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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The indoor public pools at Washington-Liberty and Yorktown high schools reopened on Saturday.

Arlington Public Schools announced Friday afternoon that the pools would be reopening under the state’s Phase 3 guidelines. The Wakefield High School pool “will remain closed for a few more weeks” due to major maintenance work, APS said.

Those who want to use the pools are required to make a reservation for a 45-minute window.

More from an APS email to parents:

The two pools will open under the Virginia Forward Phase III guidelines, which include diminished capacity, physical distancing of 10 feet and the requirement of a health and temperature screening for all staff and patrons. We have posted many of the details on our website and will continue to do so over the next 24 hours. Use this link to learn more and stay informed.

Patrons will need to purchase admission and make a reservation for a 45-min swim or water exercise/jog session. You will need to set up an account on our Self-Service Portal. You will receive a separate email this evening inviting you to join the APS Aquatics Self-Service Portal. Follow the instructions on the email to set up your account. […]

The reservations will open at 8 a.m. on the previous day (On Friday at 8 a.m. you will be able to register for Saturday sessions). They will first go live tomorrow morning. Instruction on registering are available at Making a Reservation. This section also includes information about what to expect when you get to the pool, while you swim and after you are done. Patrons will be checked in, directed to the locker rooms to shower before swimming and out to the deck to a designated Blue or Red lanes. After you swim, you may choose to exit directly off the deck or enter the Unisex Room to change out of your swimming gear and shower. If you have any questions or need assistance navigating the portal or the registration page, please call 703-228-6264 or 703-228-6263. […]

Regretfully, The Wakefield pool will remain closed for a few more weeks. APS is performing major maintenance in the entire building ahead of the start of the school year. We recognize this is disappointing to our Wakefield patrons, but it is imperative that this work be completed. We anticipate opening around August 24. […]

The APS Aquatics team is excited to be back at the pools and ready to welcome you back.  Staff will be learning how to navigate this new way of serving you and the success of our re-opening depends greatly on your willingness to follow the guidelines and on your patience. Our primary concern remains your safety both in the water and in the building.

We very much look forward to seeing you on Saturday at Washington-Liberty and Yorktown Pools. It has been a long 4-months on dry land.

Arlington County does not have outdoor public pools, but is home to several private swim clubs. The county government itself does not currently operate any public pools, but that will change when the Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center opens. The opening of the aquatics center, however, has been delayed at least a year due to the pandemic and budget issues.

File photo

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Morning Notes

County Scaling Down Capital Improvement Plan — “As the County continues to experience the economic impacts of COVID-19, County Manager Mark Schwartz intends to present the Arlington County Board with a short-term proposed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) rather than the traditional 10-year plan.” [Arlington County]

Metro May Require Masks — “Metro riders may not see service fully restored until spring 2021, but the WMATA is now making plans to gradually get trains and buses running more frequently. News4’s Adam Tuss has learned that officials are considering requiring all riders to wear face masks on buses and trains and applying social distancing measures.” [NBC 4]

Real Estate Market Falters — “Home sales across the region took a tumble in April as the first impacts of COVID-19 were felt… The District of Columbia (down 31 percent) and Arlington (down 25 percent) were hardest hit, but all jurisdictions except the small city of Fairfax posted double-digit declines in closed sales.” [InsideNova]

APS Asks for Public Feedback on Data — “Beginning May 12, APS is inviting community members to review the data that will be used in the Fall 2020 Elementary School Boundary Process. This review of data by Planning Unit — the geographic building blocks APS uses to establish school attendance zones — will help ensure that the final data reflects what you know about your neighborhood.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Swim Season Cancelled — “With the logistics to pull off the 2020 Northern Virginia Swimming League season proving too numerous and complicated in a COVID-19 world, officials have pulled the plug on summer competition.” [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy of Peter Golkin

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Morning Notes

Elite Yorktown Swimmer Has Bright Future — “So far during her three-year high-school swimming career, Victoria Huske has never lost an individual race. Included in Huske’s victories for the Yorktown Patriots’ standout are six individual state championships in various strokes and she has been a member of five winning relays with one close second.” [InsideNova]

Fairlington Bus Stop Getting a Roof — “Arlington County anticipates beginning work on enhancement of the bus stop at the corner of S. Buchanan Street and 30th Street S., which include installation of a weather shelter, the week of March 9th.” [Twitter]

New Tech Helps County Explore Pipes — “With no interruption to service, our new high-tech pal PipeDiver today explored key Arlington water supply pipes, gathering a wealth of unprecedented data to assess conditions now and for long-term planning.” [Twitter]

Whitlow’s to Serve Beer with Your Face on It — “Ever wanted to drink your face? Well join us [Thursday] night from 6:30pm-8:30pm! @guinness will take your [photo], and in less time than it takes to pour a perfect pint, the 3D Malt Printer puts your face in your beer.” [Instagram]

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A new indoor swimming school is coming soon to Lee Highway in Arlington.

SwimBox offers one-on-one lessons to swimmers of all ages, from beginners to athletes. All lessons take place in the shallow, warm-water “Endless Pool,” with instant video feedback to customize swimming technique.

“We are anxious to work with the masters swimmers, competitive age group swimmers, triathletes, and adults learning to swim that live in/close to that area,” said owner Lissa Latella. “We find that the adult community is often overlooked in terms of learning to swim, so it will be great to provide that service to this new area as well.”

The space is slated to open in December, according to Latella, underneath Caribbean Grill at 5183 Lee Highway.

“The move to Arlington has been something we’ve been wanting to do for the past few years, but finding a good space that allows for our pool was a bit hard in an area where most buildings have underground parking garages,” said Latella. “Can’t put a pool above something like that!”

SwimBox applied for a construction permit in August, per county records, in which it was labeled as an “above ground modular spa.”

Photo courtesy SwimBox

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Arlington resident Alyssa Gialamas brought back two medals and a new record from the Parapan American Games in Lima.

The two-time Paralympian athlete won a Gold medal for the 50 meter backstroke as well as a Silver medal for the 200 meter freestyle. Gialamas said she began the multi-event Games with her best race, the backstroke, and finished the with another strong race, the 200 meter freestyle.

Coming in at 47.65 seconds during the backstroke, she also set a new Parapan record.

“I haven’t swam that fast since 2015,” she told ARLnow, adding that “I ended up with a gold in the 50 meter backstroke, so I was really really happy.”

Gialamas was born with arthrogryposis, a condition which keeps some of the joints in her leg from moving easily and began swimming as physical therapy but said she found freedom in the water. When in the water, she says she relies on upper body strength instead of her legs.

By day, she works as a sales consultant with Cigna in McLean where she’s “really blessed” by her coworkers’ enthusiasm of following the race and her company’s support. Netting a medal and a record was also proof the 24-year-old athlete could juggle both worlds.

“To be able to come back and show that you can do both and I can swim just as fast as when I had a full time job as when I didn’t have a full time job made it worth it,” she said.

Gialamas’ balancing act is notable considering she was among the oldest on her team — a fact teammates teased her about.

“I was called Mom a lot of times on the trip and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,'” she said.

The Illinois-born swimmer said there wasn’t much time to explore Lima between the team’s dawn-till-dusk schedule, but she did bring back one souvenir: a nasty cold.

For now, Gialamas says she’s going to catch up on sleep, take a month to recoup from her training regime that’s split between Arlington and Baltimore, and consider what she wants to do next.

“I’m really happy with how it turned out, she said. “I’m just trying to focus on where the next steps take me, and I think that’s a good way to do it because I’m just happy with how I swam and how I respected Team USA.”

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Arlington resident and Paralympian swimmer Alyssa Gialamas is flying to Peru this week for the Parapan American Games.

Gialamas, 24, is a two-time Paralympian who competed in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Games. Now, she’s off to Lima to compete in the Parapan games from August 23 to September 1 — a competition she says many para-athletes use to prepare for the next Olympics.

“I made my first Team actually at the Parapan games in Guadalajara in 2011,” Gialamas said of the competition where she won four silver medals and which led her to her first Paralympics.

A Chicago native, Gialamas was born with a condition called arthrogryposis, which prevents some of her joints from moving freely. Her parents started her swimming at three years old as a form of physical therapy.

“I’ve always loved the water, and felt free in the water, and felt like I can do anything I want,” she said. “I think that’s why I stuck with it for so many years.”

Gialamas uses long leg braces on land and joked that she actually thinks, “my body works better in the water than it does on land.”

“In the water you’re limitlessness,” she said. “There’s nothing holding you back.”

Because of the way arthrogryposis affects her legs, Gialamas doesn’t use them when she swims, instead relying on upper body strength.

Since diving into the competition eleven years ago with the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association, Gialamas won six Illinois state high school championships, and held 22 American records for short and long-course swimming.

At 17 years old, she competed in the London Paralympics, coming in fifth place in the 200-meter freestyle competition. Four years later, she competed again in Rio. After both Paralympics, she met then-President Obama together with the rest of Team USA, an experience she described as “absolutely incredible.”

This year she faces a new challenge: balancing her work schedule with her training goals. Although Gialamas lives in Arlington, she works as a sales consultant with Cigna in McLean and still trains at her Loyola University Maryland college swim team facility in Baltimore two days a week.

“I’ve seen a lot of sunrises,” she jokes, explaining that the schedule means working out of the McLean office three days a week, and out of the company’s Baltimore office two days a week. Every day she aims to arrive at the Baltimore pool, or at the Washington-Liberty High School pool near her Arlington apartment, at 5:30 a.m.

“Because of that I want to swim fast and show people that not only can I work a full-time job, but I can stay as fast as possible,” she said.

“Alyssa has overcome obstacles that would deter most, but these challenges have only fueled her competitive spirit as she sets out to accomplish her lifelong goals,” said Cigna’s Mid-Atlantic Market President Monica Schmude, who added that the health services company is “very proud” of Gialamas and is committed to employee health.

This year’s games will also be a bit different thanks to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s recent name change to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, to include all of the games’ athletes. The renaming comes a year after the organization increased Paralympian prize earnings to equal Olympians’ pay.

“It’s funny that it only added a ‘p’ to the name, but it’s a very big deal,” said Gialamas.

The Arlington athlete is scheduled to depart on Wednesday for the next challenge in Lima, and will race in the 50-meter backstroke and 50-, 100- and 200-meter freestyle events.

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With work kicking off on the long-awaited, hotly debated Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center, Arlington officials are looking for some feedback on what programs and services they should offer at the new facility.

After years of wrangling over the exact design and cost of the facility, county leaders expect the $60 million project will include a 50-meter pool, room for diving at a variety of heights, and a family pool, complete with elements including “a lazy river, splash pad for tots, basketball, volleyball, lap lanes and a water slide.” The project will also include a new fitness center, billed as the largest one operated by the county, and an expansion of the adjacent park and its walkways.

However, a working group is still trying to get a sense for how Arlingtonians expect to use the space, and what programs staffers should offer at the facility. The county even released a new survey this week to help inform that group’s work.

Its areas of focus include questions on what days of the week and times of day residents envision attending the aquatics center, and queries about what sort of membership options the county should offer for people looking to use the center on a regular basis.

The survey also asks respondents for their opinions on what sort of equipment the county should offer in its fitness center — with options ranging from free weights to cardio machines — and what classes it should convene at both the pool and fitness center. Potential classes could focus on Crossfit, yoga, martial arts, scuba diving, lifeguard certification and a host of other areas.

The questionnaire also includes space for people to weigh in on exactly which features they want to see at the family-focused “leisure pool,” and seeks to gauge interest on aquatic activities like diving and water polo.

The working group is set to deliver its recommendations to the County Board by spring 2019. The county held a formal groundbreaking ceremony for the project back in July, and workers are currently in the process of clearing the site. The county hopes to open the center by 2021.

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Arlington officials are gearing up to loosen some of the zoning rules governing community swimming pools, in a bid to make it easier for organizations to build or renovate pools across the county.

The Planning Commission is set to hold a public hearing on the zoning tweaks this coming Wednesday (Oct. 10), with the County Board considering the changes soon afterward.

Primarily, the changes would give the Board more latitude to hand out “use permits” for the pools, giving officials the chance to review standards for things like fencing and setbacks on a case-by-case basis, rather than subjecting every pool to the same rigid standard.

The county doesn’t currently boast a large number of community pools, by any stretch of the imagination — there are just five pools around Arlington that aren’t owned by the county or restricted for a specific neighborhood or development’s use — but the zoning changes have sped through the county’s engagement process, nonetheless.

That’s largely due to the fact that the Macedonia Baptist Church is currently hoping to redevelop a former YMCA community center in Nauck, located at 3440 22nd Street S., into a community pool, and has been pressing the county for changes to the zoning standards.

Most of those documents haven’t changed since the mid-1950s, according to a county staff report, when many of the original community pools were first built. Staff notes that those standards “were originally intended to buffer residential communities adjacent to community swimming pools from the impacts of the use, and to ensure that the pool provided ample parking on site that did not congest nearby on street parking or other off-site parking facilities.”

But as Arlington has urbanized over the years, staff believes those standards have become increasingly out of date.

For instance, the zoning ordinance currently requires pools to be built with a 100-foot setback from a residential street, a standard designed to “minimize the audible and visual impacts of the pool on nearby neighbors,” staff wrote. But with space in Arlington increasingly at a premium, county officials believe “a combination of opaque fencing and landscaping” can accomplish the same goal without requiring quite so many design headaches.

County staff don’t want to see the Board do away with that sort of limit entirely, noting that there could be plenty of future instances where the “100-foot setback requirement could be warranted to prevent mechanical equipment, storage buildings, and other pool-related facilities from being located too close to an adjacent neighborhood or property.”

By changing zoning rules to give the Board the chance to review future community pool designs, however, staffers believe members would be able to examine each application on its own and evaluate “the specific circumstances of individual properties,” making the whole process a bit less rigid.

After the Planning Commission gets a chance to offer a recommendation on the zoning changes next week, the Board is set to consider them at its Oct. 20 meeting.

Flickr pool photo by Alves Family

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The fifth annual Arlington Youth Triathlon will kick off next Sunday, June 10, at the Washington-Lee High School pool.

The public event hosted by the Arlington Triathlon Club will feature swimming, running and biking among children ages 7-15 and will start at 7:30 a.m.  The Arlington Youth Triathlon is a part of the USA Triathlon Mideast Region Youth Triathlon Series, where young triathletes from Ohio to Tennessee will come to Arlington to participate.

The triathlon will include a pool swim, a bike ride on closed streets around the school and a track finish. Each event features short distances to include kids of all abilities.

This year’s triathlon will be held in honor of Anne Viviani, an Arlington resident who died April 9 in a car crash striking a deer on I-85 in South Carolina. Viviani, 68, was a world champion triathlete and coach.

Registration for the Arlington Youth Triathlon is open until June 9. It costs $75 to register before May 15, and $85 afterward.

Photo Courtesy Arlington Triathlon Club

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