Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Local Unemployment Update — “Over 1 million first-time claims for unemployment benefits have now been filed by Virginians this year, 97% of them since pandemic-related business shutdowns began in mid-March, the Virginia Employment Commission reported Thursday.” Arlington, meanwhile, reported 576 initial unemployment claims last week and 6,148 continuing claims. [InsideNova]

Google Satellite Images Updated — Google has updated its satellite imagery in maps. One can now see the line at Arlington’s drive-through COVID testing site and an empty Arlington National Cemetery parking lot, among other pandemic-specific sights. (Hat tip to Eric Dobson for spotting this.)

No High School Football This Fall — “High school football will not be played this fall in Virginia. Football will be either played in the winter or spring or not at all, based on which of three plans the Virginia High School League’s executive committee approves July 27 for the 2020-21 high school sports season.” [InsideNova]

Lane Closures on I-66 This Weekend — “Overnight lane closures and traffic stoppages are planned for I-66 East in Arlington near Patrick Henry Drive this weekend, weather permitting, to implement a traffic shift as part of the I-66 Eastbound Widening Project. This work will split the two I-66 East travel lanes for more than a half mile.” [Press Release]

Trade Association Moves to Arlington — “The National Automatic Merchandising Association has relocated its headquarters from Chicago to [Arlington] Carla Balakgie, president and CEO, announced.” [Vending Times]

Nonprofit Gets Donation from Local Race — “Bridges to Independence has received a $10,000 grant from the Arlington Bunny Hop 5K and Clarendon United Methodist Church to support the housing of Bridges’ local homeless families.” [InsideNova]

ICYMI: Update to Pool Outbreak Article — In an email sent to members last night, the Overlee Community Association confirmed that three people have tested positive for COVID-19. They, along with other cases still not revealed to the membership, all became sick after a intrasquad swim meet on Saturday, a source tells ARLnow. Thus far, swim coaches and pool management have tested negative, according to the email. [ARLnow]

Flickr pool photo by Vincent

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(Updated at 10:20 p.m.) The Overlee Community Association pool closed after a reported COVID-19 case and possible outbreak this week.

The private swim club was shuttered last night, with a sign on the door saying: “Closed, see email from Board coming soon.” Multiple sources tell ARLnow the closure is due to COVID-19. Members are reportedly being told that the pool was closed as a precaution after one person who recently visited the pool tested positive.

Two people independently described the situation to ARLnow as people getting COVID-like symptoms following a swim meet over the weekend.

“Overlee pool has a big outbreak on their swim team with coaches, kids and parents with symptoms and positive tests,” said one tipster, whose children work at another private swim club in Arlington. “We’re worried COVID cases are being concealed, endangering pool staff and guests.”

“Seems like Overlee pool has had a significant COVID outbreak after holding an intrasquad swim meet on Saturday,” said another tipster. “Lots of cases in the community. Expecting a message this afternoon.”

Thus far, neither the association nor the county has provided additional information about the situation to ARLnow.

An email to the Overlee Community Association’s board president last night has not been returned. A spokeswoman for Arlington’s public health department declined comment.

Arlington’s seven-day rate of new coronavirus cases rose to 124 today, the highest point since June 13. Two of the county’s indoor public pools, in Washington-Liberty and Yorktown high schools, reopened on Saturday.

Coronavirus is believed to spread primarily through respiratory droplets in the air, not in the water.

A number of readers have criticized ARLnow following the publication of this article, which has since been updated with new information provided to us.

“I implore you to remove the Overlee swim club article. It is not accurate,” wrote one. “There is no outbreak. The county worked with the pool to notify individuals that may have been at risk after one member reported a positive test.”

“Most of the facts and anonymous tips were completely untrue and unbelievable as member of Overlee and a member of the swim team I am hear to tell you that all these anonymous tips are actually just straight false information from other rival swim teams,” wrote another person, in an anonymous tip. “The meet held on Saturday was very small and everyone was social distancing and was required to wear masks.”

Overlee members were subsequently sent an email Thursday night, referencing “a local website’s erroneous article,” but also revealing that three Overlee members have tested positive.

A person with knowledge of the outbreak, who spoke to ARLnow on the condition of anonymity, said that even that number is understated — multiple members of multiple families have tested positive, we’re told. The positive cases appear to be linked to an intrasquad swim meet on Saturday, the person said.

The Overlee email is below.

Overlee Membership –

Due to concerns regarding a local website’s erroneous article about Overlee, we are providing the information below as clarification and to be as transparent as possible to our Overlee Community members.

As stated in Tuesday’s email to members and due to HIPAA restrictions, Overlee is not allowed to divulge any information, including date and time of possible exposure, to entities other than health departments and healthcare officials. Overlee is working with the Arlington County Health Department and providing them with information as requested, which includes the day and times the individual(s) were at the pool. The ArlCo Health Department will contact any members they determine to be a “close contact” during the investigation. Please cooperate with their investigation, if contacted.

Upon notification on Tuesday by the first member testing positive for COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution, we closed the pool immediately. Subsequently, we’ve been notified by 2 other members about their positive results (neither of whom were at the pool after it was disinfected).

The entire facility was disinfected and deep-cleaned several times and reopened Thursday. The ArlCo Health Department has been entirely supportive of the Overlee pool remaining open and of the protocols Overlee has taken and continues to take for the health and safety of staff and members, to include the masks/face coverings and physical distancing policies.

Management and swim team coaches have been tested and their results are all negative. The staff has been following Overlee’s strict safety procedures at all times.

If you and your family members were following the protocols while at Overlee – more than 6 feet of spacing from others, conversations less than 15 minutes, and mask/face covering on at all times – your exposure level is considered “very low” and you are not considered a close contact, according to the ArlCo Health Department.

We thank these members for being forthcoming with their results regarding the health and safety of our staff and members. We send them our best wishes and hope each of them has a quick and full recovery.

Editor’s note: ARLnow previously reported on COVID-19 outbreaks at local long-term care facilities, with the help of anonymous sources. We made the decision to do that reporting, despite repeated refusals to release information by county and state authorities, in the interest of providing a fuller picture of the spread of the virus in the community. Reports of large outbreaks at such facilities turned out to be accurate. As an organization, we will continue to provide information on COVID cases we believe to be well-founded, even in the absence of official confirmation, which has unfortunately proved nearly impossible to receive in most cases. 

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A band of brothers from Arlington saved a five-year-old girl from drowning this week during a trip to Ireland.

On Monday, three brothers — Walter Butler (21), Eoghan Butler (18), Declan Butler (18) — were enjoying a rare sunny Dublin day at a beach with their brother-in-law Alex Thomson (24) when they heard someone crying for help. The group leaped into action after spotting a young girl on an pink inflatable floaty, who was being pulled away by the ocean current.

The group was able to rescue the girl and carry her back to safety, as first reported by Ireland’s Evening Herald.

The boys’ mother, Meagan Cummings, told ARLnow that her children were visiting Ireland to bury their grandfather, who was born there and emigrated to the United States years ago. But there was also something very special about the fateful day of the rescue.

“Their grandfather, when he lived in Ireland many years ago, got on a ship to join the United States Navy. When he was coming over there was a telegram waiting for him that said his younger brother had drowned,” said Cummings. “The anniversary of his brother drowning was Monday.”

Cummings said the drowning death had made her and her parents fearful of water. That was one the reasons she encouraged her six children to learn to be good swimmers. The three Butler boys swam with the Overlee swim team for several years, and Walter and his sister were also on the Washington-Lee High School swim team.

“Only for them my daughter wouldn’t be here today,” said the father of the six-year-old girl, in an interview with the Irish Times. The man said he was unable to reach her from the shore, and could only watch as the current dragged the girl away and led her to lose her grip on the floaty she was clinging to.

“You could see the brave little girl fighting for her life, her head bobbing under and breaking the surface, she clearly could not swim,” Walter told the newspaper. “She was doing everything she could to stay alive.”

Three of the brothers swam for twenty minutes — almost a mile in total — to reach the girl. They took turns carrying her as they made their way back to the shore. Eoghan told the Irish news site the Independent that the girl was a “nervous wreck” and they calmed her by asking about her birthday and her favorite color.

Walter currently serves in the United States Coast Guard as a Health Services Technician. His mother said he put his training to use, assembling a plan for his three brothers to swim the distance and retrieve the girl while he met them halfway, to save his strength in case he needed to administer first aid.

Alex, who is married to the brothers’ sister Juliana, told the Independent that he thought of his own growing family during the rescue.

“The main thing I was thinking about was we couldn’t lose that little girl,” he said. “I’m expecting a daughter in October, and was empathizing with the father’s fear.”

Authorities reported the girl was taken to the hospital after the rescue and was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Her father confirmed on Tuesday she was recovering back at home.

“The way I feel about it they were given a chance to rise to their best. And they did,” said Cummings, the boys’ mother. “And that just made me feel so proud.”

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Morning Notes

Another Water Main Break in Courthouse — “Emergency Water Main Repairs: Crews working on a 6-inch valve leak at 1315 N Barton St. Traffic is detoured around the work site. At least one high-rise building is affected.” [Twitter]

Business Owners Planning for HQ2 — “Dawson and Bayne said Highline is ‘a happy-hour machine’ during the week, thanks to the office buildings that surround it. But business late at night and on weekends isn’t as steady. The impending arrival of Amazon, however, is causing the business partners to rethink Highline’s concept.” [WTOP]

Break-in at Overlee Pool — “At least seven community pools were the targets of theft or vandalism late Sunday into Monday, according to police and pool managers. The crime spree spanned Fairfax and Arlington counties, yet police have not been able to connect all seven cases to the same set of suspects.” [Fox 5]

Workers Striking at DCAUpdated at 9:25 a.m. — “Several union workers for two major airlines are on strike outside of Reagan National Airport on Thursday. The workers are employed by the Delta contractor Eulen Airport. Roughly six employees protesting tell ABC7 they are not being treated fairly by their contractors and are calling for better working conditions with some claiming they don’t receive lunch breaks.” [WJLA]

Levine Challenger Fails to Qualify for Ballot — “He had an opponent, then he didn’t. And as a result, Del. Mark Levine (D-45th) is home free in the Nov. 5 general election.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Falls Church Mayor on Tax Deduction Changes — “Mayor P. David Tarter testified yesterday before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures about the impact of the cap on the deductibility of state and local tax (SALT) on federal returns… ‘[The SALT deduction cap] means that tax dollars that could have gone to the city are now going to the federal government, and there is less money available for essential local services like schools, police, and fire protection.'” [City of Falls Church]

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Morning Notes

County Tax Deadline Today — The deadline for paying your Arlington real estate taxes is today, Friday, June 15. Payments not postmarked by that date will be considered late.

More on the Overlee Ghost — The Washington Post’s Dan Zak takes an in-depth look at ghost stories at the Overlee Community Association pool. ARLnow.com first reported in March that construction workers at the property had spotted what was thought to be the ghost of Margaret Febrey, a girl who lived on the property and died in 1913. [Washington Post]

George Allen Gets Endorsement in Arlington — Republican U.S. Senate candidate George Allen was endorsed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a rising GOP star, at Company Flowers (2107 N. Pollard Street) in Cherrydale yesterday morning. After a press conference, Allen and Rubio both purchased flowers at the store. [Patch]

Woman Killed on Trail Had Fled Nazis — The 80-year-old woman who died after being struck by a cyclist on the Four Mile Run Trail was out for a morning walk at the time of the incident. The woman, Ita Lapina, emigrated to the United States from Russia 15 years ago, family members said. As a child, her family had fled to Siberia to escape the Nazis during World War II. [Washington Post]

Lawnmower Racing Film To Be Shown at Artomatic — An 82-minute documentary on the sport of lawn mower racing will be shown at Artomatic this weekend. The film — On Your Mark, Get Set, MOW! — will be screened at Artomatic’s “Carl Cordell Film Theater” from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 17. The documentary also examines how lawn mower racing benefits the battle against Huntington’s Disease. Artomatic is taking place at 1851 S. Bell Street in Crystal City through June 23. [Artomatic]

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(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) Something eerie is going on at the Overlee property, and it has nothing to do with logistics of the pool renovation project. Workers report seeing an extra person lingering at the construction site — a ghost.

The news isn’t entirely surprising to those who know the history of Overlee. The Victorian clubhouse, which was recently torn down, had been built in the 1890s and came to be known as the Febrey-Kincheloe House. Ernest Febrey built the house and later it was inhabited by the Kincheloe family. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Kincheloe turned the house into Crestwood Sanitarium, a home for elderly Washington dignitaries.

But the ghost isn’t believed to be one of the sanitarium inhabitants. Mike Maleski, who is on the Overlee Board of Directors, said that for decades people have reported seeing a girl in Victorian clothing. Researchers think the girl is Margaret Febrey who died in January 1913, and was said to be 14 years old. A family member reported that the Febrey family stopped using the house after Margaret’s death.

Over the years, some managers for the property had lived in the upper levels of the house and encountered the ghost. Managers and contractors have reported seeing a girl in odd clothing near the stairs of the basement. In January, some crew members demolishing the house admitted to talking to a girl who fit the description, and they believe it was the Febrey ghost.

The Febrey ghost isn’t the only unusual activity that’s been reported on the property.

“There were other ghost stories as well,” Maleski said. “Music and strange noises and things. I don’t know if that’s been idenfitied as one person. Most people believe it’s from the time when it was a sanitarium.”

The Febrey ghost appears to be friendly and has chatted with numerous people on the property throughout the years, we’re told. She also has been known to enjoy playing with children at the Overlee pool.

Nobody has reported any additional sightings since January.

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After a number of delays, the long awaited construction on the Overlee Community Association pool and clubhouse (6030 Lee Hwy) has begun. Final permits were obtained just last week, allowing construction to move forward.

The delay in obtaining county permits has been one of the numerous factors contributing to overall project delays, according to Overlee Long Range Planning Committee Chairman Chris Tai. He explained that a project like this is difficult due to squeezing a number of different things onto one compact site.

To those who criticize the length of time the project has taken to get going, Tai suggests remaining focused on forward progress.

“There’s plenty of time later to go back and figure out what could have been done differently,” Tai said. “But for now, we’re focused on getting the pool open and minimizing the disruption to members and the community in general.”

Demolition of the pool and the late 19th centruy clubhouse began in January and recently finished. Currently, crews at the site have begun construction on the new pool, deck and surrounding facilites.

The plan is to open different sections of the club in phases as they’re completed. Safety barriers will surround areas that are still under construction. The goal is to get the bath house and lap pool opened first, so swimmers can get back in the water as soon as possible. At this point, the best estimate for opening the main pool and surrounding deck is early June. The clubhouse will open last, possibly as soon as mid-July.

Tai says the lack of a clubhouse for at least part of the season should come as no surprise to members.

“We told all our members from day one that they shouldn’t anticipate much use of the clubhouse this coming summer,” Tai said. “The priority is to get the main pool up and running as soon as possible.”

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The Ben Affleck-directed political thriller Argo is filming in the D.C. area, and the Overlee Community Association and Pool is one of the areas where production vehicles have been congregating.

Period-specific cars and taxis can be seen parked in the club’s parking lot off of Lee Highway. A sign on a light poll reads: “Stage 16.”

The production has been casting for extras in Virginia. This casting call says the film will be shooting on Nov. 18, 19 and 20.

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