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Construction of Inova Alexandria at Landmark is expected to be done in four years, and city staff are in favor of the hospital system’s comprehensive sign plan. Here’s what that looks like.

On Tuesday (Feb. 6), the Planning Commission will conduct a public hearing on Inova’s sign plan for the 10.4-acre development on the 52-acre WestEnd property that was formerly home to Landmark Mall.

No electronic signs are allowed in the zoning districts, according to the city’s zoning ordinance.

According to the city:

The Comprehensive Sign Plan proposes to provide clear and consistent guidance on the quality, design, and materials for building, wayfinding, and open space signs in the site. Per §9-103(C), the applicant is requesting the Coordinated Sign SUP to encompass two blocks plus streets within West End Alexandria. Through the SUP, the applicant seeks to increase the number, type, and area of signage to align with the density, scale, and activity expected within the campus.

Inova’s signs at the site must be approved by a special use permit, and include:

  1. Digital text or graphic signs, Parking ID, that would be up to 58.75 square feet, freestanding, and on approach to the garage entrances.
  2. Two types of illuminated signs that may be located higher than 35 feet above the grade… only allowing one such sign per building.
  3. Site identification and landscape signs up to 97.5 square feet and 65.25 square feet, respectively, with heights of 8.67 feet and 7.25 feet, respectively. § 9-202(A)iii.2 restricts these signs to no more than 24 SF and no taller than 6’ in CDD zoning districts.
  4. The applicant requests window signage for a secondary building entrance
  5. Freestanding wayfinding signs that exceed the city’s restriction of a maximum height of six feet, freestanding and parking identification signs that are 8.67-feet-tall, and outdoor recreation signs that are up to four-feet-tall.
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At Gravelly Point, a man in a folding chair reads a book as planes land outside Reagan National Airport (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Alexandria Health Department is warning residents of the potential for a measles outbreak, after another traveler with the viral infection was reported at Washington Dulles International Airport last month.

The Virginia Department of Health reported the potential exposure at Dulles and at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Jan. 3 and Jan. 4, and a notice was released by the Maryland Department of Health of another exposure at Dulles airport on Jan. 27.

“People may have been exposed to a person infected with measles if they were at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) between 6 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 27,” AHD said in a release.

Additionally, anyone who was in the following areas could have been exposed:

  • Washington Dulles International Airport International Terminal, Jan. 27 from 6 to 9:30 a.m.
  • Claridge House at 2445 Lyttonsville Rd, Silver Spring, Maryland, Jan. 27 from 7:30 to 10 a.m.; on Jan. 27 from 6 p.m. to Jan. 28 at 1 a.m.; and from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.
  • Suburban Hospital Emergency Department (8600 Old Georgetown Road), on Jan. 27 from 7 to 11 p.m.

According to AHD:

  • Exposed people who have had two doses of a measles-containing vaccine like the MMR vaccine or were born before 1957 do not need to take action.
  • Those who may be immunocompromised should talk to a health care provider about specific recommendations.
  • Exposed people who are not fully vaccinated against measles and born after 1957 should watch out for symptoms until February 17, 2024. Symptoms include a runny nose, fever above 101 degrees, cough, watery red eyes, and rash. If symptoms appear, you should isolate and seek care immediately. Call ahead and let your provider know you think you may have measles.
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Hospital admissions for Covid over the last year (image via City of Alexandria)

If it seems like a lot of folks are coming down with Covid, you’re not just imagining it; Alexandria has seen an increase in Alexandria Hospital admission levels for Covid this month.

Hospital admissions for Covid hit their peak for the last year during the week of Jan. 13, with roughly 10 hospital admissions per 100k residents.

The good news is that even at that peak, hospital admissions were still in the “Low” category. While admissions often increase after the holiday season, 2024 marked the first time those admissions didn’t climb to “Medium” levels during that period since the pandemic started.

Overall, there were 172 people admitted to the hospital in Alexandria for Covid over the last week, a 10% decline from the previous week.

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Departure board at Reagan National Airport (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Alexandria Health Department (AHD) said anyone traveling through two of the nearby airports earlier this month may have been exposed to measles.

The AHD shared a warning sent by the Virginia Health Department.

According to the release:

Out of an abundance of caution, VDH is informing people who were at various locations, including Dulles International Airport on January 3, 2024, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on January 4, 2024, that they may have been exposed. Health officials are coordinating an effort to identify people who might have been exposed, including contacting potentially exposed passengers on specific flights.

The release said the exposure times were 4-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 3, at the international arrivals area of the main terminal at Dulles and 2:30-6:30 p.m. at Terminal A of National Airport.

According to AHD:

  • Exposed people who have had two doses of a measles-containing vaccine like the MMR vaccine or were born before 1957 do not need to take action.
  • Exposed people who are are not fully vaccinated against measles and born after 1957 should watch out for symptoms until January 25, 2024. Symptoms include a runny nose, fever above 101 degrees, cough, watery red eyes, and rash. If symptoms appear, the individual should isolate and seek care immediately.
  • Those who may be immunocompromised should talk to a health care provider about specific recommendations.
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The proposed Inova Alexandria Hospital building on the former Landmark Mall site (via City of Alexandria)

Inova Alexandria Hospital is currently a 318-bed community hospital. Once it opens its new hospital in Landmark in 2028, it’ll be a 192-bed hospital.

At a City Council meeting last week, Councilwoman Alyia Gaskins raised concerns from the community about the loss of beds in the new development. Dr. Rina Bansal, president of Inova Alexandria Hospital, said the decrease in beds is part of making services more efficient.

“On the surface, that seems like a reduction in services,” Bansal said.

Bansal said around 30% of patients using inpatient beds shouldn’t be there.

Year over year, we’ve grown in the number of patients we have in the inpatient beds in the hospital. When you have patients in beds in the hospital, there are patients under observation status that are not considered true inpatients, and you have actual inpatients. About 30%… are observation patients; patients who should not be in inpatient beds

Even though the number looks like a decrease, it’s a number based on significant research from a strategic perspective, from a market share perspective, as well as transition of services from inpatient to outpatient.

Bansal said the number of beds is based on projections.

“Our goal as a system is to continue to grow and care for a larger segment of the community,” Bansal said. “We are growing; we are not going to spend over $1 billion to make our footprint smaller in Alexandria.”

Bansal also noted that the Inova Oakville facility will be ready for occupancy next summer and will be open for business in October 2024. Bansal said the groundbreaking for the Landmark development will be in the summer after the Oakville location ribbon-cutting.

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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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Alexandria land use attorney Cathy Puskar claps at the Chamber ALX Best In Business awards, October 27, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Chamber ALX has released the finalists for the Best in Business Awards, and the top businesses will be announced at a gala in Old Town next month.

It’s no secret that Don Simpson, Jr. is the chamber’s 2023 business leader of the year, since that cat was let out of the bag last month. Just who will receive the other highly coveted awards, however, is still secret. This year’s nominees are listed below, and winners are determined by a panel of previous awardees.

The Best in Business Awards, presented by Burke & Herbert Bank, will be held at the Westin Old Town Alexandria (400 Courthouse Square) from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Octo. 12. The event costs $125 for members and $150 for non-members.

Land use attorney Cathy Puskar was named business leader of the year last year. Read more about last year’s event here.

Alexandria’s 2023 Best In Business finalists

Small Business of the Year

Medium Business of the Year

Large Business of the Year

Rising Star Business of the Year

Nonprofit & Association of the Year

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Playing at the sprayground at Potomac Yard Park (Staff photo by James Cullum)

With heat index temperatures expected to reach upward of 107 degrees today, Alexandria is offering cooling centers at recreation centers and libraries.

The National Weather Service issued a a hazardous heat forecast today, in effect from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Temperatures are also expected to be more than 100 degrees through Saturday.

“Prolonged exposure to hot temperatures and high humidity can cause heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion, cramps or, in extreme cases, heat stroke,” the city said in a release. “It is especially important for individuals with underlying health issues to take extra precautions and plan ahead for this and future excessive heat events.”

Cooling centers are scheduled at these locations:

  • Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe St.) — 9 a.m.to 9 p.m. during the week, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday
  • Leonard “Chick” Armstrong Recreation Center (25 W. Reed Ave.) — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, closed on Sunday
  • Lee Center (1108 Jefferson St.) — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m during the week, closed on weekends
  • Mount Vernon Recreation Center (2701 Commonwealth Ave.) — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed on Sunday
  • Nannie J. Lee Recreation Center (1108 Jefferson St.) — 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week, closed on weekends
  • Patrick Henry Recreation Center (4653 Taney Ave.) — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday
  • William Ramsay Recreation Center (5650 Sanger Ave.) — 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, closed on Sunday

Libraries

Alexandria is also advising residents to visit city pools on its heat safety webpage.

Additionally, the Potomac Yard Interactive Fountain at Potomac Yard Park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. until Labor Day.

The city issued the following tips to beat the heat:

  • Stay indoors and limit exposure to the sun.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Drink more water than usual, and don’t wait to be thirsty to drink.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, and light-colored clothing.
  • Do not leave infants, children, people with medical conditions, or pets in a parked car even if the windows are cracked or even for short periods of time.
  • Monitor people around you, including co-workers, neighbors, and friends, for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Learn what you can do if you are concerned about someone who is homeless.
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Smokey conditions in Alexandria on 6/29 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandrians are being urged to stay indoors due to hazardous air qualityagain.

A Code Red Air Quality Health Advisory has been issued for the region today, warning of detrimental health impacts due to poor air quality, with outdoor pools and other activities impacted.

As per the issued advisory, the air quality today could pose a serious health risk, particularly to those with breathing and heart ailments, children, and older adults. Residents are encouraged to avoid strenuous outdoor activities, shorten their duration if necessary, or shift them indoors.

The Department of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities (RPCA) has announced that all outdoor pools will be closed for the day. All summer camp activities have been moved indoors today.

In a release, the City of Alexandria urged locals to:

  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activities
  • Keep outdoor activities short
  • Consider moving physical activities indoors or rescheduling them

The release said tomorrow’s (Friday) air quality is projected to be Code Orange — meaning it may be unhealthy for sensitive groups.

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The region has hit air quality level Code Maroon and Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) has announced some new precautions for today to minimize exposure to hazardous conditions.

In a release, ACPS said that schools will continue normal operations, but all physical education classes and recess will be held inside. All outdoor field trips have also been rescheduled.

“This step is taken in accordance with the guidance from the National Weather Service to minimize exposure to potentially harmful air conditions,” ACPS said in the alert. “We urge all families and staff members to be cautious and follow the recommended guidelines for limited outdoor exposure on this code Maroon air quality day.”

According to ACPS:

We want to inform you that today we are under a code Maroon for air quality, as advised by the National Weather Advisory for northern Virginia. The well-being of our students and staff is our utmost priority, and we are taking necessary precautions to ensure their safety.

While all schools will continue normal operations at this time, as a precaution and in accordance with ACPS policy, all physical education classes and recess will be held indoors.

In light of the air quality alert, we have decided to reschedule all future outdoor field trips. This step is taken in accordance with the guidance from the National Weather Service to minimize exposure to potentially harmful air conditions.

We urge all families and staff members to be cautious and follow the recommended guidelines for limited outdoor exposure on this code Maroon air quality day.

Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.

Sincerely,

Marcia Jackson, Ed.D.
Chief of Student Services and Equity

The City of Alexandria also reiterated an earlier warning for locals to keep outdoor activities brief and avoid strenuous activities.

The Alexandria Library also announced that outdoor events may be canceled or rescheduled due to the smokey conditions.

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