Arlington, VA

Work on Virginia Hospital Center’s expansion project has hit a new milestone.

After months of excavation at the site, the first concrete footers are now being poured for the hospital’s new parking garage.

“These footers will support the foundation of the garage and ensure it remains steadfast and strong through the many years to come,” VHC said on social media.

The project was approved in 2018, on a split 3-2 County Board vote amid objections from some nearby residents. It includes a large parking garage and a seven-story outpatient pavilion, “which will provide direct, easy access for patients from their arrival at the parking garage to treatment areas.” The outpatient facility will allow the addition of about 100 beds to the hospital.

The parking garage is expected to be complete by the second quarter of 2021, while construction on the pavilion is set to wrap up by the end of 2021, according to a project web page.

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Arlington has seen a week-long decline in the rate of new coronavirus hospitalizations, according to the latest state health department data.

Should that trend hold for another week, it would help meet the county’s five conditions to begin a phased reopening. Officials have said that a sustained 14-day downward trend in hospitalizations is No. 1 on the county’s reopening criteria.

Another criterion — an increase in testing — does not appear to be coming to fruition yet. State data shows the average number of daily tests remaining steady over the course of last week.

New data from the Virginia Dept. of Health reports 1,638 known COVID-19 cases in Arlington, along with 323 cumulative hospitalizations and 77 deaths. That’s an increase of 104 cases, 17 hospitalizations and 6 deaths from Friday.

A total of 37 hospitalizations have been reported over the past 7 days, down from a peak of 92 just a week ago.

On Friday Virginia Hospital Center, which has been treating patients from both Arlington and surrounding areas, reported — via a sign inside the hospital — that it has discharged 536 coronavirus patients and had 19 successfully get off ventilators. The hospital is not publicly reporting current hospitalizations or ventilator usage.

As of Monday there had been 6,213 standard lab-based coronavirus “testing encounters” in Arlington, according to state data. The seven-day moving average test positivity rate was down slightly, to 23.9%, but well above the 10% rate considered an indication of adequate testing.

Statewide, as of Monday, there have been a total of 31,140 COVID-19 cases, 3,822 hospitalizations and 1,014 deaths in Virginia, according to VDH.

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Morning Notes

Masks Required on Metro Starting Today — “Face coverings or masks be required when traveling on Metro effective Monday, May 18. The move strengthens Metro’s position on the matter, which has ‘strongly recommended’ the use of face coverings since early April.” [WMATA]

ACPD Officer Lends a Hand — Despite the challenges facing emergency responders during the pandemic, an Arlington County police officer helped a pair of residents with some heavy lifting for a DIY project in their yard over the weekend. [@dmvbbacademy/Twitter]

Little League Still Hoping to Play — “Arlington Little League has not yet given up on some kind of spring and summer baseball season… Until now, the 2020 season has not started in a league that consists of nearly 1,500 players because of the COVID-19 pandemic.” [InsideNova]

VHC Gets Gear Donation from Ford — “Many thanks to @Ford for their donation of 10k face shields! We are grateful for this show of support for those on the front lines.” [@VHC_Hospital/Twitter]

Local GOP Planning Drive-Thru Convention — “The 8th District Republican Committee is still finalizing the details, but expects to hold an unassembled caucus – dubbed a ‘drive-through convention’ – on May 30 in Springfield… delegates will be able to drive up, pick up a ballot, complete it and hand it back without leaving their vehicles. The results of voting will determine whether Mark Ellmore or Jeff Jordan will be the Republican nominee facing U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) on Nov. 3.” [InsideNova]

Celtic House Looking Forward to Dine-In — “At Celtic House in Arlington, the business owners say they’re down at least 80 percent due to the coronavirus closures. They hope leaders will soon allow dining inside as their space is very limited on the patio… ‘It has really affected us a lot,’ said co-owner Michael McMahon about the coronavirus crisis…  So far, he says they’ve been able to keep on all of their 19 workers.” [Gray DC Bureau]

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A new walk-up coronavirus testing site opened Tuesday along Columbia Pike.

The testing center is a partnership of Arlington County, Virginia Hospital Center and Arlington Free Clinic. At a media briefing yesterday, officials from all three spoke about the importance of the facility in the fight against the virus.

With the new testing site “we can get services to the more vulnerable and low income individuals,” who might not have access to a vehicle for drive-through testing sites or to health insurance to pay for testing, said Dr. Reuben Varghese, Arlington Public Health Director.

“They often have limited access to health care and because of their work, they don’t have the opportunity sometimes to stay home like a number of the people in our region,” Varghese said.

The new testing site is open from 1-5 p.m. weekdays, and available to anyone who makes an appointment by calling (703) 558-5766. Health insurance is not needed and those who require extra treatment after testing may be referred to the Arlington Free Clinic.

Arlington County has seen the highest proportion of COVID-19 cases in the 22204 zip code, along the Columbia Pike corridor, emphasizing the need for more testing in the area.

The latest countywide statistics from the Virginia Dept. of Health report 1,460 coronavirus cases, 300 hospitalizations and 69 deaths in Arlington. That’s an increase of 44 cases, 12 hospitalizations and 3 deaths overnight.

Statewide, VDH reports 26,746 cases, 3,520 hospitalizations, 927 deaths and just over 180,000 tests administered.

More on the walk-up testing center, via a county press release:

Arlington County, in partnership with Virginia Hospital Center and the Arlington Free Clinic, will open its first walk-up COVID-19 sample collection site at the Arlington Mill Community Center, 909 South Dinwiddie Street.

“Arlington is committed to assuring everyone in our community has access to the testing they need during this pandemic,” said Dr. Reuben Varghese, Arlington Public Health Director. “This is an important partnership that will help our more vulnerable or low-income groups who do not have access to cars to walk up and get tested.”

“This is an exciting effort to create a more equitable testing model for everyone who needs it,” said Nancy White, Executive Director, Arlington Free Clinic. “This model aligns with our mission to provide high-quality health care to low-income, uninsured Arlington residents through the generosity of donors and volunteers.”

“Virginia Hospital Center is happy to lend the expertise we have gathered from the North Quincy drive-through site to support the efforts at Arlington Mill,” said James Meenan, Director of the VHC Outpatient Lab. “Our primary focus is always the health and safety of our community and increasing access to testing is a critical step forward in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.”

  • The clinic opens Tuesday, May 12 and will operate weekdays between 1-5 p.m.
  • To be tested, patients must obtain a clinician referral and then schedule an appointment by calling 703-558-5766. Patients must schedule an appointment before visiting the collection site.
  • Residents without health insurance can still access testing through the walk-up collection site by calling the appointment number. A VHC clinician will screen for symptoms over the phone and provide a follow-up referral to the Arlington Free Clinic if needed.
  • Individuals who visit the collection site should follow the instructions of their health care provider and self-isolate while they await their results.
  • Patients with an appointment may access the clinic at Arlington Mill Community Center by entering through the outdoor plaza facing Columbia Pike.
  • Individuals must bring proof of identity (U.S. government ID not required).

To protect patient privacy, media access to the site will be restricted.

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Arlington County Police are looking for a teenager accused of trying to rob a scooter rider in Virginia Square.

Police were dispatched to N. Lincoln Street, in the area of Arlington Science Focus School and Hayes Park, Monday afternoon for a reported robbery by force.

“Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 1:45 p.m., the victim was riding her scooter in the area when the suspect approached her and attempted to grab her backpack unsuccessfully,” ACPD said in a crime report. “The victim turned around and was struck by the suspect, but was able to run away and seek assistance. The victim sustained minor injuries.”

“The suspect is described as a skinny white male, approximately 15 years old, 5’3″, with curly brown hair, wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans,” police said. “The investigation is ongoing.”

Also on Monday, a scuffle in Virginia Hospital Center left an officer with minor injuries and a 22-year-old man behind bars. More from a crime report:

ASSAULT & BATTERY ON POLICE, 2020-05110041, 1600 block of N. George Mason Drive. At approximately 10:37 a.m. on May 11, officers on scene at the hospital were attempting to restrain a subject who began acting disorderly. A brief struggle ensued, during which the suspect struck an officer with a closed fist. The officer sustained minor injuries. Daunte Butler, 22, of No Fixed Address, was arrested and charged with Assault and Battery on Law Enforcement. He was held on no bond.

Map via Google Maps

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Two local running stores and a Swiss shoe company have come together to donate shoes to local frontline workers and regional organizations.

Regional running retailer Pacers announced today (Wednesday) that it is partnering with competitor Potomac River Running Store and Switzerland-based ON Shoes to donate 5,000 shoes to those working during the pandemic, including dozens donated to the Virginia Hospital Center (VHC).

Pacers and Potomac River Running Store will be in charge of identifying and distributing the shoes to individuals or groups impacted by the pandemic. Each store will receive 2,500 shoes of various sizes and types.

Pacers delivered a batch to VHC earlier today.

“This morning, we delivered 150 pairs of shoes to health care workers at Virginia Hospital Center,” said Kathy Dalby, CEO of Pacers. “We will be delivering another 100+ pairs to Arlington Police and Sheriff’s offices tomorrow. We also delivered 100 pairs to our friends at Neighborhood Restaurant Group to distribute to their staff and several dozen pairs are headed to youth clubs we work with in Kenilworth Park.”

Potomac River Running is making similar donations.

“Once the stores assessed their inventory lots, Pacers and Potomac River Running collectively worked together to identify a list of organizations who would benefit from the footwear donation that have either been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and/or need to continue to stay active during this crisis and need resources to do so,” noted a press release. “Organizations and individuals range from fire and rescue, nurses, restaurant workers, local delivery personnel, grocery store workers, veterinary hospitals, and community centers.”

Dalby said Pacers, which has been adapting to the pandemic by shifting its focus to online ordering and virtual fittings conducted online via video chat, could use some public help in finding more people on the front lines in need of new shoes.

“We know there is great need beyond our networks,” Dalby said. “We are asking for help in identifying people or organizations who could use a pair of shoes to help get them moving or simply make their feet hurt a little less. Please follow and tag us on Instagram and tag groups or people who could help us spread the word or benefit from this program… or [contact] [email protected].”

Photos courtesy Pacers

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Morning Notes

VHC Staff Honored by NYSE — Two radiation therapists at Virginia Hospital Center, Melinda Mack and Amanda Sprecher, were honored during the opening bell ringing at the New York Stock Exchange yesterday. [Twitter]

Tomorrow is Arlington’s ‘Community Day’ — “A beloved Arlington tradition, Neighborhood Day brings communities together to enjoy the great outdoors and strengthens ties between neighbors.  In our currently socially-distant world, Neighborhood Day 2020 (May 2) is swapping out the traditional outdoor get-togethers and focusing on how Arlingtonians can build community while staying apart.” [Arlington County]

Fundraiser for Shelter Employee Bonuses — “I’m raising money to benefit four emergency shelters in Arlington County. The front line staff at these organizations are heroes who risk their personal health and wellness for those most vulnerable. I want to offer each front line staff member a $5/ hour bonus for their selfless work for at least two weeks.” [GoFundMe, Facebook]

Courtland Towers Store to Become Apartments — “It’ll soon be ‘bye, bye, bodega,’ as Arlington County Board members are allowing the owner of the Courtland Towers apartments in the Courthouse area to replace its longstanding ground-floor convenience store with four additional residential units and other amenities for residents. The proposal had generated pushback from nearby residents and garnered formal opposition from the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Federation.” [InsideNova]

Roots Closing at Pentagon City Mall — “Toronto clothing retailer Roots Corp. said Wednesday it will close both its stores in Greater Washington. The closure of outposts in Georgetown and at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City come as part of the liquidation of the apparel company’s U.S. subsidiary through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing — a measure being taken to close the stores quickly and in a cost-effective manner, the company said.” [Washington Business Journal]

Fund Created for Local Immigrants in Need — “The Dream Project, a nonprofit organization offering educational assistance to immigrants in Northern Virginia through scholarships and mentoring, has established an emergency relief fund to help immigrant students and families who are struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” [Press Release]

Hotel Donates Rooms to County — An unnamed hotel in Arlington has donated rooms to the county to serve as Permanent Supportive Housing for up to 16 people, reducing their risk of COVID-19 exposure. [Arlington County]

Electric Bills Going Down This Month — “Dominion Energy says Virginia customers will see a $6 discount on their billing each month starting on May 1. ‘The cost of fuel has gone down and we’re passing the savings directly on to customers,’ Dominion Energy said.” [NBC 12 Richmond]

New County Initiative Tackling Hunger — “Arlington County announced a new initiative for the coronavirus era: the Cooperative for a Hunger Free Arlington. We talked to those heading the group — Abby Raphael, Diane Kresh and Amy Maclosky — about what it is and how they plan to help during these tough times.” [Facebook, Apple Podcasts]

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow,  Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. Monday Properties remains firmly committed to the health, safety and well-being of its employees, tenants and community. This week, Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1000 and 1100 Wilson (The Rosslyn Towers).

Elise Yanker Hasenei used to jog to her radiation treatment at the Virginia Hospital Center and back home. It became something of a community event, with friends and supporters taking to the street with her to encourage her. Now, Hasenei is making the trip to the Virginia Hospital Center to encourage others.

With the Virginia Hospital Center (VHC) seeing an increasing uptick in coronavirus patients, Hasenei’s startup GoLisey recently donated over a hundred brightly colored hospital gowns with brightly colored masks to help out.

Hasenei runs GoLisey, a “glam gown” company she started in 2015 after surviving breast cancer. The hospital gowns are brightly colored and aim to boost spirits, but are no less medically functional than the usual drab coverings.

The gowns can be worn in either direction, with access to the front or the back depending on the specific medical needs.

“Elise wanted to do something to help during this trying time in the healthcare industry, so she reached out to VHC to donate all of the gowns she currently had in stock, for men and women alike,” Hansenei’s niece, Megan Wrobel, said in an email. “She dropped four boxes of Glam Gowns to the donation center on Tuesday afternoon, which serendipitously ended up being located in the Oncology wing; an area she was, of course, familiar with.”

Hasenei said when she was going through cancer treatment, she always hated the gowns.

“I never felt depressed about cancer until radiation and I just had to put those ugly things on,” Hasenei said. “I can sow a little bit, so I started playing with the pattern and people started saying ‘that’s fabulous.’

After making a few, Hasenei started to get serious about the idea of making them on a larger scale. Hasenei put together a design with a pattern maker and started working with a factory in Brooklyn to produce the designs while she handled the business from her Arlington home. Since then, Hasenei has moved production to a facility in Fairfax County.

The gown business is a second job — her main career is coaching and consulting businesses — and Hasenei said the gown line was never intended to make her rich.

“Didn’t start the business to be a big moneymaker,” Hasenei said.”It’s really been about — one gown at a time — making a difference.”

When COVID-19 hit, Hasenei said her brother-in-law sent her a message about people in New York seeking gowns and masks. When it became apparent that hospitals nationwide were starting to run low on supplies, Hasenei decided to donate to the hospital where she’d received treatments.

Other local organizations, like Marymount Nursing School, have also donated items like gowns and masks to VHC.

“I reached out to contacts who put me in touch with the hospital,” Hasenei said. “I gave them everything I had. I was able to deliver those, and we’re waiting to see how they’re distributed.”

Now, Hasenei said the factory is “full tilt” making masks, which will be included in the next round of donations to VHC.

Photo courtesy GoLisey

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Morning Notes

Local Business Owners Still Waiting for Loans — “Like many business owners across Northern Virginia, Cyrille Brenac is still waiting to hear back from his bank about his application to the Paycheck Protection Program… For Brenac, who lives in the Cherrydale neighborhood of Arlington, the money would help him rehire about 50 employees of his two French restaurants he laid off when the economy abruptly shut down as the result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.” [Connection Newspapers]

County Board Salary Raise Unlikely — “The COVID-19 health pandemic and resulting economic downturn have snagged another victim – big pay raises for Arlington County Board members. Raises totaling more than $50,000 spread across the five board positions, which were included in County Manager Mark Schwartz’s pre-virus budget proposal in February, have been red-lined out.” [InsideNova]

Bearded Goat Barber Dies During Home Isolation — “We’ve already had quite a tragedy of our own — a barber who was in recovery from heroin addiction. He told us a couple times in the first few weeks, ‘It’s not good for me not being busy like this… not being able to work.’ We didn’t know just how bad it would be for him. He relapsed and got a bad batch and died.” [InsideHook, Facebook]

Campaign to Help Nurses, Restaurants Raises $30k — “The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) began its ‘Buy a Nurse Lunch’ initiative several weeks ago to raise money for restaurants along Columbia Pike in Arlington, while simultaneously providing meals for nurses and medical staff at the Virginia Hospital Center. In just two weeks, the organization says that over $30 thousand was raised, providing much-needed revenue for small, locally-owned restaurant.” [WJLA]

County to Consider More Retail Conversions — “For many years, county officials were insistent that retail be placed in office and residential buildings in certain areas. The problem – as developers apparently knew but county leaders seemed to miss – is that retail spaces are dependent on visibility and foot traffic, which each can vary widely even within the same building. (At one business-organization meeting years back, developers simply shrugged their shoulders, saying they often penciled in ‘zero’ for the expected revenue.)” [InsideNova]

Local Man Recounts Coronavirus Experience — “He had been in the hospital for seven days when doctors declared he might not make it out alive. His blood oxygen levels sank. His lungs struggled. The ventilator helping him breathe, doctors at Virginia Hospital Center said, did not seem to be doing much good. Nurses called his family. His family called a priest. They wanted to make sure Francis Wilson, 29, received last rites before the end.” [Washington Post]

Raccoons Rescued from Trash Can — “Officer Cameron got a surprise yesterday when she responded to a call about a raccoon stuck inside a bag inside a trash can. After she ‘unstuck’ the raccoon, she found 2 raccoon kits with her! Officer Cameron made sure they were all safe, releasing them to a quiet place nearby.” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington]

Arlington Musicians Play Mozart From Self-Isolation — A group of Arlington musicians joined those from elsewhere to perform Mozart: Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K. 525 ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ (1st movement) remotely. [YouTube]

Falls Church Senior Care Centers Face Outbreaks — “Three Falls Church area senior homes are now confirmed to be fighting outbreaks of the coronavirus, with Chesterbrook Residences telling the News-Press today that a total of 17 of its residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Flickr pool photo by P Ranfone

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Being a police officer or firefighter during the coronavirus outbreak is not easy.

Every day public safety personnel are out in the community doing their jobs, they risk exposure to the deadly virus. Even taking all the safety precautions, cops and firefighters in Arlington and elsewhere are getting sick.

But that didn’t stop ACPD and ACFD personnel from showing up at Virginia Hospital Center last night and cheering on those other heroes of the pandemic — healthcare workers — amid growing hospitalizations in the county.

“Our healthcare personnel are working tirelessly on the front lines of the #COVID19 pandemic,” the police department said in a social media post. “To show our support and appreciation, we saluted Virginia Hospital Center staff during tonight’s shift change. Thank you for all you do!”

The hospital responded with gratitude in its own Facebook post.

“Thank you to all of our incredible partners who came out to show your support tonight,” said the hospital. “We are honored to work alongside you in protecting our community! #StrongerTogether”

The show of support from Arlington’s public safety community follows another heartwarming scene: residents across the county giving healthcare workers and caregivers a round of applause from their homes on Monday night.

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(Updated at 10:05 a.m.) At least 50 people have now been hospitalized in Arlington due to complications from the coronavirus.

New data from the Virginia Dept. of Health reports 453 overall COVID-19 cases in the county, along with 50 hospitalizations and 15 deaths. That’s up from 12 deaths, 36 hospitalizations and 401 known cases on Tuesday.

Statewide, VDH is reporting 6,889 total cases, 1,114 hospitalizations, 208 deaths and 46,444 people tested.

Virginia Hospital Center has remained mum publicly about the COVID-19 cases it is treating, declining requests from ARLnow to release additional figures and information, but an Instagram post by the hospital reveals a bit more about what’s going on inside the hospital.

The post shows a sign in the hospital indicating that 10 patients have been successfully taken off ventilators and 205 patients have been discharged and are “on their way to recovery.”

A hospital spokeswoman did not respond to a request yesterday for more information. Previously, the spokeswoman said the hospital does not release such information.

“Virginia Hospital Center is committed to protecting the privacy of our patients and complies with all applicable laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA,” said Maryanne Boster, VHC’s Director of Corporate Communications, after ARLnow sought to find out how many COVID-19 patients it was treating and how many were on ventilators. “As always, the Hospital does not share patient-specific information without prior authorization.”

The Arlington County Fire Department has also declined to give specific information about COVID-19 cases and quarantines among department personnel.

On Wednesday ARLnow sought to confirm a tip we received that three firefighters have tested positive and another 37 were in quarantine.

“Arlington’s public safety personnel, like other populations experience fluctuations in staffing throughout the year due to varying of circumstances,” the spokesman said in response. “The County always monitors our workforce capacity and continues to be able to maintain adequate staffing levels for the services needed for Arlington residents”

The head of Arlington’s fire and EMS union, IAFF Local 2800, also did not respond to a request for comment. After the announcement on March 24 of the first member of the department testing positive for COVID-19, the union released a statement calling for ACFD to allow members who have had close contact with an infected colleague to self-quarantine.

“This shows the risks that your firefighters are taking to keep the community safe on the front lines of this public health emergency,” Brian Lynch, President of Local 2800, said at the time. “Despite risks to our health and the concern of bringing this virus home to our families, we will continue to respond when the community needs us.”

The IAFF Local 2800 statement also asked that Arlington residents “only utilize 911 for true emergencies, notify dispatchers if anyone at the location is experiencing flu-like symptoms, [and] practice social distancing and frequent hand washing.”

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