Where you live in Alexandria can determine your life expectancy, and a newly released City plan is focusing on removing the effects of decades of discriminatory practices.

The Community Health Improvement Plan 2025 (CHIP) is a blueprint to address poverty, mental health, and housing policies and systems in the city. For instance, the average life expectancy in the city’s heavily Hispanic Arlandria neighborhood is 78, while more affluent areas like Old Town have a life expectancy of 87.

“These differences are a result of decades of discriminatory policies and systems that are now built into City processes, our environment, and how community and organizational decisions are made,” notes the CHIP. ” The global pandemic, economic crisis, and racial and social injustice in 2020 only exacerbated these differences in health.”

Hundreds of city residents participated in the creation of the document, which includes numerous priorities highlighted in the 2019 Community Health Assessment, including housing, mental health, and poverty as areas needing improvement.

“Each priority area contains strategies, tactics, timelines, progress measures and tactic owners (the responsible organization or institution) to ensure accountability and effective implementation,” the city said.

Each priority area has an organization that has agreed to take it on.

As Alexandria contends with an affordable housing crisis, one goal would add affordable housing units to new city government and recreational buildings. The city’s Office of Housing is partnering with the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership to devise strategies, which include the conversion of hotels into affordable housing apartment complexes.

The development of the CHIP coincided with the revision of the “Alexandria City Public Schools’ 2025 Strategic Plan” and the “Children and Youth Master Plan 2025, and the city says a “Unified Planning Team” will work toward community engagement opportunities and shared outcomes.

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Alexandria has seen a jump in its COVID-19 numbers this month, as the state health department says unvaccinated Virginians are making up 99.6% of new cases.

The Virginia Department of Health, on Friday, revealed the information in a new dashboard that launched Friday. Alexandria has suffered 11,921 reported cases, 140 deaths and 572 hospitalizations since the onset of the pandemic. The last death was reported on July 1, there were two deaths in June and four deaths in May.

There have been 39 new cases reported so far this month in the city, and 13 cases were reported on July 9. That was the biggest single-day jump since May 20, when 18 new cases were reported. There were only 43 new cases in June, which was a 77% drop from the 193 new cases reported in May.

So far, 76,697 residents have been fully vaccinated and 91,724 residents have been partially vaccinated.

Alexandria has a goal of fully vaccinating 110,000 residents, which is 80% of the population, and the Alexandria Health Department and mayor believe the city has already reached that goal. They say that city’s vaccination numbers don’t reflect shots given to residents outside of the city, like in Maryland or D.C.

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

Courtesy Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Sheriff Dana Lawhorne to receive Lifetime Valor Award — “In recognition of his retirement, we are pleased to honor Sheriff Dana Lawhorne with a Lifetime Valor Award at this year’s Valor Awards. Join us virtually, on June 22nd, to honor Sheriff Lawhorne’s 43 years of law enforcement service to Alexandria.” [Chamber ALX]

West End Business Association hosting 1 p.m. conversation with Mayor — “Take this opportunity to ask questions and connect with Mayor Justin Wilson about how he would continue to serve the city of Alexandria.” [WEBA]

Chinquapin Recreation Center closing for improvements June 26 — “The City of Alexandria’s Chinquapin Park Recreation Center and Aquatics Facility (3210 King St.) will close Saturday, June 26 through Monday, Sept. 6, for several planned facility improvements and annual cleaning.” [Zebra]

Vaccine Equity Clinic on Route 1 in Fairfax County offering free transportation — “The Health Department and Fairfax Connector have partnered to offer free transportation to those who want to get vaccinated at the clinic, located in the former Safeway site at 7451 Mount Vernon Square Center in Alexandria. Fairfax Connector’s Free Vaccine Shuttle will run along Fairfax Connector’s line in that region.” [Fairfax County]

Annual Waterfront Commission walk is today — “The walk will be in person starting at (5 p.m. at) the intersection of Oronoco and South Union Streets and will proceed south to Robinson Landing. The walk is anticipated to end at 6:30 p.m.” [City of Alexandria]

Fire Department conducting community meeting on restructuring today — “The Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) will implement an organizational restructure, effective Saturday, June 12, 2021. The goals of the changes are to improve service efficiency and response times across the City; reduce cost; increase safety on the roadways; and improve response preparedness for specialty teams such as the Technical Rescue, Hazardous Materials, and Inland Water Rescue teams. AFD Representatives will present the upcoming changes to the community and answer questions.” [City of Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Rain showers in the morning with numerous thunderstorms developing in the afternoon. High 81F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%… Thunderstorms in the evening, then variable clouds overnight with still a chance of showers. Low around 65F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Ghost tour guide — “US Ghost Adventures, a national tour operation is seeking energetic storytellers to lead 90-minute walking tour groups downtown. This part-time position is ideal for self-motivated candidates looking for a fun way to make extra income in the evenings.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

McAuliffe, Ayala, Herring win statewide Democratic primary — “Former Virginia governor and longtime fixture as a national Democratic Party leader Terry McAuliffe won the state’s Democratic nomination for a second term as governor in Tuesday’s primary election, the Associated Press reported at 7:44 p.m. In the two other statewide races, the lieutenant governor’s contest was called by AP for Del. Hala Ayala. In the attorney general race, Del. Jay Jones conceded to incumbent Mark Herring.” [Patch]

Council candidates pose after Democratic primary — “Congratulations to our 2021 Democratic nominees for Alexandria Mayor (Justin Wilson) and City Council (John Chapman, Alyia Gaskins, Amy Jackson, Canek Aguirre, Sarah Bagley, and Kirk McPike), and the 45th House District (Elizabeth Bennett Parker)! Onward to November!” [Facebook]

Alexandria Health Department expands clinic partnerships and locations — “In recent weeks, the Alexandria Health Department (AHD) has expanded vaccine clinic partnerships and locations. In Alexandria and the region, mass vaccination events have slowed significantly over the past month. In response, AHD has focused on targeting outreach in communities where vaccination rates are lower and partnering with organizations to reach priority populations.” [City of Alexandria]

Made in ALX hosting first art show and sale — “Saturday, June 26, join a group of Alexandria artists on the patio behind ALX Community (near the gazebo between the Torpedo Factory and The Blackwall Hitch) to see new pieces and pick up something unique for your home!” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Cloudy. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 88F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph… Overcast. Low 71F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Front desk assistant — “Dogtopia, the industry leader in dog daycare, boarding, and spa services has an immediate opening for an energetic, organized, sales and solution-minded individual to join our team as our Sales Receptionist.” [Indeed]

Photo via Alexandria Democratic Committee/Facebook

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The Alexandria Health Department on Friday, May 28, is launching a new accreditation program for businesses to make visitors feel safe.

That’s the day that Governor Ralph Northam is lifting all COVID-19 restrictions throughout Virginia.

The ALX Promise Gold program is the new version of the ALX Promise program, which launched in May 2020 and required business owners and staff to undergo health safety training. More than 450 businesses participated.

“The ALX Promise program really helped to reassure the community and people that were coming into our community that we were a safe place to come,” said Rachel Stradling, an environmental health manager with the AHD. “We really want to make sure that we continue that momentum this summer, while reassuring people that our businesses are still doing the right thing.”

Stradling continued, “Yes, we may be open at an increased capacity, but we want the community to have reassurance that these businesses still really care about the community’s health.”

The new program is being launched in a partnership with Visit Alexandria.

Nearly 70 businesses have already signed up to participate in the new 45-minute class, which updates business owners and staff on the latest updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Businesses must also pledge to report any new coronavirus cases, allow staff to get paid time off to get vaccinated, and maintain sanitation practices.

Some businesses, like fibre space in Old Town, are continuing to ask customers to wear face masks inside, while other big chain stores like Target and Wal-Mart have eliminated mask and distancing requirements.

“We obviously want every business to participate in the program,” Stradling said. “This really is the gold standard. It’s asking you to report every case, it’s asking you to give people paid time off to get vaccinated and we understand that that may be challenging to some businesses. But we really want to encourage as many businesses as possible to participate, and they will get an awesome new decal, which is a really pretty gold color and really stands out.”

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Alexandria’s COVID-19 deaths have increased by one to 136, and the number of cases has reached 11,825, an increase of 26 cases since last Tuesday, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The city’s seven-day moving average is now 3.9.

Below is the VDH breakdown of cases over the last six days in Alexandria:

  • Two new cases reported Monday, May 24
  • Three new cases reported Sunday, May 23
  • Four new cases reported Saturday, May 22
  • One new case reported Friday, May 21
  • 18 new cases reported Thursday, May 20
  • Zero cases reported Wednesday, May 19
  • Zero cases reported Tuesday, May 18

On the vaccine front, 60,950 residents have been fully vaccinated, and 79,801 residents have been partially vaccinated. Alexandria has a goal of fully vaccinating 110,000 residents, which is 80% of the population.

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

Graph via VDH

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In a first for the city since at least the start of the year, there have been no new cases of coronavirus and no new hospitalizations reported in Alexandria.

The city’s count of total cases stands at 11,799, with total hospitalizations at 563, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Since May 13, the death toll has also held steady at 135.

The news comes as the city also passes the halfway point to its target for total vaccinations. The Alexandria target for total number of residents vaccinated is 110,000 — or 80% of the population. Currently 56,098 Alexandrians are fully vaccinated, and 67,282 have been partially vaccinated.

No new cases were also reported in neighboring Arlington.

The city also recently voted to lift the mask mandate, bringing the city into alignment with state mask regulations.

According to the city:

There are some instances when fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks indoors, including on public transit, in health care facilities, and in congregate settings. Since vaccine clinics are considered health care settings, masks will be required by all patients, guests, volunteers, and staff, while inside and outside of vaccine sites. Businesses retain the ability to require masks in their establishments. Employees who work in certain business sectors-including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care, and entertainment-must continue to wear masks unless they are fully vaccinated, per CDC guidance. The order also states that all K-12 students, teachers, staff and visitors must wear a mask over their nose and mouth while on school property, regardless of vaccination status.

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The Alexandria City Council on Saturday unanimously voted on Saturday to align the city’s face mask ordinance with the state’s guidance.

That means that Governor Ralph Northam’s recent lifting of the mask mandate applies to vaccinated city residents, and that any additional changes his office makes will not need local approval.

Any executive order issued by the governor regarding face coverings is the requirement that needs to be followed in Alexandria,” City Attorney Joanna Anderson said on Saturday.

Local businesses can determine whether they want to continue mask requirements, and masks will continue to be mandatory in K-12 schools.

“The state of emergency in Virginia will remain in place at least through June 30 to provide flexibility for local government and support ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts,” according to the governor’s office.

According to the city:

There are some instances when fully vaccinated people should continue to wear masks indoors, including on public transit, in health care facilities, and in congregate settings. Since vaccine clinics are considered health care settings, masks will be required by all patients, guests, volunteers, and staff, while inside and outside of vaccine sites. Businesses retain the ability to require masks in their establishments. Employees who work in certain business sectors–including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care, and entertainment–must continue to wear masks unless they are fully vaccinated, per CDC guidance. The order also states that all K-12 students, teachers, staff and visitors must wear a mask over their nose and mouth while on school property, regardless of vaccination status.

There have been 11,799 cases of COVID-19, and the death toll is 135 in Alexandria. Approximately 40% of eligible Alexandrians have been fully vaccinated, according to the City.

 

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Vaccination in Alexandria could open up for ages 12 to 15 soon after the Pfizer vaccine recently cleared federal approval.

In a recent update to the City Council, Alexandria Population Health Manager Natalie Talis gave an update on where the city is so far in vaccination efforts and what, including the vaccine age expansion, is ahead.

According to the Alexandria Health Department, the city must receive federal approval before it can authorize administration for the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to the 12-15 age range.

“As the only vaccine authorized for those under 18, Pfizer’s EUA previously covered ages 16 and older,” the city said. “Providers in Alexandria cannot begin offering the vaccine to those aged 12 to 15 without CDC approval. AHD has been planning for the expansion of vaccine availability to this age group, including coordination with schools and pediatricians.”

In the meantime, as schools get ready to open up, Talis said there are currently no known plans for students under 18 years old to be required to prove that they’ve been vaccinated to get back into school.

That approval was granted yesterday, paving the way for that vaccination effort to begin.

According to Talis, currently over 74,000 Alexandrians have received at least one vaccine, and of those 51,000 are fully vaccinated. Now, with demand starting to go down, Talis said the focus is shifting into outreach.

“Right now we’re going into areas hard hit by COVID,” Talis said.

Talis told the Council a story about one worker who connected with a person who wound up getting his whole community involved in getting vaccinated.

“One worker was outside of a grocery store trying to reach people who have not been vaccinated,” Talis said. “She ended up speaking with one gentleman who only speaks Spanish. He had been vaccinated but his wife hadn’t. He went home, picked up his, wife, and brought her back to the grocery store to book a vaccine appointment even though we were happy to do it over the phone… He has sent us 15 more of his friends, family and neighbors, texting our outreach worker.”

Talis said the city has seen a magnifying effect as people the city reaches out to in face-to-face conversations spread vaccine information to their communities.

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) The Alexandria City Council will consider adjusting the city’s face mask ordinance to evolve with Governor Ralph Northam’s executive order, which is continually being amended to loosen statewide coronavirus restrictions.

The ordinance states that all city residents under the age of five years old are required to wear face masks except while exercising, eating and drinking or if they have a verified health condition. The ordinance was approved last September and expires this September.

The amendment under consideration for Tuesday night means that the governor’s eventual lifting of a mask mandate will subsequently result in the city taking the same immediate action.

ALXnow first reported the city’s intention to amend the mask ordinance after the CDC issued its guidance last month that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask outdoors, except in certain crowded settings and venues.

Northam also recently announced that, should COVID-19 numbers continue to decline, he would lift the following restrictions on May 15,

  • Social gatherings: The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase to 100 people for indoor settings and 250 people for outdoor settings. Social gatherings are currently limited to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
  • Entertainment venues: Indoor entertainment and public amusement venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity or 1,000 people, up from 30 percent capacity or 500 people. Outdoor venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity–up from 30 percent–with no specific cap on the number of attendees.
  • Recreational sporting events: The number of spectators allowed at indoor recreational sporting events will increase from 100 to 250 spectators or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less. Outdoor recreational sporting events will increase from 500 to 1,000 people or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less.
  • Alcohol sales: Restaurants may return to selling alcohol after midnight, and dining room closures will no longer be required between midnight and 5:00 a.m.

There have been 134 COVID-19 deaths and 11,754 cases in Alexandria, according to the Virginia Department of Health. More than half of the city’s residents have gotten one shot of the vaccine (73,709 residents) and about 38% of city residents have been fully vaccinated (51,161 residents).

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