The ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday marked the opening of the $250 million, 250,000-square foot facility at 1851 N. Edison Street in the Hall’s Hill/High View Park neighborhood.
There, VHC Health — formerly Virginia Hospital Center — will provide outpatient surgery, endoscopy, physical therapy, women’s health and imaging, per a press release. There will also be a pharmacy.
Christopher Lane, the hospital’s president and CEO, said during the ceremony that providing these various services makes it easier to coordinate patient care.
“By bringing outpatient services together under one roof, patients can now be conveniently scheduled for diverse healthcare services and can be seen within the same facility, often on the same day,” Lane said.
Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey told ARLnow the ease of getting care will greatly benefit residents.
“This facility will expand the ability for people who need services that don’t require staying in the hospital and getting the most expensive form of care, being emergency services, to get what they need here in Arlington,” Dorsey said. “The pavilion will reduce patient frustration, reduce errors and be a huge benefit to our community.”
State Sen. Barbara Favola applauded VHC Health’s effort to reduce emergency visits for Virginians.
“VHC Health has embraced this mission,” she said during the ceremony. “Our outpatient facility will in fact divert individuals from going into emergency care.”
Discussions of a new pavilion began in 2017 and VHC Health proposed an expansion in 2018. The County Board initially voted to delay approving the project so that the hospital could address the concerns of homeowners who live around the hospital.
The Board narrowly approved the plans two months later and the facility broke ground in the fourth quarter of 2019. Work became a source of consternation for nearby residents, who dealt with about a year of poor water quality tied to construction activity.
The hospital already has plans for a future expansion. Next up could be a mental health and rehabilitation facility on the site of its old urgent care facility, intended to address the strain on private hospital emergency rooms to receive psychiatric patients as well as troubling trends in substance use and mental health among teens.
An Arlington man is in jail after police say he seriously injured two employees at a business.
The alleged incident happened just after 11 a.m. Wednesday, on the 1600 block of N. George Mason Drive. Scanner traffic suggests that the attack happened at a medical office in Virginia Hospital Center and that at least one of the employees was knocked unconscious.
Arlington County police said in a crime report that two employees suffered serious injuries.
MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 2023-05240117, 1600 block of N. George Mason Drive. At approximately 11:10 a.m. on May 24, police were dispatched to the report of an assault in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined the suspect physically assaulted two employees of the property. He was taken into custody without incident by responding officers. The two employees sustained serious but non-life threatening injuries and were evaluated on scene. [The suspect], 46, of Arlington, Va. was arrested and charged with Malicious Wounding (x2). He was held without bond.
More than 150 weeks have passed since Dr. Mike Silverman, the emergency department chair at VHC Health, started his Friday night posts about the Covid pandemic.
The public Facebook posts have helped provide medical context and clarity, but in layman’s terms, to those seeking a better understanding of the disease and the response to it. ARLnow has regularly quoted Silverman’s posts in our coronavirus coverage.
Now, three years after Silverman’s first pandemic post from the ER, he’s wrapping up the weekly series. While not ruling out occasional updates, Silverman says now seems like a good time to conclude his Friday writing routine. By Silverman’s count, he has produced more than 195,000 words of updates on the local prevalence of Covid, as seen at the hospital, and the latest medical research on the virus and its treatments.
“Stopping on the second Friday in March three years later seems like a good run,” he wrote last month when announcing the decision.
When Silverman published his first Facebook update on March 13, 2020, only five Arlington cases had been confirmed, local grocery stores were being picked clean and Arlington Public Schools had just announced the closure of schools through spring break in April. The first confirmed case in the county had been announced just four days earlier.
Today, with vaccines and three years of exposure to the virus, it is still deadly and debilitating for some, but not nearly to the extent of earlier, when it was still a novel outbreak. As of last week, cases in Arlington were down to an average of just 11 per day, the lowest point since mid-2021, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.
The last confirmed Covid-related death in Arlington was reported during the final week of 2022.
“Coronavirus is not quite done with us yet though we’ve learned to live with it,” Silverman wrote on Friday.
That last weekly post is reprinted below with his permission.
It’s been another good week when it comes to the number of COVID cases we’re diagnosing in the ER. Our symptomatic positives are way down, with only a handful of positive cases and a 3% positivity rate this past week (6 week running average 10.3%). This is the second week in a row that is notably less than the previous weeks. Our general screening population (in theory asymptomatic patients or those we think COVID is unlikely) is also below 4% for the second week in a row (6 week average about 6%). The numbers for all comers this week show a 3.7% positivity rate and the last two weeks each had about half the number of cases we saw in the weeks beforehand. These numbers are consistent with other periods of time after surges. The number of hospitalized patients with COVID also dropped about 20% since last week. Hospitalizations climb in the weeks following a surge and are a lagging indicator of when the surge is over. I suspect we’ll continue to see a drop in the number of patients hospitalized with COVID over the next few weeks as well. However, I do anticipate that taking care of COVID patients in the ER and in the hospital will be part of our world for a long time to come.
VHC Health could break ground on a new mental health and rehabilitation facility at its old urgent care facility on S. Carlin Springs Road as soon as this year.
Arlington County and VHC Health — the new name of Virginia Hospital Center — announced a joint agreement this afternoon to expand behavioral health and rehab services through the proposed project at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road.
The new facility would have 72 beds dedicated to mental health and substance use recovery. This consists of a 24-bed adult unit, a 24-bed youth unit, a 24-bed “recovery and wellness unit” and five outpatient programs, according to a county announcement.
It will have 40 beds set aside for people with brain and spinal cord injuries, those recovering from strokes and those with neurological and other conditions. Currently, the main VHC campus has 20 beds for patients with these needs.
“We are grateful for our continued partnership with VHC Health in developing facilities to meet the healthcare needs of the Arlington community,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in a statement. “With the growing demand, mental health services continue to be a priority. We remain committed to expanding capacity and offering services and support for individuals experiencing behavioral health challenges and their families.”
The chair of the VHC Health Board of Directors, Dr. Russell E. McWey, said this expansion of mental health services “has been a long-time priority for the Board and for VHC Health.”
“The Board is pleased to continue serving our community and to champion this facility and advocate for those who are in need in and around Arlington County,” he said in his statement.
The new S. Carlin Springs Road facility will house five programs: intensive outpatient programs for adults and children, a recovery and wellness intensive outpatient program, an adult partial hospitalization program and an outpatient behavioral health clinic.
VHC had originally intended to add a behavioral health unit to its main campus expansion, Deborah Warren, the executive director of the Arlington Community Services Board and the DHS Deputy Director, told ARLnow. Now, per the announcement, the hospital will instead build a 14-bed geriatric behavioral health unit.
The expansion comes as Arlington, Northern Virginia and Commonwealth as a whole are seeing two trends: deepening mental health needs and greater competition for limited healthcare resources.
Advocates have called the current state of mental health care in Virginia a crisis, one prompted by the state’s decision in 2021 to close most state psychiatric hospitals, which were understaffed due to low wages, hazardous working conditions and Covid.
The closures created a bottleneck at remaining facilities and forced private hospitals, including Virginia Hospital Center, to take in more patients. Sometimes, patients are brought to the hospital by law enforcement, and until they are able to be treated, are left to wait in the emergency room — handcuffed to a gurney under the watch of a law enforcement officer. This situation has contributed to burnout for county social workers and police officers.
In response, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced late last year the formation of a task force to come up with ways to remove law enforcement from this process and ensure people get the help they need. VHC Health CEO and President Chris Lane lauded this move in today’s statement.
“VHC Health applauds the Governor and the General Assembly for their commitment to addressing Virginia’s behavioral health crisis and this joint venture will contribute to the Commonwealth’s objective of treating behavioral wellness,” Lane said. Read More
Covid appears to be on the decline in Arlington, but hospitalization levels rose sufficiently last week to move the county to the CDC’s “medium” Covid level.
The level moved from “low” to “medium” as of last Thursday. The latest Virginia Dept. of Health stats, however, show cases falling to a seven-day moving average of 38 per day as of yesterday (Tuesday), from a seasonal peak of 65 cases per day just before Christmas.
The CDC level change was prompted by a rise in Covid-related hospital admissions above the 10 per 100,000 residents per week mark. That metric stood at 12 as of Thursday.
Among neighboring jurisdictions, D.C. and Fairfax County are both at the “medium” level, while Alexandria is now at the “high” community level due to a combination of infection and hospitalization rates.
Virginia Hospital Center emergency department chair Mike Silverman, in his weekly Facebook post Friday night, said the hospital is “full” but Covid cases are declining.
After a couple of weeks of very high emergency department volume, our hospital is full. My colleagues are seeing this all over the country as well. This makes it more challenging to care for the patients coming into the emergency department as we have more patients “boarding” (waiting on their inpatient bed to be available) than typical. Even though our ER volume has come down a little bit compared to recent weeks, it still feels just as chaotic because of all these extra patients waiting for a bed to be available.
Along with a slight drop in volume, we have also seen a decrease in the amount of COVID were diagnosing. Overall, we diagnosed about 20% less patients with COVID this week compared to the prior 2 weeks. Our overall percent positivity fell from about 16.5% to 12.4%. The biggest drop we saw was in our symptomatic patients. Although we had about 20% less patients classified as symptomatic, we had about a 40% drop in the number of positives. This correlates to a 31% positivity rate dropping to a 21% positivity rate. Our general screening percent positivity remained stable at about 11%. For these patients, either the clinician has a low suspicion that the patient has COVID, but COVID is included in the differential diagnosis, or they are asymptomatic and require testing for admission/surgery/etc.
Consistent with the reduction in new diagnoses, we also saw a reduction in the number of patients who required COVID isolation in the ER compared to the prior two weeks. And the hospital has about 20% less admitted COVID patients than we did last week.
Don’t look now, but Covid cases are on the rise again in Arlington.
Daily case averages are still well below the levels seen earlier in the year, but the trajectory is upward, Virginia Dept. of Health data shows. As of Wednesday, the seven-day case average in Arlington was 57 cases per day, high highest point since September.
That follows national trends of rising Covid cases.
According to CDC data, Arlington County’s weekly case rate per 100,000 people is 154, while the weekly Covid hospital admission rate is 7.7 per 100,000 people. The threshold between the CDC’s “low” and “medium” Covid levels is 200 cases and 10 admissions.
Just in time for the rise in cases, the federal government today is restarting its free Covid tests by mail program. The tests can be ordered here.
VDH, meanwhile, announced yesterday that bivalent booster shots are now available to all children six months of age and older in Virginia.
From a press release:
Parents of young children in Virginia are now able to seek a free bivalent pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for their children aged six months and older, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced today, following the recommendation of the vaccines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on December 9.
The Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccine, previously available only to persons aged five years and older, is now available for children aged six months through four years as a third primary series dose. At this time, children aged 6 months through four years who received three doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to complete their primary series are not authorized to receive a booster dose of bivalent vaccine. The Moderna bivalent vaccine, previously available for persons aged six years and older, is now available for children aged six months through five years as a booster dose at least two months after completion of a Moderna primary series.
Both bivalent vaccines target the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that first emerged in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron variant that emerged in the United States in November 2021.
VDH advises parents to discuss this option with their child’s healthcare provider. Vaccination opportunities may be found at Vaccinate.Virginia.gov.
Virginia Hospital Center emergency department chair Dr. Mike Silverman, in his weekly public Facebook post, encouraged parents to consider the bivalent booster for their kids. He also noted that flu and RSV are are still prevalent in the community amid a particularly active fall for respiratory illnesses.
Within VHC, the number of patients we have hospitalized with COVID is similar to last week (and higher than last month). The emergency department remains quite busy. November was among our highest volume months ever, for the most part attributed to Flu and RSV cases. Among our COVID population, we saw another week over week increase in the number of patients testing positive in our “symptomatic” population with a higher percent positive rate than the previous week. That number is 3-4 fold higher than in early November. Among all our testing, we had about twice as many positives as just a few weeks ago.
The CDC reports that “there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses, 78,000 hospitalizations, and 4,500 deaths from flu so far this season,” making this the worst flu season in a decade. Although the number of patients we’re seeing with the flu has declined a bit over the past month, there’s still a lot of flu in the community and I highly recommend getting your flu shot. And fortunately, the flu vaccine this year appears to be a “good match” for the circulating strains, meaning the vaccine works better than average this year.
The FDA approved the bivalent booster for those 6 months to 5 years old. This booster can serve as the 3rd shot after the primary two shot series is complete. This will go to the CDC for review and should be available soon. Please talk to you pediatrician about vaccination. I continue to see a lot of young children that are not vaccinated.
A vacant, county-owned building in Glencarlyn could start coming down this fall, pending approval from the Arlington County Board this weekend.
This Saturday, the Board is slated to consider awarding a contract to tear down the old Virginia Hospital Center urgent care facility at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road.
“If approved, the contractor will begin mobilizing in the fall,” according to the project’s page on the county website. “Expected completion of the demolition is summer 2023.”
Arlington County acquired the old VHC Urgent Care in a land swap with the hospital. VHC received county-owned land at N. Edison Street for its expansion project, interior work on which is ongoing until this December.
While a private medical office building continues to operate next door at 611 S. Carlin Springs Road, the VHC building has sat vacant since the acquisition. Come winter, thrill-seekers take to the hill on the grounds for a sledding spot.
In order to use the land, the county needs to tear the VHC building down, as it “is not fit for further use due to mold and other issues,” according to a county presentation to neighbors of the building last September.
To do so, while continuing operations at the medical office building, the county had to separate the shared water, power and gas utility lines.
“This work began in February 2022 and is close to completion,” county spokeswoman Jessica Baxter told ARLnow in an email. “Throughout this project, we have been working closely with the adjacent medical office building to allow ample time for them to accommodate their patient/client schedules with the start of the demolition.”
Later this month, the county will install install solar-powered lights in the parking lot as “a temporary solution” once power to the site is disconnected in the fall, she said yesterday (Tuesday).
Boarded up windows and signs forbidding entry are visible from the perimeter of the site. These are in place and county staff check the perimeter of the site daily “to deter intruders,” according to the county’s 2021 project update to the neighborhood.
Arlington experienced a few delays getting to this point. Besides having to accommodate the medical offices next door, Baxter previously told ARLnow the project had to repeat its solicitation of bids, after a first round did not net any interested contractors.
A complete demolition is still a ways off, as are plans for how the county will use the site.
“Future uses of the site will be determined at a later time,” Baxter said this week. “After demolition, grass will be planted and maintained.”
Many Glencarlyn residents hope to see an expanded nature area, says neighbor Julie Lee.
“The site borders Glencarlyn Park and the Long Branch Nature Center,” she tells ARLnow. “It would provide additional outdoor recreational opportunities, as well as additional outdoor learning space for Campbell Elementary School which has a nature focus.”
(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) A man who worked at a local hospital has been charged with sexual battery.
Hektor Alvarez, 21, is accused of fondling a male patient’s genitals on two separate occasions at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital. He was arrested last week “after a month long investigation,” according to Fairfax County police.
Alvarez, who was working as a caretaker for a healthcare contractor at the time of the alleged incidents, most recently worked in Arlington.
“Through the investigation, detectives learned Alvarez is currently employed as a medical technician at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington County,” FCPD said in a press release last week. “At this time, no incidents have been reported at this location.”
Fairfax County authorities are asking anyone with additional information about Alvarez to contact them.
A PR rep for Virginia Hospital Center tells ARLnow that Alvarez “is not a current employee” of the hospital.
The full press release is below.
A 21-year-old man has been arrested and charged with aggravated sexual battery while working as a hospital caretaker. On July 7, the victim reported to a hospital technician that his previous caretaker had sexually assaulted him in April. His caretaker fondled the victim’s genitalia on two separate occasions. The victim, who requires 24/7 care due to his condition, was receiving long-term care at Inova Fair Oaks Hospital at 3600 Joseph Siewick Drive in Fairfax.
Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau were notified on July 8 and responded to assume the investigation. Detectives identified the hospital caretaker as Hektor Fernando Alvarez of Falls Church. Alvarez was employed by Metropolitan Healthcare Services (MHS), a company contracted by Inova to provide sitter services for patients. He is no longer employed by MHS. After a month long investigation by detectives, Alvarez was arrested on August 9 for aggravated sexual battery with a victim through mental incapacity or helplessness. He was held on no bond but later released on a secured bond.
Through the investigation, detectives learned Alvarez is currently employed as a medical technician at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington County. At this time, no incidents have been reported at this location. Detectives are asking anyone with information about this case or believe Hektor Fernando Alvarez had inappropriate contact to please call our Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800, option 3. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), and by web – Click HERE. Download the ‘P3 Tips’ App and follow the steps to “Fairfax Co Crime Solvers”. Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 dollars. Please leave contact information if you wish for a detective to follow up with you.
Victim specialists from our Major Crimes Bureau’s Victim Services Division have been assigned to ensure that the victim is receiving appropriate resources and assistance.
Poll: D.C. Residents Prefer Alexandria — A poll on Twitter with more than 1,000 respondents shows D.C. residents saying they’re prefer to live in Alexandria over Arlington, if they had to choose, by a ratio of nearly 2:1. [Twitter]
ACPD Lays Wreaths at Memorial — “Following the Observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day, ACPD’s Honor Guard laid wreaths at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in recognition of Arlington’s seven heroic officers who have died in the line of duty. The memorial features the names of more than 22,000 federal, tribal, state and local law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and protection of our nation. We are committed to never forgetting their sacrifices in service to their communities.” [Facebook]
Roads in Rosslyn Closing for Police 5K — “The 2022 National Police Week 5k will take place on Saturday, May 14, 2022. The Arlington County Police Department will conduct the following road closures to accommodate the event.” [ACPD]
Reminder: Expect Police Motorcades — “Police Week is scheduled from Wednesday, May 11 through Tuesday, May 17. Most of the scheduled activities will take place Thursday through Sunday, though the arrival of families of fallen officers on Wednesday and Thursday will prompt many of the motorcades and rolling road closures.” [ARLnow]
Dems Honor Longtime Volunteer — “The recipient of the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s highest accolade for longtime service says she is pleased that the party continues to expand in both size and scope. ‘With more people doing more things, our organization is more complex than ever,’ Inta Malis said during a May 10 online event sponsored by Arlington Senior Democrats.” [Sun Gazette]
TV Station Honors Arlington Nurses — “As 7News celebrates the third day of Nurses Week, we salute the men and women of VHC Health in Northern Virginia. The community hospital in Arlington is a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network and is a designated Magnet hospital, one of the highest group honors for a hospital.” [WJLA]
Startup Founder Helping Refugees — “As the clock struck 11 p.m. on March 19, Yulia Yaani gathered a group of Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border. She stepped onto the bus that night, alongside roughly 50 women and children, and they traveled to Denmark for the next 17 hours — to escape the war with Russia… Yaani is co-founder and CEO of Arlington fintech [company] RealAtom, a 5-year-old startup.” [Washington Business Journal]
Kiwanis Donate to Ukraine Efforts — “The Kiwanis Club of Arlington has donated $5,000 to the World Central Kitchen (WCK) to assist with relief efforts in Ukraine. Proceeds from the club’s fund-raising activities, including its annual blueberry sale, are being used to support the WCK with their meals programs on the ground in Ukraine and in surrounding countries.” [Sun Gazette]
It’s Thursday — Mostly cloudy and cool throughout the day, with a slight chance of rain. High of 68 and low of 58. Sunrise at 6:00 am and sunset at 8:12 pm. [Weather.gov]
Arlington saw a slight dip in Covid cases mid-month, during the Arlington Public Schools spring break, but cases are back on a relatively slow upward trajectory this week.
After the seven-day moving average broke the 100 daily case mark last week, that same figure stands at 110 cases per day today, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.
Arlington Public Schools, meanwhile, has reported 195 student cases over the past week, including 23 at Jamestown Elementary alone. The North Arlington school has the highest seven-day case total of any Arlington public school, after Yorktown High School and its 14 reported cases.
Jamestown informed families about 17 new cases in an email yesterday.
Arlington County remains in the CDC’s “Medium” Covid level classification due to the volume of cases, but reported hospitalizations remain low.
In his weekly public Facebook post on Friday, Virginia Hospital Center ER chief Mike Silverman said the hospital is not seeing a notable increase in severe disease from Covid infections.
Although COVID numbers are continuing to increase in the community, we have seen a leveling off of COVID in both the emergency department and the hospital. Although new diagnoses of cases has increased the last several weeks in the ER, it never reached a critically high level. This week, the numbers actually dropped a touch as did the percent positivity rate in the emergency department as well. The hospital just has a handful of patients who are COVID-positive. I think we are seeing the clear benefits of vaccinations and boosters.
However, we have seen an increase in the community rate in Arlington County and this rate is slightly above 10%. This represents a pretty high transmission level in the community. Fortunately, patients are not getting sick and requiring hospitalization but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to be cautious in our interactions. And while some people may expect that getting COVID is inevitable, I think we still have a lot to understand about the long-term consequences of COVID.
The wider Arlington community’s Covid test positivity rate, meanwhile, has started declining. It currently stands at 10.8%, down from a recent peak of 12.4% three days ago, according to VDH.
Va. Hospital Center Changing Name — “Arlington’s Virginia Hospital Center is charging forward with its regional expansion under new leadership — and a new moniker to match. The nearly 80-year-old independent hospital, which had the same CEO for nearly half of that time, is now going forward as VHC Health. The change aims to better reflect its role in the region, said Christopher Lane, the hospital’s new leader since March 28.” [Washington Business Journal]
Auditor Eyes Site Plans — “Auditor Chris Horton has proposed spending about 300 of his 2,000 work hours during fiscal 2023 evaluating past site plans to determine if the benefits that were promised to the public actually materialized. His work plan, which will have to be ratified by the County Board, won a receptive audience at the April 7 meeting of the government’s Audit Committee. ‘I really love this idea,’ said John Vihstadt, a former County Board member.” [Sun Gazette]
Holiday Weekend Changes — “Whether you celebrate the Christian holiday of Easter, the Jewish holiday of Passover, the two holidays will overlap during the weekend of April 16-17. As the Easter holiday falls on a Sunday, closures may be limited.
Arlington County government does not typically close for Good Friday before Easter. However, there are a few service changes for services that do operate on Sundays.” [Patch]
W-L Student Competing in History Bee — “Aaron Lopez, a ninth-grade student at Washington-Liberty High School, will compete in the History Bee national championships after scoring success at the state level.” [Sun Gazette]
Disobedient Dog Infuriates Pentagon City Resident — From Reddit, as highlighted by Monkeyrotica: “I hear you every damn day, twice a day from my apartment window. Your dog acts up around other dogs every [expletive] day. You keep shouting ‘ROBERT’ at your dog every time he acts up. Your dog keeps [expletive] misbehaving. See how your tactic just doesn’t work?” [Reddit]
Newspaper Opposes Ukraine Donation — “Everybody should feel bad for what the Ukrainian people are going through and appalled by the actions of the Russian government. And if people want to donate funds or humanitarian supplies, amen to that. But ballistic-vest donations? That may be a one step too far over the line.” [Sun Gazette]
Good Luck, Jo! — ARLnow’s Jo DeVoe is now on maternity leave. We expect her to return in the fall.
It’s Good Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 68 and low of 49. Sunrise at 6:33 am and sunset at 7:46 pm. [Weather.gov]