Arlington, VA

Arlington’s drive-through coronavirus testing site is back in business after a brief hiatus.

The testing site, across from Washington-Liberty High School, closed around the end of June but reopened on Tuesday. Quest Diagnostics is now partnering with the county to conduct the testing, taking over from Virginia Hospital Center.

The change was necessary as the VHC needed to bring its staff back to the hospital.

“As Virginia continues to move forward with reopening, Virginia Hospital Center is resuming many medical and surgical services and welcoming members of the community back to the hospital to receive previously delayed care,” spokeswoman Maryanne Boster tells ARLnow. “This transition requires the full attention of our entire staff, so in order to provide the highest quality care to our patients we brought the VHC employees previously staffing the drive-through COVID-19 Sample Collection Site on Quincy Street back to the Hospital.”

“VHC shared this needed transition in conversations with Quest and Arlington County in May to provide ample time for the service to continue,” Boster added. “Virginia Hospital Center continues to work closely with Arlington County and partners like the Arlington Free Clinic to support the walk-up COVID-19 Sample Collection Site at Arlington Mill and additional projects to address the health of the Arlington community.”

The reopening of the drive-through testing center comes as Arlington sees a minor uptick in new COVID-19 cases. A week after Virginia entered Phase 3 of its reopening, the trailing seven-day rate of new cases in Arlington is now 74. It reached a low of 42 on June 29.

There were eight new coronavirus cases, one new death and no new hospitalizations reported overnight, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. The number of cumulative COVID-19 cases in Arlington currently stands at 2,558.

After weeks of a declining epidemic, the rate of new cases in Virginia is starting to slowly rise, according to an analysis by RT.live. The states surrounding Virginia — Maryland, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee — all have rising epidemic curves, according to the website. The District of Columbia, on the other hand, continues to see a declining epidemic.

Taken as a whole, the D.C. region is seeing a notable uptick in new cases.

“D.C., Maryland, and Virginia reported the second-highest combined number of COVID-19 cases in almost a month on Tuesday,” DCist reported today.

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Morning Notes

March Planned Tonight in Crystal City — “This Tuesday (6/30) we will be gathering in Crystal City Courtyard Green to march to Pentagon City in defense of Black womxn.” [Twitter]

Petition for APS to Require Masks — “To maximize the chances of success for Arlington Public Schools (Virginia) hybrid return to school model we urge the School Board and Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán to make face coverings compulsory for both students and teachers during the days they are at school for in-person learning. Those who object to wearing masks can always choose the distance-learning option.” [Change.org]

Local Church to Feed Thousands — “On Wednesday, July 1, 2020, Our Lady Queen of Peace (OLQP) in south Arlington is working with José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen (WCK) to feed families in need of food assistance. World Central Kitchen is providing 3,500 meals to OLQP for distribution to the community. Meals will be offered to take home in conjunction with pre-packed food the OLQP food pantry distributes every Wednesday morning. This is the second time WCK will be providing meals to OLQP during the pandemic.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]

Catholic Churches Enter ‘Phase 3’ — “All 70 parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington will move into phase three of Virginia’s reopening plan on Wednesday. Officials announced Monday that each parish is ‘able, but not mandated, to celebrate public Mass with capacity restrictions lifted’ beginning on July 1.” [Fox 5]

County Adjusts Committee Meeting Rules — “After facing a rebellion from members and chairs of advisory commissions, the Arlington County Board has revised rules for holding meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps the two biggest changes from the original plans: Commission chairs (apparently) will no longer have to seek county-staff permission to hold meetings. Advisory-group meetings will be allowed in-person or in a hybrid format, in addition to the previously announced “virtual”-only arrangement.” [InsideNova]

New Construction Contract for VHC Inked — “Skanska USA has inked more work with Virginia Hospital Center as the Arlington hospital soldiers on with its $250 million expansion project. The construction company said Monday it signed a contract worth $96 million for site work for the new outpatient pavilion and parking garage at the hospital. That’s on top of a $37 million contract with VHC it grabbed late last year.” [Washington Business Journal]

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(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) The rates of new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Arlington have hit new lows, though expanding outbreaks elsewhere in the country raise questions about how long the declines will last.

Only 28 new COVID-19 cases have been reported since Friday, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. The trailing seven-day total of new cases is now 78, the lowest mark since April 4.

Three new COVID-related hospitalizations have been reported since Friday, bringing the trailing seven-day hospitalization total down to just seven, the lowest hospitalization rate since ARLnow started tracking such data in April.

No new coronavirus deaths were reported over the weekend.

As of Monday morning, VDH listed a cumulative total of 2,424 cases, 412 hospitalizations and 126 deaths in Arlington. The county’s coronavirus test positivity rate is now just 5.3%, another new low.

The declining outbreak has been noticeable in the emergency room, according to a public Facebook post from Virginia Hospital Center ER chief Mike Silverman.

“This was a good week for our ED,” Silverman wrote. “Our COVID isolation patient volume (the way we track patients in the computer) did not increase compared to last week. Our admission rate was actually lower than it’s been in months for this patient group and our percent positive rate is dropping.”

Silverman, however, noticed a new trend: many of those enjoying the newfound freedom of going out to bars and restaurants are partying hard.

“In many ways, it resembled a typical summer weekend,” Silverman wrote about the first weekend of Virginia’s Phase 2 reopening, which started on Friday, June 12. “We had traumas, lots of alcohol related illness, and psychiatric patients. What was unusual from the alcohol perspective was the number of highly intoxicated people who were brought directly from bars. People partied hard. What was equally concerning were the reports we were getting from medics about bars being packed shoulder to shoulder with people and no one wearing masks.”

A Twitter user noted one such scene in Clarendon this weekend.

Among the states with expanding outbreaks, a common thread is that the upward momentum seems to have started with reopening. And the new cases are skewing younger, suggesting that bars and social gatherings may be playing a role.

So far, the data here has continued trending positive and Arlington — as well as Northern Virginia as a whole — has not seen the reopening uptick other states and localities have experienced. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, meanwhile, is still holding off on moving the reopening to Phase 3, which some experts fear could be the catalyst that pushes cases and hospitalizations back up.

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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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