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Morning Notes

Basketball under the lights at Alcova Heights Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Metro Delays All Week — “Reduced Metrorail service is expected to continue until at least Sunday, October 24, as the investigation into the October 12 derailment continues. Beginning tomorrow, trains will operate every 15 minutes on the Red Line and will continue to operate every 30 minutes on all other lines. Silver Line trains will operate between Wiehle-Reston East and Federal Center SW only.” [WMATA]

WMATA Knew About Defects — “Wheel assemblies on Metro rail cars like the one at fault in last week’s Blue Line derailment had failed 31 times since 2017 — and renewed inspections last week identified almost two dozen similar defects, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board said Monday. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority pulled the 7000 series cars from service Sunday night, leaving the agency down more than half its fleet.” [Washington Post, WJLA]

Beyer on Metro Mess — From Rep. Don Beyer: “This is going to be a very frustrating week for commuters. I’m maintaining close contact with WMATA and NTSB as we seek a safe return to regular service.” [Twitter]

Issues With New County Website — From Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt: “The new @ArlingtonVA website has broken SSSSOOO many links. The fact that the old link for the County’s IT Advisory Committee is broken and doesn’t redirect is the most ironic though.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Flags Lowered in Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam ordered flags lowered throughout the Commonwealth in honor of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a McLean resident, who passed away from COVID-19 complications on Monday. [Commonwealth of Virginia]

It’s Tuesday — ☀️ Sunny, with a high near 71 today. West wind 5 to 10 mph. Sunrise at 7:22 a.m. and sunset at 6:23 p.m. Tomorrow is will be sunny, with a high near 75.

Join the ARLnow Press Club and get the Morning Notes four hours earlier.

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Morning Notes

Northam Declares State of Emergency — “Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency to respond to impacts from Tropical Depression Ida, which is expected to cause heavy rains and flooding along the I-81 and I-66 corridors. Localities in the southwest region have already experienced heavy rainfall in recent days, leading to flash floods and complicating storm preparation efforts. In addition to the flood threat, there is also a risk of tornadoes across the Commonwealth.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

Jail to Distribute Fentanyl Tests — “Beginning September 1, 2021, Arlington County will begin to distribute fentanyl test strips to individuals being released from incarceration. This new effort is in response to rising overdose numbers.” [Arlington County]

Pike Apartment Building Sold — “Zurich Alternative Asset Management has sold Siena Park, a 188-unit multifamily community in Arlington, Va., for $80.1 million. The property includes 33,602 square feet of retail and 17,373 square feet of office space. Located at 2301 Columbia Pike, Siena Park is just 15 minutes from Washington, D.C.” [Commercial Observer]

Marymount Testing VR Headsets — “Eric Bubar, a Marymount associate professor of physics, has led 3D printing projects and testing for face masks and other polymer-based personal protective equipment. But more recently, the professor… is working with three other science faculty members to develop virtual reality technology for Marymount chemistry students to take lab classes remotely — and, perhaps in the future, for physical therapy patients.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Catholic Org Seeking Help with Refugees — “Following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, diocesan Catholic Charities has issued a plea for resources to support Afghan refugees resettling in Virginia as the Taliban’s rapid resurgence prompted Afghan translators and others who assisted U.S. military forces to flee the country along with their families… Catholic Charities has prioritized finding properties for rent in Fredericksburg, Sterling and Woodbridge, as the agency hopes to place the Afghans near family and friends in the area.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

It’s National Preparedness Month — “It’s a situation everyone has experienced: The media and public safety agencies warn of an impending storm, chance of power outages, and loss of service. But you find yourself scrambling at the last minute for batteries, water, and ideas to keep your family entertained. Disasters don’t plan ahead — even during a pandemic — but you can.” [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

Manafort Home Up for Sale — A house in the Clarendon area that was once sought as a forfeiture to the federal government as part of the case against Paul Manafort is now up for sale. The house is owned by Manafort’s daughter, though the feds once argued that it was paid for by Manafort with money transferred from a shell company in Cyprus. The 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath home is listed for $2.35 million. Manafort was pardoned by President Trump late last year. [Realtor.com]

Northam Announces Mental Health Funding — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the Commonwealth will commit $485 million in federal and state funding to address pressing challenges in Virginia’s behavioral health system. The plan includes targeted investments to alleviate pressure on state mental health hospitals, strengthen community-based services, and increase support for substance abuse treatment and prevention programs. The Governor made the announcement at the Arlington County Community Services Board and was joined by Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegates Mark Sickles, Patrick Hope, and Alfonso Lopez.” [Press Release, Twitter, Twitter]

Nearby: Route 1 Fight Brewing in Fairfax Co. — “There’s another fight brewing over a Route 1 redesign, this time in Fairfax Co. Neighbors feel VDOT has once again sought to make the road too wide for it to be walkable, posing safety issues.” [Twitter, Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

New Rosslyn Food Hall Nears Opening — “American Real Estate Partners is nearly ready to take the wraps off Assembly, the food hall atop the Rosslyn Metro station, a project that’s been more than two years in the works and was thrown a curveball by the Covid-19 pandemic. Assembly at Rosslyn City Center, a 29,000-square-foot space spread over two levels at 1700 N. Moore St., is slated to open this week for a sneak peak for tenants and next week to the wider public.” [Washington Business Journal]

Northam Announcement in Arlington Today — “Gov. Northam will announce a ‘budget proposal for federal American Rescue Plan funding’ at the Arlington County offices in Sequoia Plaza on Wednesday afternoon, per a press release.” [Twitter]

Bonds Likely to Be on Ballot — “Arlington County Board members on July 20 formally requested the placement of four local-bond referendums on the Nov. 2 ballot, which if approved by voters – as seems likely – would lead to a further increase in the government’s debt-service payments… the following bonds will go to voters: $38.7 million for transportation and Metro. $23.01 million for schools. $17.035 million for community infrastructure. $6.8 million for local parks and recreation.” [Sun Gazette]

ART Buses Lifting Capacity Restrictions — “Starting August 1, rider capacity restrictions will be lifted on all ART buses. Seats inside the buses will no longer be blocked off.” [Twitter]

Ceremony Held for Urban Garden — “Project HUG revitalizes underused land at Virginia Highlands Park and illustrates how marginalized space in National Landing’s urban environment can be transformed into vibrant, sustainable, food producing ecosystems. This pilot project serves as a model of modern sustainable agricultural practices to demonstrate how community-driven farming can address food insecurity by leveraging partnerships across public, private, civic, and non-profit communities.” [Press Release]

Va. Unemployment System Struggling — “As the embattled Virginia Employment Commission has been scrambling to move through a massive backlog of unemployment claims, thousands more cases have been pouring in from jobless residents. Staff who review disputed claims have been leaving the agency, and the General Assembly’s watchdog has sounded alarms about measures being taken by the commission to hasten the process in response. Many unemployed Virginians say the commission’s unresponsive call center has stopped picking up the phone.” [Washington Post]

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Gov. Ralph Northam and Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni visited Barcroft Elementary School today (Monday) to get a glimpse of summer learning opportunities in Arlington Public Schools.

The visit is part of a tour of Virginia schools offering summer learning to select students in most need of academic support after a year of virtual learning. In Arlington, more than 4,600 students are enrolled in summer learning, of whom nearly 3,500 are attending in person.

“It’s been amazing… seeing kids happy to be in the classroom, seeing teachers and staff so enthusiastic,” Northam said. “Our future is in good hands.”

At Barcroft (625 S. Wakefield Street), 100 students are enrolled in summer learning, which is focused on strengthening math and reading skills, said Catherine Ashby, a spokeswoman for APS. The school system has an additional 480 elementary students participating in a new program, available for those who initially qualified for summer school but were deemed unable to participate.

Initially, APS had expanded eligibility requirements for summer school to reach more students. Citing teacher shortages, however, it later contracted eligibility. This summer, 850 teachers and staff are providing instruction to certain students with disabilities and who are learning English, as well as some regular-education students with failing grades or who need a core class to graduate high school.

Inside the classroom, students and teachers wore masks. The governor is preparing to release new mask guidelines this week in light of rising cases of the coronavirus. The new guidance will replace the executive order governing mask wearing, which is set to expire on Sunday (July 25).

As cases climb and the more contagious Delta variant spreads, and with most children unable to receive the vaccine, the American College of Pediatrics — of which Northam is a member — recently recommended that all kids should wear masks while indoors. Northam said the new state rules will likely be aligned with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We will definitely have guidelines before the weekend,” he said.

Virginia is reporting about 250 to 300 new cases per day, due in part to the rise of the Delta variant. Northam said he encouraged parents to vaccinate their children 12 years old and older with the Pfizer shot. About 35% of eligible children in the Commonwealth have received their first dose, he said.

Still, state officials said they want children attending school in person.

“We have had a lot of unfinished learning,” Qarni said. “We do know the best place to learn is in person.”

APS officials have pledged that the school system will be fully in-person this fall. For the first four weeks of school, APS will be focused on social-emotional learning and academic assessments, Ashby said, as it tries to make up for lost learning last school year.

At Barcroft, Northam also saw a new literacy program at work.

Principal Judy Apostolico-Buck tells ARLnow the school formally implemented the program — which focuses on teaching the mechanics of reading — last year. This approach, called structured literacy, will be implemented across elementary schools in Arlington this fall to improve reading proficiency rates.

“We need something that guarantees literacy proficiency for all students,” she said. “It’s been a big shift, but the research unequivocally shows that this is what we need to do.”

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Morning Notes

Key Bridge Marker Rediscovered — “A recently identified marker in Virginia hitherto thought lost to history has been rediscovered – hiding in plain sight… The newly-rediscovered marker stands at the Virginia entrance to Key Bridge in the furthest north grassy median separating the westbound entrance to the George Washington Parkway, North Fort Myer Drive, and North Lynn Street.” [Sun Gazette]

Vet Punched By Litterbug — “Arlington County police are looking for two suspects who beat up a military veteran after she asked them to pick up trash dumped outside their car… on 28th St. South near Arlington Ridge Road about 9:30 a.m. Sunday.” [NBC 4]

Northam Signs Bill at Marymount — “In what he called a move that will make the commonwealth more welcoming and inclusive, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill extending financial aid benefits to students who came to the country illegally and who are eligible for in-state tuition. ‘They are Virginians, in every sense of the word, except for the immigration status,’ Northam said before signing the bill at Marymount University in Arlington on Monday.” [WTOP]

Free Clinic Continues Vax Effort — “AFC has vaccinated 65% of our patients… Vaccine hesitant patients require a different, more intensive effort, but having doses on-site will allow us to use any encounter to encourage the vaccine for those who haven’t yet received it.” [Twitter]

Drunk Man Robbed in Clarendon — “At approximately 1:29 a.m. on June 11, police were dispatched to the report of an intoxicated male walking in the roadway. Upon arrival, officers made contact with the individual who stated that between 12:00 a.m. and 12:30 a.m., he was exiting an establishment when he was approach by the unknown male suspect. The suspect told the victim to go to the ATM and withdraw an undisclosed amount of cash. After failing to obtain money, the suspect demanded the victim give him whatever money he had, and lifted his shirt to reveal a firearm.” [ACPD]

Crash Along Lee Highway — “Two WB lanes of Lee Hwy are partially blocked, and the NB lane of N George Mason Dr. is completely blocked due to a motor vehicle collision.” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

APS Working With Nonprofit on ‘Cultural Competence’ — “This week, RISE, a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, began facilitating interactive workshops with Arlington Public Schools Student-Athlete Advisory Council members and coaches. This is the first in a series of interactive cultural competence workshops that APS and RISE will be providing to athletes and coaches as part of a new partnership.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Northam to Sign Bill at Marymount — “This coming Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam will be visiting Marymount University to hold a ceremonial bill signing for House Bill 2123 and Senate Bill 1387. The legislation will make Virginia students eligible for state financial aid if they are eligible for in-state tuition in the fall of 2022, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.” [Press Release]

GOP Candidate Running Against Del. Hope — A Republican challenger has emerged to contest the re-election campaign of Del. Patrick Hope. Laura Hall said she filed paperwork last week. Hall said she would share more publicly when she hears back from the state regarding her filing. A Democratic primary for the delegate’s district did not occur, after the state Board of Elections determined challenger Matt Rogers did not meet a filing deadline. [Twitter]

Metro Changes On the Way — “Rail service will be extended to midnight, seven days a week, in July, and other bus and rail service improvements and fare changes will start being implemented in the Fall, beginning Labor Day weekend, as many in the region prepare to go back to work and school.” [WMATA, DCist]

Domino’s Is Offering a Signing Bonus — The Domino’s Pizza location on Columbia Pike has signs advertising a $500 hiring bonus for new employees, amid a national labor shortage that is hitting restaurants particularly hard. [Twitter]

Video Shows Wrong-Way Driver on I-66Updated at 8:20 a.m. — “Scary video footage shows a driver speeding the wrong way on Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia on Thursday morning.  Virginia State Police say the driver headed the wrong way on the Capital Beltway and I-66, hit at least one car and set off a wave of 911 calls… The driver finally pulled over in the Rosslyn area because of a flat tire. No information on an arrest or charges was immediately released.” [NBC 4]

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Virginians who are fully vaccinated can ditch their masks for most indoor and outdoor situations effective tonight at midnight, Gov. Ralph Northam announced this afternoon (Friday).

He also moved up the end date for all distancing and capacity restrictions to Friday, May 28. Virginia was already preparing to ease some restrictions tomorrow (Saturday), but as of today, all distancing and capacity restrictions will end on Friday, May 28 — two weeks earlier than planned.

“This is a tremendous step forward,” Northam said in a video message. “Virginians have been doing the right thing, and we’re seeing the results.”

As of today, Virginia has administered nearly 7 million vaccine doses and 63% of adults have received at least one dose, the governor said in his announcement. In Arlington, nearly 200,000 doses have been administered and over 60% of the adult population has received at least one dose.

COVID-19 case numbers, meanwhile, have fallen to levels Arlington and the Commonwealth have not seen since last summer.

Northam’s announcement comes on the heels of new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yesterday (Thursday) the CDC said fully vaccinated Americans will no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local or tribal laws, or business and workplace guidance.

There are some exceptions to the new masking guidance. Businesses can still require coverings and masks will also still be required in schools, he said.

“It’s very simple: It’s either a shot or a mask,” Northam said. “It’s up to you.”

Between now and May 28, Northam urged every eligible Virginian — now anyone ages 12 and up — to get vaccinated and join the two-thirds of Virginia adults who have received at least one shot.

“The vaccines are clearly working and they are saving lives,” he said. “We have plenty of shots available. It will protect you better than anything else.”

Image via Gov. Ralph Northam/YouTube

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) Arlington gas stations were busy Tuesday afternoon, but by nightfall lines formed at numerous stations as more drivers filled up in anticipation of potential shortages.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency today, in response to the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline system, a primary source of gasoline for stations across the state. The governor’s declaration is intended to address possible fuel shortages caused by the pipeline shutdown.

From a press release:

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a temporary fuel transportation waiver to increase the supply of gasoline, the Governor’s emergency declaration allows state agencies to issue their own waivers as required by the state. Executive Order Seventy-Eight also provides increased flexibility and funding for state and local governments to ensure adequate fuel supply.

“This emergency declaration will help the Commonwealth prepare for any potential supply shortages and ensure Virginia motorists have access to fuel as we respond to this evolving situation,” said Governor Northam.

Earlier today, EPA Administrator Michael Regan issued an emergency fuel waiver to help alleviate fuel shortages in Virginia and other states whose supply of reformulated gasoline has been impacted by the pipeline shutdown. This waiver will continue through May 18, 2021.

States of emergency have been declared in at least 17 states and D.C. Shortages and long gas station lines have been reported in numerous states, mostly in the Southeast.

In Arlington Tuesday night, nearly all gas stations along Lee Highway had lines of cars waiting to fuel up — and at least one had its pumps shut off with signs saying gas was “not available.”

Similar lines were seen in other parts of the county.

Amid the panic buying, officials say they hope to get most of the pipeline back up and running by the end of the week.

Already, as of Wednesday afternoon, more gas shortages were reported. At the Cherrydale five points intersection, for instance, both the Liberty and the Exxon stations were out of gas.

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Morning Notes

Va. May Lift Most Restrictions Next Month — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Thursday the state could lift most of its COVID-19 pandemic restrictions by mid-June, about 14 months after the state initially put those measures in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Northam said the state is planning to do away with social distancing requirements and restrictions on gathering sizes on June 15, provided coronavirus cases continue to drop and the pace of vaccinations does not let up.” [DCist, InsideNova]

Allegations of Hazing at ACFD Academy — “Over a year ago, firefighter EMT recruit Brett Ahern alleged extreme bullying and hazing at the hands of one firefighter who was an instructor with the Arlington County Fire Department’s Training Academy… there were other victims. Witnesses are speaking out on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.” [WDVM]

Mask Mandate for APS Athletes Questioned — From Sun Gazette Editor Scott McCaffrey’s blog: “Based on feedback we’ve been getting from our sources in the high-school-sports world, Arlington Public Schools has become something of a punching-bag of ridicule for its ongoing policy of requiring student-athletes to wear masks even in situations where it not only serves no good.” [Sun Gazette]

Woman Flees Knife-Wielding Robbers — “The female victim was outside her parked vehicle when she was approached by two male suspects. Suspect One brandished a knife and demanded her cell phone and money. The victim then ran to and entered her vehicle without providing any of her belongings. The suspects fled the scene when a witness approached the vehicle.” [ACPD]

Internal Pick for County Planning Director — “Arlington County has selected Anthony Fusarelli, Jr. to be the County’s new Planning Director after a nationwide search…. Fusarelli has worked in the County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development for 15 years and most recently served as Assistant Director. In this role he was responsible for development agreements and land deals, strategic initiatives, and demographic and development data research and analysis.” [Arlington County]

Warning About Rabid Cat in Falls Church — “The City of Falls Church Police and the Fairfax County Health Department are urging anyone who may have been bitten or scratched by a cat in the last fourteen days that matches the below description to please contact either agency immediately.” [City of Falls Church]

Bob & Edith’s Opening in Alexandria — “Bob & Edith’s Diner will open on King Street later this year, the company confirmed on Wednesday. The diner will take the place of Ernie’s Original Crab House, which closed in April, at 1743 King St. just a few hundred feet from the King Street Metro station.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

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Morning Notes

Residents Want Better HQ2 View — “The tallest and most distinctive tower planned for Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters, the conch-shaped ‘Helix,’ will be like no other building in Greater Washington. And Arlington residents would like to see it from their neighborhoods… [as planned] the positioning would obstruct the surrounding community’s views of the signature structure, said Leonardo Sarli, an Arlington planning commissioner.” [Washington Business Journal]

Ebbin Endorses Colleague’s Challenger — “State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria-Arlington-Fairfax) has endorsed challenger Elizabeth Bennett-Parker in the competitive Democratic primary in the 45th House District. ‘I feel a responsibility to weigh in,’ Ebbin said in an April 22 statement… Bennett-Parker, who currently serves as vice chair of the Alexandria City Council, will face off against [Del. Mark] Levine in the June 8 Democratic primary.” [Sun Gazette]

County Launches Hunger Task Force — “Arlington County has launched a Food Security Task Force to develop strategies and recommendations to achieve a more food secure Arlington. ‘Our fellow Arlingtonians in need are our families and neighbors, and while the County and community came together to address hunger needs throughout the pandemic, much more remains to be done,’ said Matt de Ferranti, Chair of the Arlington County Board.” [Arlington County]

Bar Seating Now Allowed Again — “Remember sitting at a bar and ordering a drink from a bartender? It’s been a while since that simple activity has been allowed in much of the greater Washington area due to pandemic regulations. But in an executive order quietly updated on Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam is allowing Virginia bar patrons to be seated at a bar for service as long as there is a minimum of six feet between parties.” [Washingtonian]

Other Covid Restrictions Eased — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced that sports and entertainment venues in Virginia may begin to operate with expanded capacity, and social gathering limits will increase beginning Saturday, May 15th. The announcement comes as vaccinations continue to rise in the Commonwealth, and more than half of all adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

Nearby: D.C. Statehood Advances — “For the second time in history, the House passed legislation Thursday to make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state, bolstering momentum for a once-illusory goal that has become a pivotal tenet of the Democratic Party’s voting rights platform. Democrats unanimously approved Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Washington, D.C. Admission Act, describing it as a bid to restore equal citizenship to the residents of the nation’s capital and rectify a historic injustice.” [Washington Post]

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