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SoberRide program for Cinco de Mayo, image via WRAP

The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) has announced a SoberRide program for Cinco de Mayo next month, part of an ongoing mission to curb drunk driving by offering free rides through Lyft.

The program starts at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 5, and will run until 4 a.m. on Friday, May 6. Residents over 21-years old can enter a SoberRide code into the app’s payment tab and receive a voucher of up to $15 for a trip home. The code will be posted at 3 p.m. on May 5.

In 2019, 792 people in the area used the SoberRide program during Cinco de Mayo, and WRAP said in the release that the program was curtailed in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic. The program has provided 82,127 rides since 1991.

SoberRide is available throughout the region, Alexandria included. The program is also available on St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, Halloween and the winter holidays.

“Over a third of U.S. traffic deaths during Cinco de Mayo involve drunk drivers according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” said WRAP President Kurt Erickson in a release.

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(Updated 11:50 p.m.) Alexandria will honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in a virtual program on Friday, Jan. 14. It’s the 49th annual celebration commemorating the civil rights leader, and speakers will include U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, Mayor Justin Wilson and retired City Councilwoman Del Pepper.

Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — a national holiday all across the country — and Alexandria has recognized the fallen civil rights leader every year since 1973.

This year’s theme is “It Starts With Me: Shifting Priorities to Create the Beloved Community,” and the program also includes a performance by the Alexandria City High School Orchestra, and a presentations by activist Rosa Byrd and outgoing City Manager Mark Jinks.

The event will begin at 7 p.m. virtual event and can be seen on the City’s website, social media and cable channels 70/1084.

Photo via National Park Service/Flickr

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Despite high numbers of new COVID-19 infections, Alexandria City Public Schools plan on fully reopening from winter break on Monday, Jan. 3.

“ACPS continues to use the current health and safety guidelines provided on our 2021-22 Health & Safety Guidance web page,” Julie Crawford, ACPS Chief of Student Services and Equity, told ALXnow. “At present, there is no change to our return plans after winter break.”

As of today (Wednesday, Dec. 29), there have been 18,319 cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, which is an increase of 505 cases since Monday, according to the Virginia Department of Health. There were 174 cases of COVID-19 reported in ACPS in December, and 411 total cases reported since school started in August.

The seven-day average of daily new cases in the city is now 261, up from 248 on Monday. The number of deaths has risen by four to 161, although the Alexandria Health Department says the new fatalities were city residents who died out of state in 2020.

Just as with Thanksgiving, the Alexandria Health Department recommends avoiding crowds, getting COVID-tested three-to-five days after returning from the winter holiday and getting vaccinated.

Additionally, the Alexandria Health Department released the following quarantine guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • For people who are unvaccinated or not recently vaccinated (more than six months after their second mRNA dose or more than two months after the J&J vaccine), CDC now recommends quarantine for five days followed by strict mask use for an additional five days. If the recommended five-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure.
  • Individuals who have received their booster shot or are recently vaccinated (less than six months after their second mRNA dose or less than two months after the J&J vaccine) do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for ten days after the exposure.
  • For anyone who is exposed, is it best to get tested for COVID-19 on the fifth day after the last known exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms that symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.
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It was a warm holiday for Friends of Guest House residents in Alexandria, as a local realtor more than doubled her goal by receiving more than 130 sets of new pajamas and warm socks from the community.

The Friends of Guest House reentry programs help women transition back to the community from prison, and the pajamas and socks were given to 30 women in both of the nonprofit’s facilities.

“It was amazing,” said Kathy Goode, a program assistant at Friends of Guest House, who delivered the presents on Christmas day. “They were ecstatic. Most of them put on their pajamas and wore them for the day.”

Maureen Clyne wanted to deliver at least 65 sets of pajamas and just as many pairs of socks, which is about how much she was able to get a few years ago. After a story with ALXnow, she says that her office at Coldwell Banker Realty in Old Town and her Del Ray home were deluged with donated gifts.

“A lot of times there’s not a lot of thought and attention given to previously incarcerated women,” Clyne said. “A lot of them are coming out with their prison clothes, they don’t have a whole lot, and pajamas are something everyone can relate to. It’s much more personal than writing a check. Everyone likes new pajamas.”

The remaining pajamas and socks have been stored away to give to new residents as they enter the residential program in 2022.

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New Year’s Day is right around the corner, and a number of Alexandria government offices are closing early on Friday (Dec. 31).

The city’s New Year’s Eve celebration has been canceled due to rising COVID numbers, but if you’re looking to get out on Friday, the Torpedo Factory Art Center will be open from  10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Charles Houston and Patrick Henry Recreation Centers will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., as will the Chinquapin Park Recreation Center & Aquatics facility.

The city has listed the following closures and other changes planned for this week:

Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (AWLA): On Friday, December 31, the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (4101 Eisenhower Ave.) will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., by appointment only, for both virtual and in-shelter animal visiting opportunities. To make an appointment, visit AlexandriaAnimals.org/Adopt-by-Appointment. The shelter will be closed Saturday, December 25 and Saturday, January 1. For animal emergencies or wildlife concerns, call 703.746.4444.

Courts: The Alexandria Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, Circuit Court, General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court will be closed Thursday, December 30; and Friday, December 31. The Court Service Unit will be closed Friday, December 31.

Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): All DMV customer service centers in Northern Virginia (including 2681 Mill Rd.) will be closed Friday, December 31 and Saturday, January 1, 2022.

Health Facilities: The Alexandria Health Department (4480 King St.), Flora Krause Casey Health Center (1200 N. Howard St.) and Teen Wellness Center at Alexandria City High School (3330 King St.) will be closed Friday, December 31.

Historic Alexandria: All City of Alexandria museums, with the exception of the Alexandria Archaeology Museum, will be closed on Friday, December 24; Saturday, December 25; Friday, December 31; and Saturday, January 1. The Alexandria Archaeology Museum (105 N. Union St.) will be open Friday, December 24 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday, December 31 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 703.746.4554 or visit alexandriava.gov/Historic and follow Historic Alexandria on social media.

Hotlines: All emergency hotlines operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including the child protective services hotline at 703.746.5800; the domestic violence hotline at 703.746.4911; the emergency mental health services or substance abuse crisis hotline at 703.746.3401; the adult protective services hotline at 1.888.832.3858; and the sexual assault hotline at 703.683.7273.

Impound Facility: The City’s Impound Facility (5249 Eisenhower Ave.) will be closed on Thursday, December 23; Friday, December 24; and Friday, January 1. Fees will accrue while the facility is closed on Saturdays and Sundays, but will not accrue on holidays.

Libraries: All Alexandria Library branches and the Alexandria Law Library (520 King St.) will be closed Thursday, December 23 through Saturday, December 25, December 31 and January 1. Visit alexlibraryva.org for more information.

Old Town Farmers’ Market: The Old Town Farmers’ Market will be open Christmas Eve, Friday, December 24, from 7 a.m. to noon with free parking at Market Square Parking Garage (108 N. Fairfax St.), under Market Square Plaza, from 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The Farmers’ Market will be and will be closed Saturday, December 25, and will open as usual on New Year’s Day, Saturday, January 1, 2022, from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Parking: The Alexandria Police Department will suspend enforcement of parking restrictions at metered spaces, residential permit parking districts and other areas with signed parking time limits Thursday, December 23 through Saturday, December 25; and Saturday, January 1. This suspension of enforcement applies only to the restrictions at legal parking spaces, and does not permit parking in any location normally prohibited (for example, no-parking zones, loading zones or spaces for persons with disabilities). Temporary no-parking signs will be posted and enforced on the holidays.

Recreation, Nature and Art Centers: On Thursday, December 23, Chinquapin Park Recreation Center & Aquatics Facility (3210 King St.), Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe St.) and Patrick Henry Recreation Center (4653 Taney Ave.) will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union St.) will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and all other facilities will be closed.

On Saturday, January 1, all recreation, nature and art centers will be closed. View the City’s recreation center operating schedule for more information.

Resource Recovery:

Christmas Tree Collection: Christmas tree collection will begin Monday, January 3 and will be collected through the whole month for residents who receive City trash collection services. The last day of tree collection will be Monday, January 31. Visit alexandriava.gov/YardWaste for preparation information.

Leaf Collection: Leaves will be collected on Thursday, December 23 and Friday, December 24. There will be no leaf collection on December 31 in observance of New Year’s Day. Visit alexandriava.gov/LeafCollection for more information.

Trash and Recycling: Residential refuse, yard waste and recycling will be collected on the regularly scheduled day during the weeks of December 20 and December 27; there will be no “holiday slide.” The Household Hazardous Waste Electronic Collection Drop-off Center (3224 Colvin St.) will be closed Saturday, December 25 and Saturday, January 1. Visit alexandriava.gov/ResourceRecovery for more information.

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Alexandria’s COVID-19 infections jumped after Thanksgiving, and the numbers continue to rise going into the winter holidays.

There were 116 new cases reported in the city today (Friday), which is the most single-day cases reported since January 2021. There have been 301 new cases reported in the City in the last three days alone, and this “exponential” jump in COVID-19 cases, as described by the Health Department Thursday night, has stretched to Alexandria City Public Schools, as it waves farewell to 15,000 students for the two week winter break starting Monday.

There were 32 new cases reported across ACPS on Dec. 15 (Wednesday); 52 cases reported between Dec. 14 and Dec. 16, and more than 40 new cases reported last week, the Alexandria Health Department reported to the School Board on Thursday night.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. told the Board that ACPS will not revert to system-wide virtual learning, and will monitor rising numbers to determine if individual schools need to shift back to an all-virtual environment on a case-by-case basis.

Hutchings also told the Board that the ACPS COVID-19 Dashboard will be updated more regularly to provide current numbers, which will be used to “determine if we need to revert to a virtual setting.”

Earlier this week, the Dashboard showed only 19 infections in the month of December. That has since been changed to 59 reported cases, significantly below the 122 cases reported since Dec. 6.

The Virginia Department of Health reports that 56% of the city’s 5-17-year-olds are fully vaccinated. In ACPS, 120 staffers are not vaccinated due to religious and medical exemptions, but they are being tested weekly and none have been fired because of refusing to take the vaccine, Hutchings said.

Alexandria’s transmission rate went from “Substantial” to “High” at the end of November, and the numbers of new infections have climbed at rates not seen since January of this year.

Consequently, ACPS recommends the following travel guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Delay travel until you are fully vaccinated
  • Check your destination’s COVID-19 situation before traveling. State, local, and territorial governments may have travel restrictions in place
  • Wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required in indoor areas of public transportation (including airplanes) and indoors in U.S. transportation hubs (including airports)
  • Do not travel if you have been exposed to COVID-19, you are sick, or if you test positive for COVID-19
  • If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel, get tested both before and after your trip

ACPS also asks families to check their emails and answer phone calls, since callers could be contract tracers with the Health Department or ACPS informing of an exposure.

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It’s the holiday season, so expect a series of closures and reduced services toward the end of this month.

In a press release, the City of Alexandria ran offered an overview of what services will be open and when.

“All City of Alexandria government offices will be closed Thursday, December 23 and Friday, December 24, in observance of the Christmas holiday; and Friday, December 31, in observance of the New Year’s Day holiday,” the city said.

What follows is a rather lengthy list of openings and closings that will be included verbatim at the end of the article.

Some of the highlights are that the Old Town Farmers’ Market will be open on Christmas Eve, Friday, Dec. 24, from 7 a.m. to noon. Free parking will be offered in the Market Square Parking Garage (108 N. Fairfax Street) from 5:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The market will be closed on Saturday, Dec. 25, but will be open as usual on New Year’s Day, Saturday, Jan. 1.

Speaking of parking: the Alexandria Police Department will suspend enforcement of parking restrictions at metered spaces, residential permit districts, and other areas with signed parking time limits from Thursday, Dec. 23, through Saturday, Dec. 25, and on Saturday, Jan. 1.

“This suspension of enforcement applies only to the restrictions at legal parking spaces, and does not permit parking in any location normally prohibited (for example, no-parking zones, loading zones or spaces for persons with disabilities),” the city said. “Temporary no-parking signs will be posted and enforced on the holidays.”

For those looking for something to do on Christmas Eve, the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union St.) will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 24.

In terms of transit, on Friday, Dec. 24 and Friday, Dec. 31, DASH bus will operate on a Sunday service schedule. On Saturday, Dec. 25 and Saturday, Jan. 1, DASH will operate on a regular Saturday service. The King Street Trolley will continue to operate through the holidays.

Visit Alexandria has also put together a small guide to local restaurants continuing to serve food on the upcoming holidays.

The full list of closures is available below the jump:

Read More

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After an online celebration last year, Alexandria’s First Night celebration is back, fireworks and all on New Year’s Eve.

“I’m thrilled First Night is back,” said Laverne Chapman, chair of the board of First Night. “It took us two years to come back, and we’re ready to come back.”

On Tuesday, City Council made its proclamation recognizing the upcoming event and thanking its organizers.

“This is the city’s great party and you don’t want to miss it,” said Councilwoman Del Pepper.

Today, Dec 15, the Virginia Department of Health reported 75 new cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria. That’s the most single-day infections reported since January.

“We’ve taken all the COVID precautions,” Chapman said. “Masks will be worn at all the events. We’ll be doing cleaning between the events.”

The First Night schedule starts with activities for seniors and kids from noon to 5 p.m., followed by an evening schedule of events that lasts until the fireworks finale over the Potomac River.

Tickets for each event range from $5 for kids to $20 for adults and seniors.

Below are First Night Alexandria’s daytime and evening schedules:

Daytime schedule

  • 12-2 p.m. — Kids celebrate NYE at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, 101 Callahan Drive
  • 12-2 p.m. — Seniors celebrate NYE at the Oswald Durant Center, 1605 Cameron Street
  • 3-5 p.m. — Kids celebrate at the George Washington Masonic Memorial
  • 3-5 p.m. — Seniors celebrate at the Oswald Durant Center

Evening schedule

  • 6-6:30 p.m. — Welcome and kickoff at Market Square, 301 King Street
  • 7-8:30 p.m. — Battle of the buskers, various locations in Old Town
  • 7-8:30 p.m. — Early shows at select venues
  • 8-10 p.m. — Teen showcase at the Oswald Durant Center
  • 9:30-11 p.m. — Late shows at select venues
  • 10-midnight — Countdown to 2022 street party at Market Square
  • Midnight — Fireworks finale over the Potomac River

Via First Night Alexandria/Facebook

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Families and friends looking to celebrate are in for an annual holiday tradition. For the third year, Ice & Lights: The Winter Village At Cameron Run is open with light displays, Christmas trees and ice skating.

The winter village (4001 Eisenhower Avenue) opened in mid-November, and will shut down on Jan. 2. The ice skating, however, will remain open on weekends until Feb. 27. General admission to the park is $8 and ice skating is $12.

“It takes Cameron Run staff, NOVA Park volunteers, and contractors three months to install all of the lights and displays,” NOVA Parks said on its website. “A lot of hard work goes into preparing for this awesome show.”

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A local realtor is hosting a pajama party this month for Friends of Guest House residents.

The nonprofit’s reentry programs help women transition back to the community from prison. The pajamas and cozy socks will go to up to 70 women affiliated with the organization.

Realtor Maureen Clyne is leading the effort, and in a recent social media post wrote that Del Ray Cafe has donated 30 pairs of pajamas and socks. It’s her second time collecting pajamas for Friends of Guest House, and she was able to get 65 sets of pajamas donated in 2018.

“Everybody deserves a new pair of pajamas on Christmas morning,” Clyne told ALXnow. “My goal is 100 pairs of pajamas and socks by December 21. I’m at 32 sets right now.”

Donations of cozy socks and L-3XL pajamas can be dropped off at Coldwell Banker Realty, 310 King Street. Pickups can also be arranged by calling or texting 703-967-8884.

Friends of Guest House got a financial boost recently on Giving Tuesday by raising $30,300, and surpassing its goal by more than $10,000. Last year, the nonprofit reported 56 women participating in its six-month residential program. It has helped more than 4,000 women transition from incarceration since it was founded in 1974.

Sapan Patel/Unsplash

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