Arlington, VA

The rate of new coronavirus cases in Arlington has reached the lowest point since October.

A total of 167 cases have been reported over the past week. That follows about two months of the case total fluctuating between about 200-300 new cases per week.

It has been a week since the last reported Covid-related hospitalization, and two weeks since the last reported Covid death.

Since the start of the pandemic, 5.5% of people infected with COVID-19 in Arlington — 14,846 cases as of today — have been hospitalized, while 1.7% of cases have resulted in a fatality.

The drop in cases comes as vaccinations in Arlington continue to speed up. The trailing seven-day average of daily vaccine doses administered rose above 3,000 for the first time today. About 1,650 people are being reported as fully vaccinated each day, according to ARLnow’s analysis of Virginia Dept. of Health data.

As of this morning, about 48% of the county’s adult population has received at least one vaccine dose. About 27% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.

On Sunday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that all state residents ages 16 and older are now eligible to make a vaccination appointment. At 10 a.m. this morning, cell phones across the Commonwealth will buzz with a message encouraging those who haven’t yet been vaccinated to make an appointment.

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Morning Notes

Cell Service Now Available in All Metro Tunnels — “The nation’s major wireless carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — and Metro today officially announced the final milestone, more than a decade in the making, to provide wireless service for those who use the Metrorail system… The latest activation brings the final three segments online between Dupont Circle in Downtown DC and White Flint in Maryland, the Yellow Line from L’Enfant Plaza to the Pentagon, and Silver Line in Tysons Corner.” [WMATA]

More on Amazon’s Affordable Housing Commitment — “‘The biggest housing challenge Arlington faces is preserving and building affordable housing, and Amazon is helping by creating a lot of affordable housing,’ said Matt de Ferranti, Arlington County Board chair via email. ‘Our budget is hurting as we feel the pandemic economically, but our housing prices for homes and condos and any place to live in the area is still increasing as people think we are a good long term place to live in part due to Amazon. We need the housing right now to avoid displacement.'” [GGWash]

Arlington Scores Well for Fiscal Health — “A new report on the financial condition of the 75 most populous cities ranked Arlington no. 16 in the nation for fiscal health. The report is based on the cities’ 2019 comprehensive annual financial reports, which are not analyzed on this scale by any other organization.” [Patch]

New Book Set in Arlington — There’s a new book, set in Arlington during the COVID era, that “tells the story of a sportswriter and baseball pitcher who decide to enjoy a one-night stand, only to discover that their relationship is something more.” [Mindy Klasky]

Inside Virginia’s Vaccine Struggles — “The state is now apportioning vaccines to local health districts based on their share of the state’s population. Previously, allocations were based on district requests, which often depended on demand and how many doses local health departments thought they’d be able to administer.” [Virginia Mercury]

Nearby: Transportation Changes for Seven Corners — “The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold two ‘virtual’ meetings next month to seek public input on planned transportation improvements at the Seven Corners interchange and nearby roads.” [InsideNova]

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Virginia’s hands-free law takes effect on January 1, and that means it will be illegal to drive holding any personal communications device in Arlington or elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

The law was signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam during the summer. Police will now be able to pull over drivers if they are seen to be holding cell phones.

Previously, only texting or emailing while driving was against the law.

Last year, there were 23,000 crashes in Virginia attributed to distracted driving, resulting in 120 deaths, Northam said in a news conference earlier this month.

Drivers can talk hands-free, but if caught holding a phone they face fines of $125 for a first offense, and $250 for a second offense or if drivers are holding phones in a construction zone.

There are some exceptions:

  • Drivers of emergency vehicles can use handheld devices
  • Drivers can hold devices while stopped or parked
  • Drivers can hold devices when reporting emergencies
  • Virginia Department of Transportation vehicle drivers can use handheld devices while performing traffic incident management services

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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 Shirlington Gateway. The new 2800 Shirlington recently delivered a brand-new lobby and upgraded fitness center, and is adding spec suites with bright open plans and modern finishes. Experience a prime location and enjoy being steps from Shirlington Village.

Rosslyn-based Phone2Action, which helps organizations mobilize citizens via their smartphones, is on a bit of an acquisition spree.

Its newest acquisition is KnowWho, a 15-year-old company based in Newington, Virginia with an expansive congressional directory. Phone2Action CEO Jeb Ory said KnowWho runs the world’s largest, most current directory of public officials and policymakers in the U.S. and Europe.

With the addition, clients will find it easier to identify key decision-makers, make sense of new and changing policies and improve their government affairs, Phone2Action cofounder Ximena Hartsock said in a statement.

Phone2Action is still flying high from a record year of people using the platform to advocate for issues they care about, from federal aid to restaurants to police reform in the wake of the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor to the election this November.

Last month, it purchased GovPredict, a technology company that helps organizations access federal data, see campaign donations, track bills and regulations and follow news.

Now, Phone2Action — which was founded in 2013 — owns the process of civic engagement from one end to the other. GovPredict identifies politicians and what issues they advocate for, KnowWho provides the best way to contact them, and Phone2Action gives regular people the chance to lobby politicians.

“Government relations and public affairs leaders have never faced such a tumultuous time as they do right now,” Ory said in a statement.

Government relations and public affairs teams will see government intelligence, find contact information and mobilize everyday citizens all in one platform, he said.

“Data powers the government relations field, plain and simple,” said KnowWho CEO and founder Bruce Brownson in a statement. “Phone2Action now directly maintains all the data that matters to government relations professionals today.”

Brownson will join the Phone2Action management team.

Phone2Action’s growth has exploded this year, according to Ory. It has 400 new clients, including eBay, Ericsson, Liberty Mutual, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Leadership Conference on Human Rights.

Phone2Action is keeping its Rosslyn headquarters at 1500 Wilson Blvd, and with both companies, will have nearly 200 employees, Ory said. Some are local to the area, while others are fully remote and located outside metro D.C.

Photo courtesy Phone2Action

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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 Shirlington Gateway. The new 2800 Shirlington recently delivered a brand-new lobby and upgraded fitness center, and is adding spec suites with bright open plans and modern finishes. Experience a prime location and enjoy being steps from Shirlington Village. 

A global pandemic, nationwide social-justice campaigns and a contentious presidential election: 2020 threw three curveballs at Rosslyn-based startup Phone2Action.

“What a year, right?”

That is Jeb Ory, the founder of Phone2Action, which offers software that promotes civic engagement through mobile phones. Last week he announced that his company is acquiring fellow startup GovPredict, following 10 months of user engagement levels that his staff have never seen before.

“We have had far and away record usage of our software this year,” he said.

Ory called the acquisition of GovPredict a “natural fit” and a “game changer.”

Founded in 2015, GovPredict builds software for nonprofits, lobbying firms, campaigns and corporations. Acquiring the startup will help both companies stay ahead of trends in digital advocacy, he said.

“It became so clear that if we were to combine forces, we would be able to solve challenging problems for our clients, to help them do their jobs better, to have better policy campaigns and make better decisions,” he said.

Unlike Phone2Action, which Ory said had a very active office culture until the shutdown orders, GovPredict has a 100% remote workforce, with many staff in the D.C. area. The 1500 Wilson Blvd office will remain Phone2Action’s headquarters as it continues offering its hybrid home-office work plan to its 160 employees. The company grew by 60 with the acquisition.

Phone2Action’s software proved to be what associations, nonprofits and organizations needed to inform and “activate” people from a distance during the COVID-19 relief efforts this spring, the social-justice initiatives this summer and the election campaigns this fall.

During the week leading up to the passage of the CARES Act, Phone2Action saw 1.5 million people advocate for policies, most of them new to their clients.

When restaurants closed, the National Restaurant Association rallied industry members to share their stories with lawmakers, he said. Another client, the American Nurses Association, changed the conversation around what personal protective equipment is and how to make sure hospitals have them.

“We saw massive engagement because regular people understood how serious this is,” Ory said. “Whatever the role, they wanted to pitch in.”

Phone2Action saw another wave of engagement after the police killing of George Floyd. During the summer of social-justice campaigns and protests, nonprofits saw spikes in online and offline engagement.

This fall, more than 10 million people visited Phone2Action’s customizable “Get Out the Vote” centers. One client, Headcount, ran celebrity-promoted voter registration drives that saw hundreds of thousands of new voters register.

“It’s been exciting and humbling to be a part of,” Ory said. “These issues are life-and-death for so many people.”

The pandemic has also changed Phone2Action’s work culture for the better, he said. With some employees fully remote before the pandemic, and others in the office full-time, the company has had a chance to evaluate what each worker needs to succeed, without priority being given to those who happened to be in the office.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge how fortunate we are to” be able to work remotely, he said.

Photo courtesy Phone2Action

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Arlington County police are investigating an early morning armed robbery in Crystal City.

The incident happened just before 4 a.m. Monday, on the 1500 block of Crystal Drive. Police say a woman walked up behind another woman, who was on her phone, and “bear hugged” her while demanding the phone.

The robbery attempt escalated as the victim refused to give up the phone.

“The suspect produced a firearm and again demanded the phone unsuccessfully,” ACPD said in a crime report this morning. “A second suspect appeared and began to yell, while a brief struggle ensued between the victim and Suspect One. During the struggle, the victim was dragged briefly as Suspect One stole her bag.”

“The suspects then fled on foot prior to police arrival. The victim was not injured,” the crime report says. “Suspect One is described as a Black female, 20-25 years old, 5’4″-5’6″, 140-150 lbs., with black hair in a bun, a black face mask, dark hoodie, and long pants. Suspect Two is described as a Black male, age 20-25, 5’10”-6’0″, 160-170 lbs., with short, black, curly hair, a black face mask, dark hoodie, and long pants. The investigation is ongoing.”

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You might have trouble trying to reach Arlington County via phone today.

The county government has been experiencing technical difficulties with its phone lines since earlier this morning.

“We are currently experiencing intermittent disruptions to some of the County’s call center numbers and are working to resolve the issue as soon as possible,” says the county’s website.

“Try the appropriate email addresses off arlingtonva.us for now,” advised Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services.

Update at 12:40 p.m. — The phone issue “has been resolved.”

File photo

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Police are looking for a man who broke a window at a fast-food restaurant along Lee Highway last night.

The incident happened around 11:30 p.m. on the 5000 block of Lee Highway, according to Arlington County Police. The restaurant is not named but that block is home to a Wendy’s.

“Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect, who was a passenger in a vehicle in a drive thru line, became irate while waiting for his order, exited his vehicle and threw a cell phone at the window of the business, causing damage,” ACPD said in a crime report. “The suspect re-entered the vehicle and fled prior to police arrival.”

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The second time was not the charm for a robbery victim who was trying to get his stolen property back.

Police say they were called to the area of Penrose Square, along Columbia Pike, around 3:15 p.m. this past Friday for a report of a theft. The victim told officers that he tried for confront two men who previously stole his phone, but during the confrontation the pair stole his iPad.

To add insult to injury, the suspects allegedly shoved the victim as he attempted to call police, before then fleeing the scene. So far, no arrests have been announced.

The full Arlington County Police crime report item is below.

ROBBERY, 2020-01170195, 2500 block of 9th Road S. At approximately 3:14 p.m. on January 17, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim made contact with two subjects who previously stole his phone. He attempted to confront them to retrieve his phone, however, during the encounter, the suspect stole the victim’s iPad. When the victim attempted to call police, the suspects pushed the victim and fled. Suspect One is described as a black male, with long black dreads, about 5’8″, medium build, late 20’s years old and wearing a blue jacket. Suspect Two is described as a male, homeless, possibly from Pakistan, in his 40’s, about 6’2″, with a skinny build, short black hair and wearing a green jacket. The investigation is ongoing.

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Morning Notes

NAACP Slams APS Diversity Czar Process —  “The Arlington school system’s effort to appoint a diversity czar has run into a buzzsaw of criticism from the county’s major civil-rights organization. The two co-chairs of the Arlington NAACP’s education committee took to the Dec. 5 School Board meeting to complain that the selection process was leaving out many of those the position is designed to support.” [InsideNova]

Snow Likely Overnight — “Temperatures are poised to leap to near 60 degrees Tuesday, and it won’t feel at all like it could snow. But, in a flash, that will change. An Arctic front charging to the East Coast will switch our weather from fall-like to winterlike in a matter of hours, setting the stage for possible wet snow overnight Tuesday into early Wednesday morning.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]

Yorktown in Xmas Choir Competition — “Vote Now! The @yhschoir is a finalist in 97.1 WASH FM’s Christmas Choir Competition. The top prize is $5,000!” [Twitter, WASH-FM]

Local Bus Routes on Chopping Block — Metro is considering cutting or restructuring a number of local bus routes as part of its new, proposed budget. Among the Arlington bus routes that could be cut are the 5A, 16G, 22A and 22C. [WTOP]

Wardian Attempts Elvis Record — “Local ultramarathoner Michael Wardian has unfortunately failed to re-capture the world record time for the fastest marathon run while dressed as Elvis.” [Canadian Running]

Letter: County Shouldn’t Rescue Fallen Phones — “I question whether retrieving personal property is really an appropriate use of Arlington County resources. It must have cost significantly more than the value of the phone to provide the personnel for the recovery effort. As an Arlington County taxpayer, I resent that.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

Hospital CEO Retiring Next Year — “Virginia Hospital Center President and CEO Jim Cole is stepping down after more than three decades with the organization. Cole, chief for 25 of his 35 years with the Arlington hospital, announced his retirement internally Monday. It’s set to take effect Sept. 1, 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Crew Rescues Phone from Storm Drain — “So they got specialized shovels. And then the guy GOT INTO THE DRAIN and dig through the leaves, following the pinging and vibrating and found the phone! The phone was at 1% power when it came out. Still can’t believe it. Above and beyond. Kudos to Arlington County.” [Facebook/Arlington DES]

Bijan Ghaisar 911 Call Released — “Police in Arlington County, Virginia, have released part of a 911 call that set in motion a chase that ended when U.S. Park Police shot and killed Bijan Ghaisar in 2017… a caller tells Arlington County police that she is an Uber passenger whose ride-share was just involved in a crash, and the other driver, Ghaisar, has left the scene.” [WTOP, Fox 5]

It’s Giving Tuesday — Among the local nonprofits to consider donating to today, on Giving Tuesday, are: Doorways for Women and Families, Melwood, Arlington Thrive, Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Arlington Food Assistance CenterOffender Aid and Restoration, the Arlington-Alexandria Gay & Lesbian Alliance, and Culpepper Garden. [Twitter/@ARLnowDOTcom]

Del. Alfonso Lopez Named Co-Whip — “Majority Leader-elect Charniele Herring has appointed key leadership positions within the House Democratic Caucus. The whips and policy chairs will help guide the new Democratic majority through the 2020 legislative session.” [Press Release]

Ballston BID Holding ‘Cupcake Wars’ Event — “Join BallstonConnect Club and Cookology for a fun and interactive day of cupcake baking and decorating. Based on the popular Food Network show of the same name, guests will compete to create the most unique cupcake and take home the title of Cupcake Champion!” [Ballston BID]

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