Alexandria, VA

A local church is offering the ultimate tech support: a divine blessing for local students’ laptops.

This Sunday, Sept. 6, at 5:30 p.m.,Trinity United Methodist Church (2911 Cameron Mills Road) is planning to host an Outdoor Blessing of the Chromebooks & Ice Cream Social (Social Distanced Edition).

“We invite you to join Pastor Grace and Hannah Day Donoghue for an end of the summer celebration,” the church said. “Anyone starting any kind of school is welcome to bring their Chromebook, or an item from their desk/school working space to be blessed for the new school year. We will pair this with individually wrapped ice cream, to take home with you!”

ACPS has distributed thousands of Chromebooks to students to prepare for the online-only start of the school year. Ecclesiastical accessories were not included distribution, but those hoping for some additional theology in their tech can sign up for the program online or contact Program Director Hannah Day Donoghue at [email protected]

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We made it to Friday in Alexandria! That was some week.

With the end of summer approaching, Alexandria City Public Schools are gearing up for virtual-only classes this fall, although a number of the city’s private schools are reopening. This week, however, Bishop Ireton High School resumed in-person classes.

A number of other private schools in the city are also reopening, including Episcopal High School (in October), Alexandria Country Day School and Immanuel Lutheran School.

ALIVE!, which has given away hundreds of thousands of pounds of food during the pandemic, announced it was making its annual walkathon a virtual experience next month. The nonprofit also needs volunteers as needs are increasing, according to Executive Director Jennifer Ayers.

Not included in this week’s list is Thursday’s story about a pilgrimage for racial healing from Charlottesville to D.C., which stopped in Alexandria. The group made it in time to D.C. today to recognize the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

What stories impacted you this week? Let us know in the comments.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. City Issues Self-Quarantine Advisory After COVID Outbreak at West End Church
  2. Alexandria Police Increase Presence to Stem Uptick of Violent Crime in Parker Gray/Old Town
  3. Alexandria Needs Help Running the November Election
  4. Demonstrations Continue at Acting DHS Chief Chad Wolf’s Alexandria Home
  5. City Updates Zoning Ordinance to Allow Density Boost for Schools
  6. Man Injured in Violent West End Carjacking Last Month
  7. King Street Metro Improvement Project Pushed Back to Spring 2021
  8. New Restaurant Concept Opens Next Month in Old Town Hotel
  9. Proposed Regulatory Changes Cut Back Red Tape for Alexandria Businesses
  10. What Does Southern Towers’ Acquisition by CIM Group Mean for Alexandria Affordable Housing?
  11. Saunas and Ice Baths: A New Coworking Office Focusing on Wellness Opens in Old Town

Have a safe weekend!

Image via Kidane Mehret Church/Facebook

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After eight straight days of walking on foot from Charlottesville to Washington D.C., a small group of faith leaders and their followers stopped just short of their pilgrimage in Alexandria to talk about their journey and the need for a racial reckoning in the country.

Audrey Davis, executive director of the Alexandria Black History Museum, welcomed the audience and told them of the city’s history with slavery and inequality.

“We really have so much African American history and so much social justice history,” Davis said. “We have two slave pens, and we were sort of ground zero for the domestic straight slave trade for importing slaves into the deep south.”

The group of about 20 walkers with Faith in Action, the Congregation Action Network and DC Unity & Justice Fellowship were escorted by police along U.S. Highway 29, which is still called Lee Highway in Fairfax County after Confederate General Robert E. Lee. As they marched, they repeated the names of Black victims who have been shot or killed at the hands of the police, including Brianna Taylor and George Floyd. They also had a new name to recite during their march —  Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times by police in Wisconsin on Sunday.

“The walk is about racial reckoning, resolve and love,” said Pastor Troy Jackson of the Ohio-based religious advocacy group Sojourners. “We’re here embodying our faith. I think that the political parties are all broken, and that what we are doing is appealing to a higher calling in people’s hearts.”

Rev. Walter Clark, assistant minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, said that society needs to atone for unfair practices against Black Americans.

“There are 400 years of hatred and sin to undo and we gather because we know that none of us can do it alone,” Clark said. “Let us go forth and begin the work of atonement together.”

The march will end tomorrow at Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington.

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There are or have been 3,270 cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, an increase of 140 cases since this time last week.

There have been no new deaths since the last report of 61 fatalities. The victim was a man in his 50s, and the death went unreported for months,  according to the city.

There have also been 293 total hospitalizations since the first case was reported on March 11, according to the Virginia Department of Health. It is not clear how many city residents have recovered from the virus. That’s an increase of nine hospitalizations since last week.

“With a recent increase in cases, you are more likely to encounter someone who is infected,” notes a city release. “Be prepared to answer a call from the Alexandria Health Department in case you are identified as a close contact.”

Alexandria trails behind its more populated regional neighbors like Arlington County, which has reported 3,400 cases and 137 deaths; Fairfax County with 17,729 cases and 543 deaths; and Loudoun County with 5,735 cases and 115 deaths. Statewide, there are 2,471 COVID-related fatalities throughout Virginia, and there are or have been 113,630 cases.

Outbreak Reported in West End

On Friday, the city also announced an outbreak at a West End church. The Alexandria Health Department issued an advisory for anyone who attended Kidane Mehret Church (75 S. Bragg Street) in the West End from August 14-17.

There have been 19 total outbreaks across the city since the pandemic started in Alexandria with the first reported case on March 11, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Those outbreaks have resulted in 288 associated COVID cases in the city, of which 244 are health care workers who have contracted the virus. Eleven outbreaks occurred at long term care facilities, six outbreaks occurred in congregate settings (including churches), and two occurred in educational settings.

Earlier this month, there was also a reported exposure to coronavirus that resulted in the closure of a summer camp at the Nannie J. Lee Memorial Recreation Center.

Latino Residents Most Impacted

Latino residents lead with 1,601 reported cases, followed by Black residents with 636 cases, white residents with 624 cases, Asian or Pacific Islander residents with 107 cases, 61 cases classified as “other” and three native American cases.

There are or have been 1,690 women (with 33 deaths) and 1,569 men (with 28 deaths) in Alexandria with the virus.

  • 80+     — 27 deaths, 110 cases
  • 70-79 — 18 deaths, 117 cases
  • 60-69 — Three deaths, 254 cases
  • 50-59 — 12 deaths, 427 cases
  • 40-49 — Zero deaths, 593 cases
  • 30-39 — Zero deaths, 747 cases
  • 20-29 — One death, 588 cases
  • 10-19  — Zero deaths, 235 cases
  • 0-9     — Zero deaths, 188 cases

Testing Update

There have been 29,170 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests administered in Alexandria so far, and the city’s seven-day positivity rate shows a 6% infection rate of those tested. There have also been 4,057 antibody tests in Alexandria.

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 — 115 cases, 2,257 people tested (Estimated population 15,171)
  • 22302 — 333 cases, 4,270 people tested (Estimated population 20,238)
  • 22304 — 1,002 cases, 8,843 people tested (Estimated population 54,003)
  • 22305 — 710 cases, 3,905 people tested (Estimated population 16,095)
  • 22311 — 605 cases, 4,426 people tested (Estimated population 16,898)
  • 22312 — 834 cases, 5,263 people tested (Estimated population 6,901)
  • 22314 — 313 cases, 5,470 people tested (Estimated population 47,826)

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

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The Alexandria Health Department has issued a self-quarantine advisory for anyone who attended Kidane Mehret Church (75 S. Bragg Street) in the West End from August 14-17.

“Anyone who entered the building or was on the church grounds on August 14, 15, 16 or 17 may have been exposed to the virus and should immediately stay home and away from others for 14 days from their last visit to the church, and monitor for symptoms,” the city said in a news release. “Visitors to the church on those days should avoid having guests visit them, not share items like towels and plates, stay at least six feet away from others, and wear a mask when around people who have not had the same exposure.”

Anyone who was at the Ethiopian Eastern Orthodox church on those dates is asked to call 703-309-8276 for help.

It is not clear how many cases resulted from the outbreak.

There have been 18 total outbreaks across the city since the pandemic started in Alexandria with the first reported case on March 11, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Those outbreaks have resulted in 279 associated COVID cases in the city. Six outbreaks occurred in a congregate setting, which includes churches.

ALX Health Department COVID self-quarantine advisory: Anyone who was at Kidane Mehret Church (75 S. Bragg St) from Aug…

Posted by Justin Wilson on Friday, August 21, 2020

Map via Google Maps — Image via Kidane Mehret Church/Facebook

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Rabbi David Spinrad of Alexandria’s Beth El Hebrew Congregation is having trouble preparing inspiring sermons for the high holidays, which start next month. He’s been struggling to find the right words that will help people during challenging times.

“I’m not okay, you’re not okay, nobody is okay,” Spinrad said in a recent Facebook Live chat for Act for Alexandria. “The pastoral need has been extraordinary, beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

Spinrad was joined by Pastor Thomas James from Washington Street United Methodist Church, and Stacey Picard from Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center to talk about how their communities are reacting to the coronavirus. Like most religious organizations, their services are online and much of their efforts have been dedicated to providing food for their communities and spiritual counseling.

The pandemic forced Beth El to shut down a daycare program and lay off a number of staffers.

“That lack of being able to really gather has really hurt our soul,” Spinrad said.

James said that he’s exhausted, and that it is challenging for parishioners to log in to church services on their computers or phones after the end of weeks full of online chats.

“I think that the biggest challenge for me is finding the space to rest… so that you have the strength to continue,” James said. “Any 10 minute period where you can just close your eyes and not be engaged is extremely important in this season of life… because it doesn’t seem like COVID is going away, it’s very apparent that racial inequity is not going away. We have to be prepared to do this, not for the next month but for the next few months, for the next year, the next couple of years.”

The hardest part, James says, is not being able to spend time with people, even though his church provides a daily breakfast and gives out food to the community at Charles Houston Recreation Center.

“Someone who’s in the hospital and is sick or is dying, you can’t go see them, the hospitals won’t let you in,” he said. “When there’s a funeral to be had, having 100 people in the worship space is not possible. So you’re doing a very small abbreviated service at the graveside. Weddings? I can’t tell you how many people have called me and said, ‘Would you just please come and marry us, because we’re supposed to get married three months ago and we’re tired of pushing it off.'”

Picard, whose worshippers practice in Falls Church, said that small donations have made just as much a difference as larger donations. The Islamic Center had to suspend more than a dozen social services programs indefinitely and shift resources for food distributions to the Culmore community, which borders on Alexandria’s West End.

“Each day you know there’s a woman who has consistently been delivering small bags of hand sewn masks, every so often when she has them ready,” Picard said. “Don’t discount the small ways that we just connect with each other and act in, in, in whatever way we can with whatever we have.”

ACT Now Tuesday Talk – Faith Community

#HappeningNow – ACT Now Tuesday Talk with Rabbi David Spinrad from Beth El Hebrew Congregation, Pastor Thomas James from Washington Street United Methodist Church, and Stacey Picard from Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center are sharing how their faith communities are responding to COVID-19.

Posted by ACT for Alexandria on Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Photo via Beth El Hebrew Congregation/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Beyer Says Acting Homeland Security Chief Should Resign — “Ordering the occupation of US cities, seeking the escalation of violence, and intentionally risking American lives over peaceful protests and graffiti is unfathomable and unacceptable. Acting Secretary Wolf must resign immediately or be fired.” [Twitter]

Del Ray Used Book Store to Open in August — “Piles and boxes of thousands of donated books crowd Donald Alexander’s house as he prepares to turn his vision for a used bookstore in Del Ray into reality.” [Alexandria Living]

Police Report Carjacking on Edsall Road — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a carjacking in the 6000 block of Edsall Road. There were no injuries. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]

ACPS Staff Discussion on Reopening Today at 12:30 p.m. — “In order to be able to hear voices from across every school during the Reopening Community Chats, ACPS has asked for representation from various staff groups across the school division to serve as conduits for feedback and questions from their school, department, office or facility.” [ACPS]

Food Drive at Trinity UMC Wednesday — “Thank you to all who have and are continuing to contribute to the food drive for Rising Hope United Methodist Church, which takes place each Wednesday from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church.” [Rising Hope UMC]

Metro Expanding Operations in Mid-August — “Metro will add more buses, more trains, and more hours of service beginning on August 16, restoring most service to pre-Covid levels while maintaining a strong response posture to Covid-19. Metrorail will add 15 hours more service per week, with opening times returning to normal and the system closing two hours later each night in anticipation of potential increases in ridership after Labor Day.” [Facebook]

New Job: Nanny — “MyWoosah provides personalized childcare solutions for busy families across the country. Our services include childcare, transportation, home management, and nanny share.” [Indeed]

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Houses of worship are seen as one of the highest-risk places to congregate during the pandemic, but as locations start to reopen under Phase 3 the city has put together a guide for helping local churches and religious institutions to reopen safely.

For religious organizations and nonprofits, the city website said content for emails to faith-based groups are being prepared with information — including a digestible synthesis of CDC and Virginia Department of Health data.

The Alexandria Health Department will also hold phone office hours to troubleshoot individual reopening challenges different churches or organizations might be facing. The department already has a general COVID-19 hotline at 703 745 4988, which is open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. during weekdays.

One of the top suggestions, the city said, is to enroll in the voluntary safety training program ALX Promise.

The goal, the city said, is to prevent outbreaks at these locations. Since the pandemic started, many local churches have moved to online services. Churches have been identified nationwide as outbreak sites, and some of the city’s first identified cases were at the Virginia Theological Seminary.

Other parts of the city’s strategic framework include:

  • Develop best-practice guidance and produce materials that are easily digestible, and communicate state requirements for businesses and other facilities in multiple languages; and disseminate to businesses, nonprofits and faith groups for printing and display.
  • Create and implement a voluntary safety training program (ALX Promise) for accreditation, analyzing the role ALX Promise plays in preventing complaints to AHD; launch extensive outreach to West End and minority-owned businesses; work with community groups to promote the program; hand deliver required signage and make follow-up phone calls; and promote the program and accredited businesses through the news media, including in Spanish.
  • Communicate regularly with targeted groups through phone calls or virtual town halls to answer staff or resident questions; develop content for weekly emails to faith-based and nonprofit groups; and launch AHD phone hours for faith groups to troubleshoot reopening challenges.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Businesses Get Millions in Federal Loans — “The vast majority of the loans in Alexandria were less than $150,000, helping small businesses keep their employees instead of laying them off. About 600 of the loans in Alexandria were worth more than $150,000, and about 100 of those were for more than $1 million. Top-dollar loans went to patent lawyers, information-technology professionals and commercial contractors. Only three of loans in Alexandria were in the coveted top bracket, which range from $5 million to $10 million.”  [Gazette]

Beyer Tweets Potential Unemployment Losses of Every State — “At least 200,000 workers in Virginia will lose nearly two thirds of their weekly income at the beginning of August unless Mitch McConnell allows the Senate to pass an unemployment extension in the next few days.”  [Twitter]

Fairlington United Methodist Church Blesses 1,000 Face Masks — “Over 1,000 face masks, most of them homemade, were blessed and donated by the FUMC community to Alive! Alexandria. Alive! will hand them out at their rapidly growing food distribution sites.” [Facebook]

Commonwealth’s Attorney Gives Opinion on New Laws — “At the beginning of this month, a litany of new laws went into effect. In this article, I’ll provide a synopsis of changes to the code that citizens should know about.” [AlexTimes]

New Italian Restaurant Opens in Del Ray — “Piece Out LLC, which operates Café Pizzaiolo, St. Elmo’s and Markt2Market, opened a from-scratch Italian restaurant at 2419 Mount Vernon Ave. Piece Out will initially focus on carry-out dining with plans to grow into a sit-down restaurant as the region starts to recover from the coronavirus crisis, according to owner Larry Ponzi.” [Alexandria Living]

Apothecary Museum’s Harry Potter Event Goes Virtual — “Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum’s Harry Potter birthday celebration, a favorite for visitors in Alexandria, will move online due to the pandemic.” [Patch]

New Job: Retail Cheesemonger — “Everyone’s favorite Cheese & Wine Shop is hiring retail sales associates (“cheesemongers”) for all locations. Part-Time and Full-Time available.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Longtime Bishop Ireton Teacher Dies — “It is with sadness but also with great faith in our Lord that we share that Mr. Ron Umbeck, a beloved faculty member at Bishop Ireton for more than 50 years, passed away earlier this evening. He is now at peace in Heaven and we are sure that he met St. Peter with a math book, a crossword puzzle, an It’s Academic prep sheet and a Bishop Ireton pin. He loved this school, but more importantly, he loved his students and his Bishop Ireton family.” [Facebook]

Mayor Talks About Coronavirus on PBS — “My thanks to ⁦@AlexandriaVAGov⁩ Mayor ⁦@justindotnet⁩ for spending time with us to talk #Virginia re-opening, concerns about virus spread, and how he’s balancing the two. Our report, produced by ⁦@courtneyknorris, on ⁦@NewsHour⁩ tonight…” [Twitter]

NVTA Provides $195 Million to Duke Street, Richmond Highway Projects — “Two major roadway projects in the Alexandria region received funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The Duke Street Transitway received $75 million, which completes its funding request.” [Alexandria Living]

Fairlington United Methodist Church Warns of Scammers — “Scammers are out in full this summer. Please either a) ignore emails like this or b) report it to your email provider. This is not Janine’s email address, nor does she sign her emails Rev Janine Howard (nor does she break all sorts of grammar rules…) [Facebook]

Photographer Helps Unemployed Residents With Headshots — “Alexandria photographer Sam Fatima wants to do his part to help turn things around. He has partnered with Headshot Booker and Brookfield Properties for a new initiative aimed at helping the unemployed have a fresh start.” [Zebra]

Virtual Pub Craw Starts Wednesday — “In 2020 the 7th Annual Port City Old Town Pub Crawl is going virtual! Throughout July join Port City and our friends in Old Town as we celebrate good food and beer all month long.” [Facebook]

DASH Installing Digital Displays — “We’re busy installing new digital displays that show bus arrival info and alerts. We’ve installed more than 30 so far.” [Facebook]

New Job: Server — “Chadwicks Restaurant is currently looking to fill FULL- and PART-TIME server positions. Must be honest, hardworking, and capable of working well with others. Experience not a priority.” [Indeed]

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Free food distributions will be disrupted by the July 4 weekend in Alexandria, but food is still available.

Most notably there will not be any Alexandria City Public Schools distributions from Friday, July 3, until operations resume on Monday, July 6.

“Meal distribution locations and pop up sites will not operate on Friday, July 3, ahead of the Independence Day holiday,” advised ACPS.

Here are the available free food distribution points in the city this weekend, according to Hunger Free Alexandria.

  • A bag lunch and food pantry distribution is available on Friday at Meade Memorial Episcopal Church (322 N. Alfred Street) from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meals and food will be served in the courtyard to go.
  • Washington Street United Methodist Church (109 S. Washington Street) has a free breakfast Friday from 6-8 a.m.
  • Christ House (131 S. West Street) has evening meals available every night of the week from 4:30 – 6 p.m.
  • The ALIVE! food delivery program for COVID-19 patients, seniors, the disabled and single parents with young children is available for eligible residents by calling 703-746-5999
  • Rising Hope United Methodist Church (8220 Russell Road) will provide grab-and-go meals from 1 to 2 p.m. on Friday while supplies last

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Realtors Predict Strong Summer — “The first few months of 2020 were very strong in the local real estate market. Contracts slowed significantly in the second half of March and in April, said Dave Hawkins, COO of McEnearney Associates, before the rebound started in May. June should be even stronger for local real estate activity.” [Alexandria Living]

St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School and Goodwin House Embark on Senior Companion Program — “They talk like old friends, but they have never met in person; three months ago, they didn’t even know about each other.” [Washington Post]

Bicycle Shops Report Sales Increase Amid Pandemic — “Alexandrians have been flocking to bicycle shops in recent months, looking to stay fit, avoid public transportation and have fun while social distancing. As a result of the increased demand, bike shops are among the few retailers that have flourished during the pandemic.” [Alex Times]

AlexRenew’s FY 2021 Budget Affected by COVID-19 — “The FY21 budget includes reductions in operational expenses, deferral of capital projects, and a reduction in the previously-approved rate increase of 11 percent to 6.6 percent.” [Zebra]

City Shares Resources to Cope With Racism-Related Trauma — “There are links to mental health counseling, virtual therapy, and meditation.” [Zebra]

Houses of Worship Consider Reopening — “For some churches, including St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Old Town, the risk of giving the Eucharist contributed to the decision not to reopen.” [Alex Times]

Mount Vernon Estate Reopens to the Public — “Your safety and the safety of our staff is paramount as we open our doors again. There will be additional safety measures in place when you visit to limit the spread of the coronavirus.” [Alexandria Living]

New Job: Design Center Manager — “Must have experience as a florist.” [Indeed]

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