Press Club
Covid cases in Arlington on 4/12/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

The CDC’s elevated “Community Level” for Arlington may not tell the full story, county health officials say.

Yesterday ARLnow reported that Arlington was the only jurisdiction in the immediate D.C. area to have risen to a “medium” Community Level, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While hospitalizations here remain relatively low, the county has been above 200 new cases per week per 100,000 residents for a few days, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data, prompting the CDC’s designation.

But local officials argue that there are factors in play that may explain why the case rate is higher than elsewhere in the region, including a rise in testing leading up to the current Arlington Public Schools spring break.

“Ongoing transmission and recent increased testing contributed to the rise in cases as well as the delayed reporting of cases that are over 10 days old,” said county spokesman Ryan Hudson.

Arlington County Public Health released the following statement to ARLnow.

The increase above the 200 cases per 100,000 persons threshold is likely attributable to 3 factors First, there has been continued transmission in Arlington, and since March the northern Virginia region – including Arlington – has seen increases in weekly case rates. Second, there has been a 16% increase in the number of Arlington residents getting tested compared to the previous week, which is likely related to the good preparation by residents before beginning travel for Spring Break and the approaching religious holidays. Finally, we know that there has been delayed reporting of test results from before March which keeps being reported. […]

Fortunately, our Washington, DC metropolitan area hospital systems have the capacity to respond should there be a need due to COVID-19, especially because our area enjoys high rates of vaccination among those 5 and older.

With the start of Spring Break and the religious holidays, we remind residents of the actions you can take to reduce a Spring surge in cases using layered prevention strategies including testing, vaccination, choosing to wear a mask when appropriate, following CDC isolation and quarantine guidance, and getting treatments if and when necessary.

Regarding testing, consider testing to detect infection before and after traveling or when gathering with people at high risk for severe disease. Get tested at one of our five Curative testing kiosks, find other testing sites through the VDH Testing Locator, or order your second set of free at-home tests at COVID.gov/tests.

With respect to vaccines, everyone 5 years and older should get fully vaccinated and everyone 12 years and older should get a booster to strengthen protection against Omicron and other variants. To find a vaccine location near you visit vaccines.gov, walk-in to one of the County’s clinics, or call our COVID-19 hotline at 703-228-7999.

Our individual and collective actions are the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones, to keep children well to attend school, and to keep society functioning by limiting a potential surge.

As of Tuesday, VDH was reporting a seven-day moving average of about 90 daily cases in Arlington, up from 24 cases per day a month ago. Local wastewater data similarly shows a sharp uptick in detected Covid levels.

Covid “Community Level” for Arlington (via CDC)
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Morning Notes

A bike ride in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Rent on the Rise — “Living in Arlington, Virginia has its perks. ‘Young. It’s vibrant,’ said Arlington resident Robert Buck. ‘That’s why I moved here.’ However, those perks come at a price and for many, that price comes with a roommate… Arlington isn’t getting any cheaper according to a new study from Apartment List that says while rents are getting higher across the DMV they have gone up the most in Arlington by 16% over last year, compared to 10% in D.C.” [WUSA 9]

New Subdivision Gets New Name — “Toll Brothers has chosen a name for the luxury subdivision it is building on the site of the historic Febrey-Lothrop House, demolished one year ago. The winner? The Grove at Dominion Hills. The company was considering suggestions to name the new streets its 40 new homes will require off McKinley Rd. and Wilson Blvd. for the former landowners Febrey and Rouse. But on learning of Arlington’s street grid (new streets would have to be three-syllable “M’s” and N. 9th St.), the firm opted not to seek an exception from the county board, I’m told.” [Falls Church News-Press]

APS on Spring Break — “Arlington Public Schools wishes you a wonderful, relaxing and safe Spring Break! APS schools and offices will be closed for the break, April 11-15, and Mon, April 18 for Grade Prep. We will see you back on Tue, April 19!” [Twitter]

Safety Push for S. Carlin Springs Road — “A dangerous stretch of road in Arlington is prompting community advocates, civic groups, and neighbors to request the county implement new safety measures. Arlington County Public Schools Parent, Gillian Burgess, says there are three schools along South Carlin Springs Road, and the traffic, as well as the congestion, makes her worried about children’s safety.” [Fox 5]

GMU Hosting ‘Yappy Hour’ Tonight — “Bring your pup and get to know the Arlington community at Mason Square! Bring your furry friends and get your paws on some doggie treats, puppachinos, toys, belly rubs, and more! It’s time to paw-ty!” [George Mason University]

Blood Drive This Afternoon — “Fire Works American Pizzeria and Bar is partnering with Inova Blood Donor Services to host an Arlington Community Blood Drive on Monday, April 11. An Inova Bloodmobile will be parked in front of Fire Works, near the intersection of Clarendon Boulevard and North Adams Street, from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on April 11.” [Patch]

Lt. Gov. Sears Coming to Arlington GOP Dinner — “The Arlington and Alexandria Republican committees yesterday announced that the lieutenant governor would be the guest of honor at their joint Lincoln/Reagan Dinner, to take place May 19 in Alexandria. Tickets are $100 to $250. No doubt Sears will guarantee a sold-out event. People like a celebrity, and with no offense to the other two statewide officeholders in Virginia, it is Sears that has that status at the moment.” [Sun Gazette]

This Place Is for the Birds — From the Twitter account Bunnies of Arlington County: “Not a bunny, but birds appear to have nested in the A of the Oracle building in Court House.” [Twitter]

It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 67 and low of 40. Sunrise at 6:38 am and sunset at 7:42 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The weather may be windy and cold today, but it was sunny and more spring-like on Friday for the opening of a local retirement community’s famed daffodil garden.

A number of local officials attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Culpepper Garden community for low-income seniors, located in the Buckingham neighborhood at 4435 N. Pershing Drive.

Among the officials were County Board Chair Katie Cristol, County Board member Libby Garvey, County Manager Mark Schwartz, and state Senator Barbara Favola. They were joined by Arlington first responders, who helped to cut the ribbon on the spring garden, which features some 33,000 flowers in bloom, according to Culpepper Garden.

The garden was renovated and expanded during the pandemic and is tended to by a mix of volunteers, professional gardeners and staff.

A press release about the event is below.

Read More

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Last year’s Blossom Kite Festival at Virginia Highlands Park (photo courtesy of Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation)

(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) Locals can go fly a kite this weekend at Virginia Highlands Park in the Pentagon City area, for the Blossom Kite Festival.

Held in conjunction with the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the kite festival is one of a dozen taking place at D.C.-area parks this coming Saturday, March 26.

The event will feature live entertainment, food trucks, origami, art projects, and, of course, kites. It will take place on the diamond fields at the corner of S. Joyce Street and 15th Street S. from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

This is the Pentagon City park’s second year holding the festival. Upwards of 750 people are expected to attend, organizers tell ARLnow, with the first hundred attendees receiving a kite kit.

“It’s been such a difficult couple of years. This is the first big event Arlington Parks and Recreation has been able to hold outside in a long time,” says Laura Barragan, special events manager at the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation. ” Our community has been so resilient and resourceful during the pandemic. We should celebrate ourselves and our community. The Blossom Kite Festival is a way we can bring the magic of the Cherry Blossom Festival to Arlington.”

Live entertainment will include a flamenco artist, rock and roll cover band, kid-friendly street performers, and gypsy-rock group the 19th Street Band. There will also be local food trucks like the Big Cheese, BBQ At Its Best, El Encanto Latino and Kona Ice.

Attendees additionally have an opportunity to learn about Japanese culture, including demonstrations on making origami cherry trees and how to play the wooden ball skill game kendama.

Dogs are welcome and the festival is rain or shine, though in case of severe weather it will be rescheduled for Sunday. The event is being sponsored by Amazon, according to the website.

The event will be taking place after peak bloom has been reached at the Tidal Basin.

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The Enjoy Arlington 2022 spring catalogue (via Arlington County)

Waitlists, error messages and a call line 90 people deep thwarted Arlington residents’ attempts to enroll in spring classes through the parks department this morning (Wednesday).

The Department of Parks and Recreation offers a variety of classes in the spring, fall and winter that range from gymnastics and swimming to ceramics and jewelry making. The classes for kids are particularly popular with local parents. And registration day system failures — like those from opening day of summer camp registration — are not new for these classes, either.

Some compared the registration process to “getting front row Bruce Springsteen tickets” — to wit, “stressful and horrible.” Others likened it to the summer camp sign-up drama three weeks ago.

After summer camp registration crashed immediately upon opening the morning of Feb. 23 — despite attempts to beef up the platform in advance — parks department spokeswoman Susan Kalish said the platform vendor conducted “tests and improvements that should have resulted in a smooth registration” on Wednesday morning.

That did not happen.

“This morning, Arlington County’s Department of Parks and Recreation saw slower than desired response times for the spring ENJOY Arlington class registration,” she said. “Even though we staggered class registration start times and limited user search capabilities, our vendor’s registration system could not handle the high registration volume.”

While the number of people competing for spots was high, it was still on par with prior first-day enrollments, she said.

Registration opened for gymnastics classes at 7 a.m., aquatics classes at 7:30 a.m., and all other classes at 8 a.m. Residents reported struggling to get their preferences despite having their fingers poised over their keyboards ahead of time.

DPR encouraged people to call the office for assistance with registration. The line was quickly swamped with callers, and while they waited, the online platform timed people out.

Those looking to enroll in just one class said even that was impossible.

Following today’s issues, some repeated their calls on the parks department to fix the system, or change it to a lottery process. Under that system, parents would not have to wake up early and register at lightning speed, but it would add uncertainty to their kids’ schedules.

An unscientific ARLnow poll found 41% of respondents support a lottery system, while 58% said DPR ought to keep the current process but get better technology or a new vendor. At least one resident suggested Arlington look to the tech giant Amazon, currently building its second headquarters in Pentagon City.

Last month, Board Chair Katie Cristol issued a statement responding to and echoing parent frustrations with the process for getting into camp. She said the Board told County Manager Mark Schwartz and department leaders it expects a “full reform of registration.”

She reiterated those sentiments in a statement to ARLnow Wednesday morning.

“We’re disappointed and frustrated, and this highlights the need for the total redesign of the registration process to which DPR has committed,” she said of today’s issues.

DPR will start reviewing its processes and solutions this spring, Kalish said.

A plan for improvements to next year’s registration process could be ready by September, DPR’s Director Jane Rudolph told the County Board yesterday (Tuesday) during a work session on the upcoming 2022-23 budget.

She told the Board that preventing future breakdowns “is our highest department-wide priority.”

The timeline for DPR’s review of registration (via Arlington County)

“As we know, the issue goes beyond just a technology solution,” she said. “We have a high demand and not enough supply for certain camps and for certain age groups.”

DPR is looking into increasing slots where demand is greatest: options for older toddlers and elementary school-aged kids, as well as sports and robotics programs, Rudolph said.

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Blossoms are beginning to bloom in Arlington and the temperature is expected to climb above 60 this afternoon. Sounds like a good time for a bike ride.

Luckily, local bike boosters have made some handy maps for seeing the blossoms on two wheels.

The cherry blossom bike maps from BikeArlington are aimed at helping residents catch full bloom without leaving the county and fighting crowds across the Potomac.

BikeArlington, the county-sponsored bike education program, has released long and short bike routes to assist cyclists in finding blossoms across the county.

Cherry blossom season is one of the most-anticipated times of the year in the D.C. area with the delicate, pink flowers attracting locals and tourists alike. Peak bloom is expected to happen between March 23 and 25 this year, according to the National Park Service, though this weekend’s cold and (likely) snowy weather could change that.

BikeArlington’s long bike route covers a 17 mile loop estimated to take under two hours and hits seven locations. Those stops include checking out trees at the Shirlington Branch Library, Ballston’s Welburn Square, Quincy Park in Virginia Square, and Cherrydale.

“Bike along the streets between Route 29, N. Quincy St, and I-66,” reads the map. “There’s a reason this neighborhood is named Cherrydale!”

Screenshot of BikeArlington’s long cherry blossom bike map

The short route covers 2.5 miles and is estimated to take under 20 minutes, without stopping. It takes riders through Arlington National Cemetery, Gravelly Point, and to the Navy-Merchant Marine Memorial.

“Stop and sit at benches that overlook the cherry blossom trees on the other side of the river,” the map reads.

While the Tidal Basin blossoms in D.C. are the “official” trees that were gifted by the Japanese government, there are plenty of blooms to behold in Arlington. At Arlington National Cemetery, there are more than 400 cherry trees. Just last year, dozens of new cherry blossom trees were planted in National Landing.

A number of cherry blossom-related events will be happening over the next month in Arlington, including a kite festival at Virginia Highlands Park, a petal porch parade, and public art installations.

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(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) After a pandemic winter, the region’s annual rite of spring is finally here: The cherry blossoms have bloomed.

A string of warm weather days got the famed Tidal Basin cherry blossoms to hit peak bloom a few days earlier than initially predicted. While there were fears that peak bloom would result in crowded conditions that would prompt the National Park Service to shut down access, that has yet to materialize.

As of now, the Tidal Basin remains open with peak bloom expected to last about a week.

If blossom peeping is what you’re after, then Arlington National Cemetery is another possible destination, with numerous cherry blossom trees. However, it’s currently only open to the public on a limited basis.

Here in Arlington, our cherry blossoms aren’t as famous as those across the river, but there are still plenty to see elsewhere around the county. Clusters of cherry trees and blossoms can be seen in various Arlington neighborhoods, heralding the arrival of spring without the fanfare of their Tidal Basin brethren.

ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott traveled around Arlington over the past week to capture some of the blooms, as seen in the gallery above.

There are other ways to participate in the cherry blossom festivities that don’t require venturing across the Potomac.

In National Landing, where dozens of cherry trees are being planted, two “Art in Bloom” sculptures are now on display. Relatedly, Amazon is now a top-level sponsor of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Arlington restaurants are included in the annual “Cherry Picks” program, which highlights cherry blossom-inspired dishes.

A new addition to the festival is the “Porch Parade and Pedal Procession,” in which area residents and businesses decorate their porches, yards, and windows with a cherry blossom theme. Arlington is home to numerous such displays, according to a map.

Some Arlington neighborhoods, including the Aurora Highlands community near National Landing, are even organizing their own cherry blossom activities this year.

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A dazzling array of daffodils are now on display at Culpepper Garden.

The affordable senior living facility at 4435 N. Pershing Drive planted the flowers as part of the first phase of an ongoing restoration of its gardens. The garden now contains 28,000 daffodils of over seven varieties.

The daffodils’ official debut will be at a planned Spring Garden Walk on Saturday, April 10, from noon to 3 p.m. The Spring Garden Walk is the first in a series of events in the garden planned throughout this year, according to a press release.

The celebration also comes after a recent renovation to Culpepper Garden’s independent living building. The press release noted that apartments are available to people over the age of 62 living at less than 60% of area median income ($52,920).

“The Spring Garden Walk is the first in a series of interactive garden events planned throughout 2021,” the senior care organization said in a press release. “Sponsorships and funds generated through these events will be used to complete the full restoration of the historic gardens planted by Dr. Charles W. Culpepper, a scientist and botanist who worked for the Department of Agriculture.”

The daffodils commemorate the work of Culpepper, who sold the five-acre tract of land to non-profit Arlington Retirement Housing Corporation in 1973.

The gardens can be accessed via private, self-guided tours. There is no charge for the tours, but donations to Culpepper Garden are encouraged. A limited number of guided tours are also available, with advanced reservations available by contacting Jasmin Witcher at 703-528-0162 or emailing [email protected].

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Morning Notes

APS to Fully Return to Classrooms in Fall — “Arlington Public Schools will bring all students who choose it back for five days of in-person learning every week starting in the fall, Superintendent Francisco Durán told the school board Thursday.
He emphasized that any families… who want to stay virtual-only will be able to do so, and noted that staffers have already begun to plot out what the remote option will look like.” [Washington Post]

County Still Seeking New Logo Ideas — “Calling all artists, and artists-at-heart! The County will choose a new logo this year that better represents our Arlington community, and we need your help… Submit your logo concept/art by March 14.” [Arlington County]

Fire Breaks Out in Route 1 Median — From Dave Statter: “Watch your cigarettes, matches & ashes. Dry & breezy. A small brush fire on Rt 1 south of 23rd St briefly blocked traffic. @Reagan_Airport MWAA Engine 301 handled it.” [Twitter]

Brooks Basking in the Sunlight — From the Arlington County Police Department yesterday afternoon: “It’s a pawsitively beautiful day in Arlington County! FRK9 Brooks hopes you get out and enjoy the weather!” [Twitter]

Va. Booze Sales Soar During Pandemic — “Virginians bought considerably more liquor in the second half of 2020 than they did during the same period of 2019. That’s according to figures Washingtonian obtained from the commonwealth’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, which show statewide sales of spirits were up 15 percent over 2019 from July to December of the worst year in recent history.” [Washingtonian]

State Tax Revenue Higher Than Expected — “On a year-to-date basis, collections of payroll withholding taxes — 61 percent of General Fund revenues — increased 1.1 percent, behind the annual forecast of 2.7 percent growth. Sales tax collections — 17 percent of General Fund revenues — increased 6.7 percent through February, ahead of the annual forecast calling for a 4.8 percent increase. Recordation taxes advanced 38.3 percent on a fiscal year basis, ahead of the 24.4 percent annual forecast. Total revenues rose 8.0 percent through February, ahead of the revised annual forecast of 3.0 percent growth.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

Reminder: Spring Forward This Weekend — “The second Sunday in March is when Daylight Saving Time begins in most areas of the U.S., so in 2021 we’ll ‘spring forward’ one hour and on Sunday, March 14, 2021, at 2 a.m. Be sure to set your clocks ahead one hour before bed on Saturday night!” [Farmers’ Almanac]

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(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools is on spring break this week, which is prompting some people to ask… why?

During normal times, spring break allows teachers and students to get a needed week-long break, leading up to final exams and the end of the school year. It also allows parents to plan vacations and getaways.

During the coronavirus crisis, however, everyone is (or should be) staying at home, so vacations are not really a thing. Parents, many of whom are working from home, have to pull double duty as their kids’ at-home enrichment coordinator even with school in session — more so when it’s not. Meanwhile, the workload for students, who no longer need to worry about SOLs and other high-pressure tests, has been greatly reduced.

This is not to mention APS’ laudable meal distribution for families in need, which buckled under the strain of distributing five grab-and-go meals on Friday for the week ahead. The school system ran out of meals amid long lines, according to the Washington Post.

The argument for keeping spring break is giving students and staff long-planned time off, while giving APS — especially hard-working teachers who have been figuring out how to educate students from a distance — extra time to figure out how to proceed for the rest of the year.

But given all the disruption to everyday life caused by the virus outbreak, should spring break have been cancelled this year?

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Morning Notes

This Week’s Crystal City Garage Races Postponed — “Attention garage racers and friends: Tomorrow’s Crystal City races are postponed. We are operating with an abundance of caution after an employee of a tenant in the 201 12th St. S. complex was quarantined because of COVID-19. The complex common areas were cleaned and disinfected, today, but we are holding off before racing again.” [Facebook]

Deep Clean for Rosslyn-Based News Outlet — “Politico has asked several reporters who covered CPAC to self-quarantine over coronavirus concerns. It’s also sanitizing/disinfecting its office.” [Washingtonian, Twitter]

Winter is Over, Unofficially — “Winter was barely perceptible in Washington this year, and now, we can put a fork in it. We see no more potential for enduring cold or substantial snowfall. Spring is here.” [Capital Weather Gang]

Whitlow’s Rooftop Opens — “Rooftop opens for the season tonight at 5 p.m.! How’s that for a Monday?” [Twitter]

Neighborhood College Applications Open — “Learn how to become a neighborhood advocate and effect change through Arlington County’s free Neighborhood College program, which will meet on eight consecutive Thursday evenings beginning April 23.” [Arlington County]

Developers Pitch in to Help Housing Nonprofit — “Absent a budget from a central housing authority, APAH ‘can’t afford not to’ maintain solid relationships with developers — who donate, serve on its board and train future APAH staffers. ‘We’re blessed by their generosity,’ Janopaul says, citing Arlington builders Tim Naughton of AvalonBay Communities Inc., John Shooshan of the Shooshan Co. and Andy VanHorn at JBG Smith.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Photo courtesy Josh Folb

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