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Covid cases in Arlington as of 2/10/22 (via Virginia Dept. of Health)

For the first time since mid-December, the past week has averaged fewer that 100 new, reported Covid cases per day in Arlington.

The seven-day moving average fell below the three-digit mark today and currently stands at 97. Four of the past five days have seen fewer than 75 cases reported in the county, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.

Those numbers are high relative to most other points during the pandemic, but the trend remains down, even if the rate of reduction has slowed.

Covid hospitalizations in the county, meanwhile, are averaging just over one every two days. No new Covid-related deaths have been reported this week, though last week saw a spike of 11 reported deaths, according to VDH data.

Arlington’s test positivity rate has continued its steep drop and is now 6.2%, after peaking at just under 30% to start the year.

Arlington Public Schools has similarly seen a big decline in cases among students, though numbers remain elevated. According to the school system’s Covid dashboard, there have been 130 student cases over the past seven days, compared to 164 during the prior seven-day period. One month ago, ARLnow reported 864 student cases over a seven day period. A month before that, at the start of the Omicron-variant-fueled wave, there were just 56 positive student cases reported over the same length of time.

In an email to families yesterday, Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán said the school system’s new “test-to-stay” program will start on Monday. APS, which has fought in court to keep its mask mandate in place, is also getting a new testing vendor.

New Vendor for Weekly In-School COVID Testing: Over the past several weeks, APS has been working with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to address challenges with our current testing vendor, CIAN Diagnostics. VDH has advised that the best course of action for APS is to transition to a new VDH-approved provider, Aegis Solutions. Aegis will begin providing the weekly in-school COVID testing on Mon, Feb. 14. Families currently opted in with CIAN will receive an email with a link to update their consent later today with Aegis Solutions. While this is an inconvenience, it’s a necessary change to sustain the weekly screening as a preventative measure.

Test-to-Stay Program Starts on Monday: Reminder that free, proctored testing for eligible students identified as close contacts will be provided at Syphax on school days, starting Monday from 2:30-7 p.m. The VDH Test-to-Stay program helps keep students who are not up-to-date on their COVID vaccinations in school if they are identified as close contacts, as long as they are asymptomatic and test negative for five days following the exposure. Close contacts exposed on or after Mon, Feb. 14, 2022, will be eligible for the test-to-stay program; students exposed prior to that date are not eligible and should complete their 5-day quarantine. As a reminder, students who are up-to-date on their vaccinations are exempt from quarantine if they have no symptoms and wear a mask consistently. Guidance is available online.

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Morning Notes

Rain and fog looking into Georgetown from Freedom Park in Rosslyn (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

New Covid Testing Location — “Arlington County is opening an additional no-cost COVID-19 testing kiosk at Sequoia Plaza. The kiosk is in partnership with Curative, which operates four additional sites in the County. The kiosk is located at 2100 Washington Blvd, on the service road behind the Stambaugh Human Services Center building (Sequoia 1). Beginning on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, the kiosk will operate Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.” [Arlington County]

Va. Changing Covid Tracing Efforts — “Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced it is changing from attempting to investigate every case of COVID-19 and trace all contacts to focusing on follow-up of outbreaks and cases in high risk settings. This response is more effective when a virus spreads very easily and quickly and many infected people do not have symptoms.” [Virginia Dept. of Health]

Hurt Hiker Rescued Along Potomac — “First responders from three agencies worked together to come to the aid of an injured hiker along the Potomac River Wednesday morning. DC Fire and EMS deployed fireboats to work with DC Police in assisting Arlington Fire and EMS. DC Fire’s Fireboat 1 used its ice breaking capabilities while DC Police sent an airboat… The injured hiker was taken to Roosevelt Island and an Arlington EMS unit took the hiker to be treated.” [WJLA, Twitter]

Another Arlington Reference on Jeopardy! — Arlington and its first-in-the-state school integration effort on Feb. 2, 1959 was the subject of an answer on quiz show Jeopardy! last night. [Twitter]

Big Donation to Local Nonprofit from Bezos Ex — “The Arlington, Virginia-based National Council on Aging has received an $8 million donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, its largest single gift in the nonprofit’s 72-year history. The council [said] the donation is unrestricted, and will be used to support its work addressing inequities that make it difficult for women, minorities, LGBTQ, low-income and rural Americans to age with dignity.” [WTOP]

Betty White Posthumously Helps AWLA Fundraise — “She died three weeks earlier, but the centennial of the birth of Betty White still allowed animal-welfare agencies across the nation to raise funds. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington received more than $37,000 from 740 donors during the “Betty White Challenge” event on Jan. 17, which would have been White’s 100th birthday.” [Sun Gazette]

W-L Gymnasts in Regional Tourney — “Winning a fourth straight district title would have been the ultimate [prize] for the Washington-Liberty Generals. But since the girls high-school gymnastics team was far from being at full strength, a more realistic goal was to at worst earn a region-tourney berth by finishing among the top three. Mission accomplished.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Thursday — Rain today, mainly before 1 p.m. High near 54. South wind 7 to 9 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph. Sunrise at 7:11 a.m. and sunset at 5:32 p.m. Rain tomorrow before 4 p.m., then a mix of rain and snow likely, possibly mixed with sleet. High near 47. Northwest wind 11 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Runners at Washington-Liberty High School in the mist and fog (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

APS Test-to-Stay Date Set — “Arlington County Public Schools, in Virginia, is planning to launch its test-to-stay program Feb. 14, a school spokesman said. The coronavirus testing will initially be offered to students only, for free, at Syphax Education Center from 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on school days.” [WTOP]

Police Probe Particularly Problematic Pothole — “Scanner: Police responding to intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Sycamore Street in East Falls Church for multiple reports of a large pothole damaging passing cars.” [Twitter]

Another Guy Arrested With Gun at DCA — “A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer stopped a West Virginia man from bringing a loaded handgun onto a flight leaving from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) early Tuesday morning, according to a TSA release. The TSA officer detected the .40 caliber gun while searching the Bunker Hill, West Virginia man’s carry-on items at a DCA checkpoint.” [Patch]

ART Performance Is Best in Region — From MetroHero: “Our January 2022 regional bus performance reports are now live! ART: B. DASH: B-. Fairfax Connector: B-. MTA Local Bus: C. Metrobus: C-. Ride On: D+.” [Twitter]

Marymount to Host National Event — “Marymount University has been selected by the Center for Excellence in Education to host the national finals of the 2022 USA Biolympiad, to be held on campus May 28 to June 9. The USA Biolympiad is the nation’s largest cost-free biology-education testing and training program for high-school students in the U.S.” [Sun Gazette]

Photos: Church’s Lunar New Year Celebration — “Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass in honor of the Vietnamese New Year at Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church in Arlington Jan. 30. Tet, or Vietnamese New Year, is celebrated Feb. 1 this year. Following Mass, Bishop Burbidge blessed a shrine to Our Lady of La Vang in a courtyard outside Holy Martyrs.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

It’s Groundhog Day — Patchy fog today before 8 a.m. Otherwise, Groundhog Day will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 46. Sunrise at 7:12 a.m. and sunset at 5:31 p.m. Rain likely Thursday, mainly before 1 p.m. Otherwise cloudy, with a high near 56. [Weather.gov]

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People stand in line at the recently opened COVID-19 testing kiosk at Central Library (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

A free Covid testing kiosk opened Monday at Central Library near Quincy Park.

Arlington County sponsors the new kiosk that Curative operates daily between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. at 3809 10th Street N., the southwest corner of the park near the tennis courts.

No symptoms or doctor referral is required but the county says you must make an appointment through the Curative website as the company works through lab backlogs. Staff at the site on Monday said they were allowing walk-ups, however.

Patients administer their own COVID-19 nasal swab test under the supervision of a Curative worker and receive results in 48 to 72 hours.

Parking is available at the library and park’s surface lots or the Central Library parking garage after 10 a.m.

In addition to a testing site at Marymount University that opened this week, Curative already operates three Arlington County-sponsored sites at:

  • Arlington Mill Community Center parking lot (909 S. Dinwiddie St.), which is closed due to an electric issue that requires the delivery of a new kiosk
  • Courthouse Plaza parking lot (2088 15th St. N.; corner of 15th St. N. & N. Courthouse Rd.)
  • Virginia Highlands Park parking lot (1600 S. Hayes St.)

The Curative kiosks are administering an average of 8,500 PCR tests a week, up from an average of about 2,900 tests per week at the end of November/start of December, said Arlington County Community Engagement and Resilience Manager Tania Bougebrayel Cohn. Each kiosk can administer about 400 PCR tests a day.

There have been numerous closures of the Curative sites over the past couple of weeks — due to test and staffing shortages — but the county is working quickly to open additional testing sites to meet community demand as staff and supply chain-related shortages continue to affect the kiosks, she said.

“Demand for COVID-19 testing is at an all-time high. By adding an additional testing site, located in a densely populated Metro corridor, we hope to help meet that demand and remove barriers to testing access for all Arlingtonians,” said Dr. Aaron Miller, Director of the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management.

The full announcement from Arlington County is below.

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At-home Covid tests have been hard to come by in Arlington, but distributors are promising that more tests will be available soon.

Tests haven’t been available at many Arlington pick-up sites and stores for a number of days, but some could be available as soon as tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 8.

While this week’s winter weather delayed shipments earlier this week to local CVS stores, a spokesperson tells ARLnow that stores should expect deliveries of at-home Covid tests by Saturday.

The Virginia Department of Health shipped 1,400 at-home Covid test kits to Arlington libraries yesterday, a VDH spokesperson confirms to ARLnow. However, the kits, which will be distributed for free, haven’t arrived yet.

“We will distribute some time next week based on when we get them,” library deputy director Anne Gable said. She advised residents to keep checking Arlington Public Library’s website for updates.

The most recent distribution was Dec. 30, when seven Arlington libraries handed out 2,000 VDH-provided tests. The kits were gone within 20 minutes.

Giant Food stores are also expecting more supply by early next week, a company spokesperson tells us. Supply shortages, not the weather, were the cause of the delay at Giant stores.

“Our distributors were waiting on shipments to [be sent] to us,” the spokesperson says.

A Walgreens spokesperson declined to provide ARLnow an estimate on when at-home Covid test kits may once again be available at local stores. They did note the store’s four-item purchase limit on test kits and referred us to the manufacturers to ask about supply.

Harris Teeter hasn’t yet responded to ARLnow’s inquiry about Covid test kit availability.

In recent weeks, it’s been a struggle for many locals to get a Covid test, amid a surge in Covid cases and high positivity rates, fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Since mid-December, meanwhile, long lines at county testing sites have been the norm.

This past week hasn’t seen much improvement in terms of access. A number of sites were closed due to the snow and Covid-related staffing shortages, while no new appointments were available online.

Starting Monday, a new testing site is set to open in North Arlington on the campus of Marymount University.

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Marymount University’s main building in the snow (file photo)

(Updated on 1/7/22) Residents of Arlington’s northern reaches will have a new Covid testing option starting next week.

Marymount University announced today that it will host an appointment-only, walk-up testing booth, for use by students, university employees and the general public, on its main campus.

The booth is set to open on Monday, Marymount said. It will be operated by Curative, the same company that runs the three Arlington County-sponsored testing kiosks in Courthouse, near Pentagon City, and along Columbia Pike.

Those testing sites have attracted massive lines amid the latest Covid wave. Currently, the Pike testing location is closed due to staffing shortage, while the Courthouse and Pentagon City kiosks show no available reservations through next week.

Marymount officials say they hope the new Curative booth, near the Reinsch Library, will add testing capacity for the university and its neighbors.

“The sky-high demand for COVID-19 tests during the holiday season due to the Omicron variant has resulted in hour-long wait times at clinics near and far, as well as diminished inventory,” Barry Harte, Vice President for Finance & Operations and Treasurer at Marymount University, said in a statement today. “But our important partnership with Curative will deliver critical access to COVID-19 tests not just for our community members on Marymount’s campus, but the surrounding Arlington area and even beyond.”

The booth will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Last year the school and Arlington County brought a mobile testing unit to campus for a couple of weeks in the spring.

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Morning Notes

Wednesday’s sunset in Westover (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

County Covid Testing Booth Still Closed — From Arlington County: “The @curative #COVID19 testing kiosk at Arlington Mill Community Center will be closed tomorrow, Jan 6, due to COVID-related staffing shortages. The kiosks at Court House Plaza and Virginia Highlands Park are scheduled to open at 9 AM. Thank you for your flexibility.” [Twitter]

APS Orders Tests for All Students, Staff — “We have ordered a supply of KN95 masks, particulate filters for an APS provided mask, and at-home rapid antigen test kits for every staff member and student. Supplies for these items are limited but we anticipate them soon and will send additional communication when available.” [Arlington Public Schools]

APS Custodians Clear School Sidewalks — From Arlington Public Schools yesterday afternoon, before the announcement that today would be another snow day: “Thank you custodians and grounds staff for clearing our walkways, roadways and buses to ensure a safe return to school!” [Twitter]

Flight Cancellations at National Airport — From NBC 4’s Adam Tuss yesterday: “MAJOR problems at @Reagan_Airport right now as flight cancellations and delays have piled up. One traveler just told me their flight was cancelled 5 times over 3 days. Airlines tell me there are staffing issues and the winter weather didn’t help. This is a SIGHT!” [Twitter]

Florida Men Stopped With Guns at DCA — “During a search of a Florida man’s carry-on bag on Dec. 28, TSA officers using an X-ray machine discovered an unloaded .40 caliber handgun and 116 bullets. On Saturday, TSA officers stopped another man at a DCA checkpoint with a .40 caliber handgun loaded with six bullets. In both unrelated cases, TSA officers alerted the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police, who arrested the men and confiscated the guns an ammunition.” [Patch]

No County Board Tie-Breaker This Year — “State law allows the Arlington board to appoint a tie-breaker from within the ranks of the public. It also requires that, if the board does not want to do so, it must hold a vote to that effect at the start of each year. Board members dutifully voted down a tie-breaker at their Jan. 4 organizational meeting, which had been delayed a day due to inclement weather.” [Sun Gazette]

Photos of Aftermath of GW Parkway Crash — “#DCsBravest Fireboats assisted @ArlingtonVaFD as they conducted an extremely difficult rescue of a victim trapped in a car 70 feet down a cliff. Our Fireboat returned in daylight to retrieve gear and check vehicle stability. Photos show how challenging this rescue was.” [Twitter, Twitter, Patch]

It’s Thursday — Today will be partly sunny, with a high near 39. Sunrise at 7:27 a.m. and sunset at 5:01 p.m. Snow tonight and overnight, 2-4 inches of accumulation. After the snow, Friday will be sunny and breezy, with a high near 32. West wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Signs for the I-395 Express Lanes (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

Gift Wrap Recycling FYI — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “Unfun Post-Holiday Fact: If wrapping paper has a thick glossy finish, it can’t go in the blue recycling bin. Same for anything with glitter.” [Twitter, Arlington County]

More Big Lines at County Testing Sites — “Walk-in #COVID19 tests at County @curative kiosks may not be available due to holiday volumes and weather-related shipping delays. Appointments are strongly encouraged.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Testing at Pharmacy Snarls Traffic — “Scanner: ACPD responding to Preston’s Pharmacy at 5101 Langston Blvd for reports of traffic issued caused by Covid testing.” [Twitter]

N. Va. Lagging D.C. in Test Options — “Shortages in COVID-19 testing availability have become acute lately, as the highly contagious omicron variant surges and area residents scramble to get tested before and after holiday gatherings. In Northern Virginia, where free public testing availability has frequently lagged behind the options in D.C., capacity is particularly strained.” [DCist]

ACFD Ambulances Dispatched to Maryland — From public safety watchdog Dave Statter: “Not sure what’s going on right now in Prince George’s County (I imagine @PGFDNews is slammed on the EMS side), but recently heard @ArlingtonVaFD’s Medic 105 sent to Hillcrest Heights.” [Twitter, Twitter]

It’s Tuesday — Today it will be mostly cloudy with a high near 56 and a slight rain chance in the afternoon. Sunrise at 7:26 a.m. and sunset at 4:54 p.m. Tomorrow expect light rain throughout the day, with a low of 47 and a high of 54. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

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This week, Arlington Public Library will once again be giving away at-home COVID-19 test kits.

Starting Thursday at noon, some 2,000 kits will be available across all seven library locations, the library system announced Monday evening.

“Test kits are dispensed on a first-come, first-served basis, and can be picked up from the service desk at each Library location,” the library announcement says. “Neither proof of County residency nor a library card is required, and the kits are free of charge.”

The distribution follows a similar effort two weeks ago in which people snapped up the 360 available rapid antigen test kits in a few hours. Another round of test kit giveaways last week lasted less than an hour.

Initially, Arlington Public Library estimated new tests wouldn’t come until the new year.

Visitors can pick up test kits, supplied by Virginia Department of Health, for themselves and household members, the announcement says. It advises folks to act quickly.

“Due to increased demand, test kits at library locations are expected to be out of stock very quickly,” the library said. “Please check back for updates.”

Masks are required in all library buildings. The library asks those with COVID-19 symptoms to send someone else to pick up their test for them.

Demand for COVID-19 tests in Arlington has picked up with the holiday season and the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, resulting in long lines and even heavy vehicle traffic as people try to get swabbed.

https://twitter.com/VictoriaBroehm/status/1473411681346895874

For those who can’t get an at-home test kit from the library, Arlington County has three testing kiosks open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

They’re found in the Arlington Mill Community Center parking lot (909 S. Dinwiddie Street), the Courthouse Plaza parking lot (2088 15th Street N.) and the Virginia Highlands Park parking lot (1600 S. Hayes Street).

The kiosks will close at 2 p.m. on Friday and will be closed Saturday, New Year’s Day.

VDH also has a list of testing locations.

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Morning Notes

The departures lanes at Reagan National Airport (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

More Huge Covid Testing Lines — “This is the current situation at VA Highlands Park #COVID19 testing center! How do they expect people to preemptively get tested if that means standing in the bitter cold for hours?” [Twitter]

Libraries Run Out of At-Home Tests — “And Arlington libraries are out of tests, less than an hour after doors opened. No more tests until at least after Jan. 1.” [Twitter]

Arlington Band Gets Another Grammy Nod — “When the nominations for the Grammy Awards were announced on Tuesday, featured among the artistes up for the Best Reggae Album is the American band SOJA. The band was nominated for their seventh studio album Beauty in the Silence which was released on September 24 on ATO Records. It is not their first time to the party having been nominated on two previous occasions for their 2017 project Live in Virginia and Amid the Noise and Haste released in 2015.” [Jamaica Observer]

Teen Arrested for Armed Robbery — “The victim was walking in the area when he was approached by the two juvenile male suspects. Suspect One allegedly brandished a firearm and demanded the victim give them his belongings, while Suspect Two stole his backpack, cell phone, wallet and car keys. The two suspects then fled the scene on foot. A description of the suspects was broadcast and a short time later, officers located Suspect One in the area of S. George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike. During a search of his person incident to arrest, officers recovered the victim’s belongings, as well as a firearm.” [ACPD]

Our Holiday Wish — Despite being repeatedly cited as a source on Wikipedia, ARLnow does not currently have its own Wikipedia entry. The online encyclopedia frowns upon you creating a page for yourself, so our holiday wish is for someone to see fit to finally create one that briefly tells our story.

It’s Winter — It’s officially winter, after yesterday’s winter solstice. On the plus side, the days will only get longer and lighter from here on out. Today will start cloudy in the morning before becoming sunny in the afternoon. It will be breezy, with a high of 45. Sunrise at 7:23 a.m. and sunset at 4:50 p.m. Tomorrow will be clear throughout the day, with a high of 42 and a low of 27. [Capital Weather Gang, Darksky]

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Arlington Central Library (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Within hours of offering free at-home COVID-19 rapid test kits on Friday, Arlington County libraries ran out.

All seven open library locations were offering tests — 360 tests in total, across all branches — but all were claimed by 12:10 p.m.

Demand was higher than expected, Arlington Public Library Deputy Director Anne Gable tells ARLnow, and people lined up at library doors to get the tests. The number of tests sent by the Virginia Department of Health was based on previous responses at other libraries in the Commonwealth, she notes.

Each branch received a different number of tests.

“It was proportional to the user base of the locations,” writes Gable. “Meaning, the more heavily used locations got more tests and the less used locations got fewer tests.”

More test kits are expected to be available sometime this week and staff will make sure more will be offered this time around.

Some residents were upset with the lack of tests.

Meanwhile, Fairfax County Libraries received 20,000 COVID-19 rapid tests and all branches were still stocked as of Friday afternoon.

In recent days, there’s been an ongoing national conversation about why there are so few low-cost, at-home COVID-19 tests available in the U.S., particularly in comparison to Europe.

Arlington’s director of emergency management took to social media to remind residents that if they are in need of a COVID-19 test more immediately, there are three free county testing sites open daily.

Library hours remain limited until Jan. 3, when seven out of eight branches will fully reopen for the first time in nearly two years.

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