@STATter911) December 4, 2019
INCIDENT: Traffic Collision
LOCATION: NB 395 at Exit 8B Washington Blvd
IMPACT: ALL LANES closed at this time, extended Police and Fire presence expected. Please seek alternate routes pic.twitter.com/3yU7I5dxL9
— Arlington Alert (@arlingtonalert) December 4, 2019
Photo courtesy Dave Statter
An elderly resident who lives in Arlington’s Williamsburg neighborhood was rescued by an attentive mail carrier, neighbors, and first responders after falling at home and not being able to get up.
The man survived on his kitchen floor for five days by drinking Coca-Cola that was within arm’s reach, we’re told.
Jared Agnew, a neighbor, said a mail carrier who goes by “E” was the first one to notice something was amiss last Friday (Aug. 2) on the 3000 block of N. Trinidad Street.
“She asked if anybody had seen [the resident],” Agnew said. “His door had been open for a couple days and E noticed that the mail hadn’t been moved.”
Agnew said after E asked around, one of the neighbors called police, who responded to investigate the open door. Officers subsequently found the man on the floor and called for paramedics, who took the man to a local hospital.
According to the Arlington County Police Department:
At approximately 12:45 p.m. on August 2, police were dispatched to the report of suspicious circumstances after a neighbor observed the door to a residence left open and mail piling up. Upon arrival, officers located an adult male in need of medical assistance inside the residence. The male was transported to an area hospital by Arlington County Fire Department medics.
Residents are most well-acquainted with what may be uncommon or unusual in their neighborhoods and communities. Suspicious circumstances can be reported for police investigation by calling the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.
Agnew said he was told by police at the time that the man had fallen on Monday and, unable to get up, had survived by drinking Cokes on the floor near him.
Captain Ben O’Bryant, a spokesman for the Fire Department, said the elderly adult male was in relatively good condition when he was transported to Virginia Hospital Center.
The man was not at home when an ARLnow reporter visited his house on Tuesday, but a bottle could be seen on the ground inside the house.
Medical Emergency at Yorktown — A student suffered a serious medical emergency at Yorktown High School this morning. Police and medics rushed to the scene, CPR was performed and the student was reportedly revived. He was taken to a local hospital.
Arlington Tourism Website Wins Award — “The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International… on Jan. 22 presented the Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS) with a 2018 Adrian Award for the StayArlington tourism website.” [Arlington County]
Best Bowls of Soup in Rosslyn — A new list exhaustively details “where to go for a good bowl of soup” in Rosslyn, “because it’s everybody’s favorite cold-weather lunch.” [Rosslyn BID]
Gymnastics Competition at W-L — “The annual Barbara Reinwald Invitational girls high-school gymnastics meet was held Jan. 19 at Washington-Lee High School. The high-school meet, which has been held for decades, included 11 teams and was won by the host Washington-Lee Blue team.” [InsideNova]
Chef Geoff Winning Happy Hour Fight — Chef Geoff Tracy is poised to withdraw his lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Virginia, which seeks to overturn restrictions on advertising happy hour specials and prices, after the state legislature overwhelmingly passed bills that would remove those and other happy hour restrictions. [Tysons Reporter]
A man on a scooter fell and was injured after suffering an apparent medical emergency while riding.
The incident happened around 3 p.m. on Fairfax Drive near the Ballston Metro station.
A witness said she saw a man and woman riding Bird scooters down the street when the man started having what appeared to be a seizure. He fell onto the pavement and started foaming from the mouth, while his companion yelled for passersby to call 911, according to the witness.
Firefighters responded to the scene and the man was quickly put on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance. He was conscious and talking to first responders, witnesses said.
A firefighter cleared both of the scooters from the Fairfax Drive bike lane as the man received medical treatment. One lane of traffic was blocked by the emergency response.
Two left-hand lanes of southbound I-395 are blocked due to a driver suffering a medical emergency.
The incident happened on the main line of the highway between Arlington Ridge Road and S. Glebe Road, around 2:15 p.m.
More via Twitter:
Driver reportedly swerved across lanes of traffic, stopped car and crawled out onto highway
— Arlington Now (@ARLnowDOTcom) October 1, 2018
INCIDENT: Road Closure
LOCATION: SB I 395 at Glebe (Exit 7)
IMPACT: Due to police and fire activity the two left-hand lanes of SB 395 are currently closed. Expect delays. pic.twitter.com/SQPIfQov3R
— Arlington Alert (@arlingtonalert) October 1, 2018
Update at 3 p.m. — Lanes have reopened.
Update at 6 p.m. — The disabled train has been cleared and medics have left the scene. Residual delays remain, according to Metro.
Earlier: A Silver Line train is disabled at the Clarendon Metro station at the height of the evening rush hour after a rider suffered a medical emergency.
Initial reports suggest that a passenger suffered a seizure on the train, leading another passenger to push an emergency stop switch. The passenger was taken off the train and is being tended to by medics, according to scanner traffic, but the train is now disabled.
Metro is warning about delays on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines as a result of the incident.
Orange/Silver Line: Expect delays to Vienna & Wiehle-Reston E due to a disabled train at Clarendon.
— Metrorail Info (@Metrorailinfo) May 10, 2018
Blue Line: Delays possible to Franconia-Springfield due to congestion from delayed Orange/Silver Line trains.
— Metrorail Info (@Metrorailinfo) May 10, 2018
Police and medics responded to Williamsburg Middle School Friday afternoon after a student suffered a serious medical emergency.
“There was a medical emergency in a 6th period class and CPR was performed,” an Arlington Public Schools spokesman confirmed. “The student was transported to the hospital and was accompanied by an assistant principal.”
So far there’s no word as to the cause of the medical emergency nor the student’s current condition.
The number of Arlingtonians seeking treatment for opioid addiction and related disorders rose from 100 patients in 2015 to 345 patients in 2017, an overall increase of 245 percent, according to Arlington County.
The uptick, detailed in the Arlington County 2017 Annual Report released in January, has spurred the county to implement new treatment approaches for identified opioid-related disorders and addictions.
The police department, unsure of what the best opioid treatment options were to combat the increasing arrests or overdoses, contacted Suzanne Somerville, the county’s residential and specialized clinical services bureau chief.
“We weren’t working together as a county,” said Somerville. She added that departments also weren’t previously coordinating with Virginia Hospital Center but that there is now a monthly meeting with emergency room personnel to discuss frequent treatment or med-seeking patients.
A stakeholders task force was created in January 2017 among multiple county government representatives, non-profit treatment providers and affected families, to develop a plan to address the rising figures, according to Somerville.
In hard numbers, 345 patients in a county of approximately 239,000 isn’t an epidemic. But the 245 percent increase concerns officials — and the figures, Somerville said, may be higher.
“I suspect we always had a much higher number than are seeking treatment here,” said Somerville, later noting that previous data for opioid abusers only counted those seeking treatment through the Dept. of Human Services, not the number of relevant police interactions or even the number of those who are not seeking treatment and haven’t been arrested.
The county finds itself on the doorstep of three communities much more heavily impacted by the nationwide opioid epidemic, according to Somerville: the District of Columbia, West Virginia and more southern areas of Virginia.
“That’s the interesting thing with the opioid crisis, it’s widespread. There’s no socioeconomic division, there’s no race division. It depends on how they start,”she added.
Many opioid abusers initially are prescribed painkillers for medical problems, then later become addicted and switch to a cheaper habit like heroin. In Arlington, it costs approximately $25 for .25 grams of heroin. Oxycontin pills are about $1 per mg; Percocet, $.50 per mg; and Fentanyl, $6.50 per mg.
Arlington officials prefer two methods — a medication assisted treatment (MAT) and an office-based opioid treatment program (OBOT) — over incarceration. The OBOT program combines treatment with naloxone, which is sold under brand names like Narcan and Evzio, with group therapy and peer recovery services.
These peer recovery services take the form of residential intensive treatment homes where patients undergo detox for a minimum of two weeks, but typically up to three months. One Arlington treatment house has the capacity to take 14 patients for up to six months. During this time, patients learn independent living skills and have their sobriety monitored.
One treatment center is in Ballston and another is elsewhere in northern Arlington, though Somerville declined to be more specific, saying that both locations are inconspicuous.
The treatment centers are completely voluntary, but only two patients chose jail over drug court in 2017. Those who opt for jail face at least two years in prison, with terms varying depending on criminal history and individual circumstances. Drug court comprises of supervisory components like GPS anklet monitoring.
“There are some cases where that is not going to work out,” added the bureau chief. “If the police feel that a person has distribution, there probably wouldn’t be something we could do to divert, but we are looking to come up with options at the time of bond or sentencing to say that this person would benefit from treatment as opposed to straight incarceration.”
Photo via Eric Norris/Flickr
Update at 4 p.m. — Arlington County Police released the following press release Friday afternoon.
At approximately 9:00 a.m. on February 9, police responded to Yorktown High School for the report of a CPR in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined that a student was located unresponsive in a restroom. Arlington County Fire Department medics transported the student to Virginia Hospital Center in critical condition. [Redacted]
This remains an active investigation however, there is no known threat to the school community. The Arlington County Police Department requests that anyone with information regarding this incident contact Detective R. Munizza at 703.228.4171 or [email protected] To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, you are not alone. Help is available through the Crisis Link Hotline at 703-527-4077.
(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A letter has gone out to Yorktown High School families this morning after a student was found collapsed in a restroom at the end of first period.
A school nurse attended to the student while staff contacted emergency services. Passerby told ARLnow.com that a large number of emergency vehicles were parked outside the school but that the streets weren’t closed off.
Bridget Loft, Yorktown’s principal, wrote that a student has been transported to a nearby hospital for treatment. Initial reports from police suggested the medical condition could be life-threatening.
At approximately 9:00 AM police responded to Yorktown High School for the report of a CPR in progress. Medics transported one juvenile to the hospital in critical condition. Police remain on scene investigating. There is no known threat to the school community.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) February 9, 2018
The student’s family has been notified, and additional counselors are available on-site for distressed students.
Loft noted in her letter that the school had been placed on a “modified secure” status. Police are investigating the incident and will be present at Yorktown throughout the day.
Here’s the full letter that was sent out this morning to families:
Dear Yorktown Families:
I wanted to let you know that a student was found at the end of first period collapsed in a restroom. Our school nurse responded and staff immediately called 911. The Arlington County Fire Department arrived to provide medical aid to the student who was eventually transported to the Virginia Hospital Center. While this was happening, the student’s family was notified, and the school was placed on modified secure the building status.
At this point, I don’t have any other details to share. Our main focus at this time is on the student and family. Once details that we can share are available, we will pass them along.
We will have additional counselors available in the office, should your student need to talk with someone. I want to ensure you that there is no risk to students and staff, but we also wanted to let you know that police will remain at the school throughout the day to investigate what happened.
I want to thank our students and staff for the way that they handled the incident this morning. If you have any questions, please feel free to call the school at 703-228-5400.
Bridget Loft, Principal
The crash happened around 12:30 p.m. in the area of Boundary Channel Drive. A 911 caller reported that the man was unconscious but breathing and that smoke was coming from the hood of his SUV.
Virginia State Police were the first on scene and were assisted by Arlington County officers in shutting down a highway ramp and several lanes during the emergency response. A number of witnesses appear to have pulled over to help before police arrived.
The man was transported by medics to George Washington University Hospital with what were reported to be minor injuries, according to scanner traffic. The closed lanes have since reopened.