Alexandria, VA

COVID-19 has definitely put a damper on the already slimmed-down list of winter activities, but there are still dozens of activities residents can start registering for next week.

Registration is offered through the City of Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 9, for City residents and on Friday, Dec. 11, for nonresidents. Winter registration applies to programs taking place January through March 2021.

Programs currently offered include a table game tournament (like ping pong and air hockey), dance classes, hula hoop classes and other socially distanced activities.

“Get ready for a flurry of fun this winter with a variety of in-person options for all ages, plus new virtual programs,” the city said in a press release. “View a complete list of winter programs online. Due to potential schedule and capacity adjustments from COVID-19, a printed or online program guide will not be produced for the winter program season.”

The city said in the press release that health guidelines include symptom screening, face masked, enhanced cleaning and physical distancing protocols. Be sure to register early, because the city noted that limited COVID-19 capacity meant indoor activities will have a smaller capacity than usual.

Photo via City of Alexandria/Facebook  

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The Friendship Firehouse Museum has come to the rescue yet again. With Alexandria’s Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend called off this year, the city’s oldest firehouse will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5.

The one-day-only event costs $2 for an entire group of up to per ticket (free for city residents), and only groups of 10 people will be allowed in at a time. The museum has sporadically opened since the onset of the pandemic, and anyone wanting to stay safe can also take a Google 360 virtual tour.

The Friendship Fire Company harkens back to 1774, and is the first fire company in Alexandria. It opened at its current location at 107 S. Alfred Street in Old Town in 1855, and displays include fire engines from the 19th century, hoses, buckets and axes.

The museum is asking visitors the following:

  • Wash hands upon arrival (in museum restrooms or at hand-sanitizing station at the entrance)
  • Wear a face covering while visiting as required by the Commonwealth of Virginia (exceptions include children under 10 and people with health conditions that do not allow them to wear face coverings)
  • Follow one-way traffic patterns through the museum and maintain physical distancing
  • Limit group sizes to less than ten people
  • Please do not touch exhibits or displays

In case you missed it, Alexandria’s official holiday ornament this year features the 1858 Prettyman Hose-Reel Carriage, which usually stands on display in the firehouse and is being completely renovated. The ornament costs $20.

Photo via Friendship Fire Company/Facebook

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While the Scottish Christmas Parade is cancelled this year, President and CEO of The Campagna Center Tammy Mann said the non-profit’s early childhood programs that rely on the fundraising this weekend are no less in demand.

Usually, The Campagna Center hosts a holiday store, where families can come into the building and an entire floor is dedicated to giving low-income families a positive holiday shopping experience. This year, The Campagna Center is planning an alternative drive-through program on Saturday for families in the program.

“Given health challenge, not going to be able to set it up that way,” Mann said. “We have about 400 families that we’re going to be providing books, grocery gift cards, and stocking stuffers for children. We’re grateful that we’re able to do it, and I know our families have been incredibly responsive to the many ways we’ve adapted and been able to get things to them during this period… But obviously if we could have that experience, that would be what you would want, so parents could choose the things they want.”

Mann said instead of allowing children to pick their own gifts, The Campagna Center staff packaged toys for children.

Mann also said the Scottish Christmas Parade is one of the most high-visible events for The Campagna Center, and she’s worried future programs won’t have the kind of fundraising and support the parade. Weekend events hosted around the Scottish Christmas Parade generally bring in around $250,000 for The Campagna Center.

“While parade is not happening, needs we have to address since pandemic began go on,” Mann said. “We are definitely wanting people to be aware of the cause behind it and find ways to contribute and support the work.”

That funding goes to support programs like one that provides an in-person learning space for children K-5 if their parents are not able to work from home. The in-person learning program has been in operation at two sites since classes started this summer.

Mann said the program has already been more expensive than it usually is because of the added cost of PPE and COVID testing for staff.

“The cost of taking all of that on has been something where we had to get creative on raising funds to support,” Mann said. “Parents are not evenly sharing in that because it’s a sliding payscale based on income.”

Donations can be made to the program through their website: either in small donations starting at $25 or larger donations for companies, organizations or individuals called Guardian Angels.

As Mann looks to the next year, she said it’s difficult to plan what comes next with the situation being as uncertain as it is.

“The need for after care services will continue to exist,” Mann said, “[but it’s] hard to predict what that will look and feel like. “

Right now, Mann said her focus is on adapting to changing plans for school structure. The Campagna Center also continues to operate an emergency diaper bank for families and offering tutoring services.

“There are a number of outreach efforts underway in December that, as families move into the holidays, there are things they won’t have to worry about or figure out how to make happen,” Mann said. “We appreciate all that folk have done in the city.”

Photo via The Campagna Center/Facebook

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The City of Alexandria is urging locals to become acquainted with overdose treatment as cases rise both statewide and locally.

“The Virginia Department of Health’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reports that 2020 may be the worst year on record for fatal overdoses in Virginia,” the city said in a press release. “Preliminary figures from the second quarter of 2020 indicate a 66.8% increase in fatal drug overdoses in Virginia from the same period in 2019, suggesting a possible correlation with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The city release liked the increase to collective stress from the COVID-19 pandemic. The city urged residents engaging in substance abuse to seek treatment and recovery programs offered by the city.

“The City and the Alexandria Community Services Board offer an opioid treatment program, the Alexandria Residential Treatment Center, mental health and substance abuse residential services, outpatient treatment for substance use disorders and a Narcan-by-mail delivery program,” the city said.

The total number of fatal overdoses has increased in Virginia from 1,626 in 2019 to 2,053 just in the first half of 2020.

“Of those, 1,701 were related to opioid related overdoses,” the city said, “with 474 related to prescription opioids and 1,498 related to fentanyl, heroin, or both.”

There were 69 opioid overdoses in Alexandria in 2018, of which eight were fatal. In 2019, there were 73 opioid overdoses, of which 14 were fatal. As of November 30, 2020, there have been 85 opioid overdoses, of which 13 were fatal.

The city said residents can get access to Narcan, which can help someone experiencing an overdose, for free by mail.

“The drug Naloxone, also known as Narcan, can save the life of someone who is experiencing an opioid overdose, if given in time,” the city said. “Any Alexandria resident can obtain Narcan by mail for free by emailing their name and address to [email protected] or pick up a dose of the easy-to-use nasal spray by calling the Alexandria Health Department at 703.746.4888 or the City’s Opioid Response Coordinator at 703.746.3326. Narcan is also available at pharmacies without a prescription.”

Staff photo by Airey

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Women’s clothing store LOFT (423 King Street) has permanently closed.

The store had mostly positive reviews and was often busy, but was victim to Ascena Retail Group’s wider bankruptcy filings. The store had survived earlier rounds of closings this summer, which had claimed the stores in the Tysons Corner Center and Potomac Mills Mall but was closed as of early December.

The next closest LOFT locations are in Arlington at Pentagon Row (1201 South Joyce Street) and Clarendon (2700 Clarendon Blvd).

Hat tip to @OldTownDogWalks, photo via Google Maps

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A new restaurant could be coming to the west end of Carlyle

Developers are looking for  anew restaurant to fill between 1,708-9,600 rentable square feet of space in the new Shops at Carlyle Tower development along Eisenhower.

A flyer put out by the developer noted that the site could also feature outdoor seating near the busy intersection.

The corner is a prime location, located at the corner of Eisenhower Avenue and Stovall Street off the exit to I-495. The location is also directly across from the Eisenhower Metro Station — a claim that could be less prestigious if Metro plans to move forward with closing the station. The corner is also close to the National Science Foundation and the Patent and Trademark Office a little further down Eisenhower Avenue.

The corner is planned as a new Shops at Carlyle Tower rebranding of what locals know as the Hoffman Town Center. The planned restaurant is neighbored by Starbucks and a recently sold Cold Stone Creamery.

Rendering via Carlyle Tower.

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Morning Notes

Today Marks 69th Anniversary of Annexation of the West End — “Happy Annexation Day, West end! Today, December 3rd in 1951, the city of Alexandria received the land west of Quaker Lane, doubling the size of the city!” [John Chapman/Facebook]

Alexandria Libraries Go Back to Curbside Only — “Effective this Monday, Dec. 7, the library will offer curbside-only and virtual services until further notice. Although library buildings will be closed, library staff will offer telephone support and virtual reference during curbside hours.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Affordable Housing Breaks Ground Today — “The project is a partnership between Wesley Housing and Fairlington Presbyterian Church to redevelop the underutilized church parking lot into an 81-unit multifamily development. A groundbreaking is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 9, though because of coronavirus the ceremony will be kept to limited attendance.” [ALXnow]

Alexandria Restarts Search for Municipal Broadband — “On Monday, the Alexandria city officials reissued an Invitation to Bid (ITB) for the construction of a Municipal Fiber Network. This is step one of a project that will connect city offices via high-speed fiber.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Vehicle Safety Inspection Enforcement Resumes — “On Tuesday, the City of Alexandria announced enforcement of Virginia vehicle safety inspections has resumed. That enforcement had been suspended since August.” [Patch]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Alexandria’s continued and weekly unemployment claims are continuing to go down, according to the Virginia Employment Commission.

There were 1,513 continued claims for the week ending Nov. 21, a slight decrease from the 1,628 continued claims filed for the week for the week ending Nov. 14. There were also 1,933 continued claims for the week ending Nov. 7; 1,942 continued claims for the week ending Oct. 31; 2,340 claims for the week ending Oct. 24; 2,353 claims for the week ending Oct. 17; and 2,891 claims for the week ending Oct. 10.

There were 112 initial (first-time) claims for the week ending Nov. 21, down from the previous week, which saw 173 initial claims. There were also 102 initial claims for the week ending Nov. 7; 164 initial claims for the week ending Oct. 31; 123 claims for the week ending Oct. 24; 163 claims for the week ending Oct. 17; and 125 claims for the week ending Oct. 10.

The week ending Nov. 21 was the 36th week since the pandemic began in Virginia, and unemployment has gone down significantly since the spring and summer. In April, for instance, there were nearly 7,000 initial unemployment claims in Alexandria.

Throughout Virginia there were 81,138 continued claims for the week ending Nov. 14, which is a 4.7% decrease from the previous week. There were also 12,234 initial claims, which is an increase of 1,146 claimants from the previous week.

Incidentally, the Alexandria Workforce Development Center hosts weekly workshops to help residents get jobs.

According to VEC:

Nationwide, in the week ending November 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 778,000, an increase of 30,000 from the previous week’s revised level. The previous week’s level was revised up by 6,000 from 742,000 to 748,000. The advance number of actual initial claims under state programs, unadjusted, totaled 827,710 in the week ending November 21, an increase of 78,372 (or 10.5 percent) from the previous week. There were 252,428 initial claims in the comparable week in 2019. Looking at preliminary data, most states reported increases on a seasonally unadjusted basis. Illinois’s preliminary weekly change (+18,255) was the largest increase among states. Michigan’s preliminary weekly change (+15,843) was the second largest increase. Others included Washington (+13,179), California (+9,157), New Mexico (+8,037), and Minnesota (+7,898). Virginia’s preliminary weekly change (+4,752) was the 11th largest increase.

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On Friday, a government contractor is finally moving into the Victory Center.

The first Jason Bourne movie, The Bourne Identity, is the featured screening at The Victory Center (5001 Eisenhower Avenue). Drive-in movies have been popular this year, with movie theaters remaining closed.

The event is sponsored by The Garden and ALX Community. Tickets are $35 per car and benefit local non-profit Athena Rapid Response.

The program is scheduled to begin at 7:45 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4.

Food trucks are also scheduled to be on-site providing savory and sweet concessions with online ordering.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Need a new best friend? The Animal Welfare League of Alexandria says that their number of pet adoptions is up this year.

“It’s a very stressful time and a pet can really be a companion, they can provide support,” Gina Hardter, a spokesperson with the AWLA told ALXnow. “Even though this is a terrible time it’s been a wonderful time to show us just what is important in our lives, and one of those things is the unconditional love that a pet can give.”

Hardter said that adoptions have increased 3% over last year, a significant little jump since the AWLA was forced to suspend adoptions in April. The nonprofit also canceled events and then shifted to a virtual adoption format that lasted until in-person appointments resumed in July.

AWLA, which is still running by appointment-only, currently has about 60 pets available, including dogs, cats, turtles, rabbits and parakeets.

The adoptees include the inseparable two-year-old kitties Naya and Egypt (pictured above). The lifelong friends were recently featured in the following video with an AWLA volunteer.

AWLA is keeping one tradition alive — its annual Home for the Pawlidays event where adoption fees are waived for all pets above six months old. The event kicks off this Saturday (Dec. 5) and runs through the end of the month.

Hardter also said that most of the pets featured in ALXnow’s weekly Pet Pick posts have been adopted.

“Over the past weeks, most of the animals you have helped us promote have been adopted, including Reno, Ace and Jasmine,” she said.

Hardter said that AWLA’s team of nearly 40 full and part-time staff deserve high praise.

“I’ve seen our staff go above and beyond to try new things to help the animals, to keep people safe and all while still trying to do our main job of connecting animals with people who love them,” she said. “I think our team here has just done amazing. I would rate them off the charts. They’ve had flexibility, they’ve had patience, they’ve had compassion and I’m honored to work with them.”

Photos via AWLA

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