Alexandria, VA

The long-vacant Victory Center (5001 Eisenhower Avenue) has found new, temporary life as a major vaccination hub for Inova Health System that will open by the end of March.

The new center is the end result of what officials described as a “Herculean effort” at collaboration between Fairfax County, the City of Alexandria and Inova.

“There is palpable hope and excitement,” said Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, echoing earlier comments from the first vaccination event at ACPS. “The beginning of the end is here.”

The long vacant, unfinished interior office of the Victory Center was reconfigured and redesigned to support the mass-vaccination usage, with rows and rows of stations between the unfinished furnishings that are a reminder of the building’s former disuse.

Dr. Stephen Jones, President and CEO of Inova, said the facility will open by the end of the month with the expectation of dispensing 6,000 vaccines per day, provided those vaccines are available. That could double if the supply of doses increase, though Jones said he is wary of making predictions on vaccine availability.

While the project is a major boost to the region’s capacity, leaders recognized that the choke point remains supply.

“Supply continues to be our greatest limiting factor,” said Jones.

Wilson said earlier that the city is receiving roughly 3,000 doses weekly, which includes second doses for those who already had their first. This is an increase over the 2,000 weekly doses the city had been receiving, but still means that it could be late summer before many residents get vaccinated at the current rate. Many teachers are still struggling to get access to vaccines even as they’re expected to return to school, and the city just opened the current phase of vaccination to restaurant workers.

Jeff McKay, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said Fairfax also recently increased its vaccine supply and expects more in the coming weeks. McKay noted that the new facility is designed to meet a potential increase in supply to prevent vaccines from going unused.

“Roughly half of Fairfax County residents are currently eligible for the vaccine,” said McKay. “We get 19,000 doses every week, which is up from 13,000 weeks ago. We were told by the [state] to expect a major increase in doses in the coming weeks. We want to have the infrastructure to take care of those doses. We can’t control the dosage, but what is in our control is capacity.”

“We’ve seen areas where the vaccine has sat unused, but that’s not true in Northern Virginia,” Jones added. “We want to be sure that doesn’t happen.”

Jones said the Victory Center was ideal not only for the available interior space, but for its proximity to the Beltway and transit options — there’s a Metrobus stop out front and the Van Dorn Street Metro station is just a short walk to the west.

Jones thanked Alexandria for simplifying a potentially several-month development process down to a few weeks.

Jones clarified that queuing for the vaccine doesn’t require a credit check or insurance — though the latter is optional — but will require patients to provide the last four digits of their social security number. The requirement provides a hurdle for undocumented residents of the region, many whom live in some of the city’s most vulnerable populations, but Jones said it’s necessary to verify the identity of those who receive the vaccine.

“We do require the last four of the social security number to confirm people’s identity,” Jones said. “It’s been heartbreaking to be at the front door when people come up and we don’t have a way to verify who they are.”

McKay said Fairfax County has partnered with organizations like Neighborhood Health to provide access to the vaccine for those who might not otherwise have the required documentation, and Alexandria has similar partnerships that have solidified over the course of the pandemic.

“If someone is not a citizen we have ways to refer them to [resources],” McKay said. “A lot of these people are in high risk situations… We want every person who can be vaccinated to get the vaccine.”

Jones also noted that Inova has been running a program called Inova Cares Clinics designed specifically to cater towards underserved communities.

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The Del Ray Business Association just launched a GoFundMe campaign to support Inova Alexandria Hospital.

Hospital workers are on the front line of the pandemic in the city, and the DRBA campaign is just the latest of numerous efforts to show appreciation.

“Here’s the important thing to know — every dollar that you contribute will go directly for a meal for a local hero,” according to DRBA. “To show our gratitude and support, our community is undertaking two initaitives.  One is a letter writing campaign that will be delivered to Inova Hospital workers for Valentine’s Day and the second is a fundraiser to fund meals provided by our local Del Ray restaurants.”

Here’s how it works:

  • Contribute funds to provide a meal or meals to healthcare workers and their essential teams – every $15 purchases a meal!  Our goal is to raise $3,750 to purchase 250 meals  for the workers
  • Write a thank you letter or make a card, to be presented to workers at INOVA Alexandria Hospital on Saturday, February 6 from 8am to 12pm, or leave them in the basket on the porch at 110 E. Del Ray Avenue
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Morning Notes

Beyer: Trump Must Be Removed — Rep. Don Beyer: “Donald Trump is a danger to our democracy. I continue to support his impeachment and removal from office, and am looking carefully at new articles of impeachment being drafted and offered by my colleagues… Congress must ensure Trump’s removal from office by the swiftest and surest method available: confirmation of the American people’s will as expressed in the 2020 election.” [Press Release]

Current Inova Site to Become Residential Development — “At an online community meeting Wednesday evening, attorney Cathy Puskar said the hospital will be requesting a rezoning of its current Seminary Road/Howard Street property to allow a future developer to build single family detached homes and townhomes. The current hospital is surrounded by single family homes and multifamily units.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Local Experts Suggest Gentle New Year’s Resolutions — “For 2021, local mental health professionals advise being gentle with yourself when creating the daily schedules and resolutions that often come with the beginning of the New Year. As many are feeling drained and defeated after a tumultuous 2020, making tiny, downsized resolutions can offer reassurance and hope as we embark on a new year.” [Alexandria Gazette]

Local Historian to Host Lecture on Washington Presidency — “Alexandria resident Dr. Lindsay M. Chervinsky will host the virtual lecture “George Washington and France” on Thursday, Jan. 7. Chervinsky, who is a former White House Historian at the White House Historical Association, wrote about Washington and his cabinet for a recent book.” [Zebra]

The Unofficial History of the Hard Times Horse — “The horse and 1941 Chevy pick-up truck is another one of the legacies left by Fred Parker, who died in April after a battle with cancer. The horse and truck have stood proudly in front of the restaurant and have been featured in local parades.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

Citizens’ Association Frustrated With ADU Policy Progress — “NRCA supported eight reasonable restrictions and prohibitions on ADUs…we are very disappointed that the vast majority of [our] comments and proposals were not included in the current version of the policy.” [Twitter]

Over 60 Restaurants Participate in January Restaurant Week — “For an extended two-week period, more than 60 restaurants in Alexandria, Virginia, will offer a $49 takeout, delivery or curbside pick-up dinner for two during Alexandria Restaurant Week To-Go, January 22 – February 7, 2021.” [Zebra]

Alexandria-based United Way Accused of Rewarding Sexist Behavior — “For decades, misogyny has been rampant across the organization’s leadership, according to detailed accounts from nine former United Way workers employed at the organization from the early 1990s to the beginning of 2020.” [Business Insider]

Blood Supply Low at Inova — “Inova Blood Donor Services estimates it must collect 200 units of must collect 200 units of blood, platelet, plasma and double red cells a day to meet the needs of the community. As of Jan. 4, the red blood cell inventory is below the desired levels for most blood types.” [Patch]

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(Updated 4 p.m.) Shortly after the first community meeting on plans for Landmark Mall, Inova is planning to host a second meeting tomorrow to discuss potential rezoning of Inova Alexandria Hospital’s current Seminary Hill site.

Current plans for the hospital are to be rezoned and redeveloped as residential properties, a move that has drawn some praise from local civic associations, according to Alexandria Living Magazine.

Still, the final vision for what new development looks like at the current Seminary Hill location is unclear. The City clarified that no permits or plans have been approved so far.

According to a news release from the City of Alexandria:

On December 22, Inova, in partnership with Foulger-Pratt and the City, announced a redevelopment proposal to construct a new hospital and mixed-use district at the former Landmark Mall site. In order to facilitate the relocation of the hospital from its current location to Landmark Mall, Inova plans to work with the community as it moves forward with a request to rezone the existing hospital site at Seminary Road for a variety of residential uses.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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The primary forces behind the Landmark Mall redevelopment are hosting a meeting tonight to discuss upcoming details of the project.

Foulger-Pratt, Inova Health System, City of Alexandria are hosting a virtual meeting tonight (Monday) from 7-8:30 pm. to discuss plans for the joint four million-square-foot project that will include a new medical campus at the former Landmark Mall. Plans call for a project that would revitalize the West End with a “new mixed-use, walkable urban village.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said in his January newsletter that the redevelopment will bring a billion dollars in new investments to the region.

“Despite over two decades of decline, it is not a mystery why we had been unable to spur redevelopment on this site in the past,” Wilson wrote. “It is a complicated site, with a complicated ownership structure requiring significant infrastructure investment.”

The video can be watched via YouTube or Facebook Live and questions can be submitted in advance.

“Inova would create a new medical campus, anchored by a relocated and expanded Alexandria Hospital,” the City of Alexandria said in a press release. “The site would include residential, retail, commercial and entertainment offerings integrated into a cohesive neighborhood with a central plaza, a network of parks and public spaces, a new fire-EMS station, and a transit hub serving bus rapid transit, DASH, and Metrobus.”

Image via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Travel and Leisure Promotes Alexandria as Road Trip Destination — “An easy four-hour drive from New York and just ten minutes from the nation’s capital, the waterfront city balances the sophistication of an urban metropolis with the neighborly vibes of a small town.” [Travel and Leisure]

Inova Could be Rezoned as Single Family Homes — “Current plans call for the hospital property to be sold and rezoned for single family homes and townhomes, according to information provided by the City of Alexandria.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

Del Ray Decorated With Holiday Cards — “The streets are lined with over 30 cards made of plywood and paint. The increase in cards from previous years comes from being at home due to COVID-19.” [WFXR]

Vaccine Distribution Starts Across Virginia — “As of Sunday, 38,172 vaccine doses have been administered in Virginia.” [Patch]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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(Updated 12:30 p.m.) While COVID-19 is on the rise in Alexandria, Dr. Rina Bansal, President of Inova Alexandria Hospital, said hospitalizations for the virus are higher but remaining stable.

“It’s busy,” Bansal said. “We’re managing admissions and discharges. The key is to make sure patients who don’t need to be in the hospital can be discharged quickly. We’re open and here to care about the community.”

Bansal said the winter season is already busier than the rest of the year before the added complication of COVID. But the hospital is managing, with staff starting to receive the vaccine and the hospital recently recognized for quality and safety.

“We have a higher [count] than we did four weeks ago,” Bansal said. “We did see an increase but it’s more stable now. Went up to the 40s but we’re not seeing an increase in the day by day, week by week basis that we did earlier.”

Bansal said one of the key differences is the first wave of COVID-19 was characterized by the most vulnerable populations getting sick and requiring hospital care.

“This time, it includes people who are younger,” Bansal said. “There are people who are not getting sick enough to come into the hospital or turning around more quickly. From a treatment perspective, we’ve also learned so much in the last few months and clinical management is better. It makes it easier to care for patients.”

Still, Bansal urged locals not to socialize or gather for the winter holidays after a nationwide uptick in cases after Thanksgiving.

“People want to socialize and we would definitely recommend against that,” Bansal said.

Bansal also encouraged locals to come in and get their flu shots. During the first wave of the pandemic, Bansal said the hospital had issues where those who should have come in for check ups and medical issues were avoiding the hospital due to COVID-19.

“We continue to be open and fully operational,” Bansal said. “Don’t be scared to come into the hospital.”

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Two more Alexandria residents have died from COVID-19, and the total case count in the city since the pandemic started in March is now at 4,444. That’s an increase of 81 cases since Monday.

A woman and a man in their 80s are the latest victims of the virus, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Of the 76 deaths, 98% have been residents above the age of 50.

Additionally, Inova Alexandra hospital is at 68% capacity, which Mayor Justin Wilson said “is perfectly normal.”

“They have right now 12 patients that they are treating in Inova Alexandria (Hospital) who are COVID-positive,” Wilson reported in his monthly town hall meeting on Thursday night. “And they have another 17 patients that are under investigation. These are folks who may likely have COVID but have not yet tested positive.”

Health care workers also make up 305 positive COVID cases, according to VDH.

Demographics

There are or have been 2,297 women (with 38 deaths) and 2,134 men (with 38 deaths) in Alexandria with the virus. The only age groups that have not experienced a death so far are children and teenagers.

  • 80+    — 33 deaths, 130 cases
  • 70-79 — 21 deaths, 152 cases
  • 60-69 — Five deaths, 329 cases
  • 50-59 — 14 deaths, 556 cases
  • 40-49 — One death, 764 cases
  • 30-39 — One death, 1,009 cases
  • 20-29 — One death, 867 cases
  • 10-19  — Zero deaths, 314 cases
  • 0-9     — Zero deaths, 311 cases

Latino residents have the most infections with 2,015 reported cases (with 13 deaths), and Black (19 deaths) and white residents (40 deaths) both have 927 cases apiece. There are 162 cases with Asian or Pacific Islander residents (and one death), 108 cases classified as “other” (with two deaths) and four native American cases.

There have also been 35 outbreaks in the city, including 12 at long term care facilities, 17 in congregate settings, four in child care settings, one at a college and one in a K-12 setting. There have been 455 cases associated with the outbreaks.

Across Virginia, there have been 3,682 deaths and there are or have been 188,770 cases of the virus. There have been 2.7 million PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and the state’s seven-day positivity rate is 5.9%.

Testing Update

There have been 53,065 COVID tests administered in the city so far and 5,414 antibody tests. The city’s seven-day positivity rate is now at 3.8%.

  • Arlington County has 4,919 cases, 154 deaths and a 4.9% seven-day positivity rate
  • Fairfax County has 25,152 cases, 609 deaths and a 5.3% seven-day positivity rate
  • Loudoun County has 8,225 cases, 134 deaths and a 6.3% seven-day positivity rate

Need a test? Inova is now offering vehicle-side and walk-in testing services for diagnosing flu and COVID-19, at the Victory Center parking lot (5001 Eisenhower Avenue).

Cases By ZIP Code

The areas of the city with the leading number of cases are the 22304, 22305 and 22312 ZIP codes, which include the West End and Arlandria, Potomac Yard and Potomac West neighborhoods.

Some of the areas share jurisdictions between Alexandria and Arlington and Fairfax Counties:

  • 22301 — 171 cases, 4,57653 people tested (Estimated population 15,171)
  • 22302 — 480 cases, 8,174 people tested (Estimated population 20,238)
  • 22304 — 1,398 cases, 15,883 people tested (Estimated population 54,003)
  • 22305 — 890 cases, 6,271 people tested (Estimated population 16,095)
  • 22311 — 792 cases, 7,417 people tested (Estimated population 16,898)
  • 22312 — 1,123 cases, 9,280 people tested (Estimated population 6,901)
  • 22314 — 496 cases, 10,744 people tested (Estimated population 47,826)

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

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In a year dominated by the coronavirus, Inova Alexandria Hospital was named the overall business of the year in the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce’s annual Best In Business Awards.

The chamber’s annual event, now in its 27th year, was held virtually over the course of eight hours on Friday, Oct. 1. Nominees for the awards rotated into the United Way building in Old Town to receive their awards, which were live streamed on Facebook.

Dr. Tammy Mann, President & CEO of The Campagna Center, was also named the 2020 Business Leader of the Year.

The following awards were presented:

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