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The first day at school at George Mason Elementary School, August 21, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

A new partnership launching next month should help Alexandria students have better access to mental health services, including free access to therapists.

Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) is partnering with Hazel Health, a school-based telehealth provider, to offer students telehealth access to psychologists, counselors, nurses and social workers. Part of the partnership involves access to therapists with no out-of-pock costs to families.

Students can be referred to Hazel Health by a member of ACPS’ Student Support Team (SST). According to a release:

Referrals for student therapy can be made by an SST member. Families may talk to an SST member in their school to determine if a referral to Hazel Health is appropriate for their child. A parent/guardian will then receive a call from a Hazel Health family resource manager and given the option to opt into services for their student and schedule an intake visit. The division’s partnership with Hazel Health makes it possible for its therapists to see students with no out-of-pocket costs to families.

It’s been a particularly fraught year for ACPS students: a new report shows that the majority of middle and high school students in Alexandria feel unsafe.

Though it’s a telehealth service, the release says it’s only available at school during regular school hours.

“Hazel Health therapists focus on helping students learn positive ways to cope with issues that affect their ability to be in school and available for learning,” ACPS said in the release. “Therapists provide brief solution-focused therapy in approximately six sessions to assist students with building skills to support their learning. The service typically consists of a preliminary intake visit and approximately six sessions.”

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A young boy is tested for COVID-19 at a Neighborhood Health testing facility outside Casa Chirilagua in Arlandria (Staff photo by James Cullum)

Healthcare non-profit Neighborhood Health is hitching its wagon to the great West End migration as it joins several city services in a new ‘West End City Hall‘ at the Mark Center.

The building at 4850 Mark Center Drive, officially the Redella S. “Del” Pepper Community Resource Center, will be a new hub for offices like the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) and the Alexandria Health Department.

A lease for Neighborhood Health’s 11,424 square foot wing of the new location is heading to the City Council at the meeting (docket item 11) tomorrow (Saturday). Dr. Basim Khan, executive director of Neighborhood Health, told ALXnow the move will help position Neighborhood Health closer to some of the residents most reliant on the non-profit’s services.

“We’re excited to be part of this move because a lot of residents who need our services are located in and around the West End,” Khan said. “One [of our clinics] is in the DCHS St. Asaph Street building, the other is in the Alexandria Health Department King Street building. Given that those buildings are closing, we’re happy we’ll have space in the Mark Center.”

Khan said Neighborhood Health’s mental illness and dental programs will be moving to the Mark Center location. The new Mark Center location, Khan said, will also allow Neighborhood Health to be a little less constrained. While Neighborhood Health’s other clinics in Alexandria will remain open, Khan said the new locations will let Neighborhood Health expand somewhat and relieve some of the pressure on the overcrowded clinics.

“Over the last several years, we’ve struggled with high demand but limited space,” Khan said. “This gives us a chance to decompress a little bit. That additional space will be helpful to help us provide services.”

Khan said another advantage of the West End location is being adjacent to many other city programs Neighborhood Health patients utilize.

“Many of our patients access DCHS and Health Department services, so my hope with being located is that it improves access to those services and vice versa,” Khan said.

The West End is one of the most densely populated sections of Alexandria and many residences like Southern Towers act as some of the city’s last bastions of market rate affordable housing.

“We do have a lot of demand from patients who live around the Mark Center,” Khan said. “We have a lot of patients from those zip codes and having a site in the West End should be a great benefit.”


Last week was crossover in the Virginia General Assembly, the halfway point that marks when bills swap houses for votes, and Alexandria legislators have made some progress and had some setbacks.

In the State Senate, Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30), Richard Saslaw (D-35) and George Barker (D-39) were both sponsors on a bill that prohibits extradition for a person for violating another state’s reproductive health care laws unless those laws are also a criminal offense in Virginia. The bill has crossed over from the State Senate to the House of Delegates.

Another bill prohibits search warrants issued for menstrual health data.

Saslaw, Barker and Ebbin also both sponsored a bill that makes storing firearms at home in an area where they’re accessible to minors or people prohibited by law from possessing a firearm a Class 4 misdemeanor. Another bill prohibits some assault firearms and certain ammunition-feeding devices.

Other notable bills from Ebbin that have made it to crossover include:

  • Directing the Department of Medical Assistance Services to establish a state-funded health care program for Virginia residents under 19 and not covered by group health insurance coverage, who aren’t eligible for other medical assistance services because of their immigration status
  • Clarifying that a marriage between two parties is lawful regardless of the sex of those parties

On the House of Delegates side, Del. Charniele Herring (D-46) has made progress on several bills, including several related to criminal justice issues.

Herring’s House Bill 2400 repeals statutes providing for the dissemination of criminal history records related to the possession of marijuana, among a host of changes to the expungement and sealing of records.

Others, like House Bill 1996, aim to make summons easier to understand for unlawful detainer and civil claims for eviction. According to the bill:

The bill further requires that such instructions (i) be printed in no less than 14 point type; (ii) be understandable to persons whose literacy level matches the Virginia literacy level for fourth grade; (iii) explain that failure to appear in court on the hearing date may result in eviction from the defendant’s household; and (iv) provide the statewide Legal Aid and Virginia Eviction Reduction Pilot program websites and, if applicable, telephone numbers, directing defendants to contact those programs for more information and assistance.

Meanwhile, Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-45) has a slew of bills that have made it through crossover and one that, while it died in subcommittee, lives again in a companion Senate bill.

House Bill 2445 renews a food donation tax credit that allows anyone engaged in farming to donate food crops or wholesome food to a nonprofit food bank and claim a tax credit for up to 50% of the fair market value of the donation. Another, House Bill 2371, removes the $10,000 surety bond currently required to serve on the Alexandria Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission. Both of those made it to crossover.

One of Bennett-Parker’s bills, HB200, would increase flexibility for advisory bodies comprised of volunteers and allow them to hold virtual meetings above the current 25% limit. When the bill died in a House subcommittee, Senator Dave Marsden picked it up for a companion bill that increased the number of virtual meetings those volunteer bodies could have but still capped at 50% of the total number of meetings.

Art On The Avenue in Del Ray, Nov. 12, 2022 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria’s Covid community-level has gone from “low” to “high” this month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Low, medium or high Covid community levels are determined by data on hospitalizations and cases, according to the CDC. Each level comes with steps recommended by the federal agency that people and communities can take to protect themselves and others from potentially severe impacts of the virus.

The city is still experiencing hundreds of new Covid cases monthly, but the numbers are trending down, according to data from the Virginia Dept. of Health. The seven-day average of new cases is now 37.1, down slightly from 39.1 reported at the end of December. There have been 628 new cases reported so far in January.

No new deaths have been reported, and the death toll stands at 224.

Regionally, Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun counties, as well as D.C., have moved from low to medium designations, per the CDC.

New Covid cases this week in Alexandria (via VDH)

When community levels are “high,” the CDC recommends the following:

  • Wear a high-quality mask or respirator
  • If you are at high risk of getting very sick, consider avoiding non-essential indoor activities in public where you could be exposed
  • If you have household or social contact with someone at high risk for getting very sick, consider self-testing to detect infection before contact, and consider wearing a high-quality mask when indoors with them
  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, including recommended booster doses
  • Maintain ventilation improvements
  • Avoid contact with people who have suspected or confirmed COVID-19
  • Follow recommendations for isolation if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19
  • Follow the recommendations for what to do if you are exposed to someone with COVID-19

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

2022 was the worst year for new cases

The redesignation comes after a difficult year for new Covid cases.

There were 28,743 new Covid cases reported last year in Alexandria, comprising 64% of the 44,826 total cases since the pandemic began in March 2020, according to the Virginia Department of Health. There were also 49 deaths in 2022.

This time last year, Alexandria was experiencing the worst month of the pandemic. There were 12,822 new Covid cases reported in January 2022, and the seven-day average of new cases peaked at 337.

In many ways, Alexandria went back to business as usual, with community events returning in full force — despite the number of new cases. In November, tens of thousands of people attended Art On The Avenue in Del Ray, as well as last month’s Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Old Town.

The Alexandria Health Department’s last Covid-related release to the public was in June 2022, announcing vaccines for infants.

Below are the monthly totals of new cases for 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
  • December — 1,318 new cases

Alexandria parents should consider breastfeeding and using cow’s milk for short periods during the nationwide baby formula shortage, according to the Alexandria Health Department (AHD).

Those were just a couple of the department’s recommendations since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recall of Similac, Alimentum and EleCare powdered infant formulas produced at the Abbott Nutrition factory in Sturgis, Michigan — the largest producer of infant formula in the country.

Four children got bacterial infections because of formula made at the Abbot plant and two children died. Now more than 40% of the country’s baby formula supply is now out of stock. The Abbot factory is now set to reopen in two weeks, and it will take up to two months for products to reach grocery store shelves around the country.

Many Alexandria parents have turned online to find baby formula, with one resident even creating the NOVA Baby Formula Finding Network Facebook group, which now has 2,200 members.

If no formula is available, the Alexandria Health Department recommends feeding your baby whole cow’s milk for short periods.

“If you are still pregnant but will deliver soon, please give extra consideration to breastfeeding,” AHD advised. “Most women can breastfeed, and you are likely to avoid the formula shortage altogether.”

AHD provided the following dos and don’ts if parents are struggling to find baby formula:


  1. Do contact your baby’s physician or healthcare provider with any questions, especially if your baby is on a restricted diet or has any medical conditions.
  2. Do call ahead to nearby stores to find the ones that have formula before you travel.
  3. Do check smaller markets and drug stores when big box stores and supermarkets are out.
  4. Do consider buying formula online if you can afford it, only from well-established distributors and pharmacies.
  5. Do buy only a 10-14-day supply each time. It appears unlikely that the supply is going to run out, and hoarding will only make shortages worse.
  6. Do consider alternate or store-brand formulas if your baby is not on a restricted diet and has no major health problems.
  7. Do check local social media groups for tips or help finding formula in your area.
  8. Do contact the Alexandria Health Department or the Alexandria WIC office at 703-746-4998 for recommendations or resources.


  1. Don’t purchase formula online from private vendors or auctions. You won’t know what you’re actually getting, and there is little or no control over pricing.
  2. Don’t purchase formula from foreign or overseas locations. These products will not be FDA cleared, and may contain contaminants or ingredients inappropriate for your baby.
  3. Don’t feed homemade formula from a recipe. Even if only safe ingredients are used, these formulas will not provide adequate nutrition.
  4. Don’t water down or dilute your existing formula as your baby will not get adequate nutrition.
  5. Don’t feed your baby any plant-based milks as they lack many key nutrients.
One of the first looks at the proposal for the Inova hospital campus at the old Landmark site was filed with the city last week (screenshot via City of Alexandria permit system)

Inova has filed concept plans for the 10-acre site that will relocate the Alexandria hospital to the former Landmark Mall property and is expected to start construction in 2024.

Phase I of the campus construction proposal includes a 565,525-square-foot level 2 trauma hospital with below-grade and structured parking, a 107,239-square-foot cancer center and a 88,085-square-foot specialty care building, according to the development concept plan filed with the city last week. The existing parking garage will remain, adding 550 parking spaces for the campus to the additional 950 spaces to be constructed.

The construction timeline would start with the hospital in 2024, and the cancer center and specialty care center in 2026. Construction and opening for the campus is targeted for 2028.

The development concept plan states 1.66 acres of open space is required and is incorporated into the plan’s document.

Phase 2 includes the potential for hospital expansion, Inova spokesperson Tracy Connell said.

Inova Health System will host a virtual community meeting on Wednesday (March 30) at 6 p.m. about the development proposal for the new hospital campus. Representatives from Inova and their design consultants will present an overview of the proposed development and answer questions, according to Inova’s website.

When the city initially announced the relocation of the hospital from the Seminary Hill location, it said that it would expand to over 2,000 health care workers.

“The hospital would be one of only three Level II trauma centers in Northern Virginia, seven statewide, and 270 nationwide, providing 24-hour specialty services for brain injuries, complex fractures, and other trauma care,” the hospital system’s website states. “The addition of a medical office building would allow an estimated 50 specialty physicians to see patients on the same campus as the new hospital.”

The proposal lists the companies involved in the project as Urban, LTD, as the civil engineer, Gorove Slade as the traffic engineer, Ballinger as the architect, Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh as the attorney and Davis Utility Consulting, LLC, as the utility engineer.

A rendering of the John Carlyle Center (courtesy of Cushman Wakefield)

With construction slated for later this year, the planned John Carlyle Center for Health and Wellness is looking for tenants.

The developer behind the 126,000-square-foot medical facility is starting to push out the word ahead of construction that space is available to lease. Cushman & Wakefield is handling the leasing of the medical offices and retail spaces.

“We are in active discussions with potential tenants including hospital systems, national and local specialty practice groups,” Cushman & Wakefield representative Lindsey Groom said.

The facilities are expected to begin construction at the end of the third quarter or beginning of the fourth quarter of this year but an exact date has not been determined as construction logistics planning and the permitting process continues. The project at 765 John Carlyle Street will also include a 268,000-square-foot senior living residence and four-level parking garage.

Groom said there is a lack of these type of medical office properties in Northern Virginia.

“With the average age of medical office buildings in the I-395 North submarket being 40+ years old, this brand new facility will help address this strain going forward and help meet the demand for specialty care by providing healthcare providers and their patients with access points and care delivery in communities that are currently underserved, as the area’s population continues to grow,” Groom said.

The project saw some bumps in January when the developer made changes to the approved design that city staff did not support.


After nearly two years of the pandemic in Alexandria, Mayor Justin Wilson says it is now time to turn the corner against COVID-19.

In his monthly newsletter, Wilson wrote that more than 80% of city residents have been vaccinated, more than a third have gotten booster shots and anyone can get a vaccine who wants one.

Wilson said that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s newest determination that the city’s transmission level is “Low” is not a reason to immediately get back to normal. The Virginia Department of Health didn’t go that far, and only upgraded the city’s transmission level from “High” to “Substantial.”

There have been 29,581 reported cases of Covid in the city and 183 deaths, according VDH. Numbers have dropped in the last several weeks, going from a record-setting 12,822 positive cases in January to 1,227 cases in February.

“It is now time to turn the corner,” Wilson wrote. “At a time where our community needed heroes, heroes have emerged from every corner of our City.”

Wilson added, “We have seen our brave healthcare workers and public health employees risk everything to keep our community safe. We have seen dedicated public servants ceaselessly serve our community, even at risk to themselves and their families. We have seen the essential workers keeping our supermarkets open, our restaurants functioning, our pharmacies and retailers available, our hospitals cleaned and our public transit running.”

Alexandria has seen nearly 30,000 residents contract Covid, while 184 residents have died so far and the city remains in a state of emergency until June 30.

Wilson will conduct his monthly virtual town hall meeting on Thursday (March 4) at 8 p.m.

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Alexandria’s transmission rate remains “High” for the second week in a row, as the first case of the Omicron variant has been detected in Virginia, which just surpassed 1 million cases of COVID-19.

There have been 1,000,694 reported cases of COVID-19 in Virginia since the pandemic began in March 2020. There have also been 14,957 deaths statewide.

Additionally, the first case of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant was reported on Dec. 9 in northwest Virginia by an adult resident who recently traveled domestically.

“We knew it was only a matter of time before we would record our first Omicron infection in the Commonwealth,” said Virginia Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver said in a statement. “Right now, the highly transmissible Delta variant is causing almost all cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. We have very effective vaccines that can interrupt the chain of transmission and reduce the odds that unpredictable mutations like the Delta and Omicron variants will emerge. Do your part. Get vaccinated if you are eligible. Get your booster shot if you’re eligible.”

Local COVID numbers

In Alexandria, there are now 15,300 reported cases of COVID-19, an increase of 273 cases since this time last week. The number of reported cases in a single day peaked at 50 on Dec. 12 — the highest since February 12, 2021, when 57 cases were reported.

The death toll in the city remains at 155.

There have also been 19 cases reported within Alexandria City Public Schools this month. There were 62 cases reported in ACPS in November.

Reported cases rose sharply at the end of November, pushing the city from a “Substantial” to “High” transmission rate. The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases for every 100,000 people is 25.3, down from 36 last week. The seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests is now 5.1%, up from 4.3% last week.

Vaccine update

About 53% of Alexandria’s 5-17-year-olds (9,444 people) have been fully vaccinated, according to VDH.

Additionally, 73% (94,847) of residents older than 18 are fully vaccinated, as are about 84% (16,206) of seniors. Additionally, 31,804 residents have gotten booster shots.

There are still 34,954 unvaccinated residents, and the Alexandria Health Department says they account for a majority of new cases.

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

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As the city prepares for the Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend, Alexandria’s COVID-19 infections have continued a steady decline through the holidays.

The upcoming annual festivities were put on hold last year, and it usually bring thousands of visitors to Alexandria.

As of today (Monday, November 29), cases stands at 14,789, up 97 since this time last week. There death toll also remains at 154, according to the the Virginia Department of Health.

The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases for every 100,000 people is 7.8, down from 11.3 last week. The seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests is also down — now 2.7% versus 3.2% last week.

There have been 62 cases reported within Alexandria City Public Schools in November. There were 77 cases reported in ACPS in October.

Alexandria has experienced “Substantial” COVID-19 transmission since the week beginning October 17, before which the city saw “High” transmission for two months. The city saw “Low” and “Moderate” transmission levels from May to June this year — the lowest since the beginning of the pandemic.

Vaccine update

About 38% of Alexandria’s 5-17-year-olds (6,735 people) have been fully vaccinated, according to VDH.

Additionally, 73% (94,720) of residents older than 18 are fully vaccinated, as are about 84% (16,221) of seniors. Additionally, 24,774 residents have gotten booster shots.

The City recently announced a number of upcoming vaccine clinics for residents, including children ages 5-11. Booster shots are also available for residents 18 and older.

There are still 36,458 unvaccinated residents, and AHD says they account for a majority of new cases.

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

Via CDC/Unsplash


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