Arlington, VA

As of midday Tuesday, Arlington County had 36 known cases of COVID-19. There are likely many more that have gone unreported.

While totally unscientific, we wanted to get some perspective on the case count from the personal experience of our readers. Are there substantially more people out there experiencing symptoms, for instance, but who haven’t tested positive yet?

Please answer honestly and select the options that apply to you. Note that the typical symptoms of COVID-19 are cough, fever, tiredness and — in more serious cases — difficulty breathing.

Please do not use this poll response data for policy decision-making — but do use it as a reminder of the importance of social distancing, practicing good hygiene, and flattening the curve.

If you have any personal stories to tell about people you know personally who have been infected, please do so in the comments, but in the interest of privacy avoid using names and other identifiable information.

Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

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Over the weekend, in the midst of a pandemic, some local restaurants and bars were surprisingly crowded.

With sports leagues, recreational programs, major events, schools and many other facets of everyday life suspended or cancelled, in an effort to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases, the sight of revelers crowding D.C. area bars and restaurants prompted some outrage on social media.

While Gov. Ralph Northam banned public gatherings of 100 or more people on Sunday, that’s below new guidance from the CDC to nix any gathering of 50 or more people.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows and urged young people to stop flocking to bars.

“Remember that you can also be a vector or a carrier,” he said, according to Axios. “And even though you don’t get seriously ill, you could bring it to a person, who could bring it to a person, that would bring it to your grandfather, your grandmother or your elderly relative. That’s why everybody has to take this seriously, even the young.”

Some states and cities are taking the spread of disease through bars and restaurants seriously.

New York, Los Angeles and the District, along with states like Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, California and Washington, have imposed varying degrees of restaurant and/or nightclub closures. In most cases, takeout and delivery are still allowed.

Elsewhere, Arlington’s pseudo sister city of Hoboken, New Jersey has imposed a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., for all but those required to be at work.

Some Arlington restaurants, including Ireland’s Four Courts and Jaleo, have already closed.

Unfortunately, restaurant closures will have a devastating effect on all but the strongest restaurant businesses — read: mostly chains — at a time when restaurants in the D.C. area, along with their employees, are already hurting. On Saturday, restaurant reservation website OpenTable reported that across Virginia, reservations on its platform were down 39% and continuing to fall.

While Arlington may be limited in what it can do by the Dillon Rule, ideally what do you think the county should do?

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(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Coronavirus has arrived in Arlington, with a local resident and a worker in Crystal City testing positive for the disease. And the fourth and fifth case in Virginia were subsequently confirmed in Fairfax and Spotsylvania County.

While this is obviously big news, given the impacts the disease is having on both the economy and the health of those who contract it, let’s for a minute allow for some optimism: the stock market is back up this morning, perhaps the authorities will be able to contain the outbreak before it gets much worse, and just maybe COVID-19 will not prove to be as deadly as originally feared.

That all said — coronavirus is one of the worst new outbreaks of its kind, in terms of global spread, since the 1918 flu pandemic. And it should be taken seriously, particularly among older residents who are more at risk for serious health implications.

For those who haven’t taken a good look at it yet, review this fact sheet from Arlington County.

Among other preventative measures and preparations, which of the following are you yourself taking?

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With rising property assessments, the Arlington County Board sees no need to raise taxes this year.

The Board on Tuesday advertised a maximum property tax rate unchanged at $1.013 per $100. The question is: should the rate be lowered?

On one hand, the rate was raised by two cents last year, and 4.3% higher residential assessments this year amid already-high property values mean the average homeowner will pay an extra $376 this year even if the rate doesn’t change. That’s higher than the expected tax burden rise in Fairfax County, even with a three cent rise in its rate. Those yearly increases in the tax burden add up. Additionally, there seems to be some wiggle room in the proposed budget.

On the other hand, the current rate is not particularly high — it’s the lowest among other major Northern Virginia jurisdictions — and those who own homes in an affluent area like Arlington are generally able to afford the extra taxes. Plus, there’s no need to adopt an austerity budget during good economic times and a development boom in a county with a growing population, ever-rising school enrollment, and Amazon in the process of moving in.

What do you think?

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

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This winter in Arlington has been an anomaly.

It’s the only winter since 1932 in which the temperature has failed to drop below 22 degrees. And it’s generally been cloudy, rainy and — well — pretty gloomy.

Snow has been (and, at least for the next week or two, will remain) hard to come by, and students have yet to have a full snow day. That’s bad for snow lovers, though parents and road crews no doubt appreciate the relief.

Meanwhile, the rain will return tonight, ahead of some cold, dry, snowless weather.

How would you rate the weather so far this winter?

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There’s little doubt that a retail apocalypse is underway, though there is some debate about how to assign blame.

Store closures and imminent closures in Arlington since last summer include Abercrombie & Fitch, Swatch and Papyrus at the Pentagon City mall; World Market in Pentagon City; Rite Aid in Crystal City; and Pier 1 in Rosslyn. Malls in Tysons have also seen a spate of recent closures.

Meanwhile, Ballston Common Mall recently underwent an extensive renovation. Instead of retail stores, of which there are but a few, the newly-rebranded Ballston Quarter focuses on restaurants, entertainment, fitness and other “experiential” businesses.

The prime suspect in the retail woes is the rise of e-commerce — driven in large part by a company that’s opening a large new office in Pentagon City. But there are other potential factors: long-time retailers not adapting to the current consumer environment, private equity firms loading retail chains like Toys R Us up with debt and watching them deteriorate, and an over-building of malls and other retail space.

Regardless of the exact set of causes, it is consumer behavior that ultimately controls the fate of retail businesses. So this morning we’re wondering: do you shop at physical retail stores more or less now than you did in 2018?

Let us know why in the comments below.

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Yesterday we told you about a new Clarendon cafe called This is Fine Coffee, but more importantly we told you about one of their signature drinks: an espresso, orange juice and caramel concoction called the Bumble Coffee.

It’s apparently popular in Eastern Europe, and fairly rare here stateside.

The immediate reaction in our office was that of horror upon hearing about an espresso drink made with OJ. But reporter Vernon Miles now swears by it, so much so that as this post is being written he’s en route to the office with several Bumble Coffees for a tasting by now-intrigued colleagues.

We were wondering how other Arlingtonians felt about this. Would you try a Bumble?

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We hope you enjoyed our series of locally-themed t-shirts available for the holiday season.

In case you missed them, check out our Clarendon Cheesecake Riot shirt, Gondola Now! shirt, South Arlington 4 Life shirt, Definitely Not an ARLnow Commenter shirt and Local Is Everything shirt.

Today, we’re going to show you some of the rejected shirt designs — and let you pick one to send to production. Here are the shirts that didn’t make the cut:

ARLnow logo shirt: It seems like kind of a no-brainer to produce a shirt with our logo on it. So we sent the logo to the designer with a note to “make this look cool… be creative!” The resulting design seemed, well, a bit like a t-shirt design from the early aughts. Maybe we’re wrong and it’s actually cool? We could potentially ditch the purple design elements on either side of the logo, if desired.

The Cheesecake Incident 2018: Continuing the theme of designing shirts that reference last year’s Cheesecake Factory incident in Clarendon and niche 1990s bands, we asked our designer to come up with a psychedelic design reminiscent of a String Cheese Incident tour shirt. It’s appropriately weird, but we weren’t sure it was distinctive enough to make the band reference clear.

Keep 23rd St. Weird shirt: We “borrowed” the rallying cry of businesses along the 23rd Street S. Restaurant Row in Crystal City and turned it into a shirt that looks kind of like those “Keep Austin Weird” shirts from Texas. It looks good, but it gave us pause to appear to be supporting any particular policy — in this case, preserving parking spaces for the businesses on a lot not owned by those businesses. Consider this shirt an expression of general support for local businesses on 23rd Street and for retaining some of Arlington’s unique and quirky places.

King of the North (Arlington): We really wanted to make this shirt design work to accompany the South Arlington 4 Life shirt. But after three rounds of revisions with our designers that came back disappointing and not sufficiently Game of Thrones-eque, we gave up. If you select this shirt, we’ll send it back for one last revision to add some color and maybe change the font. We might also make a “Queen of the North (Arlington)” variant.

Which of these designs should we revive and turn into a t-shirt for sale?

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An editorial in the Arlington Sun Gazette newspaper last week, on the topic of single-family zoning, seems to suggest that renters are ill-informed and should have less of a say than homeowners.

Those who live in Arlington’s single-family neighborhoods traditionally have dominated the direction of local governance. They are the ones who have controlled the selection of local officials and then, through activism, ensured public policy proceeds the way they desire.

But if Arlington’s 2019 election season taught us anything, it was that – given enough cash to barrage apartment-dwellers with campaign mailers of questionable veracity – it’s possible to sway those folks (who often have short-term interests in a community they do not plan to live in forever) to get out and vote in races that previously had been of purely local import.

“Be prepared: The ‘woke’ culture that was swayed to enact purported criminal-justice reform will be gunning for others – perhaps even single-family neighborhoods – next,” the editorial concludes.

The debate over whether the “Arlington Way” — the catch-all term for the county’s system of community engagement — advantages certain types of residents over others occasionally flares up in the halls of local government.

Generally, the most engaged tend to be homeowners, older residents and people outraged about a particular proposal. Renters, younger residents, those who are generally satisfied with local government but not passionate about it, and those busy with work and/or family are less likely to serve on commissions or wait to speak at Saturday morning County Board meetings.

In a democratic election, one vote counts as much as the other, but once elected, officials are able to set their own priorities. As seen in the Sun Gazette editorial, some feel that those who have invested in a community — homeowners — should generally be given more of a voice than those who haven’t put down roots.

What do you think?

Photo courtesy @dcaman

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Anecdotal as it may be, it seems that the Thanksgiving holiday has already started for a lot of local folks.

On the way to ARLnow’s office in Ballston during the peak of the morning rush hour, the usual backups on eastbound Wilson Blvd at N. Glebe Road were gone. So was the usual line at a certain chain coffee shop near the Ballston Metro station.

Ballston wasn’t a ghost town by any means, but there just seemed to be a modest reduction in the usual delays and hubbub. The same couldn’t necessarily be said for post-Express Lanes traffic on I-395, however.

That has us wondering just how early does Thanksgiving break start for our readers — when is the first day you’re taking off for the holiday?

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Our reporting yesterday about plans to eliminate Route 1 overpasses in Crystal City and replace them with more urban-style, at-grade intersections was greeted with some skepticism.

Though the idea of making Route 1 — also known as Richmond Highway — more of an “urban boulevard” as Amazon moves in may seem appealing at first glance, the prospect of crossing the busy commuter route to get to and from the Crystal City Metro Station, as opposed to just walking underneath as one can currently on 18th Street, elicited some strong opinions.

There is, as some have suggested, another option, though it would be considerably more expensive: send Route 1 underground instead and build something pedestrian-oriented on top.

As seen in the illustration above, the original 2010 Crystal City Sector Plan actually presented a vision of Route 1 below grade, with roundabouts and some green space on top, at least at one intersection. It’s not an outdated concept — sending highways below ground and putting parks on top is a noted, recent urban design trend.

And it doesn’t need to be a park. Perhaps a pedestrian promenade surrounded by retail, restaurants and entertainment options — like the popular Third Street in Santa Monica — would work as the area grows. It could extend all the way from 12th Street to after 23rd Street, becoming a hub rather than a hindrance between the Crystal City and Pentagon City neighborhoods.

Undoubtedly, such a project would be expensive. And it would be disruptive in the short term. But would it be worth it, in your opinion?

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