Arlington, VA

Among the ripple effects of COVID-19 is the psychological strain of isolation. While Arlington works to combat the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, the county is also launching initiatives to address the mental impact.

“We have a lot going on in terms of mental health programs and supports as we navigate through coronavirus,” said Kurt Larrick, assistant director of Arlington’s Department of Human Services.

Larrick said coronavirus has forced the DHS to adapt to new methods of checking in and helping those in need. Therapy and case management are being provided via telehealth tools. Day programs, like Clarendon House, Arlington Weaves, and Arlington Adult Day Program, cannot meet in person so staff is checking in with clients on a daily or weekly basis, Larrick said.

“We just started to pilot a friendly caller program (staring with Meals on Wheels recipients) where we get callers to check in on individuals in the program to help combat loneliness and isolation,” Larrick said. “Since Meals on Wheels switched to weekly deliveries instead of daily deliveries, there isn’t as much interpersonal interaction for people in the program. The friendly caller program addresses this issue.”

Larrick also said DHS has also started Monday-Thursday free online meditation for clients.

For the general public, Larrick said Arlington County has put together a new webpage devoted to connecting people to mental wellness resources and self-care tips during the pandemic. That’s in addition to the county’s updated “Get Help Guide.

“At DHS we haven’t really shut down at all, instead switching to the Assistance from a Distance model to continue to serve clients,” Larrick said. “We have implemented a number of new techniques to stay connected with people and adjusted programs as needed. For people who were facing challenges before COVID — whether that’s employment, food, housing, health, anxiety, substance use, or other behavioral health issues — it’s been an even greater challenge during the pandemic.”

Larrick said people should feel free to call the Arlington Behavioral Healthcare Services Emergency Line at 703-228-5160 or the Children’s Behavioral Healthcare Outpatient Services at 703-228-1560 to seek help.

“We are working hard to support community members and encourage everyone to reach out to friends, family, loved ones, co-workers, neighbors, etc. (safely, of course) to stay connected and remind people that while they may be physically distant, they are not alone,” Larrick said. “For those who need us, we are open and ready to help.”

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Arlington’s residential waste collection crews will be gradually resuming their collection of bulk items, starting next week.

“Limited curbside bulk item trash collection returns the week of May 25 but to avoid overwhelming the crews and system, residents must call 703-228-5000 to schedule a bulk pickup on their trash day,” the county said on its website. “Limited to 100 customers per day the week of May 25 (regular Monday trash routes on Memorial Day); 150 customers per day the week of June 1.”

“Normal unscheduled bulk collection resumes the week of June 8,” the county says.

Bulk items collected curbside include things “that are too bulky to be bagged, bundled or put in the trash cart (e.g., large furniture like sofas, mattresses, box springs, futons or home construction debris).” Those who receive residential trash collection service — mostly those in single-family home neighborhoods — are eligible to have such items picked up.

Collection of yard waste remains suspended amid the pandemic. The suspensions were necessary “due to truck crew health/staffing during coronavirus,” the county said.

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After attempting to pivot to online classes during the pandemic, the Adagio Ballet School of Dance at 4720 Lee Highway is closing.

“With regret, Adagio Ballet, Inc. is closing after 16 years,” the school said in an email, which was forwarded to ARLnow. “This is an extremely sad time for us, because we consider our instructors, staff, students and students’ families to be our family and will greatly miss them.”

The school has two locations, one on Lee Highway and one in McLean. It first switched to online classes on March 16.

Adagio Ballet said restrictions on size of groups and the stay at home order made it impossible to continue holding classes in the studio and began to dramatically reduce the school’s income while expenses remained the same.

“Unfortunately, our Board of Directors has come to the decision that the laws currently in place and the uncertainty of what is to come, leave us no other option but to close,” the school said. “We have adopted a plan that is in accordance with state law for businesses that are closing. Under that plan, we will finish the current online classes through June 20, 2020.”

For classes that have not started, the school said they will try to offer full refunds, though those enrolled in the program could also donate the program fees to support the school teachers and staff.

“To make a donation, send us an email authorizing us to apply your class fees,” Adagio Ballet said. “All donations received will be used to pay Adagio Ballet, Inc.’s teachers and staff, and to continue health insurance for them… The realities of this novel virus, and the laws that have been imposed, leave us no choice but to close our doors.”

Photos via Google MapsAdagio Ballet School of Dance/Facebook

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It’s not a great time to own a restaurant, particularly one that depends on masses of office workers crowding into a small space.

Amid the pandemic, Poke Bar in Rosslyn appears to have closed for good. The two-year-old, assembly line-style eatery on N. Lynn Street was empty this morning, with the furnishings gone.

There was no sign announcing a closure, however, and the location is still listed — albeit without a phone number — on the Poke Bar website.

It’s the latest apparent restaurant casualty in Arlington, with more expected as coronavirus takes a big toll on the industry. Others include Boston Market on Columbia Pike and Champps in Pentagon City, both of which have permanently shuttered before an expected reopening of the region gets underway.

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The Boston Market restaurant at 3233 Columbia Pike has closed its doors permanently.

“Thank you for your support and patronage,” says a sign on the door. “It has been a privilege and honor to serve you. Unfortunately, this Boston Market restaurant has closed. It would be our pleasure to serve you at one of our nearby Boston Market restaurants.”

The nearest location of the rotisserie chicken chain is now outside the Beltway, on Route 1 in Fairfax County.

There’s no word as to whether the closure was due to or accelerated by the pandemic. While numerous local restaurants have been reopening for takeout and delivery, in part due to receiving forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans, there have also been a trickle of recent permanent closures, including Champps in Pentagon City and Momofuku in D.C.

Hat tip to Jim M.

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Another week has passed, and Arlington is still at least partially locked down.

But it feels like the dam has sprung a leak. The roads seem busier, more and more people are getting outside as the weather gets warmer, there are still plenty of people out shopping for food and other essentials, and there’s a sense that everyone is ready to resume something closer to normal life.

Our staff photographer Jay Westcott has been observing life in Arlington during the pandemic. Here’s his latest weekly dispatch.

I keep thinking back to late February and early March for many reasons, some deeply personal, but also because for Arlington, it was our last opportunity for “normal” life pre-coronavirus.

I think about all the interactions I had on any given day, driving around Arlington County and documenting what’s going on in this great community. How many parking meters did I touch? How many cashiers handed me receipts and change and credit cards and groceries? How many elevator buttons did I push? How many door knobs and handrails did I grab? Crosswalk signals pushed?

How we interact with each other and with things will be altered going forward. I hate the terms “reopen” and “go back” because those words imply that the threat is gone. Folks, the threat is still present. Testing still lags significantly here in Arlington.

This is where we adapt our behavior, so we can overcome. Yes, businesses need to figure out a way to operate, but the priority has to be practices that negate the spread of the disease. Since we don’t seem to have any clear guidelines coming from the federal level, it’s taken time to make a plan.

Scientists still don’t fully understand this disease. It may be causing illnesses in children that are similar to Kawasaki disease. We have to adapt our behavior until the rate of infection has decreased significantly. We have to have enough testing in place and we have to be able to contact trace and isolate those infected.

I also keep thinking about about this quote from this Atlantic article: “Models show that if 80 percent of people wear masks that are 60 percent effective, easily achievable with cloth, we can get to an effective R0 of less than one.” What’s so challenging about that?

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During the pandemic ARLnow has been thanking the small business that have stuck with us through these tough times.

We have more to thank, but we also would like to acknowledge some of our non-business sponsors, including George Mason University.

GMU’s (expanding) Virginia Square campus is home to the Schar School of Policy and Government, the Antonin Scalia Law School, and the newly-renamed Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution. It also hosts master’s programs for Mason’s School of Business.

We’re proud to work with GMU and grateful for their support of local news in Arlington.

Be sure to check out GMU’s Juris Master program if you were thinking of bolstering your legal cred at your job, or the Schar School’s May 28 virtual open house to learn more about the master’s degree and graduate certificate programs in policy and government offered at the Arlington campus

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Mexicali Blues is the latest Arlington restaurant to pivot to takeout and delivery during the coronavirus pandemic.

The long-time eatery at 2933 Wilson Blvd in Clarendon reopened Monday with a new ordering and delivery system on its website. The restaurant is offering dinner from 4-8 p.m. daily, and is also delivering via Uber Eats and Doordash (which are, as of today today, in merger talks.)

For curbside pick-up, the restaurant will place food orders on a table outside the restaurant.

Mexicali Blues says it is also offering house margaritas, in mason jars with salt on the side, along with beer for takeout, with food purchases.

Last week, Ireland’s Four Courts in Courthouse reopened, after temporarily closing for a month and a half.

A number of Arlington restaurants have been reopening over the last few weeks, including:

  • Bar Bao, an Asian fusion restaurant at 3100 Clarendon Blvd, reopened for takeout and delivery last Tuesday.
  • Galaxy Hut (2711 Wilson Blvd) reopened this weekend from 4-9 p.m. for vegetarian and vegan options, along with cans of alcohol to go. The bar’s social media said it will be open Fridays and Saturdays at that time moving forward.
  • Federico Ristorante Italiano at 519 23rd Street S. in Crystal City reopened on Sunday for carryout orders. The restaurant offers the usual dishes like pizza, but also sells “party platter” lasagna trays for large groups.
  • Cafe Sazon, a South and Central American restaurant at 4704 Columbia Pike, reopened late last month with a variety of soups, sandwiches, and Latin American appetizers like empanadas.

Photo via Mexicali Blues/Facebook

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The Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) is working to enliven some of the local storefronts during the pandemic.

A new art initiative called #LoveNationalLanding is adding a little color to some of the local businesses across Pentagon City, Crystal City and Potomac Yard, an area that was collectively branded as “National Landing” when Amazon announced its move into the area. The Crystal City BID was also recently approved for a name change and boundary expansion to encompass the entire area.

“The initiative kicked off with the unveiling of an array of vibrant artwork featuring sunbursts, blooming flowers, and oversized hearts emboldened with encouraging messages across several storefronts in National Landing,” the BID said in a press release. “Drawing inspiration from Andy Shallal’s #PaintTheStorefronts program, and neighborhoods across the country that have utilized art to beautify the public realm during the COVID-19 crisis, the BID worked with curator Tom Pipkin to select a lineup of local artists who were then tasked with creating facade designs that would serve as a source of community-wide inspiration.”

Chosen artists include:

The BID said local storefronts that are getting the artwork include Commonwealth Joe, Enjera, Freddie’s Beach Bar, Jaleo, and Los Tios, with more storefronts planned. A video, below, shows one of the murals being created at the Vintage Dress Company on 23rd Street S.

“We are thrilled to introduce our #LoveNationalLanding campaign and couldn’t think of a better way to launch this initiative than the painted storefront campaign, which conveys our unwavering support for our small businesses and the vital role that public art plays in our community,” said Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, Crystal City BID president and executive director, in the press release.  “As this initiative advances over the course of the month, residents, workers and visitors can expect to encounter additional bursts of color and messages of encouragement throughout the National Landing area.”

Another muralist team, Brocoloco, has also been enlisted to create vinyl wraps for welcomes boxes and 100 street decals with messages placed around Crystal City.

Photos via Crystal City BID/Facebook

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If this were a Navy deployment, we’ve reached the part where “scuttlebutt” starts to spread throughout the ship.

Rumors and innuendo on where we are going and what the mission might be run rampant, especially through the lower ranks and the people who are the least likely to actually know what’s going on.

In times like this, the captain of the ship would address the crew and reassure all the sailors under his command that things would be alright. We would get through the tough times together, and he would tell us we needed to stay focused on what is important. He would remind us to stay safe, follow our procedures and protocols, and listen to our leadership and follow orders.

Some of that leadership seems to be lacking at the federal level, and at the state level things vary so drastically from state to state that it’s hard to make sense of what to do. Here in Arlington, cases are going up though the rate at which they are going up is declining ,at least for now.

The CDC recommends wearing face masks when going out in public places, where maintaining six feet distance from others is difficult and unlikely. If everybody wears masks, the rate of transmission drops. And as this Atlantic article points out, “If 80 percent of the people wear masks that are 60 percent effective… that’s enough to halt the progress of the disease.”

We can’t be complacent, we can’t look at this and say “let’s get back to what was” or “we need to re-open.” Until there is a vaccine that eradicates this virus, we have to learn how to adapt to living with it as a potential risk to each of our lives.

A training mantra in the military is “adapt and overcome.” In this case, until there is adequate testing and contact tracing, we have to adapt our routines and wardrobes to include staying away from people you don’t live with by at least six feet and wearing a face mask. It’s really that simple. This is the “adapt” part. Let’s do our part to adapt until those at the helm of our research find a vaccine that can overcome this.

This past week, in my observations, more Arlingtonians seem to be wearing masks. People are keeping six feet apart from each other, mostly. The cost of the flyover by the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds last weekend can be debated ad nauseam, but it was nice to share in a collective moment, together. As long as you were six feet away from strangers.

Jay Westcott is ARLnow’s staff photographer. See more of his work on our Instagram account.

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An Arlington pharmacy and a neighboring kabob restaurant have partnered to help feed hospital workers.

Preston’s Pharmacy (5101 Lee Highway) sits directly across the street from Arlington Kabob (5046 Lee Highway). While business during the pandemic has been active at Preston’s, an essential business, pharmacy owner Frank Odeh said he could tell it’s been hard on Arlington Kabob.

“They’re a small business struggling during COVID-19,” Odeh said. “We decided to work with them. They would supply the food, we’re trying to give them some business and exposure. The owner, Susan, is an entrepreneur and a hard worker. We’re working with them and working with [Virginia Hospital Center] every week, picking a different department. Last week it was the ICU, next week it’s the emergency department.”

Odeh said that while the pharmacy is paying for the food to help keep Arlington Kabob in business, the kabob restaurant has been giving them a significant discount.

Preston’s Pharmacy has remained open, but Odeh admitted that business is still slower than it normally is.

“Business is down, although we’re fortunate not having to lay off or furlough any employees,” Odeh said. “It’s down, but because we’re a pharmacy, people still need chronic medication. People like those who are HIV positive, or diabetics, still need their medicine.”

Odeh said the decline has been in acute business, like treatment for smaller issues that Odeh said are likely overlooked during the pandemic, with many doctor’s offices closed down, social distancing cutting down on colds and flu, and hospitals focused on COVID-19.

Hand sanitizer, on the other hand, has been flying off the shelves so quickly that Preston’s Pharmacy has started making their own.

“We have a lab in the pharmacy and we’re able to produce hand sanitizer,” Odeh said. “We’re selling that and donating a portion of that [to local senior centers].”

Odeh said the mixture is 70% alcohol, which they buy in bulk from different vendors and can be hard to come by, mixed with methocel to give it a thickness.

“It’s relatively new for us,” Odeh said. “In the past, we haven’t needed to because it’s been available from manufacturers like Purell, but because of COVID-19 it has become in very short supply. We’ve ordered bottles and labels. It looks like a professionally made product.”

Odeh said the state board, CDC and FDA have all given them the green light to compound in bulk, a process that’s been fast-tracked due to COVID-19.

The other big seller, Odeh said, has been vitamins.

“[We] sold out on things like Vitamin C and elderberry,” Odeh said. “Vitamin sales have gone through the room. Vitamin D, C and elderberry have immune-boosting properties. People are following trends. There was a study recently about using Pepcid and ulcer medication [to fight coronavirus] and we sold out of that.”

To keep customers and employees safe, Odeh said everyone in the store wears masks and there are plexiglass shields at the registers. Customers are routed through the pharmacy along arrows on the floor and asked to stay six feet apart.

Photos courtesy Preston’s Pharmacy

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