Life Goes On, But Not as Usual in Arlington

Schools will remain closed through the end of the school year to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

From Virginia Department of Health:

Cases of COVID-19 are surging in Virginia. We need everyone’s help to stop the spread.

VDH urges all Virginians to stay home and practice social distancing. If you have to go out, stay 6 feet away from others.

Avoid public spaces, public activities, and group gatherings. Do not take public transportation such as buses, trains, taxis, or ride-shares, if possible.

Arlingtonians adjust to a new reality the first week after the coronavirus pandemic is declared in the nation. According to the State Department of Health, 3,697 Virginians have been tested for the disease, with 254 cases and 38 hospitalized as of Monday, March 23. There have been six deaths. Across the Northern Virginia region as of March 23, Arlington has 34 and Fairfax County has 43 confirmed cases.

Dogs are getting more walks than usual, small children wobble down the sidewalk on scooters, at-home parents swing a giant jump rope for a small child in the middle of the street. Slides sit empty in usually crowded playgrounds. A lone swimmer does laps at Tuckahoe Pool.

Senior customers in line at the pharmacy chat about whether the grocery store’s senior hours are in effect yet but comment it won’t help them because they aren’t up in the morning and ready to go by 7-9 a.m. or earlier.

Grocery store employees wander the aisles with spray bottles and wipes as they clean vacant shelves, check-out lines and counter surfaces. Shelves are empty as delivery trucks struggle to keep up.

A post on the NextDoor website offers to do errands or deliver groceries for neighbors at risk of becoming infected with coronavirus. People post home recipes for hand sanitizers, since shelves remain empty at drugstores, grocery stories and hardware stores.

Customers in line at Starbucks buy coffee for the person in line behind them as a cheerful surprise. Plumbers arrive in protective masks to clean out the sewer pipes from a house to the yard. A couple sits on their patio mid-afternoon getting a sunburn in the unexpectedly hot weather.

Child care centers receive a letter from the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Social Services sent March 18 laying out guidelines for centers that remain open while urging the families to stay at home with their families if at all possible. “This will help ensure spaces for essential personnel in need of child care as they directly support the COVID-19 response efforts.”

The letter limits capacities of child care settings to 10 individuals per room including staff. It urges frequent hand washing, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces frequently touched, eating meals in the classroom and conducting regular health checks of health and children to look for symptoms of health and fever. It loosens requirements for eligibility for the nearly 25,000 children in Virginia’s Child Care Subsidy Program.

Arlington Food Assistance Center hires new part-time staff to handle the drop in volunteers, extends hours and marks pavements to establish distance for AFAC clients, prebags groceries to speed distributions and allow for additional pop-up sites as needed.

Many restaurants voluntarily close indefinitely while others post Grab and Go signs and serve meals from the curb. A woman and her poodle drive up to Pie-tanza’s curbside service to pick up a goat cheese salad. The waiter says they served 80 customers last night. “It was crazy.”

Bayou Bakery pairs with real Food for Kids to provide free lunches for families outside the restaurant weekdays during school closure. Kenmore Middle School and Dr. Charles Drew Elementary School pass out free lunches and breakfasts to school children at tables outside each school. By noon on Friday, Drew has already passed out 230 lunches of ham and cheese sandwiches and tamales in a slight drizzle.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Monday that public schools in Virginia will remain closed through the end of the school year.

Arlington schools are posting daily on-line assignments to keep structure for students. One mother, who has children at Jamestown Elementary, Williamsburg Middle School and Yorktown High School, says the assignments are meant to provide consistency, and many aren’t graded. “They are not meant to be stressful but to just keep things more normal.”

She says it has been a little frantic for high school teachers with the third quarter just ending and kids trying to get into college. “But the teachers have been so responsive. The science teacher has set up a group video chat with students to check in on how they are doing.”

The lacrosse coach has been sending home drills. “This is their big lacrosse season and it is heartbreaking for the kids to lose an entire season. They take it so personally.”

Virginia Hospital Center announces a partnership with Arlington County to open a temporary drive-through COVID-19 sample collection site. They state this site is for “symptomatic patients (fevers, chills, cough or shortness of breath) who have received a written order for COVID-19 testing from a licensed health care provider and have scheduled an appointment. It is not meant for asymptomatic patients.” Once they have received the order they should call the VHC COVID-19 scheduling line at 703-558-5766 between the hours of 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

Richard Hermann says, “I was just at Virginia Hospital Center for treatment. They have no masks. Some nurses were cutting up gowns in order to make ersatz masks. The nurses are overworked and stressed.”

Arlington Closes Its Parks, Fields, and Playgrounds

Arlington County is committed to the health and safety of our community and our employees. Effectively immediately, all Arlington County/APS parks, fields, playgrounds, restrooms, tracks, dog parks and courts are closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Signs will be posted at all affected locations. Park visitors are asked to adhere to all closure notices and current social distancing recommendations.

Trails and community gardens are also closed to groups.

Please exercise and garden alone.

In order to stop the spread of COVID-19, it is important that everyone take personal responsibility and practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently.

To keep updated on the status of COVID-19, visit the County’s coronavirus website. Be sure to sign up for Arlington Alert for County updates and Parks & Recreation’s eNews.

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