Arlington, VA

Arlington County will be conducting its first mass vaccination event this weekend.

On Saturday, starting around 9 a.m., about 1,500 people will receive doses of the new one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Lubber Run Community Center (300 N. Park Drive). The recently-built community center is just a few blocks from Ballston.

While Arlington has been vaccinating people by the hundreds at a county office building, sometimes leading to long lines, this is the first instance of what the county is calling a “mass vaccination clinic.” (Vaccinations have also been taking place at the Walter Reed Community Center.)

Only those pre-registered for the vaccine on the state’s Vaccinate Virginia website and scheduled for the clinic will receive doses. No walk-ups will be offered.

Arlington is currently vaccinating residents 65 and older, as well as those 18-64 with certain medical conditions. Some frontline workers are also being vaccinated.

County officials described the mass vaccination event as a “pilot” that will establish a new distribution point and help speed vaccine distribution down the road.

“This single-dose vaccine may be desirable for people who want to complete their immunization schedule quickly, do not want to return for a second dose, or have difficulty returning for a second dose,” said Dr. Reuben Varghese, Arlington County Public Health Director, in a press release. “This also gives us an opportunity to pilot operations at a new vaccination site for potential future use in vaccine administration.”

“This new vaccine option will provide increased opportunity for our community, particularly those who may have difficulty in scheduling a second dose of the vaccine,” said County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti. “We want everyone to know that our goal is to get as many vaccines distributed each week as possible. This pilot site reinforces our ability to scale our vaccine rollout quickly and efficiently as new supply becomes available.”

The 1,500 doses of the J&J vaccine offered Saturday is in addition to Arlington’s weekly allotment of about 3,000 first doses of the other, two-dose COVID-19 vaccines from the state.

To date, nearly 40,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Arlington County, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

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(Updated at 11 a.m.) Virginia localities are set to start receiving the new Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine next week, thus helping to boost supply in the Commonwealth.

But one group that had been poised to start being vaccinated soon has been bumped further down the priority list: Arlington County employees.

The entire county workforce is being considered to be within the “Continuity of Government” category, and thus is still part of the Virginia “1b” priority group and ahead of the general public. But county employees have now been bumped down below those with pre-existing medical conditions.

“Since my last note to you on this, the Governor has made changes to the prioritization which has moved certain categories of 1B essential workers, including those in Continuity of Government, further down the list for vaccines,” County Manager Mark Schwartz wrote in a recent memo (below) to county workers. “Individuals 16 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions are now ahead of Continuity of Government workers. This means that there are now about 20,000 Arlington residents ahead of County employees in the queue.”

“The County’s Public Health Division continues only to receive approximately 3,000 first doses per week,” Schwartz continues. “We simply do not have enough vaccine to meet the demand yet. Based on current guidance on prioritization and vaccine supply, it is unlikely that we will begin any employee vaccinations until early April.”

On average, just over 1,100 COVID-19 vaccination doses per day have been administered in Arlington over the past week, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. VDH says the new J&J vaccine should help increase supply across the state.

“On Saturday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a new vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson. The EUA allows the vaccine to be distributed in the U.S. for those 18 and older,” the health department said in a press release. “Virginia is expected to receive 69,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine next week, which will be prioritized for mass vaccination clinics across the state.”

Those who are eligible can pre-register for vaccinations at the state’s new Vaccinate Virginia web portal.

Despite the lack of supply right now, Arlington is working to make sure as many eligible people as possible register to be vaccinated. To that end, the county is trying to recruit local organizations to partner with the health department and encourage everyone to get vaccinated.

“We’re trying to get more organizations to become Complete Vaccination Committee (CVC) partners,” county spokeswoman Jennifer K. Smith tells ARLnow. “Over the weekend, CVC members were out in the community at five different locations, getting people pre-registered for the vaccine.”

Organizations can sign up to become partners via this form.

Among the list of current partners is the Arlington County Democratic Committee, which is using its organizational infrastructure for getting residents registered to vote and driving them to the polls to do the same for seniors and vaccinations.

“In election cycles, we are the [Arlington Democrats] ‘Rides to the Polls’ team, but now we’ve put our operation to work to help seniors in a different way,” said Mary Byrne, a co-leader of the volunteer effort. “We are grateful that [Arlington Democrats] allowed us to use their database to access a list of both Dems and Republican seniors. Our volunteer list of more than 50 callers and drivers is growing and we’ve already called hundreds and helped dozens of seniors in the one week we’ve been in operation.”

Their list includes more than 6,000 Arlington seniors 75 years and older, Byrne said. The volunteers help with vaccination registration, scheduling and transportation.

More information on the “Ride to Vaccines” vaccine program can be found online or by calling (703) 528-8588 ext 5.

Image via Arlington County/YouTube

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Morning Notes

Track Team Denied Trip to State Tourney — “High-school track and field competitors from across the commonwealth’s largest jurisdictions will descend on Virginia Beach March 1 for the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 boys and girls indoor state-championship meets. But Arlington athletes will not be among them. County school leaders have denied permission for teams to make the trip, citing health concerns about the ongoing high level of COVID infection in that part of Virginia and other factors.” [InsideNova]

County Employees Getting Vaccinated — “Arlington government leaders have decided that the entire county-government workforce qualifies as essential for ‘continuity of government,’ which bumps them ahead of several other groups as well as the general public in COVID-vaccination priority. County-government officials last week confirmed to the Sun Gazette that its entire workforce will be part of Virginia’s ‘Group 1b,’ placing them ahead of approximately 50 percent of the state’s population.” [Sun Gazette]

HQ2 Sparks Park Debate — “[Nearby residents] worry even the large parks Amazon is promising will feel more like playgrounds for the company’s workers than community assets, pressing Arlington County officials to invest and ensure public ownership of green space in the area. And in a section of Arlington where some neighborhood groups have raised persistent complaints about a lack of community parks over the years, the issue seems certain to dominate debates about development for the foreseeable future.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Food Biz Profiled — From the Ballston Business Improvement District: “After years of learning and cooking with their families, Andrea and Bryant created Bee J’s Cookies in April 2020 to share their gift with others.” [Twitter]

Arlington Org Helped Thousands with Food Needs — “AHC Inc., a premier provider of affordable housing communities in metro D.C., sprang into action last spring to help residents suffering from the effects of the pandemic. In 2020, AHC’s Resident Services team with support from the property management arm, AHC Management, has provided substantial food and financial assistance to more than 3,000 families in Maryland and Virginia.” [AHC Inc.]

‘Cyber Flashing’ Bill Killed — “Fear not, creepy Virginia dudes — you can still legally send an unsolicited picture of your genitals to people. For now, at least. A bill that would ban cyber-flashing in Virginia was killed last Wednesday. Cyber-flashing is when someone sends unsolicited explicit photos to another person, and the bill proposed to make it a misdemeanor.” [Washingtonian, Virginia Mercury]

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Arlington County officials say names of people pre-registered to receive a coronavirus vaccine are still migrating into the state’s new Vaccinate Virginia system.

It has been more than one week since Arlington County shut down its pre-registration platform to send 41,000 names to the Virginia Department of Health’s new statewide platform. The delay means that for now, some pre-registered individuals may not see their registration status. But that does not mean the pre-registrations have gone missing, county spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell said in an email.

“At no time were any lists ‘lost,'” O’Donnell said. “All data still exists, and the County is in the process of rolling out vaccine scheduling notification to residents 65+.”

This applies to about 10,000 pre-registered individuals 65 and older, she said.

Many pre-registrations have not merged due to formatting problems, state health department spokesperson Logan Anderson said. For example, some data fields were case sensitive, which he said has been addressed.

“Data cleanup is an ongoing process, and they may show up in the system,” he said. “There were also 1.6 million entries transferred in total. After cleanup and de-duplication, that number dropped to about 1.2 million.”

Arlington County shut down its pre-registration system at 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12 to start sending its names to VDH, O’Donnell said.

“As we’ve seen, that migration process is taking longer than anticipated, and we are in constant communication with VDH about the migration,” she said.

She said county officials are hearing that one feature of the state system in particular, called “Check the List,” is not working for many lookups.

“This is not an indication that these people are not in the system,” she said. “Many actually are, but the checking the list feature is still experiencing difficulties.”

While some ARLnow readers report that their registration has yet to transfer, others say their problems last week were resolved, or that they re-registered.

One woman who could not find her three family members’ statuses last week told ARLnow that “all three family members registered as 1B with Arlington in mid-January now appear with VDH as ‘This user is registered.'”

Another woman who spoke with ARLnow last week confirmed that after she and her husband decided to re-register.

“Since then we show up in the system, but we have no real way of knowing whether our original Jan. 9 registration with Arlington County is part of the consolidated list, or whether we moved to the back of the line,” she said.

The Commonwealth is encouraging people to re-register online or call the Vaccinate Virginia call center at (877) VAX-IN-VA, Anderson said.

During a County Board work session last week, Board Member Christian Dorsey said the system’s issues are basic and should have been tested before the launch.

“It’s creating a really huge burden on the local districts to basically provide customer service and complaint feedback on the state’s site,” Dorsey said. “This is an implicit unfunded mandate to fix through customer service and other forms a state-mandated issue.”

Arlington Public Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese said he and his colleagues across the state have been giving the state “more than an earful about the impact that this has been having.”

“It should have been working from the minute that it opened up,” he said.

Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said the county will continue to work with people worried about their status.

“If you’re pre-registered, take some days and up to a week before you do anything — take a breath,” de Ferranti said. “We have a committed staff and we will reach out.”

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(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) Several Safeway stores in Arlington are offering COVID-19 vaccine appointments in Arlington, amid high demand for vaccinations.

The appointments are available for those ages 65 and up only.

Safeway stores in Arlington that appeared on the company’s vaccine appointment website as of 1 p.m. include the locations at 2500 N. Harrison Street, 3713 Lee Highway in Cherrydale, and 5101 Wilson Blvd in Bluemont. Stores in McLean, Falls Church and D.C. area also listed.

As of publication time, appointments were available for the second week in March. Appointment slots in previous weeks had been already been filled.

“Three of our Arlington stores will begin administering COVID-19 vaccines tomorrow,” a company spokeswoman confirmed to ARLnow Tuesday evening. “At this time, the allocated doses are very limited.”

Safeway is part of a federal vaccination program for national pharmacy chains and networks. CVS, another partner in the federal vaccination program, started offering appointments in Arlington earlier this month but its appointment website says CVS locations across Virginia are all fully booked.

Walgreens stores in Virginia are expected to start vaccinations soon, after the company gets its first shipment of nearly a half-million vaccine doses on Thursday.

Arlington County started taking appointments for those ages 65-74 on Friday, Feb. 12, after previously only vaccinating certain frontline workers and those ages 75 and up.

As of Tuesday morning, the county crossed the 10,000 mark for those fully vaccinated with two vaccine shots. A total of 31,553 vaccine doses have been administered in Arlington, and 10,157 people have been fully vaccinated, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.

Hat tip to @DMVVaccine

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(Updated at 11:05 a.m.) The rate of new reported coronavirus cases in Arlington is continuing to fall, today reaching the lowest point since Nov. 15.

With vaccinations happening at a steady clip, and after a winter peak that has seen more than 6,500 confirmed infections since Thanksgiving, the virus is slowing down in Arlington, at least for now.

In the past seven days, 264 new cases have been reported, less than a third of the infection rate of mid-January. The county’s test positivity rate, meanwhile, is down to 4.6%; it was nearly 12% in early January.

Arlington County is encouraging residents to keep taking precautionary measures so that the progress continues.

“As the Virginia Department of Health dashboard shows the County’s 7-day positivity rate dropping to 4.6%, Arlingtonians are called upon to continue following COVID-19 mitigation efforts: wear a mask, keep social distance, wash your hands,” the county said in an email to residents last night “Help us keep this trend going!”

The reduction in cases mirrors the situation regionally, across the state, and nationwide.

“The number of new COVID-19 cases in Northern Virginia has fallen to its lowest level since before Thanksgiving,” InsideNova reported yesterday. “Both the region and the state as a whole continue to see a decline in coronavirus case trends that began in mid-January, as hospitalizations, deaths and test positivity rates all have been falling from their post-holiday peaks.”

Some experts expect the downward trend to continue across the United States as more people get vaccinated and the virus has a harder time finding new hosts.

In Arlington, an average of 857 new daily vaccine doses have been administered over the past week. In total, 28,982 doses had been administered as of Friday morning. The county is currently vaccinating those 65 and older, along with certain categories of frontline workers.

Issues with the transition from Arlington’s vaccine pre-registration system to the new statewide system remain. The county said Wednesday that work was still underway to transfer over all prior local registrations.

We are aware that many Arlington residents who preregistered through the County system are unable to find themselves in the ‘Check the List’ feature. Data migration is continuing throughout the week and it may take several more days for your name to appear in the centralized system.

If you preregistered using the Arlington County system before February 13, you are still on the list, and your status will not be affected. Do not complete a new preregistration in the VDH system. Additionally, Arlington County will maintain all the data submitted before February 13. […]

NOTE: Arlington’s COVID-19 hotline does not have access to the state’s system and cannot answer questions about Vaccinate Virginia. Arlington call takers are available for other COVID-19 questions, such as local testing and food and housing assistance.

Despite the slowdown in cases, Arlington residents are still dying and becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. Three deaths and seven new hospitalizations have been reported over the past week.

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Morning Notes

Distance Learning Only for APS — “Due to inclement weather… Level 1, in-person learning support, Level 2 Career & Technical Education students and staff supporting these programs will temporarily revert to distance learning.” [Arlington Public Schools]

County Government Open — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, & facilities are OPEN Friday, 02-19-2021. Courts will open at 10AM. All facilities will follow normal operating hours.” [Twitter]

Be Careful Out There — “Northern Virginia crews continue to clear and treat roads overnight, for both some additional wintry precipitation as well as refreeze from low temperatures. Drivers are asked to continue to limit travel if possible, or to use extreme caution and be aware of the potential for slick pavement, even where surfaces appear clear or were previously treated.” [VDOT]

Doses May Be Delayed — “Virginia is seeing delays in this week’s vaccine shipments due to severe winter weather in the Mid-Atlantic region and across the country. The Virginia Department of Health says the state will likely see a delay in the delivery of approximately 106,800 doses, due to distribution channels in the Midwest and elsewhere that are currently shut down.” [InsideNova]

Architectural Review of HQ2 Phase 2 — ” It very intentionally does not look like anything else in Pentagon City or Crystal City, or anywhere else in the region. The style, a populist, jazzy take on high-tech modernism, isn’t aimed at architecture critics, but at the public, which shows remarkable forbearance to the predations of large corporations so long as they have a reputation for being innovative and forward thinking.” [Washington Post]

County Board Members Endorse Candidate — “Alexandria City Council member Elizabeth Bennett-Parker has picked up the endorsement of two Arlington County Board members in her quest for the 45th District House of Delegates seat. Board members Libby Garvey and Katie Cristol endorsed the candidacy.” [InsideNova]

New Spanish Publication on the Pike — “As part of its increased business support efforts, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) has launched a new publication dedicated to supporting the area’s Hispanic business community. The publication, Boletín, is a small booklet of resources and information specific to those Spanish speaking businesses serving Columbia Pike’s residents.” [CPRO]

Arlington Man Arrested for Armed Robberies — “An Arlington man was arrested last night and is facing charges in connection with a series of recent armed robberies. Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau determined that in three of the four robberies, the suspect approached the victim, displayed a firearm and took their personal property. In the other case, the suspect took a victim’s purse by force.” [Fairfax County Police Department]

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Morning Notes

Vaccine Registration Transfer Still in Progress — “We are aware that many Arlington residents who preregistered through the County system are unable to find themselves in the ‘Check the List’ feature. Data migration is continuing throughout the week and it may take several more days for your name to appear in the centralized system.” [Arlington County]

No Rolling Stops for Va. Cyclists Yet — “The Virginia Senate on Wednesday sidelined a proposal that would have allowed bicyclists to yield instead of halt at stop signs. Instead, lawmakers voted to commission a police study of the rule as enacted in other states. They also voted to require drivers to change lanes when passing bicyclists if three feet of distance isn’t possible and to allow two cyclists to ride side by side in a lane.” [Washington Post]

County Offering Emergency Training in Spanish — “To ensure a more equitable, culturally competent response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other emergencies, the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management and Arlington CERT are launching their first-ever Spanish-language Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteer training.” [Arlington County]

First Non-Airline Lounge Coming to DCA — “A lot is changing at Reagan National Airport, and one of the new additions will be an American Express Centurion passenger lounge, the first non-airline passenger lounge at the airport. Reagan National will be the 16th U.S. airport to have a Centurion Lounge. The 11,500-square-foot lounge will open by the end of 2022.” [WTOP]

Gate 35X Replacement Opening Soon — “Airport officials have long planned to replace the 35X bussing system with a proper 14-gate concourse. So here’s some good news: looks like it will happen sooner rather than later. Airline Weekly reports that the American Airlines concourse will open three months earlier than anticipated. Turns out that the decline in air traffic during the pandemic helped accelerated construction work. It’s now slated to open as soon as April 20.” [Washingtonian]

GoTab Continues on Growth Path — “Industry-leading restaurant commerce platform GoTab has appointed sales and hospitality technology veteran John Martin as the company’s new Chief Revenue Officer. With over 30+ years of experience working with both brick-and-mortar restaurants and food technology systems, Martin has been a force in helping hyper growth startups with go-to-market strategy as well as helping CEOs develop approaches to accelerate sales and launch new products.” [Press Release]

Poems on ART Buses — “This year’s Moving Words Adult Competition 2021 Six winning poems were selected from 211 poems by this year’s judge, Arlington’s 2nd Poet Laureate Holly Karapetkova, who also has a poem on display. View the poems below and on Arlington’s ART buses from February through September 2021.” [Arlington Arts]

Beyer Gets Out-of-This-World Chairmanship — “Late last week, Democrats on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology elected Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) to serve as Chair of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics for the 117th Congress.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) Arlington’s vaccination effort is continuing at a steady pace, but it could still be months before the majority of local residents are eligible to be vaccinated.

As of this morning, 26,180 vaccine doses have been administered in Arlington, and 7,549 people have received both vaccine shots, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. About 750 doses per day have been administered over the past week. At the current rate of second doses, it would take 481 days to fully vaccinate the remainder of Arlington’s adult population.

With a new one-shot vaccine likely to be approved for use soon, and with the federal government securing more vaccine supply, the rate of vaccinations will eventually quicken. Still, Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti says it could be months before the vaccine is available for anyone who wants it in Arlington — which, by one account, is around 96% of the population.

“We will get you vaccinated but it will take time. My best guess is 2-3 months to get through 65 to 74 and underlying medical conditions [groups],” de Ferranti said in an email to constituents today. “Another 2 months after that to get to everyone. I think by July 1 or August 1 most everyone will have been vaccinated. I could be wrong, but that is my best guess.”

On Friday, Arlington County started scheduling appointments for the 65-74 age group, after previously focusing on those who are 75 and older or in certain categories of essential workers, like teachers. CVS stores in Virginia, including in Arlington, also started administering vaccines to those 65 and older on Friday.

Arlington is trying to make the most of the vaccine it is receiving from the state, de Ferranti said.

“We received 2,750 vaccines per week, for a total of 5,500 over the last two weeks,” he writes. “Half of those doses go to the 65 and above group. The other half go to those in the essential workers list in [Phase] 1b… Every few days, we will email another group of 2,000 or so from the list to schedule vaccination appointments.”

Despite the progress, challenges remain, including getting more people registered.

“There are about 10,000 Arlington residents who have pre-registered in our system,” de Ferranti wrote. “There are thousands of additional Arlington residents who are between 65 and 74 who have not yet registered. (Arlington population over 65 in total is more 21,000. Some are over 75 and have been served.)”

Another challenge: a switch from a county-run vaccination system to a new state-run system that launched this morning.

“All individuals who have previously filled out a survey or form or signed up for a waitlist to be vaccinated through their local health district will be automatically imported into the new statewide system,” the state said on its website. “Individuals will maintain their current status in the queue, and will be able to search that they are in the new system starting Tuesday morning.”

However, a number of people emailed ARLnow today to report that a search of the new system did not pull up their registration. One Arlington resident who pre-registered three family members with the county said all three were apparently lost.

“I called the state Virginia COVID vaccine phone line (877-275-8343). The agent told me that ‘so many’ are calling with the same problem,” the resident told ARLnow shortly after noon today. “She said the only thing to do is start the registration all over again… going to the bottom of the queue. I asked to speak to a supervisor, was on hold for 30 minutes, then disconnected.”

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(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) CVS locations in Virginia, including in Arlington, will start administering COVID-19 vaccines tomorrow (Friday).

CVS pharmacies across the Commonwealth are fully booked with appointments, which are for now open to residents 65 and older.

More from a Virginia Dept. of Health press release (link added by ARLnow):

VDH worked closely with CVS over the last week to ensure that the CVS system follows Virginia’s priority guidelines and to provide an advance opportunity for eligible individuals already registered on VDH waiting lists. However, due to technological limitations with their national appointment system, CVS is unable to reserve appointments for pre-registered individuals. Virginia will continue to work towards a solution in partnership with other participating states and the federal government.

The federal program will supplement existing vaccination programs by providing 26,000 more vaccines to Virginians. CVS is the first of Virginia’s pharmacy partners in the federal pharmacy partnership to move forward with vaccinations. More pharmacies and more locations are expected to start vaccinating patients in the future.

The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination is a public-private partnership, between pharmacy companies and the federal government. Pharmacy companies receive vaccines directly from the federal government through the partnership program. Initially, the federal government asked states to limit distribution to one pharmacy chain partner. CVS Health is the initial pharmacy partner for the program in Virginia.

The appointment for the second vaccination will be made when the first vaccination appointment is scheduled. Those without online access can contact CVS Customer Service at (800) 746-7287. Walk-in vaccinations without an appointment will not be provided.

Those who were unable to book appointments, when CVS unexpectedly opened vaccine registration early, described the process as “really frustrating.”

With county-run vaccinations still constrained by limited supply from the state, the CVS vaccinations promise to provide a bit of a relief valve amid high demand in Arlington, which has the highest percentage of residents willing to be vaccinated in the country, at 92%.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and leaders in the District and Maryland, meanwhile, are pushing the federal government to vaccinate more D.C. area federal employees.

Vaccinations in Arlington are continuing apace, with an additional 651 doses reported to have been administered, for a cumulative total of 12,440 doses, in the latest figures from the Virginia Dept. of Health. The seven-day moving average is 888 doses per day in the county.

The figures for second doses, a measure of completed vaccinations, have been rising. At the current rate of second administered doses, Arlington’s entire adult population would be fully vaccinated in 533 days, a number that has continued to fall over the past several weeks.

County officials say that, as of last week, Arlington’s health department has administered 10,184 first doses of 11,425 received, as well as 1,037 second doses of 3,300 received.

An Arlington Public Health spokeswoman emphasized that those with vaccination appointments should not show up early, to help prevent the kind of lines seen during vaccination events this past weekend.

“We have individuals arriving an hour or more ahead of their appointment times,” the spokeswoman said.

File photo

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