Alexandria, VA

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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As Alexandria starts to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the city’s long term planning priorities are shifting to meet needs exposed by the health crisis.

In a presentation to the Planning Commission last week, city staff said some projects that were in the planning stage will be pushed back, including:

The Duke Street plan involves improvements to affordable housing, infrastructure and more along the Duke Street corridor. While the broader planning efforts had been scheduled to start this spring, staff said in a presentation that the planning effort will move to FY 2022. Some research currently underway on the proposed Duke Street Transitway will continue in the meantime.

“It’s especially important given this location and the transportation issues that are in this area that we go ahead and let Transportation and Environmental Services begin and get going on their work related to the transitway,” staff said at the meeting. “They have environmental concept work underway.”

Mount Vernon Avenue Plans, meanwhile, referred to conjoined planning efforts to make improvements to things like pedestrian infrastructure and housing affordability in Arlandria and Del Ray. Staff said at the Planning Commission that the interwoven Del Ray and Arlandria plans will be disentangled and improvements to Arlandria — which was particularly hard-hit by COVID-19 — will be prioritized.

“We are proposing to make a change to what we had originally planned with Mount Vernon Avenue plan,” staff said. “We’re recommending a focus just on Arlandria/Chirilagua with housing affordability in Arlandria first as a priority topic. Recommending continuing on late this year with housing recommendations and continuing on with housing topics.”

This summer and fall, the city will review housing affordability priorities, strategies and recommendations for Arlandria and continue with other aspects of plan development in the spring.

Staff said after the Arlandria/Chirilagua portion of the plan is put together, planning efforts will move on to Del Ray next fall.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Morning Notes

Large Income Disparities in Alexandria — “White Alexandria is pulling in significantly more money than Hispanic workers and African Americans, according to numbers from the United States Census Bureau. A look at average income shows non-Hispanic whites make more than $85,000 a year. That’s more than three times the average income for Hispanic workers, $24,000, and more than twice the average income for black workers, $37,000.” [Gazette]

Water Taxi Returns to Old Town — “A face mask requirement and other safety measures are in place for the limited water taxi service.” [Patch]

Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden Hosting Juneteenth Trivia Night — “It’s long been on our calendar to celebrate Juneteenth – marking the legal end of slavery in the United States on June 19th, 1865 – with a trivia night that explores African American culture. We hope you’ll join us on Zoom this Friday night for this special evening! Tickets are FREE, but an optional donation will be split between us, Carlyle House Historic Park, and ALIVE. Pre-registration at our Eventbrite page is required.” [Facebook]

NVTA Recommends Full Funding for Duke Street Transitway — “The Duke Street Transitway was the City of Alexandria’s only request to the NVTA and the cost is estimated at $87 million. Alexandria received $12 million already, so this funding request is for the remaining $75 million.” [Alexandria Living]

North Potomac Yard Virtual Meeting at 7 p.m. — “The Virginia Tech Foundation and JBG SMITH is hosting virtual community meetings to provide information on the design of the proposed buildings and site-wide updates.” [City of Alexandria]

Casa Chirilagua Hosting Fundraiser Sunday — “Casa Chirilagua is a local community nonprofit serving the Central American Latinx community in City of Alexandria zip code 22305 – a hot spot for COVID-19. Because of the health and economic conditions, demand for Casa Chirilagua’s services has become enormous.” [Facebook]

‘Ascend Cycle’ Hosting Virtual Pride Ride — “A $15 minimum donation is requested for this event. 100% of proceeds will be donated. Sign up for the ride online and we’ll text you the Zoom code before class!” [Facebook]

YMCA Reopens in Del Ray — “Your local YMCA at 420 East Monroe Avenue is back in business. It opened for the first time in months this past Monday, June 15, along with the Arlington location. The Y is following a phased approach to reopening so you will see differences when you visit.” [Zebra]

New Job: Assistant Center Manager — “Mathnasium is a highly dynamic and fast-paced and is known for the great care we take with our students and employees alike… We’re looking for an Assistant Center Manager to assist at both our Alexandria City and Mount Vernon centers. The pay range we’re offering is $16-$18/hour depending on center performance.” [Indeed]

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There are now 1,224 cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, an increase of 31 new or probable case since yesterday.

No new deaths have been announced and there have been 30 fatalities due to the virus in the city. Additionally, the city’s Hispanic population leads with positive cases at 533 and four reported deaths.

The most recent fatality was a woman in her 70s, whose death was announced Saturday by the Virginia Department of Health.

There are nearly 400 new or probable cases in the city in the month of May alone. VDH also reported that there are 139 COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Alexandria, and that there have been 86 cases associated with 11 outbreaks in the city, and that 88 of those cases have been health care workers.

Nine of the outbreaks occurred at long-term care facilities, and 15 deaths have occurred at such facilities, although that number has not been updated since the city’s release on May 2. The other outbreaks occurred at a “congregate” setting and an educational setting.

Meanwhile, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and other regional leaders are asking Governor Ralph Northam to stall his phased reopening of the economy in Northern Virginia. It is not clear how many people have recovered from the virus, and an accurate count on the number of cases is difficult to maintain in Alexandria since the highest infection rates are in the city’s poorest areas.

The area of the city with the leading number of cases is in the 22305 ZIP code, although VDH did not provide updated data this morning on case and test counts by ZIP code. As of yesterday, the 22305 ZIP code, which includes the Arlandria, Potomac Yard and Potomac West neighborhoods, had the largest number of reported cases at 360, with an estimated population of 16,095 residents.

Local groups are demanding that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam authorize supplying 10,000 testing kits to the Arlandria area, and providing housing for poor COVID-positive patients living in jam-packed housing.

People under the age of 50 have been getting infected in greater numbers, while there were relatively few new cases for residents above the age of 70. A large percentage of deaths have occurred at long-term care facilities, and there has been one death of a person in their 20s. There have been 13 reported deaths of residents in their 80s.

There are now reportedly 632 females with the virus (with 16 deaths and 65 hospitalizations) and 589 males (with 14 deaths and 74 hospitalizations) who tested positive for COVID-19 in the city. The sex of three cases was not reported.

The age breakdown of deaths and new cases:

  • 80+     — 13 Deaths, 50 cases, 19 hospitalizations (Three new cases)
  • 70-79 — Eight deaths, 70 cases, 28 hospitalizations (No new cases)
  • 60-69 — One death, 106 cases, 21 hospitalizations (Three new cases)
  • 50-59 — Seven deaths, 155 cases, 27 hospitalizations (Six new cases)
  • 40-49 — Zero deaths, 246 cases, 20 hospitalizations (Eight new cases)
  • 30-39 — Zero deaths, 297 cases, 17 hospitalizations (18 new cases)
  • 20-29 — One death, 176 cases, four hospitalizations (Five new cases)
  • 10-19  — Zero deaths, 74 cases, one hospitalization (No new cases)
  • 0-9     — Zero deaths, 49 cases, two hospitalizations (Four new cases)

Statewide, there have been 850 reported deaths, which is an increase of 11 deaths since yesterday, and 823 of those deaths are confirmed to have been COVID-19-related, according to VDH. There are now 25,070 cases (23,889 confirmed, 1,181 probable) and 3,300 hospitalizations (including 22 probable cases). Additionally, 167,758 tests have been administered in Virginia.

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A 42-year-old Alexandria man was arrested for a hit and run and driving under the influence after allegedly smashing his Land Rover into a telephone pole in the West End on Monday, March 9.

At around 11:30 p.m., an Alexandria Police officer was on mobile patrol when he reported finding vehicle debris and a snapped telephone pole in the area of Lincolnia Road and Quantrell Avenue.

The officer then heard “what sounded a lot like an explosion and saw what appeared to be a large flash of light from the area of Van Dorn/Duke Street intersection,” according to a police search warrant affidavit. “The pole was shattered at the base and laying parallel to the roadway, partially on the sidewalk. There was extensive vehicle debris to include a portion of the front fender.”

The officer reportedly got into his cruiser and was flagged down by staff from BMW of Alexandria, who reported that the power went out after a loud banging sound. The officer was then told over the radio that more debris was found at Stevenson Avenue and South Whiting Street.

A white Land Rover with front damage and flat passenger-side tires was soon located parked at the 7-Eleven at 331 S. Whiting Street.

Police arrested Christian Belandres at the 7-Eleven after he took a preliminary breath test police said registered a 0.192 reading, which is 2.4 times the legal limit. Belandres declined to perform a standard field sobriety test, according to police.

A witness also reportedly tried to pull Belandres out of the car at a Sunoco gas station at 190 S. Whiting Street.

“The witness attempted to pull Mr. Belandres from the vehicle to check on him, telling him that he was ‘not fit to drive,’ before Mr. Belandres and the Land Rover pulled away before coming to a stop at 331 S. Whiting,” noted the affidavit.

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The intersection of N. Jordan and Duke Street, near the Foxchase shopping center, is closed due to a serious pedestrian crash.

“A pedestrian was struck,” said Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine. “It’s serious enough that they’ve called in the reconstruction team.”

Ballantine said the person struck was an adult male. On social media, police urged drivers to avoid the area.

Via social media, a witness reported that the man was bleeding from the head after being struck.

The incident comes just three days after another pedestrian was struck at Duke Street and Diagonal Road and a month after Alexandria artist Alfredo DaSilva was killed while crossing Duke Street at an intersection not far from today’s scene. Earlier this week a driver was charged with a deadly pedestrian crash on Duke Street in November.

A petition to reduce the speed limit on a portion of Duke Street east of Jordan Street from 35 to 25 mph has garnered just over 100 signatures.

Map via Google Maps

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A man was struck and injured this afternoon on Duke Street by a driver in a Volkswagen Beetle.

The collision happened shortly before 1 p.m. today at the intersection of Duke Street and Diagonal Road, near the train station and the Motley Fool building.

An adult male victim suffered minor injuries and was transported to Inova Alexandria Hospital, according to police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine. The driver was cited for the crash, Ballantine said.

Photos from the scene show the car stopped in the crosswalk in the intersection. There was no visible damage to the vehicle.

Diagonal Road and a portion of Duke Street was closed for a period of time immediately following the crash.

Duke Street has been the scene of a number of notable pedestrian-involved crashes over the past few months.

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A grand jury has indicted Kenneth Whitcomb, a 62-year-old Alexandria resident, on a charge of reckless driving following a deadly pedestrian collision last November.

John Charles Thompson, a 75-year old Fairfax resident and retired Army general, was struck on Nov. 16 on Duke Street near the Alexandria Commons shopping center around 7:30 a.m. Police said that Thompson was in a crosswalk at the time of the crash.

“Mr. Thompson was walking across Duke Street when he was struck by a vehicle operated by Mr. Whitcomb,” Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Porter said in a press release. “Mr. Thompson was hospitalized after the crash and succumbed to his injuries.”

Porter said reckless driving, a class 1 misdemeanor and the most serious charge that could be lodged in the case, is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2500 fine, as well as a license suspension of not more than 6 months. Whitcomb is also charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian, punishable by a fine of not more than $500.

“The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with the investigation, his driver’s license was valid, and he was not under the influence of intoxicants,” Porter said. “Therefore, the appropriate charge is reckless driving.”

Maj. Gen. John Charles Thompson (ret.) was a West Point graduate and a 35-year Army veteran, recognized for valor in Vietnam, according to an obituary.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) The vehicle that struck and killed 89-year-old artist Alfredo DaSilva on Duke Street on Sunday morning, Jan. 26, was a Carpenter’s Shelter shuttle van, ALXnow has learned.

DaSilva was hit by the shelter’s daily shuttle van after it dropped off guests of its winter and day programs. Carpenter’s Shelter is located at Landmark Mall, in the former Macy’s department store, about a mile from the scene of the crash.

The incident occurred just before 8 a.m. as DaSilva crossed Duke Street at the intersection of Cameron Station Blvd.

Carpenter’s Shelter released the following statement to ALXnow:

Carpenter’s Shelter operates a daily shuttle which serves the guests of our Winter Shelter and David’s Place programs. We have been informed that — after all guests had been transported on Sunday morning January 26, 2020 — the shuttle vehicle was involved in a serious accident in the City of Alexandria. As of now, we have been given no further details pending the outcome of the investigation currently underway by law enforcement authorities.  We are and will continue cooperating fully with law enforcement throughout the duration of the investigation. We are deeply concerned for all involved, and will communicate further details to the Carpenter’s Shelter community as soon as they are available.

The driver of the vehicle is a Carpenter’s Shelter staff member. The driver called the police, stayed at the scene after the incident and was released without charges.

Map and photo via Google Maps

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After more than three decades, overnight emergency services at the VCA Alexandria Animal Hospital will come to an end on Feb. 24.

The 78-year-old animal hospital at 2660 Duke Street announced on Jan. 30 that it cannot find veterinarians capable or willing to work the exhausting and emotionally draining overnight emergency service hours. The hospital will continue its general practice and urgent care services during daytime hours.

“It’s very sad. It’s very hard for all of us. Imagine how the employees feel,” VCA Alexandria Animal Hospital Manager Karen Bates told ALXnow. “We lost eight veterinarians last year because they can not handle the stress or the requirements of the exhausting overnight hours. If someone is interested in an emergency position, they want to work during the day. At night you’re alone, you don’t have colleagues to bounce ideas off of — especially if you’re a new graduate.”

Bates, who has worked at the hospital for 30 years, said that the Alexandria hospital had to ask permission from VCA to discontinue its overnight services. VCA Hospitals owns hundreds of animal hospitals in the U.S. and Canada and bought the Alexandria location more than a decade ago. All VCA hospitals are run independently by individual management teams.

“This has nothing to do with the purchase of us by a corporation,” Bates said, adding that staffing overnight has been an issue for more than five years. “We had to ask VCA for permission to do this. We have the business, we have the staff, we just don’t have the doctors. We’ve been working with relief veterinarians. They’re not technically employees, but they have been able to keep us afloat this long.”

VCA Alexandria Animal Hospital will continue operating during general practice hours, which are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the week and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. The hospital is closed on Sundays, but staff hope to expand weekend hours and be open seven days a week.

The nearest overnight emergency care facilities include:

Map via Google Maps

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On Thursday morning, William Tate waited for the pedestrian signal before crossing at the intersection of Duke and S. Pickett Street. Traffic wasn’t too heavy, but Tate still waited for a few minutes and sipped his coffee until the light told him it was safe.

“The biggest problem I see on Duke Street is that people just cut across on foot wearing dark clothing, and they get clipped,” Tate told ALXnow. “Sometimes I’ll see people just running across where there aren’t crosswalks and drivers don’t pay attention. You’ve got to pay attention.”

The wide roadway and long waits for walk signals don’t help matters, however.

Four days earlier, on the morning of Sunday, Jan. 26, 89-year-old Alexandria artist Alfredo DaSilva was killed while crossing Duke Street at the intersection with Cameron Station Blvd. Few details regarding the incident are known, and the driver, who called police and stayed at the scene, was interviewed and released. The incident remains under investigation.

There have been three pedestrian fatalities on Duke Street since the fall of 2018, one of which happened this past November. At around 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 16, 2019, John Thompson, a 77-year-old Fairfax County man, was killed crossing Duke Street at Sweeley Street, near the Alexandria Commons Shopping Center. A year before that incident, on Nov. 18, 2018, Nelson Javier Galdamez Reyes, 52, was fatally injured on the ramp from Duke Street to southbound I-395.

Most Alexandria streets are limited to 25 miles per hour, and a new online petition asking for support for a speed reduction to 25 mph, west of Quaker Lane and east of Jordan Street, has received more than 100 signatures.

The city considers Duke Street a “high crash corridor” and is one of the few Alexandria roadways with a speed limit of 35 mph. Last year, the speed limit for a portion of U.S. Route 1 between Four Mile Road and Slater’s Lane, which is another high crash corridor, was reduced from 35 mph to 25 mph.

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Morning Notes

Petition for Lower Speeds on Duke Street — “After Sunday’s fatal traffic crash which took the life of 89-year-old Alfredo DaSilva, Alexandria, Virginia resident Grace Grant has started a petition to reduce speed along Duke Street between Quaker Lane & Jordan Street.” [Port City Wire, Change.org]

T.C. Grad Wins Grammy — “Tracy Young, a T.C. Williams alumna, became the first woman to win in the best remixed recording non-classical category at the 62nd annual Grammys Sunday. She won for her pride remix of Madonna’s ‘I Rise.'” [Patch, Twitter]

Remembering Kobe Bryant — Alexandria’s Elijah Griffin spoke to TV station ABC 7 about his personal “memories of legendary NBA star, Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old daughter, Gianna. He spoke not only about Bryant’s outstanding abilities on the court, but also about the amazing person he was off the court.” [WJLA]

DASH Bus Crash on Duke Street — “APD is on scene of a minor crash involving a DASH bus on Duke Street near S. Jordan Street. No injuries reported.” [Twitter]

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