Arlington, VA

After lagging neighboring Alexandria and Fairfax County for part of the year, one measure of Arlington’s vaccination rate is now the highest among major Northern Virginia jurisdictions.

More than 180,000 vaccination doses have been administered in Arlington, as of this morning, and more than 75,000 people have been fully vaccinated. According to Virginia Dept. of Health data, 48.8% of Arlington’s population has received at least one vaccination dose.

That’s higher than Alexandria (44.5%), Fairfax County (48.6%), Loudoun County (48.3%) and Prince William County (42.8%). Two smaller jurisdictions — the cities of Falls Church and Fairfax — have rates of 52.7% and 52% respectively.

Yesterday, President Biden set a goal of having 70% of the American adults vaccinated with at least one shot by July 4. In Arlington, 115,626 people have received at least one vaccine dose, which is nearly 60% of the adult population.

At 31.7%, Arlington still trails Fairfax (32.3%) and Loudoun (31.9%) counties in terms of percentage of the population that’s fully vaccinated. The VDH figures do not include doses administered by federal agencies, which have been vaccinating military members and essential federal workers.

An average of just over 2,300 vaccination doses have been administered each day in Arlington over the past week. The county is currently accepting walk-ins at vaccination sites in Crystal City and near Columbia Pike, through Friday.

The rate of new COVID-19 cases in Arlington, meanwhile, continues to decline.

Arlington broke its streak of two consecutive days of single-digit new cases, with 21 new cases reported this morning, but the trailing seven-day total still dropped to 111, the lowest point so far in 2021. Arlington’s test positivity rate currently stands at 3%.

Since Sunday, two new Covid-related deaths and two hospitalizations have been recorded, according to VDH.

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Coronavirus cases in Arlington are down, today hitting the lowest rate of new cases since early October.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the pace of vaccinations is also trending down.

Overnight only nine new COVID-19 cases were reported in Arlington by the Virginia Dept. of Health, the first single-digit daily case count since Oct 1. The seven-day trailing total of new cases currently stands at 123, the lowest point since Oct. 7.

The county’s cumulative case count since March 2020 is now 15,130.

Fewer cases are leading to fewer hospitalizations and deaths, but the virus is nonetheless still spreading and causing serious illness. Overnight VDH reported one new Covid-related hospitalization and one new death in Arlington, bringing the pandemic totals to 830 hospitalizations and 253 deaths.

Since April 1, 25 new hospitalizations and seven deaths have been reported in the county.

Daily vaccinations, meanwhile, appear to have peaked and are trending down.

The Virginia Dept. of Health only reported 354 vaccine doses administered in Arlington in its latest daily figures this morning. That brings the seven-day trailing average down to 2,441 doses administered, the lowest point since April 9.

The seven-day average peaked at 3,516 on April 27.

So far, a total of 177,107 doses have been administered in Arlington and 48.1% of the population has received at least one dose. In all, 73,641 people have been fully vaccinated, or 31.1% of the population.

The slowing rate of vaccinations in Arlington, despite the county having one of the highest rates of vaccine interest in the nation (92%), seems to be part of a national trend that is increasingly concerning to public health officials.

The New York Times reported today that “there is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that the herd immunity threshold [for COVID-19 in the U.S.] is not attainable — at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever,” contradicting earlier hopes that widespread vaccinations may one day relegate the virus to being relatively rare.

Officials instead “are coming to the conclusion that rather than making a long-promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers,” the Times reported.

Other experts are a bit more optimistic in tone, suggesting that slower but steady vaccination rates over the summer can result in a relatively quiet fall, echoing the experience of Israel and the U.K., which have each at least partially vaccinated 50-60% of the population, compared with just under 44% of the U.S. population.

Faced with declining vaccination rates, Arlington County announced over the weekend that it would start conducting walk-in vaccinations for the first time, after months of only accepting appointments.

Walk-in vaccinations are being offered this week at Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street S.) and Crystal City (2100 Crystal Drive), according to a county press release.

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A group of Arlingtonians has worked nights and weekends to sign up nearly 2,000 members of local immigrant communities for the COVID-19 vaccine.

And the team, called the Arlington Schools Hispanic Parents Association, only advertised its services twice: once in March, when the group decided to get involved, and once when eligibility expanded to all Virginians 16 and older.

Word spread by mouth, text and through small social networks among mostly Spanish-speaking communities in Arlington.

“For the first couple of weeks, we were overwhelmed,” said ASHPA member (and former Arlington School Board member) Tannia Talento. “In the last two weeks, it has settled down. But now that it’s open to the public, we expect a second rush.”

Talento and Janeth Valenzuela started ASHPA in 2016 with two other women to address the communication gap among the county, the school system, and Spanish-speaking and other immigrant households. During the pandemic, the group pivoted to focusing on weekly food distributions, rent support, mental health education and now, registering people for vaccine appointments through the community health center, Neighborhood Health.  

“I’m very proud of my team,” Valenzuela said. “We want to help our community get vaccinated.”

It has been almost two weeks since anyone 16 and older officially became eligible to get a shot and the number of vaccinated people continues to rise in Arlington County —  more than 68,000 people in Arlington are fully vaccinated as of today, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.

Now that the vaccine is widely available, focus has shifted to getting those hesitant to get the vaccine — or unable to get it for other reasons — into vaccination clinics.

Talento and Valenzuela said they did encounter vaccine hesitancy in February and March but the bigger hurdles they face involve access. They worry that hesitancy is used to gloss over these other, surmountable barriers. 

“In the beginning, it was difficult. Most of the population did not want the vaccine,” Valenzuela said. “It’s part of the culture in third-world countries to talk bad about vaccines. We had to work with that and let them know the vaccine is something to open the economy in this country and get back the life they had.”

But when hesitant folks saw their community leaders get vaccinated, they changed their minds, she said. A few skeptical community members do remain, however, she noted.  

Talento said she spends more time helping people access the vaccine than convincing them it is safe to take. Some did not think they were eligible back in February, even though they were.

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Getting vaccinated in Arlington now just takes a couple of clicks and a jab.

A month after Arlington joined other Northern Virginia locales in pleading for more vaccine supply from the state, the supply of unvaccinated arms rather than vaccine doses is quickly becoming the limiting factor.

To help keep up the current vaccination momentum — today the county reached a fresh high of more than 3,500 vaccine doses being administered per day, on average — scheduling a vaccine appointment no longer requires a pre-registration process. Rather, anyone 16 years of age or older can now get a free Covid shot via an online scheduling system, effective immediately.

As of publication time, there were plenty of shots still available at both the Lubber Run Community Center and the Walter Reed Community Center tomorrow (Wednesday).

More than 162,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Arlington, as of today, and more than 65,000 people — out of an adult population of nearly 200,000 — are fully vaccinated, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. Just over 45% of the overall population has received at least one vaccination shot.

The stats include vaccinations administered by the county, private pharmacies and others.

In a press release, below, county officials touted the scheduling change as helping to “remove barriers to making an appointment.”

Beginning Tuesday, April 27, individuals 16 years and older may directly schedule an appointment to receive a free COVID-19 vaccine at Arlington County public health clinics.

Individuals can directly reserve a slot at one of Arlington’s public health clinics by visiting the County website – or by searching Vaccinefinder.org for appointments at nearby locations.

“Arlington has hit a major milestone in its vaccination efforts by surpassing more than 100,000 doses administered through our public health clinics,” said Matt de Ferranti, Chair of the Arlington County Board. “As we continue our work to efficiently vaccinate our residents and do so equitably, open scheduling helps remove barriers to making an appointment and ensures our community can quickly and conveniently access COVID-19 vaccines.”

Dr. Reuben Varghese, Arlington County Public Health Director added, “Vaccines offer the best form of protection against COVID-19. The more people protected, the better it is for ourselves and our community. We’ve made significant progress and we need more people vaccinated.”

Individuals who have pre-registered should have received an invitation to schedule a vaccine appointment. If you have not received an invitation to schedule, please check your spam folder or schedule your appointment now.

Individuals ages 16-17 should search for appointment dates where Pfizer is offered. Note: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available at public health clinics in the coming days, and it will be noted on the appointment slots.

If you need help scheduling your appointment with Arlington County Public Health, call 703-228-7999. For additional assistance, call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682).

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Morning Notes

Jail to Reopen to Visitors — “Sheriff Beth Arthur has announced a modified reopening of in-person visitation for those remanded to the Arlington County Detention Center. Relatives and friends will regain the ability to visit loved ones in person beginning May 1. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person visitation at the Arlington County Detention Center has been suspended for more than a year.” [Arlington County]

HQ2 to Feature Small Local Businesses — “Amazon.com Inc. plans to prioritize leasing retail space at its D.C.-area offices to businesses owned by people from historically underrepresented groups, an official with the e-commerce and cloud computing giant said recently. ‘We’re still in the process of curating and finding those retailers, but our goal is small, local, minority- and women- owned,’ Joe Chapman, Amazon’s director of global real estate and facilities, said of the company’s retail leasing strategy during a meeting of Arlington’s long range planning committee April 19.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Police Chief Pick Coming Soon — “Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz says he hopes to have a permanent head of the Arlington County Police Department announced sooner rather than later. ‘My goal was to have a police chief in place this spring. That’s still my goal,’ Schwartz told County Board members on April 20.” [Sun Gazette]

Marymount Vaccinates Thousands — “Nearly 1,200 students, faculty, staff and members of the community received their first Pfizer COVID vaccinations on April 21 at Marymount University, part of a collaborative effort between the university and state and local officials. The university transformed one of its gyms into a mass-inoculation site, and turnout exceeded expectations.” [Sun Gazette]

Rotary Club Honors ‘Educator of the Year’ — “The Arlington Rotary Club has honored school counselor Laurie Dodson as Arlington Key Elementary School’s ‘Educator of the Year’ and presented two Arlington high school students scholarships totaling $18,000 at the club’s annual education awards event.” [Press Release]

Pink Moon Dazzles — “We’re entering the heart of spring and, in most temperate climates, buds are bursting and decorating the newly lush landscape. Fresh arrangements of pink flowers are emerging, and the April moon, which will become full Monday night, is named in their honor. The ‘Pink Moon’ will be officially full, or 100 percent illuminated, at 11:31 p.m. Eastern time Monday. It will be bold and bright but won’t actually appear pink in the night sky.” [Capital Weather Gang]

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Arlington has hit new milestones for coronavirus cases and vaccinations.

As of this morning, the cumulative number of reported cases reached 15,007, rising above 15,000 for the first time, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. One death and one new hospitalization were reported overnight, bringing Arlington’s pandemic total to 252 deaths and 827 hospitalizations.

On Sunday the trailing seven-day total of new cases dipped to 147, the lowest point since Oct. 15.

In the meantime, an additional 4,622 vaccine doses were reported administered in this morning’s data, bringing the total number of doses administered to 160,017. In all, 64,739 people have been fully vaccinated in Arlington, according to VDH stats.

The trailing seven-day rate of vaccination doses is now 3,440 per day, a new high. VDH is reporting an average of 1,650 people fully vaccinated in Arlington each day. At that rate, it would take 84 days to fully vaccinate the remainder of Arlington’s adult population, a new low for that metric.

Have questions about getting vaccinated? Arlington County released the following video Q&A late last week.

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Morning Notes

School Reopening Protest Tonight — “Arlington parents frustrated by Arlington Public Schools’ unwillingness to add more in-person instructional days this school year will rally ahead of the next school board meeting to let their voices be heard… [from] 5:30-7 p.m., ahead of the next Arlington County School Board meeting.” [Press Release]

Arlington Gets ‘Tree City USA’ Designation — “The Arlington County government on April 30 will receive its 24th annual ‘Tree City USA’ designation from the National Arbor Day Foundation, honoring the community’s efforts in tree planting and preservation. The award will be presented at the county’s annual Arbor Day celebration, an affair downscaled due to the pandemic but slated to be held at Carlin Springs Elementary School.” [Sun Gazette]

County Thanks Vax Volunteers — “We want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to the staff and volunteers at our vaccination sites. From supply chain management, to organizing a visitor line, to giving the shot itself, we’re grateful for this amazing crew for all they do to make it happen!” [Facebook]

Petition to Rename DCA Goes Viral — A Georgetown University freshman’s online petition to rename Reagan National Airport after teen singer, dancer and actor JoJo Siwa has received more than 3,000 votes. [Change.org, DCist]

Photo courtesy Leslie Koch

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The rate of new coronavirus cases in Arlington has reached the lowest point since October.

A total of 167 cases have been reported over the past week. That follows about two months of the case total fluctuating between about 200-300 new cases per week.

It has been a week since the last reported Covid-related hospitalization, and two weeks since the last reported Covid death.

Since the start of the pandemic, 5.5% of people infected with COVID-19 in Arlington — 14,846 cases as of today — have been hospitalized, while 1.7% of cases have resulted in a fatality.

The drop in cases comes as vaccinations in Arlington continue to speed up. The trailing seven-day average of daily vaccine doses administered rose above 3,000 for the first time today. About 1,650 people are being reported as fully vaccinated each day, according to ARLnow’s analysis of Virginia Dept. of Health data.

As of this morning, about 48% of the county’s adult population has received at least one vaccine dose. About 27% of the adult population is fully vaccinated.

On Sunday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that all state residents ages 16 and older are now eligible to make a vaccination appointment. At 10 a.m. this morning, cell phones across the Commonwealth will buzz with a message encouraging those who haven’t yet been vaccinated to make an appointment.

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Arlington County is halting use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after a federal warning about rare blood clots.

The temporary pause in use of the one-shot vaccine at county-operated vaccine clinics is “out of an abundance of caution,” Arlington County said in a statement this morning.

D.C., Maryland and other Virginia jurisdictions are also pausing administration of the J&J vaccine, after a recommendation from the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

“The CDC and FDA announced on Tuesday the review of data involving six reported cases of a rare and severe blood clot in individuals after they received the J&J vaccine,” Arlington County said. “Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare. As of April 12, nearly 7 million doses of J&J have been administered in the United States.”

“All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination,” the CDC and FDA noted in a joint statement.

In a press conference Tuesday morning, federal officials said at least one person was in critical condition as a result of the clots. There is no evidence of similar reactions to the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, they said. The pause is expected to last only a few days, and officials emphasized that the condition is serious, but exceedingly rare.

The county, meanwhile, says that those with appointments for J&J shots today will receive the Moderna vaccine instead.

“Individuals who have appointments Tuesday, April 13, at the Lubber Run Community Center, where Johnson and Johnson was being administered, will be offered the Moderna vaccine,” said the county statement. “The County will continue to hold clinics to the extent it receives available doses of Pfizer and Moderna over the next few days. Appointments may need to be rescheduled depending on whether the County receives additional doses of other vaccines or learns more about the status of the J&J vaccine.”

Arlington has accelerated its vaccination efforts recently thanks to more vaccine supply from the state, which is pushing to open appointments to the general public by next week. As of this morning, the county reached new seven-day highs for both vaccine shots administered and people fully vaccinated: an average of just over 2,700 shots per day and nearly 1,500 people fully vaccinated per day.

Nationally, the White House says it does not expect the pause in J&J shots to hinder its vaccination goals.

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Morning Notes

County Opening Free Testing Site Today — “Arlington County is opening a no-cost, no-appointment, COVID-19 testing kiosk in the parking lot at Courthouse Plaza in partnership with Curative, which operates two additional sites in the County. The kiosk will be open seven days a week from 12-8 p.m., starting Tuesday, April 13.” [Arlington County]

Fmr. Arlington Waiter Now a Real Estate Kingpin — “In 2013, Heider, then 25, was working at an Italian restaurant in Shirlington when his manager became the assistant to a local real-estate agent. When this agent moved to Washington Fine Properties, Heider’s former manager brought him on to help. As the assistant to the assistant, Heider worked without any base pay, making money only when he brought in referrals. At night, he waited tables at the Crystal City Morton’s.” [Washingtonian]

Kitchen Fire at Pike Apartment BuildingUpdated at 9:10 a.m. — Arlington County firefighters responded to a kitchen fire at the Dominion Towers apartments on Columbia Pike last night. No injuries were reported. [Twitter, Twitter]

Marymount Students Volunteering at Vax Clinic — “Since the start of the spring semester, students in Marymount University’s Nursing program have been using their classroom skills to serve as vaccinators in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic… [The students] are often on the team of registered nurses and EMS personnel who are on duty for vaccinations at the Lubber Run Community Center in Arlington.” [Marymount University]

YHS Finishes Football Season on Win Streak — “For the Yorktown Patriots, the shortened seven-game high-school football season was like two campaigns. There was the 0-2 beginning when the Patriots lost badly and struggled in all aspects of the game. Then there was the 5-0 finish, when Yorktown was vastly improved in all areas… Yorktown capped its season with a 24-15 victory over the T.C. Williams Titans.” [Sun Gazette]

Last Call: Vote in the Spring 2021 Arlies — Today is the last day to vote for your favorite local places, people and organizations in the spring edition of ARLnow’s Arlies awards. [SurveyMonkey]

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Arlington’s rate of new coronavirus cases is continuing to hold relatively steady, as vaccinations continue as an accelerated clip.

The trailing seven-day total of new reported cases in the county has not been above 300 since Feb. 17. It also has not dropped below 199. As of today, it stands at 243 weekly cases.

Arlingtonians are continuing to get very sick as a result of the virus. Eight new COVID-related hospitalizations have been reported over the past week. No new deaths have been reported over the past six days, however.

Amid a backdrop of continued infection, vaccinations in Arlington are proceeding relatively quickly.

Nearly 10,000 new vaccination doses have been administered since Friday. With more vaccine supply from the state, Arlington is administering an average of more than 2,500 doses per day, as it tries to complete its Phase 1B and 1C vaccinations before appointments are opened to the general public next week.

After trailing neighboring Alexandria on vaccination stats for most of the year, Arlington is now ahead of the city to our south in terms of percentage of the population that has received at least one vaccine shot: 34.2% for Arlington compared to 32.6% for Alexandria. But Alexandria still has a higher full vaccination rate and just today announced that it is opening vaccinations to all residents ages 16+.

Still, the number of people fully vaccinated in Arlington has risen dramatically over the past couple of weeks.

A total of 41,573 people have been fully vaccinated — with one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines — in the county, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

At the rate of new reported full vaccinations over the past week, it would take just over four months to fully vaccinate the remainder of Arlington’s adult population.

Of course, while Arlington has one of the highest rates of vaccine interest in the nation — 92% according to one study — there are still residents who may be reluctant to get the jab. To help increase vaccination rates, Arlington County Board and School Board members, as well as other local officials and hundreds of volunteers, canvassed the county on Saturday.

“Core members of the [Arlington Complete Vaccination Committee], along with over 250 volunteers, will be canvassing the County to share information with as many people as possible, utilizing yard signs, local businesses, door hangers and more,” the county said in a media advisory before the Saturday “day of action.”

“The Arlington County Public Health Division encourages all Arlington County residents 16 years old and older to pre-register now for the COVID-19 vaccine in preparation for Phase 2 of Virginia’s vaccination plan,” the county said.

Photo (top) by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II

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