Alexandria, VA

When the pandemic hit in March, many mothers late into their pregnancies who were preparing to give birth in a hospital were left with difficult decisions.

For BirthCare & Women’s Health, a midwife service in Old Town, that meant a new wave of parents looking for alternatives.

“We’ve had a real influx of people in March — a lot of calls and people transferring in who were afraid to go to the hospital,” said Marsha Jackson, certified nurse-midwife and owner/director of BirthCare & Women’s Health. “There was so much that wasn’t known about COVID-19. Every day there was a change so people were uncomfortable going to the hospital… We have had more interest in home births.”

BirthCare & Women’s Health has been around for 33 years, opening as a home birth practice in 1987, and, four years later, expanding into a free-standing birth center at 1501 King Street in Old Town. The center provides an alternative to giving birth in a hospital, whether that means sending a midwife to a home to help a mother in her delivery or bringing her to their facility.

Jackson said the advantage of home births or births at the BirthCare & Women’s Health is that women can deliver their babies where they feel more comfortable and relaxed.

“One of the benefits has been families who are now pregnant or considering pregnancy are really closely looking at all of their options — and really considering having home or birth center birth,” Jackson said. “If she’s a healthy woman having a normal pregnancy, the safest place for her to give birth would be a place where she feels comfortable and safe. That place is oftentimes in her home.”

When the pandemic started, Jackson said her company also offered the benefit of not having mothers share a facility that was also treating a COVID-19 outbreak.

“We had to do a lot of screenings very quickly,” Jackson said. “We had a couple of clients transfer in [that] were due to have their babies in two weeks. We were able to get everything in place… One family had a baby within a week of their first visit.  The mom went into labor in the next couple of days and had the baby, and it was wonderful.”

Work at BirthCare & Women’s Health changed as well. Appointments were spaced out to avoid unnecessary contact between patients and the facility started using more telehealth for prenatal visits — but in-person visits and births continued.

“We wipe our bags more than we used to when we go to the homes,” Jackson said. “When we come, we have a couple of suitcases with supplies and equipment. We sometimes put down a surface where we put our bags on the floor. One of the things we found out: a lot of the things we’ve instituted to make sure things are sanitized — we were already doing that. Whatever we took out of the bags, we sanitize with alcohol or wipes before replacing them in our bags.”

The facility also limited the number of people present for births to ten: including the midwife and doula, but not including the baby. One of the biggest changes was asking visitors to a birth to self-isolate for a week before attending.

Even as Alexandria starts reopening, Jackson said she’s starting to see more mothers comfortable going back to hospitals, but that the service is still busier than it usually is.

“Our May census was full,” Jackson said. “Our census in August is full. A lot of that is due to COVID-19. In April, our census picked up. Before COVID-19 our numbers were a little down.”

Jackson said even as some parents are returning to plans to give birth at a hospital, the pandemic did put home births back into public awareness for prospective parents.

“A lot of the families that may not have considered the option for home births now are considering that,” Jackson said. “Our census for January is filling quickly. We limit clients to  20 per month, and we’re already more than halfway there. That’s early for us, to be almost full for that month.”

Photo via BirthCare & Women’s Health/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Southern Towers Residents Prepared to Strike Over Rent — “Their goal is 1,000 signatures from the 2,300 total units. They want management to cancel rent until one month after the pandemic ends, address safety and cleaning concerns, and create a sliding scale for future rent payments based on income.” [WAMU]

Less Than Half of Alexandrians Will Get Full Stimulus Checks — “SmartAsset estimates that full stimulus check would go to just 49.57% of households in the City of Alexandria, and 65.92% would get some level of stimulus check. The full check of $1,200 would be sent to individuals with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of up to $75,000 and a reduced benefit would be sent to individuals earning up to $99,000, at which point it phases out completely.” [Alexandria Living]

Market 2 Market Del Ray Caters Food Gifted to Alexandria Hospital — “We had the wonderful opportunity to partner with Cafe Pizzaiolo and Market 2 Market Del Ray and our friends Trinchero Family Estates and to provide dinner for the teams working around the clock at Inova Alexandria Hospital this afternoon!” [Facebook]

The Chamber’s Virtual Professional Women’s Network Mixer is Tonight — “We can all agree that these are unprecedented times we are experiencing now, and connections are now more important than ever so please make plans to join us on Thursday, April 9th for a slightly different version of our wildly popular Professional Women’s Network Coffee & Connections.” [Chamber of Commerce]

Del Ray Farmers’ Market Canceled This Weekend — “There is no market at 4 Mile Run this weekend, but Tom (and our other vendors) will be at the #delrayfarmersmarket on Saturday so you can pick up your pre-orders!” [Facebook]

Virtual Mindfulness Workshop Tonight — “Stress is an inevitable part of life. Join Dr. Eng for an 8-week course where you will learn about the stress response in your body, stress management techniques, coping strategies, and mindfulness-based relaxation training.” [Facebook]

Old Town Books Hosting Virtual Writing Classes and Literacy Series — Kicking off on Friday, April 10, Old Town Books will launch writing classes and a virtual literacy series featuring accomplished authors. The pay-what-you-can programs include participation by authors Jenny Offill, Jessica Lahey and New York Times Magazine writer Emily Bazelon. [Old Town Books]

Safeway Updates Social Distancing Rules — “Stores will limit occupancy levels to one person per 150 square feet during normal business hours and one person per 300 square feet during special hours reserved for seniors and other vulnerable customers. Each store will utilize one front entrance/exit to ensure enforcement and a store associate will be assigned to the doors to manage traffic.’ [WUSA9]

Center For Alexandria’s Children Recognizes Child Abuse Prevention Month — “Raise awareness and show your support for Child Abuse Prevention Month while enjoying family time together. Download and print the board and play #PinwheelBingo with us! Continue to check back on our social media platforms throughout April for more family-friendly activities to do at home. Together we are stronger! Let’s all do our parts to protect the children in our communities. [Facebook]

The Dog Park in Old Town is Open — “Easter is coming…so don’t furget your doggy! We carry a full line of Easter toys, treats and wearables. We will be featuring a new item everyday for you to enjoy. We are open everyday M-S 10-6 and Sunday 11-5. We offer curbside pickup and contactless home delivery too!” [Facebook]

Fat Face Opening This Summer in Old Town — “It all began in 1988 with two guys enjoying life on the slopes in the French Alps and desperately trying to avoid working for a living. With money running out, they hatched a plan: print some sweatshirts and t-shirts, sell them at night, and ski during the day. With that simple formula, the FatFace brand was born with the name even being inspired by their favourite black mountain run in Val d’Isère, La Face.” [Alexandria Living]

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(Updated 3/12/20) The Campagna Center in Old Town could be getting a facelift and a new addition as the local early learning organization struggles to find a way to make good use of their historic, but in many ways outdated, building.

Plans submitted to Alexandria’s Board of Architectural Review show a new expansion of the building at 418 S. Washington Street.

“As the success of the Campagna Center has grown through the years, it looks to construct an addition to its facility on South Washington Street,” the applicant said. “The addition will extend across the back of the existing building, with a smaller footprint width to minimize the visual impact from the streetscape view.”

“The addition will be three stories in height (one below grade and two above grade), consistent in height and slightly below the roofline of the existing structure,” the report continued.

Along with the new addition to the Campagna Center, upgrades are planned for the current building. Part of the project will involve connecting the new addition and completing replacement of the existing windows and roof.

Inside the building, new partition walls will help break up some of the building’s large spaces and make it more functional.

The building was constructed in 1888 as The Washington School, according to the application, and replaced an earlier school that had been there since 1812. It continued to operate as a school until it became the Alexandria City Public Schools headquarters in 1955. It was turned over to a group called Alexandria Community Y in 1981, which became the Campagna Center in 1991.

Renovating the existing building was not the Campagna Center’s first choice. The building was considered for condo development in 2016, but those plans were canceled last year, according to Alexandria Living.

The new designs are scheduled to be reviewed at the Board of Architectural Review’s April 1 meeting.

The Campagna Center told ALXnow they are in the middle of a busy week and could not comment on the upcoming changes.

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(Updated 12/13) The results are in for the Department of Community and Human Services’ five-year study of the well-being of Alexandria’s children.

While much of the Children and Youth Master Plan’s five-year report showed improvement, there were several areas where the situation worsened, including abuse of e-cigarettes.

In nearly every health-related standard, scores were improved when compared to the start of the study.

  • Teen pregnancy rate decreased 35%
  • The infant mortality rate decreased by 3.1%
  • Pregnant mothers receiving adequate prenatal care increased by 17%
  • Abuse and neglect investigations declined by 50%
  • Substance abuse rates decreased except for e-cigarettes
  • Participation in leadership and mentoring programs increased by 26%

While substance abuse declined overall, e-cigarette use increased by 60% over the course of the study.

In academic fields, there were some gains but also several areas where scores fell. For Kindergarten Readiness:

  • Children meeting reading expectations decreased 10% and children meeting math expectations decreased by 7%.
  • Children meeting social-emotional expectations increased by 5% and children who self-regulated their emotions and behavior increased by 2%.
  • Pre-K participation rates increased by 7%.

The plan noted that many of the kindergarten readiness gaps still exist along racial lines. While black students were reported as having the same kindergarten readiness levels as white and Asian students, the report said Hispanic kindergarten students suffer from an achievement gap at the earliest grade levels.

For the Standards of Learning (SOL) testing, reading increased by 5% and writing increased by 1%, but math scores decreased by 5%. Like with kindergarten scores, the report said there was a substantial achievement gap between white and Asian students when compared with black and Hispanic student scores.

“White and Asian students tend to outperform black and Hispanic students in terms of SOL pass rates, average SAT scores and on-time graduation rates,” the report said. “Gaps between white and Hispanic and English learner students’ SOL pass rates and on-time graduation rates have widened.”

The college and career readiness field also showed some substantially lower scores.

  • On-time graduation rates decreased by 4%
  • Dropout rate increased by 11%
  • Youth unemployment increased by 44% among 16-19-year-olds but decreased by 20% for 20-24-year-olds

The plan included suggestions for improving the areas where Alexandria’s scores declined, many of which focus on partner organizations that can help coordinate on building better curriculums and education frameworks.

“No single entity has the resources or authority to bring about the improvements envisioned,” the study said. “Systems change is difficult to achieve in a climate of diminished financial resources and urgent need, so efforts must be focused and cumulative in their impact.”

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Morning Notes

In-Person Absentee Voting Underway — “Beginning Saturday, October 26, Alexandrians who qualify to vote absentee for the November 5 General Election may cast their ballots in person at the Charles E. Beatley Jr. Central Library (5005 Duke St.), or the Alexandria Voter Registration Office (132 N. Royal St.).” [City of Alexandria]

Aslin Beer’s ‘Weird Vibe’ in Alexandria — “Aslin Beer Company doesn’t have exposed brick walls, it isn’t decorated with string lights and it doesn’t use wooden barrels as high top tables. Straying from the traditional industrial vibe at a lot of breweries and tasting rooms, Aslin has an eclectic, colorful atmosphere enhanced by patterned walls, neon signs and a giant robot.” [Alexandria Times]

Alexandrians Give to Political Campaigns — “More than $3.5 million in campaign cash has an Alexandria mailing address this election cycle, a spending spree that reflects the stakes this year’s election. Control of the House of Delegates and state Senate is at stake, and partisans on both sides are trying to influence the outcome.” [Gazette Packet]

City Seeks Members for Advisory Group — “The City of Alexandria is seeking nominations for two At-Large Business Representative and two At-Large Resident Representative vacancies on the Ad Hoc Eisenhower West/Landmark Van Dorn Advisory Group.” [City of Alexandria]

Grand Opening for Free Preschool — “A new classroom space launched by Child & Family Network Centers will offer free preschool education to 45 children in Alexandria. The classrooms are in a West End apartment complex at 101 South Whiting Street.” [Patch]

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