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It was a quick week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

With summer in full swing, three Alexandria athletes have made it on the U.S. Olympic Team — sprinter Noah Lyles, high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend and boxer Troy Isley.

In other sporting news, Old Town businesses beat Del Ray in a controversial softball game Wednesday, adding fuel to the fire of an intense rivalry.

It’s been super hot out lately, and the City urged caution and reminded residents to take advantage of special cooling centers.

On the COVID front, the city’s DASH bus service announced that one of its drivers passed away from complications from the virus.

Meanwhile, Mayor Justin Wilson believes that the city has met its 80% vaccination threshold, while Virginia Department of Health data says about 65% of residents over the age of 16 are partially vaccinated. The Alexandria Health Department, which just launched a COVID-19 test and vaccine pilot at T.C. Williams High School, says the data does not take into account city residents vaccinated in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

It’s also July 4 weekend, and in this week’s poll we asked whether readers plan on traveling, with 67% of respondents voting to stay home, 27% opting to travel by car and just 6% traveling by air.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Researchers call out shoddy craftsmanship in buried 18th century Alexandria ship
  2. Man suspected of raping 12-year-old stepdaughter in Landmark area flees to El Salvador
  3. Landmark Mall plan approved as Planning Commission demands better environmental considerations
  4. Alexandria leaders acknowledge serious security issues with elimination of school resource officer funding
  5. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  6. Alexandria eyes bus rapid transit and bike lanes for Duke Street
  7. Parker-Gray tiny lot home moves forward with some unique challenges
  8. Alexandria woman dies after veering off road on Interstate 95
  9. City talks strategy on making Chirilagua/Arlandria neighborhood Amazon-proof
  10. UPDATE: Man taken into custody as West End apartment barricade situation ends peacefully
  11. BREAKING: California man arrested for West End murder, indicted with 16 others in massive racketeering conspiracy

Have a safe weekend!

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The Sportrock Climbing Center has been pretty packed since President Joe Biden visited with the First Lady and Governor Ralph Northam last month.

Sportrock staff claim that it’s the first time any president has ever visited a climbing gym, and that it has shined a spotlight on their 35,000 square-foot operation. On a recent weekday evening, every parking spot was taken outside their location at 5308 Eisenhower Avenue. Inside the massive gym, masked and unmasked climbers hung out, lifted weights, belayed, and worked their ways to the top of the tallest climbing walls in the Mid-Atlantic.

“I think what the President did was put Sportrock in the public consciousness for people who had never heard of climbing before,” Sportrock’s marketing manager Jeff Shor told ALXnow. “It’s definitely elevated our spotlight.”

Biden visited the gym to celebrate the lifting of COVID-19 regulations across Virginia, although some measures are still in place at both the Alexandria and Sterling locations. All climbers are currently required to wear face masks on Mondays after noon, and on weekends in the morning.

It’s a far cry from where the gym had come from at this point last year, having recently reopened to dramatically reduced capacity after a three-month shutdown. SportRock, which offers private instruction and a number of fitness classes, was also forced to switch in-person practices to a virtual format.

The eased restrictions are a welcome relief for 16-year-old Abigail Humber. The Arlington resident has been climbing at the gym since she was eight years old, and works with Taylor Reed, the director of the Sportrock Performance Institute, which is a 9,000 square-foot climbing facility connected to the main gym.

“I come here pretty much every day for training,” Humber said. “I am, homeschooled and I spend all of my time climbing. And so yes, I am the ultimate climbing nerd, especially combined with Taylor, who’s also a huge climbing nerd. We geek out together in the gym all the time about rock climbing, and it’s honestly the best. I just want to keep doing this for as long as I can, and if that means being a professional climber, then that’s what I want to do, because climbing is what I love, and climbing is what keeps me wanting to get up every morning.”

Some of Reed’s students regularly commute to the gym from North Carolina, like 19-year-old Charlie Osborne and 13-year-old Tessa Huang.

Osborne is a USA Climbing competitive climber in bouldering and lead climbing. He’s been climbing for 13 years, and has Olympic aspirations, and says he trains in Alexandria specifically because of Reed.

“He’s very technically focused, when it comes to climbing so he helps me realize all my weaknesses and strengths and how I can better myself in those certain areas to apply it to the wall,” Osborne said. “Before I usually started training with him, I was super strength focused, and I’d have all this all these abilities, but I didn’t know how to use them properly.”

Reed said that climbing boosts self esteem, and that the gym is full of athletes of all ages intent of solving puzzles with their bodies.

“These kids are kind of insane when it comes to how climbing has consumed them,” Reed said. “But you get this this interesting dynamic between youth and adults in the climbing gym where they’re all planning on the same problems and trying to share information about getting to the top of the wall. And that’s the element that allows for an inspiring community.”

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What a week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story was on President Joe Biden stopping by the Sportrock Climbing Center in Alexandria last Friday with First Lady Jill Biden and Governor Ralph Northam.

Seeing the president around town is getting to be a regular thing. The president, who also visited in April, discussed “the state’s progress against the coronavirus pandemic” and the celebration of “summer as Virginia lifts all COVID-19 distancing and capacity restrictions.”

This week, we also followed up on a New York Times report about the Virginia Theological Seminary making reparations payments to slavery descendants. The program was launched in 2019, and the school issued $2,100 in annual payments to 15 families in February.

On Wednesday, the Fire Department released its restructuring plan, which goes into effect June 12, and is intended to help emergency response times by shifting resources. AFD will conduct community conversations on the restructuring on Saturday, June 5, at 10 a.m.; Monday, June 7, at 2 p.m. and Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m.

Closing the short workweek, on Friday Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown announced that his retirement. Brown’s last day is June 25, and the City Manager is soon expected to name an acting chief to lead the department while the city’s undergoes a national search for a permanent replacement.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. UPDATED: President Biden and Gov. Northam visited Alexandria this morning
  2. JUST IN: Virginia State Police chase U-Haul pickup truck through Alexandria
  3. Bennett-Parker says Levine mailer on Commonwealth of Virginia letterhead is ethics breach
  4. Goodie’s Frozen Custard & Treats opens in Old Town
  5. Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen closes for the foreseeable future in Old Town North
  6. Volunteers needed this weekend to help clear dangerous stretch of Mount Vernon Trail
  7. Wilson and Silberberg mayoral debate finale opens possibility of ‘tweaking’ Seminary Road Diet
  8. Homegrown Restaurant Group gives employees raise to $15 an hour, will ease COVID restrictions at 6 restaurants
  9. ‘Rock It Grill’ eyeing karaoke expansion, bringing back Halloween party
  10. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  11. Ownership of Landmark’s streets could make a big difference down the road

Photo via White House/Twitter

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(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) President Biden again visited Alexandria this morning.

Biden was joined by First Lady Jill Biden and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam at the Sportrock Climbing Center on Eisenhower Avenue in the West End.

Biden traveled to the city to “discuss the state’s progress against the coronavirus pandemic” and “celebrate summer as Virginia lifts all COVID-19 distancing and capacity restrictions” today, according to media guidance. He touted the quarter-billion dollars of federal investment in vaccination sites and Virginia’s declining rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths, according to a press pool report.

Several dozen people were on hand at the center for the event, including 17-year-old Lake Braddock High School junior Jacob Bosley, who introduced the president before he started speaking around noon. Also in attendance were Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and Reps. Don Beyer and Gerry Connolly.

Prior to the speech, the president spoke briefly with reporters and sized up which wall he would want to climb, according to the pool report.

The president also visited Alexandria last month, stopping by a COVID-19 vaccination site at Virginia Theological Seminary.

More from the president’s visit, below, via social media.

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It was a historic week in Alexandria. Here are some of the highlights.

President Joe Biden visited the Neighborhood Health COVID-19 vaccine site at Virginia Theological Seminary on Tuesday, just before announcing that the date for adults to get access to the vaccine has been moved to April 19.

The Alexandria School Board, on Thursday night, voted to change the name of T.C. Williams High School to Alexandria City High School.

The School Board also voted unanimously to reduce the distancing requirement in ACPS schools from six feet to three feet, all the while community support is growing to expand in-person instruction to more than the current two days a week. Summer school is currently planned to begin in July and will be four days a week, and ACPS is planning on reopening to five days a week at the beginning of the next school year.

Our top story was on the T.C. Williams Titans junior varsity football team walking off the field after an incident with the Robinson Rams on Monday night. Robinson Rams players allegedly spit at and made a racial slur against T.C. players. The incident has prompted Fairfax County Public Schools to announce a “stand-down” meeting for all athletic teams and coaches to discuss “appropriate behaviors required to play sports in FCPS.”

Additionally, six Alexandria Police officers were placed on administrative duties after a chase suspect died while in custody. Police responded to a call for shots fired in the 800 block of North Patrick Street, and multiple buildings and vehicles were struck. The driver of the vehicle crashed on Interstate 295, and then jumped over an overpass barrier and fell more than 20 feet and was tased by police, arrested and later died.

Important Stories

Top Stories

  1. JUST IN: T.C. Williams JV football team walks off field after alleged racial slur, spitting incident
  2. BREAKING: Shots fired in Old Town leads to chase that ends in D.C.
  3. JUST IN: President Biden set to visit Alexandria vaccination site Tuesday
  4. National Park Service announces George Washington Parkway to go on a diet
  5. Neighborhood Health vaccinating thousands at sites in Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax County
  6. JUST IN: Woman arrested after fight on King Street Metro station platform
  7. UPDATE: $8,500 reported stolen in terrifying West End robbery
  8. JUST IN: President Biden visits COVID-19 vaccine site at Virginia Theological Seminary
  9. COVID-19 update: Alexandria moves into vaccination phase 1C
  10. JUST IN: Six Alexandria Police officers put on administrative duties after chase suspect dies
  11. Fairfax County man arrested for three burglaries, released three days later

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via T.C. Williams Football Boosters/Facebook

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President Joe Biden visited the Neighborhood Health vaccine site at Virginia Theological Seminary today (Tuesday) just before he was scheduled to announce that states should open COVID-19 vaccination appointments to all adults by April 19.

“We passed 150 million (vaccine doses distributed) yesterday,” Biden said. “When you go home, get all your friends and tell them, ‘Get a shot when they can.’ We’re going to be able to do this, everyone’s going to be able to before the month is out.”

Neighborhood Health Executive Director Dr. Basim Khan toured Biden around the facility, and the president watched residents get inoculated.

“Mr President, the whole focus of our program is on equity,” Khan said. “We’re trying to increase equity by vaccinating our own patient population and primarily low-income, uninsured, under-insured, and a lot of people of color.”

Biden said that Neighborhood Health has done good work, and that within a month the U.S. will be in excess of 200 million vaccines distributed.

“We’re in a situation where, I believe, by the end of the summer we’ll have a significant portion of American public vaccinated,” he said. “Pretty soon when we have enough we can give it to the rest of the world… You can’t build a wall or fence high enough to keep out a virus.”

The president is scheduled to make the announcement at 3:45 p.m. at the White House.

In Alexandria, 41,200 first doses, or 31% of residents, have been partially given out. There have also been 25,878 full vaccinations, or about 19.4% of the city’s population. On Monday, the city moved into phase 1C, expanding  vaccine availability for a number of essential workers.

Virginia Theological Seminary was the first location in the city where a COVID-19 infection was detected — on March 11, 2020. The Alexandria City Public Schools system shut down two days later for the remainder of the school year, local businesses experienced dramatic closures and changes and lives were forever altered. To date, Alexandria has suffered 129 deaths and 11,100 cases, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Images via Youtube

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Updated at 9:45 a.m. — President Joe Biden will visit the Virginia Theological Seminary at 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the White House.

“I am thrilled that the President is visiting Alexandria to highlight our vaccination effort,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “We have had great partnerships with non-profits, private partners and community organizations to both administer vaccinations and ensure equity in our distribution. The backbone of good planning and enormous volunteer support will get COVID into our rear-view mirror.”

The city got tipped off to the visit after Politico announced in its Playbook that “Biden will visit a vaccination site in Alexandria, Va., and deliver remarks about the vaccine effort Tuesday.”

The visit will come after the recent announcement that Virginia will be moving into Phase 1c, which greatly expands eligibility in Virginia, and a massive expansion of vaccination capacity at the Victory Center in the Eisenhower Valley.

Vaccine equity has been an issue, as African Americans residents are receiving the vaccine at a lower rate than other residents.

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will invest nearly $10 billion from the American Rescue Plan to address the COVID-19 response within communities of color, rural areas, low-income populations, and other under-served communities,” according to the City. “The additional funding will be used to expand COVID-19 vaccinations, testing, and treatment for vulnerable populations; deliver preventive and primary health care services to people at higher risk for COVID-19; and expand health centers’ operational capacity during the pandemic and beyond, including modifying and improving physical infrastructure and adding mobile units.”

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It was a cold and news-filled week in Alexandria.

It all started with the report of two public safety incidents over the weekend — a serious car crash in Old Town and another shooting in the West End.

On the coronavirus front, Alexandria is now at 104 fatalities and 9,342 cases. Mayor Justin Wilson said that there is a vaccine shortage in the city, as the waitlist to get inoculated is at more than 25,000. The Alexandria Health Department reported to the Alexandria Times that about 2,000 doses are being distributed weekly.

Our top story this week was on the body that was found last Friday in the water at Holmes Run Trail by Cameron Run Regional Park. In an update, police told us that the death was not suspicious in nature.

Additionally, 630 people responded to our weekly poll. This week, we asked about the proposed Heritage development in Old Town. About 67% of respondents don’t think it’s appropriate for the neighborhood and 33% don’t have a problem with it.

In case you missed it, here are some important stories:

  1. New Flood Warning Signs Installed in Del Ray
  2. Initial and Continued Unemployment Claims Go Down in Alexandria
  3. Despite COVID-19 Contractor Impacts, Potomac Yard Metro Station on Track for Spring 2022 Opening
  4. City Council Accepts Plan to Double Stormwater Utility Fees
  5. Victory Center’s Condominium Redevelopment Headed to Planning Commission

Here are our top stories of the week:

  1. BREAKING: Body Found in the Water Near Cameron Station
  2. Photos: The Regal Potomac Yard Movie Theater is Being Torn Down
  3. Citizens Group Vilifies Heritage High Rise Project in Old Town
  4. Atlantis Pizzeria and Family Restaurant Closing on Jan. 24
  5. Alexandrians with Joe Biden Yard Signs Get Anonymous Letters Saying Biden is a Pedophile
  6. Police: Shots Fired in West End, Car Crash in Old Town Over Weekend
  7. Snow in Alexandria: Winter Weather Advisory in Effect Until 9 A.M. Tuesday
  8. BREAKING: Woman Gets Arm Amputated, Police Investigate if She Was Thrown From Car in West End
  9. Local Business in Hot Water with City Architects After Unauthorized Paint Job
  10. Alexandria Mayor Formally Requests Dominion Energy Step Their Game Up
  11. JUST IN: ACPS Announces No In-Person Schooling For Week of Feb. 1

Have a safe weekend!

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With an estimated 25,000 Alexandria residents on the waitlist for the COVID-19 vaccine, Northern Virginia’s Congressional delegation want the Biden administration to include a community vaccination site for the region in its plan to defeat the virus.

Virginia Democrats Don Beyer (D-8th), Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11th) and Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-10th) wrote the acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday, and asked that Northern Virginia be included in the administration’s plan to install 100 federally run mass vaccination sites throughout the country.

“We believe Northern Virginia to be well suited for such a site,” the letter states. “The city of Alexandria, comprising 160,000 people, has a vaccine waiting list of over 25,000, and neighboring Fairfax County has a vaccine waiting list of over 100,000 people.”

As of Jan. 21, the Alexandria Health Department reported getting nearly 20,000 pre-registrations for vaccines, “and yet Alexandria will likely be receiving less than 2,000 doses per week for the next three to four weeks.”

“We have plenty of capacity to administer vaccines,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “We have nowhere near enough vaccines to administer. The issue is supply.”

The Victory Center on Eisenhower Avenue is being prepped for vaccine distribution by the Inova Health System, although they are not yet scheduling appointments, according to the Washington Post.

According to FEMA, the Interagency Vaccination Task Force and FEMA’s regional offices will establish the new community vaccination centers.

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Morning Notes

Photos: Beyer Attends Presidential Inauguration — “It was a thrill for Megan and me to be at the inauguration of Pres. @JoeBiden and Vice Pres. @KamalaHarris.” [Twitter]

Former Beyer Chief Of Staff To Begin Job In Biden Administration — “(Tanya) Bradsher will take on the new role as the senior director for partnerships and global engagement. Previously, she served as the National Security Agency lead for the Biden-Harris Transition Team.” [Patch]

Mayor Tweets Excitement After Biden Inauguration — “‘My whole soul is in it!’ So excited for the era of @JoeBiden & @KamalaHarris to get started. Let’s do this.” [Twitter]

Propane Cylinder Catches Fire in Old Town North — “Units operating in the 600 block of E Abington for a damaged propane cylinder that caught fire earlier this afternoon. Units from station 204 and Hazmat station 209 quickly assessed and handled the incident. No injuries reported. An AFD fire marshal conducted the investigation.” [Twitter]

Free Online Job Training Courses Available — “The SkillUp® Alexandria City & Arlington County initiative is available to help residents take charge of their futures and get back to work. Designed with input from regional employers, the initiative provides recently laid-off workers as well as those who are employed and looking to change or advance in their careers free and unlimited access to more than 5,000 high-quality, Skillsoft online training courses for 180 days; the courses, used by many Fortune 500 companies, are presented in English and Spanish. The initiative enables workers to demonstrate the kind of initiative employers are looking for by upgrading their skills during this challenging time even while most bricks-and-mortar education and training providers remain closed.” [City of Alexandria]

College Loans Available for Immigrants — “Paying for college can be expensive, especially for DACA or TPS recipients, asylum seekers or undocumented. Learn about two renewable scholarship opportunities ranging from $2,000 to $33,000 for eligible immigrant students–first deadline Feb 1.” [Twitter]

Torpedo Factory Artists’ Work To Be Recognized in International Exhibition — “Ruth Gowell and Alison Sigethy are two glass artists who have studios at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. A new museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, Imagine Museum, showcases works made of glass. The work of these two artists has been selected for the museum’s upcoming exhibition, OpART/Glass. The honor is especially significant for two reasons. First, the museum hosts only one exhibition per year. Second, it is open to glass artists from around the world.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — “Sun and a few passing clouds (during the day). High 53F. Winds SW at 10 to 15 mph… Clear skies (in the evening). Low 33F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Team Member — “Toastique is a rapidly growing company looking for passionate new talent to help create smoothies, gourmet toast & juice while giving the customers an incredible experience the minute they walk through the door. Employees will be joining a team to attain a fun, clean, fresh environment for a gourmet toast and juice bar in the new SW waterfront area. We are focused on our unique concept that combines great taste, responsibly sourced ingredients, and a welcoming environment.” [Indeed]

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