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Playing at the sprayground at Potomac Yard Park (Staff photo by James Cullum)

With heat index temperatures expected to reach upward of 107 degrees today, Alexandria is offering cooling centers at recreation centers and libraries.

The National Weather Service issued a a hazardous heat forecast today, in effect from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Temperatures are also expected to be more than 100 degrees through Saturday.

“Prolonged exposure to hot temperatures and high humidity can cause heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, cramps or, in extreme cases, heat stroke,” the city said in a release. “It is especially important for individuals with underlying health issues to take extra precautions and plan ahead for this and future excessive heat events.”

Cooling centers are scheduled at these locations:

  • Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe St.) — 9 a.m.to 9 p.m. during the week, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday
  • Leonard “Chick” Armstrong Recreation Center (25 W. Reed Ave.) — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, closed on Sunday
  • Lee Center (1108 Jefferson St.) — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m during the week, closed on weekends
  • Mount Vernon Recreation Center (2701 Commonwealth Ave.) — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed on Sunday
  • Nannie J. Lee Recreation Center (1108 Jefferson St.) — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week, closed on weekends
  • Patrick Henry Recreation Center (4653 Taney Ave.) — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday
  • William Ramsay Recreation Center (5650 Sanger Ave.) — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, closed on Sunday

Libraries

Alexandria is also advising residents to visit city pools on its heat safety webpage.

Additionally, the Potomac Yard Interactive Fountain at Potomac Yard Park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. until Labor Day.

The city issued the following tips to beat the heat:

  • Stay indoors and limit exposure to the sun.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Drink more water than usual, and don’t wait to be thirsty to drink.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, and light-colored clothing.
  • Do not leave infants, children, people with medical conditions, or pets in a parked car even if the windows are cracked or even for short periods of time.
  • Monitor people around you, including co-workers, neighbors, and friends, for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Learn what you can do if you are concerned about someone who is homeless.
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The nearly full Strawberry Moon in June 2021 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated 7/19) Celebrating the 54th anniversary of the moon landing, the Alexandria Library is also attempting a seemingly impossible feat: putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle of the moon in under two hours.

The James M. Duncan Jr. Branch Library at 2501 Commonwealth Avenue is hosting an all-ages race to put the puzzle together. The race is scheduled to run from 3-5 p.m. on Thursday, July 20.

“Join us for a two-hour sprint to build a 1,000 piece moon puzzle to celebrate the anniversary of the first moon landing on July 20th, 1969,” the library said in an event listing. “All ages and levels of puzzle enthusiasts welcome!”

From 4-corner finders to edge builders, the library said all are welcome to help the library build the moon.

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The Kate Waller Barrett Branch of the Alexandria Library. (Staff photo by James Cullum)

In the Alexandria Gazette’s newsroom is a wall filled with archives of the news organization dating back to the early 19th century.

It’s an invaluable resource and a chance to look back at Alexandrians describing the city in their era in their own words, from local advertisements to gossip at the port. As more news is reported exclusively online, the Alexandria Library is hoping to recapture that sort of archive for the digital age.

The Alexandria Community Web Archives is described by the library system as part of an ongoing mission to document the history and culture of Alexandria. The archive captures images of various websites covering Alexandria to keep them available for posterity.

ALXnow spoke with Patricia Walker, branch manager of Local History/Special Collections, about the new archive.

ALXnow: How did this project get started? Has this been on your mind for a while or was it something that was spurred on by a particular incident?

Walker: Web archiving has been on our radar for several years, because it is very important for documenting local communities. However, we needed time to update the Local History/Special Collections Branch’s digital archiving technology.

Fortunately, the timing worked out well because we were able to hire a new archivist around the same time as the Internet Archive opened up applications for public libraries to apply for the Mellon-funded Community Webs program. This program is very beneficial to public libraries because it helps establish these Community Web programs by taking care of the costs for the software and storage support for the first two years.

ALXnow: When did this project start?

Walker: We applied to be a Community Webs member on August 26, 2022. We began compiling a list of sites we knew we wanted to document in September 2022. Because these types of projects can require a lot of technical and descriptive work, it takes time to launch them. In fact it took us almost a year to launch, which happened on 4/7/2023.

ALXnow: As this project gets going, what are you hoping will be the benefit to people a generation or two removed as they look back at this collection?

Walker: People will have access to the information they need. Essentially we are capturing snapshots of our community in all its variety – whether that is obituaries on funeral home sites; information on food insecurity, immigration, or civil rights needs captured through non-profit sites; or the changing architecture and cuisine within the city captured through the sites of businesses and restaurants. We want people to make site suggestions to make sure we are representing everyone.

ALXnow: Are there any goals for how often the archive will document sites? Right now it looks like there are only a handful of sites with archives captured and there are some, like ours or Patch, that update every day. Will every day eventually be accessible?

Walker: We have guidelines for how often we capture a site based on if it updates daily, monthly, quarterly, or annually. We don’t want to capture most sites every day since many do not update that often. Also, with projects like this one, there are subscription and storage costs involved so we need to balance cost against how often we capture a site.

Fortunately, the first two years will be funded by the Mellon Foundation, but they have set data limits we still have to work within for this project. We want to make sure that we manage the project in such a way that we can anticipate the future costs and data needs the Library will be responsible for after the second year of the project.

While it appears that we only have 23 sites being captured, we actually have 197 sites on our list to be evaluated, and we are still actively adding more as we find them. We are contacting site owners in advance so we can answer questions and address any concerns they may have about the project before capturing their site.

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Alexandria City Hall (staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Personal security cameras, speed cameras in school zones, summer youth employment programs and eviction prevention funding are just a few of the final additions included in the fiscal year 2024 budget by the Alexandria City Council on Tuesday.

Council approved funding a $20,000 program to encourage businesses and homeowners with a “small incentive” to set up security cameras to deter crime, as well as increase their coordination with the Alexandria Police Department.

“I like the concept,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “I think we want our residents to partner with us in providing this kind of neighborhood visibility.”

Other additions include $490,000 for five speed cameras at school crossing zones around the city. Last year, Council approved $400,000 for the speed camera program in five school zones.

Not all of the requests made the final cut. Vice Mayor Amy Jackson’s request to give the Alexandria Commission for Women $20,000 for it’s 50th anniversary event failed to gain consensus.

Council also took $657,629 from the budget that was intended for the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center (200 S. Whiting Street), pending proposals from City Manager Jim Parajon to find alternative uses for the facility, pursue regional partnerships for facility use and optimize capacity for the underutilized space.

The full list of additions to the budget are below.

  • Out of School Time Program (OSTP) staffing ($200,000) This increases paid leave and benefits for part-time staffing with the city’s Out of School Time program.
  • Fee waiver for OSTP participants ($15,000) — This would fund a waiver for program participants eligible for SNAP and TANF.
  • Speed cameras in school zones ($490,000) — This adds five photo speed cameras to school crossing zones prioritized by the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services
  • Childcare services ($50,000) — This will provide child-minding services at City COuncil town hall events, as well as select board, committee and commission meetings.
  • Additional eviction prevention funding ($150,000) — This would increase the current funding level of $100,000, all of which will “reasonably assist 40 households in FY24,” according to the city.
  • Central coordinator for immigrant affairs/refugee settlement ($110,000) — This would explore a new position or series of positions that could advance efforts to connect immigrant communities with information, resources and services and address the city’s challenges with immigrant populations.
  • RPCA Mental Health Pilot position ($75,000) — These funds would go toward developing a Department of Recreation Parks and Cultural Activities pilot program for youth mental health services.
  • Summer youth employment program ($214,943) — This would expand the program by 50%, to serve 255 children (85 more than the current program).
  • Study for local housing voucher program ($250,000) — This would add funding for a study on a voucher-like program that stabilizes housing and enables access for low-income housholds across the city’s private rental market.
  • City library security ($70,000) — This funding maintains library security staffing at current levels.
  • Department of Aging and Adult Services ($19,000) — This fills the gap created by Virginia budget formula changed related to the Older Americans Act.
  • DASH service line expansion on Line 33 ($120,000) — This would expand DASH Line 33 service from once every 60 minutes to 30 minutes on Sundays, easing connections to the new Potomac Yard Metro Station.
  • Visit Alexandria advertising ($78,000) — This additional funding can be used by Visit Alexandria for any sort of media, online or print advertising, either regionally or nationally at their discretion.
  • City Council aide compensation increase ($5,300) — This is a 2% scale compensation adjustment.
  • Private security camera incentive program ($20,000)
  • Continuation of AEDP economic recovery manager ($147,208) — The ERPM is responsible for creating and administering AEDPs Business Association Grant program, which supports Alexandria business associations as well as other ARDP rogramming to promote economic recovery.
  • Rental inspection program enhancement ($136,000) — This allows staff to evaluate non-compliant multi-family rental properties.

The budget will be approved on May 3 and go into effect on July 1.

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Anyone that’s a sucker for a good book sale might want to head to the Beatley Central Library (5005 Duke Street) at some point this week.

The Friends of the Beatley Central Library are hosting a book sale, starting today, Wednesday (not counting yesterday’s members-only preview day), and running through next Monday.

The sale host includes thousands of books, DVDs, CDs and more, the proceeds going to support the Alexandria library stystem.

The sale runs from 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. today and tomorrow, then from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Sunday is Half-Price Day and runs from 1-4:30 p.m. Monday, the last day of the sale, is $10 Bag Sale day and runs from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

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Covid cases are on the rise as Alexandria heads into the December holidays.

There were 69 reported cases today (Wednesday) in Alexandria, the largest amount of new cases in a single day in more than four months. The number of reported cases now stands at 43,429, and the seven-day average of new cases is 42.7.

The last time the city saw as many cases reported in one day was on August 8.

New COVID-19 cases in Alexandria over the last 26 weeks. (via VDH)

Cases are also on the rise in Fairfax County, Arlington and Loudoun County, although Community Levels remain low in all of the jurisdictions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Seven Alexandria residents died from Covid in the last 13 weeks and the death toll has risen to 216, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Except for one person in their 40s, all of the residents who died were in their 80s.

No children or teens in Alexandria have died from the virus.

All Covid-related deaths by age group in Alexandria. (via VDH)

There have been 559 new cases reported so far in December.

  • 69 new cases on Dec. 14
  • 65 new cases on Dec. 13
  • 19 new cases on Dec. 12
  • 34 new cases on Dec. 11
  • 53 new cases on Dec. 10
  • 43 new cases on Dec. 9
  • 46 new cases on Dec. 8
  • 54 new cases on Dec. 7
  • 30 new cases on Dec. 6
  • 13 new cases on Dec. 5
  • 29 new cases on Dec. 4
  • 18 new cases on Dec. 3
  • 47 new cases on Dec. 2
  • 39 new cases on Dec. 1

Below are the monthly totals for the rest of 2022.

  • January — 12,822 new cases
  • February — 1,227 new cases
  • March — 593 new cases
  • April — 1,488 new cases
  • May — 2,900 new cases
  • June — 2,357 new cases
  • July — 2,396 new cases
  • August — 1,499 new cases
  • September — 991 new cases
  • October — 526 new cases
  • November — 626 new cases

Where to find Covid tests

Residents can get rapid COVID-19 test kits at the city’s libraries, and kits are limited to seven per-person. Covid tests can also be found for kids within Alexandria City Public Schools and a full list of testing options is available on the city’s website.

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Negative Covid tests (photo courtesy Aimee Miller)

With the holiday season approaching, a prerequisite for some family gatherings could be a negative Covid test. With Curative shutting down its testing kiosks throughout the region that might get slightly harder, but there are other resources.

The kiosks have provided around 195,000 Covid tests, the City of Alexandria said in a release, but demand for kiosk testing has dropped off dramatically since 2021.

“As of December 26, 2022, the private company Curative has chosen to close its Alexandria COVID-19 testing kiosks city-wide,” the City of Alexandria said. “Curative is closing all testing sites throughout the region before the end of the year.”

The postal service had previously offered free rapid home antigen tests, but those were suspended in September.

Several medical facilities offer testing, but require seeing a doctor for testing and can cost between $50 up to $300.

The most affordable way to get testing kits in Alexandria is from the library. Alexandria libraries carry rapid COVID-19 test kits available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is a limit of seven kits per person, and the city advised locals to call the library branch to check availability.

Those phone numbers and addresses are:

  • Beatley Central Library (5005 Duke Street): 703-746-1702
    Barrett Branch Library (717 Queen Street): 703-746-1703
    Burke Branch Library (4701 Seminary Road): 703-746-1704
    Duncan Branch Library (2501 Commonwealth Avenue): 703-746-1705

Scheduled Covid tests are also available for public school students and staff through Alexandria City Public Schools.

A full list of testing options is available on the city’s website.

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There are a number of event celebrating this year’s 85th anniversary of the Alexandria Library with discussions on the history of its branches.

The first public library in Alexandria, the Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library (717 Queen Street), opened in 1937, and is named after suffragette and philanthropist Kate Waller Barrett. In recognition of the anniversary, the Alexandria Library is conducting a number of events at its branches in the coming days.

On Tuesday, September 27, the James M. Duncan Branch (2501 Commonwealth Avenue) will host a special program to review the history of Del Ray after it was annexed by Alexandria in 1930, as well as how the the library built in 1969 and renovated in 2005. The free event begins at 6:30 p.m.

On Saturday, October 1, the Barrett Branch Library will host author Brenda Mitchell-Powell will discuss her new book, “Public In Name Only: The 1939 Alexandria Library Sit-In Demonstration.”

The event was the first known civil rights sit-in at a library. Five young black men were arrested after sitting in the library and reading after being refused library cards.

“The events that unfolded during that summer… changed the Alexandria Library, the City of Alexandria, and had ripple effects throughout the country,” according to the Alexandria Library.

Via City of Alexandria

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Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, image via Jennifer Watkins/Alexandria Library

The Duncan Library in Del Ray is planning to host a conversation next week with a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine about her experience in the country and the current crisis.

The event with Marie Yovanovitch is scheduled for Monday (May 9) at 7 p.m. in the Pat Miller Neighborhood Square (2311 Mount Vernon Avenue). The discussion will also be live-streamed online.

“Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch discusses her memoir, Lessons from the Edge,” the library said on its website, “the importance of public service, and her efforts to assist Ukraine empower its civil society sector, strengthen its democratic institutions, and fight corruption — key U.S. goals.”

Yovanovitch is also scheduled to do a signing of her book at Hooray for Books (1555 King Street) earlier that day.

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Need to get your Irish on? While Alexandria’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been pushed off until September, there are two Irish-themed bar crawls coming to the city in the days ahead.

The Shamrock Stampede will descend on Alexandria’s Carlyle neighborhood on Saturday, March 12. Participating restaurants include Whiskey & Oyster, Sweet Fire Donna’s, Tequila & Taco, Lost Boy Cider and Joe Theismann’s Restaurant.

The event includes outfit contests, giveaways and raffles. It runs from 2 to 6 p.m. and costs $10. All registration proceeds will be donated to ALIVE!.

On the actual St. Patrick’s Day — Thursday, March 17 — Daniel O’Connell’s Irish Restaurant & Bar (112 King Street) will start things off with musician Mike Richards from 1 to 4 p.m., followed by four-piece rock band By All Means from 7 to 11 p.m.

But that’s not all.

On Saturday, March 19, six King Street restaurants will host the fifth annual Lucky’s St. Patrick’s Day Crawl. The event runs from 4 to 10 p.m., and tickets cost $20-25 per person.

“We will shuttle our leprechauns, four-clover wearers, Irish lovers and everyone else on the King Street Trolly between all restaurants,” event organizers wrote on Facebook.

Participating restaurants:

Photo via Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub/Facebook

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