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For more than a month, Alexandria has experienced high COVID-19 transmission levels, but that isn’t stopping public events from happening.

Last week, the City Council unanimously voted to extend the state of emergency until January 31, 2022. Just days later, there was a large gathering for the unveiling of Friday night lights at Alexandria City High School, followed the next day by an art festival in Carlyle and Irish festival at Waterfront Park in Old Town. Residents are encouraged to wear face masks at the events, although it is not required.

Meanwhile, there has been another death. The death toll due to the virus now stands at 143. There are now 13,439 reported cases of the virus since the pandemic started in March 2020. There have also been 64 cases reported in Alexandria City Public Schools in September alone.

Alexandria’s seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests remains at 3.4%, which is the same level that it was this time last week.

VDH says that unvaccinated Virginians make up a majority of new cases. So far, 89,804 residents have been fully vaccinated and 106,465 residents have been partially vaccinated. Nearly 66% of residents over the age of 18 have been vaccinated, and so have nearly 79% of seniors.

The only localities in Virginia not seeing high transmission are Manassas Park and Fairfax City, which are both seeing moderate transmission.

Find vaccine providers in Alexandria here. If you feel sick, get tested.

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In a community update yesterday (Thursday), ACPS staff said they’re starting to make progress on plans to vaccinate students in-school.

Currently vaccination is only available for children ages 12 and above. Julie Crawford, chief of Student Services and Equity, said at a meeting yesterday that the teenager category has been one of the most thoroughly vaccinated age groups in the city. Crawford said ACPS is getting ready to offer in-school vaccination as a prelude for when vaccination is allowed for the younger age group.

“Children could be vaccinated on-site during the school day,” Crawford said. “We want to get that up and running as soon as possible, so we can have that up and ready for those below 12 as quickly as possible.”

Crawford said vaccination would only be offered to students with parental consent.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company is hoping to release clinical trial data on the vaccine for children under 12 by the end of October with Pfizer seeking vaccine authorization sometime in November.

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Morning Notes

Friday Night Lights debut at Alexandria High School stadium — “A ribbon cutting for the newly renovated Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 ahead of the Titans’ first home game at 7 p.m. Speakers will include Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings Jr., School Board Chair Meagan Alderton, Mayor Justin Wilson, and more. Gates will not open to the public until 6 p.m.” [Patch]

City Council extends State of Emergency to January 2022 — The Alexandria City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to extend the state of emergency to January 31, 2022. [ALXnow]

Affordable housing could replace Alexandria Land Rover dealership — “The Beyer Auto group is vacating its Land Rover dealership at the intersection of Duke Street and Telegraph Road in favor of new, larger digs on Van Dorn Street just over the Fairfax County line. And now, there’s information about what could become of the original Land Rover Alexandria dealership: An organization is interested in building affordable housing there, according to Washington Business Journal, which first reported on the development.” [Alexandria Living]

Wegmans announces May 2022 opening in Eisenhower East — “Wegmans is building an 81,000 square-foot store in Alexandria just west of Hoffman Town Center off of Eisenhower Avenue. The grocery store at Carlyle Crossing is part of a mixed-use project on a 5-acre site.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Rain showers in the morning with scattered thunderstorms arriving in the afternoon. High 81F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%… A few clouds from time to time (in the evening). Low 68F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Crew at Trader Joe’s — “Our Crew Members create a warm and friendly shopping experience in our stores. We answer questions, offer suggestions and ensure our customers know they are welcomed and cared for. We entertain customers and make grocery shopping an exciting adventure.” [Indeed]

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Late last week, a third grader at Jefferson-Houston School was exhibiting COVID symptoms. By Sunday her mother received positive test results, and that evening she sent word to the school that her daughter was infected with the virus.

The next day was a bit of a scramble at the school, as the parents of all of the students in her daughter’s class were called to pick up their children and told that the kids needed to quarantine for two weeks.

“I’m glad we’re back five-days-a-week of in-person school, but I don’t think there was any plan for when kids started to get sick,” the mother said. “I didn’t certainly didn’t expect all of the kids, the entire class plus the teacher to be sent home, but we knew that certain kids would need to, who were exposed and close contacts would need to join the class virtually.”

There are reportedly a number of full classes at Jefferson-Houston under quarantine, although Alexandria City Public Schools would not comment on the number.

Today (Thursday) at 4 p.m., ACPS is hosting a virtual town hall with the Alexandria Health Department to discuss health-related measures in schools.

The school system’s COVID-19 Dashboard shows 46 positive cases reported since school started, and ACPS says that the number of students in quarantine will be added to the dashboard in the coming weeks.

“My daughter’s got her little pod in her classroom for four kids that she sits next to, but anytime they go to a different elective, anytime they go to lunch, they’re all in different seating arrangements,” the mother of the infected student said. “Seating arrangements aren’t uniform for these kids, so I’m really worried that these kids aren’t going to be in school at all this year, if all it takes is one case to shut down the entire class for two weeks at a time.”

On Monday, parents in a class under quarantine at Jefferson-Houston received a note from a teacher explaining how the next two weeks would go. The teacher wrote that students will learn virtually from 8 to 11 a.m.

“Today was very interesting and I’m sure a little stressful,” the teacher wrote. “Here is what I know thus far. The students and I are to quarantine until September 23, 2021… I will do my best to help this quarantine run smoothly. Thank you all in advance for your support, patience, and understanding as we navigate our new normal.”

ACPS says that uniform seating is in place for students, and that there is a plan for numerous quarantine scenarios.

“Students are grouped in pods to the highest extent possible at the elementary school level, keeping the same groups of students together at all times,” ACPS told ALXnow in an email. “Students are also assigned seats in classes so that even if they are in multiple classes each day, such as at our secondary schools, they are always in the same space within a classroom.”

The school system also says that it is actively hiring substitute teachers, and that all unvaccinated staffers are required to submit weekly COVID tests.

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The Alexandria City Council, on Tuesday, will likely extend its local emergency declaration until January 31, 2022.

The declaration, which was first approved by Council in March 2020, has been continually updated every six months, and finds that “the emergency continues to exist and will exist into the future.”

There are now 13,209 reported cases and 142 deaths due to COVID-19, which is an increase of 215 cases since this time last Tuesday. There were 43 new cases were reported on Thursday, September 10, making for the largest single-day jump since April 12, when 48 new cases were reported.

Alexandria’s seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests is at 3.4%, and the city is experiencing a high level of transmission for the fourth straight week, according to the Virginia Department of Health. In fact, the only localities in Virginia not seeing high transmission are Manassas Park and Fairfax City, which are both seeing moderate transmission.

There have also been 70 cases reported in Alexandria City Public Schools since last month.

VDH says that unvaccinated Virginians make up a majority of new cases. So far, 87,839 residents have been fully vaccinated and 100,982 residents have been partially vaccinated. More than 64% of residents over the age of 18 have been vaccinated, and so have nearly 78% of seniors.

Additionally, the Alexandria Health Department has developed a Fall/Winter 2021 Vaccine Strategic Framework to administer third doses and booster shots.

Find vaccine providers in Alexandria here. If you feel sick, get tested.

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News of over a dozen school deaths from COVID in Miami has led ACPS to reconsider it’s earlier position of allowing staff to decide whether to be vaccinated or not.

At a School Board meeting last week, the board voted to make it clear that in the coming weeks a plan will be put together on requiring all staff to be vaccinated — unless that falls into the broad category of claiming a medical or religious exemption.

At the meeting, Alexandria City Public Schools Executive Director of Human Resources Melanie Kay-Wyatt said that 84% of staff report that they’ve been vaccinated, a 62% increase from this past May. But some on the School Board said they’re still concerned at the amount of unvaccinated staff that leaves in the school.

“If it were 98% vaccinated I’d be less apprehensive,” said School Board member Christopher Suarez. “But the reality is there are 422 staff in our building who don’t have the vaccine. That is a lot of people. I do want to make sure good policy is implemented. I don’t want to be rash or unreasonable, but I think at a minimum we need to have some sort of firm resolution today that tells staff there will be mandatory testing. If you don’t have a bonafide medical or religious reason, you will want to get that first dose tomorrow.”

Others on the school board said they had similar concerns and urged their colleagues to pursue mandatory vaccination to the extent allowable under law.

“My feeling is, if for religious or some health reason a teacher can’t be vaccinated, that should be acceptable,” said School Board member Margaret Lorber, “but otherwise we should require all teachers and all staff.”

Some on the board said they were baffled by the decision of some staff not to get vaccinated.

“I am curious for those who are not getting vaccinated,” said School Board member Heather Thornton. “I want to know to the extent that we can know. All of the evidence coming up from above shows that this is the safe route to go.”

The School Board adjusted the agenda to allow the board to vote on a resolution that called for staff to come back to the City Council with a plan to move forward on vaccination requirements. There are still several uncertainties, like whether some vaccines can be required and how the schools would handle staffing shortages if there’s an outbreak. Superintendent Gregory Hutchings said ACPS is in conversation with the health department and is working to determine what kind of disciplinary action is allows to enforce the mandate.

“There’s a lot of grey because no one in Virginia has challenged this,” Hutchings said. “So it’s difficult when we don’t have any legal studies.”

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What an interesting week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

World champion sprinter Noah Lyles brought home his bronze medal from the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday. In a frank, TED Talk-like speech at Alexandria City High School, Lyles talked about the importance of mental health as he struggled to perform at the games.

“A lot of people will look at the Olympics this year like something was different with the athletes,” said Lyles. “Well, it was a lot of difference because we had so much weight that we had to hold onto — about two years. I was no different.”

On the COVID-19 front, while the transmission level remains high in Alexandria, this week the city tied with Arlington for the lowest seven-day positivity rate in Virginia. Large outdoor public events are still happening, too, and on Monday, a vast majority of local elected officials and candidates converged for the Alexandria Democratic Committee’s annual Labor Day Picnic, which included an appearance by gubernatorial candidate, former Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Man arrested for spending spree after finding wallet in Bradlee Shopping Center parking lot
  2. COVID-19 Update: Alexandria ties with Arlington for lowest seven-day positivity rate in Virginia
  3. BREAKING: Pedestrian critically injured in Old Town car crash
  4. Mark Center development plans head to Planning Commission this week
  5. Alexandria Police union calls out years of executive mismanagement
  6. JUST IN: Suspects arrested after allegedly firing shots at Alexandria Police
  7. BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
  8. Mayor outlines upcoming plastic bag tax plans
  9. Village Brauhaus aims for rooftop expansion
  10. No injuries or arrests after shots fired in Old Town Sunday night
  11. Most expensive homes sold in Alexandria in August

Have a safe weekend!

Via Elijah Walter Griffin, Sr.

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Shows are back across Alexandria, with venues like The Birchmere and Little Theater of Alexandria opening their doors again.

This weekend, Little Theater is showing August Wilson’s “Fences” and last month, The Birchmere featured Three Dog Night.

Even with a vaccine, it’s still a risk to go to an indoor concert of a theater with the coronavirus spreading in Alexandria. This city saw an uptick in cases in August, though hospitalizations have mostly remained steady.

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Alexandria’s seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests is now the lowest in Virginia.

The percentage was 3.1%, as of Tuesday, September 7, even though the city is experiencing a high level of transmission for the third straight week, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Mayor Justin Wilson says that the low seven-day average is a good sign.

“We know what works: vax + masks indoors,” Wilson tweeted. “Keep it up.”

There are now 12,994 reported cases in the city since the first case was reported in March 2020. That’s an increase of 177 cases since this time last week. There have also been 53 cases reported in Alexandria City Public Schools since last month. The death toll stands at 142.

There have been 209,668 Polymer Chain Reaction (PCR) tests administered in the city; 25,026 antigen tests and 7,937 antibody tests.

Below are statistics for neighboring jurisdictions:

  • Arlington County has 16,872 cases, 261 deaths and a 3.1% seven-day positivity rate
  • Fairfax County has 85,151 cases, 1,167 deaths and a 4.5% seven-day positivity rate
  • Loudoun County has 30,903 cases, 285 deaths and a 5.4% seven-day positivity rate

VDH says that unvaccinated Virginians are making up 99.6% of new cases.

So far, 87,136 residents have been fully vaccinated, and 100,390 residents have been partially vaccinated. Nearly 64% of residents over the age of 18 have been vaccinated, and so have nearly 78% of seniors.

Public events haven’t stopped. On Sunday, the Old Town Festival of Speed & Style brought thousands of visitors to King Street over the weekend, and on Monday a vast majority of elected officials and candidates converged for the Alexandria Democratic Committee’s annual Labor Day Picnic, which included an appearance by gubernatorial candidate, former Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Find vaccine providers in Alexandria here. If you feel sick, get tested.

https://twitter.com/TerryMcAuliffe/status/1434946273879154692

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Alexandria was spared from significant flooding this week after remnants of Hurricane Ida swept through the East Coast. The only flooding found was on lower King Street in Old Town, where businesses laid sandbags at windows and doorways.

“We’re open inside, but if you want to eat you’re probably going to have to come barefoot,” a hostess at Mai Thai told ALXnow on Wednesday.

Our top story this week was, for the second week in a row, on the recent brawl inside Alexandria City High School.

It’s a three-day weekend, and on Sunday the annual Old Town Festival of Speed & Style will bring crowds to marvel at classic and beautiful rides along King Street. Monday is Labor Day, and the city will operate on a holiday schedule.

In this week’s poll we asked how satisfied readers are with Alexandria City Public Schools since reopening on August 24. A majority (31%) reported being extremely unsatisfied with the school system, while 29% said ACPS has done a good job, 25% are extremely satisfied and 14% are unhappy overall.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. BREAKING: Video shows brawl at Alexandria City High School cafeteria just two days after school starts
  2. 13-year-old hit by car while walking home from school in Del Ray
  3. Fox put George Washington Middle School into a lock-in today
  4. Man arrested for spending spree after finding wallet in Bradlee Shopping Center parking lot
  5. No injuries or arrests after shots fired on Duke Street
  6. ACPS Superintendent Hutchings asks community to hit the brakes on email campaigns
  7. Alexandria man arrested for beating up ex-girlfriend in Old Town North
  8. Alexandria sees cases rise in August and warns of COVID-19 in schools
  9. Alexandria man convicted for possessing child porn and violating parole
  10. Historic Black cemetery under threat of being washed away in Old Town
  11. Man swallows two bags of drugs and runs from police in Old Town

Have a safe weekend!

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