Newsletter

There were just 75 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Alexandria since this time last week, according to the Alexandria Health Department.

There are now 29,809 reported cases of the virus in Alexandria, up from 29,734 last Monday. The number of deaths remains at 184, and the seven day average of daily new cases is now 21, down from 84.5 this time last week.

On Thursday, March 10, the Virginia Department of Health retired a number of its Covid dashboards, and will no longer list cases by locality. New data specific to Alexandria will have to be pulled from the city’s Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Last Friday (March 11) marked the second year of the pandemic, and Mayor Justin Wilson said that the city is moving into a new phase. Face masks and distancing are no longer required in schools or government buildings — a sharp turnaround from the worst days of the pandemic, which were just two short months ago. There was a record-setting 12,822 positive cases in January, followed by a steep drop-off to 1,227 cases in February.

Alexandria now has a “Substantial” transmission rate from VDH and a “Low” community level of transmission from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There have also been 603 cases reported within Alexandria City Public Schools since Dec. 1, an increase of 10 cases. Of those, 517 are children and 104 are staff, although the numbers listed on the school system’s dashboard don’t add up.

Vaccine stats

  • There are 24,733 unvaccinated Alexandria residents
  • About 76% of residents (116,537 people) are fully vaccinated
  • 84% (129,147) of residents got at least one dose
  • 62,440 residents got booster shots

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

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Nicole Burlimann now has a completely different life. Exactly two years ago, she was the food and beverage manager at the Hilton Garden Inn — facing a busy spring full of events. Then COVID hit, her position was terminated and she collected unemployment for months while watching and waiting for restrictions to be lifted and normalcy to resume.

After four months, Burlimann started working part-time at Piece Out Del Ray (2419 Mount Vernon Avenue) when it opened in the summer of 2020. The restaurant is owned by the Ponzi family, and they later promoted Burlimann as general manager at their St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub and Market 2 Market locations in Del Ray.

“I wake up every day feeling very fortunate and thankful to live where I live, to have the support system that I have,” Burlimann said. “Now I just go with the flow. And that’s knowing that it’s so much worse for so many other people… I didn’t think we’d have that second wave that we had. But I am really looking forward to the spring as things are loosening up and an uptick in business.”

Today (Friday, March 11) marks two years since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization, and the first case in the city was reported at Virginia Theological Seminary. That two-year period saw Alexandria tread through dramatic social waters with the Alexandria City Public Schools system’s conversion to online learning and eventual return to in-person instruction, local businesses experiencing dramatic closures, demonstrations against police brutality and much more.

To date, there have been 184 reported deaths and 29,809 cases reported in Alexandria. The worst month of the pandemic was just two months ago, as January saw more than 12,000 cases. The numbers of new cases have dropped considerably since then, and restrictions have been loosened to a point of normalcy not seen since March 2020.

Starting this month, face mask mandates were lifted in City government buildings and within Alexandria City Public Schools, and the Alexandria will soon start charging businesses rent for their use of parklets — parking spaces in front of businesses converted to dining areas.

The decision was made after guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave Alexandria and its neighboring jurisdictions a “Low” community level of transmission. Inova Alexandria Hospital has even lifted its visitation requirements.

No pandemic playbook

Mayor Justin Wilson, who celebrates a birthday on March 11, told ALXnow that the city is entering into a new phase of the pandemic.

“We’re heading into a different phase that’s a lot closer to normal,” he said. “We’re not going to shut things down anymore because we have vaccines, and we can we can protect those who are vulnerable and make sure everyone else can continue living their lives. But I also think there’s gonna be a lot that will probably never return to normal. And some of that’s okay.”

Wilson says the city was faced with a managing a catastrophic emergency situation without a playbook.

“There was no playbook, there were no rules,’ Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “In the beginning our big ask was going to all of the utilities like Dominion, Verizon, Comcast, and asking if they could give forbearance and not cut off their customers, and they all agreed, which was great. All of our utilities agreed and actually held to that for a long, long time — a year in-plus. Yeah. Then we sent a letter to landlords asking them to not not evict tenants. Early on, there was so much pain and tumult and everything that you were just trying to address and it was like triaging patients.”

The city extended services made possible through emergency federal funds, millions of pounds of free food was distributed by ALIVE!,

and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership helped businesses receive millions in federal grants.

Wilson, who contracted the virus in Spain in December, has posted COVID-19 updates on social media every day of the pandemic. That practice that ends today, he tweeted.

Back to business

Like many businesses, Bill Blackburn and his partner Mike Anderson of the Homegrown Restaurant Group had to furlough employees, get Paycheck Protection Program loans, and figure out how to keep their six restaurants afloat in Carlyle and Del Ray. While his staff are longer required to wear face masks, a number of changes to his businesses are permanent.

“In regard to the last two years, it feels in some ways like it’s been two decades,” Blackburn said. “In some ways, it feels like two weeks. We’ve gone through so many transformations, we’ve had so many false starts. It just seems like that we we’ve constantly been changing. Staff has turned over, styles of service have changed and we have outdoor service tents, outdoor dining, to-go windows, ordering with QR codes, a new point-of-sale system, adding DoorDash and Uber Eats — all these things have just become such a main part of business.”

The mask rule has also been lifted by Alexandria Restaurant Partners, according to partner Scott Shaw. ARP owns owns Mia’s Italian KitchenVola’s Dockside GrillTheismann’s Restaurant and BarLena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & TapPalette 22 in Shirlington, The Majestic, and opened BARCA Pier & Wine Bar a year ago.

“We’re back to running restaurants again without the complication of the complications of COVID,” Shaw said. “We feel very fortunate to have survived. It was an enormous amount of work by our team. It was just hard work. It was hard work to close the restaurants, and hard work to partially reopen. It was hard work at every stage of the game. We’ve developed a resiliency and, and adaptability that we didn’t know we had.”

Visit Alexandria also predicts that tourism will rebound, but that the hotel industry will continue to struggle.

As for nonprofits, ACT For Alexandria made impressive strides during the last two years breaking records raising millions in their annual one-day Spring2ACTion fundraiser. This year, ACT is asking for $2.5 million for the fundraiser, which is on April 27.

“We have a very generous community, and nonprofits that have been doing incredible work all year,” said ACT for Alexandria’s Brandi Yee. “It’s another chance for community members to support the nonprofits who are still on the front lines helping people who have been affected by Covid.”

Natalie Talis, a population health manager with the Alexandria Health Department, says staff are tired and a little burned out.

“The Alexandria Health Department is still here, whether or not COVID is,” Talis said. ” We will always be that important resource for helping to provide guidance to businesses, to nonprofits, to faith-based entities, as well as to residents, in terms and what are those best ways that you can protect yourself and the people around you.”

Alexandria remains in a state of emergency until June 30.

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There was no proclamation at the March 8 City Council meeting honoring abortion providers, but that one had even been planned in the first place was enough to fill several rows of City Hall with anti-abortion advocates rallying against the canceled proclamation

While the casual viewer of the March 8 agenda might be baffled at the presence of anti-abortion advocates at the meeting, the docket had originally included a proclamation of March 10 as “Abortion Provider Appreciation Day.” Local religious groups were stirred by clergy like Arlington’s Bishop Michael Burbidge, despite the proclamation being pulled from the agenda at the request of Mayor Justin Wilson.

“Somebody saw that it was on the agenda and put the word out,” said Larry Cirignano, who said he heard about the event from the Queen of Apostles Catholic Church. “To think that we should honor people for killing babies…”

Cirignano said local advocates said the closure of some clinics offering abortions in Virginia has been encouraging, particularly the Planned Parenthood in Falls Church, and Cirignano said his hope is the West End facility can be similarly blocked through bureaucratic means.

“The one at Landmark is going to have to move, so wherever they move to, that could be blocked,” said Cirignano. “The City of Fairfax decided they needed one more parking spot they didn’t have.”

Elsewhere, onerous health inspections have been used as a cudgel to shut down Planned Parenthood clinics. The likelihood the that the all-Democrat City Council in Alexandria would go along with that seems slim, but Cirignano argued anti-abortion sentiment could transcend party lines. A Gallup poll indicated that around 8% of Democrats think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, while 50% think abortion should be legal in all circumstances.

Our goal is not only to make it illegal… Our goal is to make it unthinkable.”

Wilson said while he and his colleagues on the City Council still support the message, he pulled it with their consent after deciding it was too controversial a topic for the typically inoffensive “proclamations” section of a public hearing. Other proclamations at that meeting, for example, expressed support for Meals on Wheels and recognizing Brain Injury Awareness Month.

“This was one of the [abortion] providers in the city had approached us because this is a national observance,” Wilson said. “One of my colleagues had requested we put it on the docket and I had agreed to do so. Upon reflection, these proclamations are usually non-controversial, but this one is more controversial. After talking with my colleagues and reflecting a bit, it makes sense to remove it from a docket.”

Wilson expressed some regret for including it, but not for the intent behind it.

“Upon reflecting I shouldn’t have put it as a proclamation,” Wilson said. “It’s the kind of thing we could handle as a resolution or presented at an event. That was the judgment and everyone unanimously agreed. The sentiment is to show our support for these healthcare workers who perform a legal and necessary service to our community in our community. We have two providers in our city who do that work under adverse conditions, and we wanted to show support for the work they do.”

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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, Fairfax County and Arlington now have low Covid transmission levels, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC’s last update on community levels was on Feb. 25. The Virginia Department of Health still lists the city’s transmission rate as high, although the categorization has not been updated since Feb. 19. Alexandria has experienced high transmission since December.

There are 29,434 total reported cases in Alexandria, an increase of 130 cases since last week. There have been four more COVID-related deaths, bringing the death toll in the city to 184.

There have been 1,227 new Covid cases in February — a far cry from January, which saw a record-setting 12,822 positive cases.

The seven day average of new cases is now 20, down from 29 last week, and the seven-day average of positive COVID-19 tests is now 5.7%, down from 6.5%.

Alexandria City Public Schools reports a total of 582 cases since December 1 (up 10 cases since last week), although the number of infected staff and students adds up to 599.

Vaccine stats

  • There are 25,161 unvaccinated Alexandria residents
  • About 75% of residents (116,047 people) are fully vaccinated
  • 84% (128,719 people) of residents have gotten at least one dose
  • 126,478 residents have gotten booster shots

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

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The George Washington Birthday Parade returned to Alexandria on Monday after a two year hiatus. The streets of Old Town were lined with celebration for Washington’s 290th birthday.

Alexandria’s health care workers and first responders marched as parade grand marshals. The parade, which started at Gibbon and Fairfax Streets and snaked around City Hall, was attended by thousands. The event is the largest of its kind in the world honoring the founding father and first president.

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While only in the conceptual phase, the Landmark Overlook development would transform the corner of South Wilkes Street and Stephenson Avenue into a mixed use property with hotels or office buildings, two-level stacked condominium units, apartments and retail. (Image via City of Alexandria)

Alexandria’s residential property assessments are climbing this year and, for the first time in years, that includes a significant increase for condos.

Mayor Justin Wilson, in a virtual town hall last Thursday, said the assessed property value increase comes after years of that being essentially stagnant.

“Our condos saw an increase of 2.81%,” Wilson said. “Condos have been flat for a long time, so seeing growth in condos is very good.”

Condo values have been gradually increasing since around 2010, but not at the same rate as single-family home values.

“About 65% of condos saw an increase,” Wilson said, “so 2/3 of condo owners will see an assessment increase.”

A staff report also said that there was an overall decrease in the median sale price of residential properties over the last year. The report attributes this to an increase in condo sales, which go for lower rates than single-family homes.

“From 2020 to 2021, there was a decrease in the median sale price of residential properties in the City of Alexandria from $608,000 to $588,750 (between 2019 and 2020, the median rose from $517,250 to $608,000),” the report said. “This is attributable to a greater number of condominium properties in the sales sample compared to the previous year… In 2021, there was an 11.20% increase in the volume of single-family property sales and a 19.91% increase in condominium sales.”

The assessments are being presented to the City Council at a meeting tonight (Thursday). Assessments are the first stage of an ongoing budget process that will run throughout the spring.

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An unmasked Governor Glenn Youngkin made a surprise stop at the Bradlee Shopping Center Safeway yesterday (Thursday), and afterward the Alexandria Democratic Committee tweeted for him to “get out of Alexandria.”

Youngkin, a Republican, spoke without a mask inside of the store at noon. He discussed “the elimination of the grocery tax, the rising costs of groceries, and the impacts of inflation on Virginia families and the high cost of living,” according to an email.

“Please let us know how our cost of living is going to go down by slashing needed supports to families @GlennYoungkin,” tweeted the Alexandria Democratic Committee. “Otherwise, get out of Alexandria and come back when you’re ready to actually invest in our community.”

Youngkin was also heckled by a shopper at the store.

“Governor, where is your mask?” the shopper asked. “Look around you, Governor. You’re in Alexandria. Read the room, buddy.”

Alex Dems also posted this message: “Glenn Youngkin is here at Safeway in ALX to talk about cost of living. We’d love to hear about how his budget which slashes taxes that fund housing and food is going to decrease our cost of living. Seems like the math doesn’t work on that one.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said he had no idea about the governor’s visit beforehand, and only found out when he was told about it by a reporter.

“No clue,” Wilson said. “He did not make us aware he was coming.”

Wilson has never spoken with Youngkin, but would welcome a conversation.

“Sure — we would love to meet with him,” Wilson said.

Youngkin, who got only 24% of the Alexandria vote in the November election, is under fire for ending the mask mandate in public schools shortly after taking office, and Alexandria’s School Board has joined in a lawsuit challenging that order with six other jurisdictions.

Before stopping in Alexandria, Youngkin visited by the office of Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity — the lone Republican on the 10-person board of supervisors. The visit was not on his public schedule.

“I was honored to host the Governor at my West Springfield office this morning to discuss issues important to Fairfax County and Springfield District residents,” Herrity posted on Facebook.

Youngkin’s visit was short, as he was scheduled for a 2 p.m. COVID-19 update in Richmond, followed by a meeting with the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus in the Governor’s Mansion.

Youngkin’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

https://twitter.com/ggreeneva/status/1489622787492913158

Photo via Eli Wilson Photography

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In a glimpse at financial assessments for 2022, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said on Twitter that declining hotel revenue — and thus taxes paid to the city — will put more of the city’s tax burden on residents.

The decline of tax revenue for the City of Alexandria is just one part of a difficult financial recovery from the pandemic — one exacerbated by the omicron surge earlier this winter. While sales and meals tax have rebounded slightly, the dearth of hotel funding has even led the city to consider investing in a new hotel.

“In 2019, there were 31 hotel properties in the City of Alexandria worth a total of $753 million,” Wilson said. “Today, those 31 hotel properties are assessed at a total of $464 million.”

That’s a 38% drop in the value of hotel properties in the city.

Meanwhile, Wilson said average assessments on single-family homes and condos have increased city-wide.

The real property assessments are scheduled to be reviewed at a City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 8. A report prepared for the meeting indicates that the gulf between the commercial and residential tax base could widen this year.

Commercial vs residential tax base distribution, image via City of Alexandria

The report said there’s been a $915.86 million growth in commercial assets in Alexandria, with a 15.36% increase for warehouses and a 10.33% increase for apartments offsetting a 12.5% decline in commercial assets for hotels and 6.47% decline in shopping centers.

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There’s a new coffee shop on King Street. Turkish Coffee Lady officially opened its doors at 1001 King Street in Old Town, joining a handful of neighboring coffee-inspired hangouts.

The space at the corner of Patrick Street (also Route 1) and King Streets is the former location of Blüprint Chocolatiers, and the second floor was notoriously once home to white nationalist Richard Spencer.

The new coffee shop is also a stones throw from Misha’s Coffeehouse and Roaster, ESP Tea & Coffee and Uptowner Cafe.

Turkish Coffee Lady opened as a kiosk in Tysons Corner Center in 2017, and offers Turkish coffee, tea, desserts and pastries. The business began as a food truck in 2012, and owner Gizem Salcigil White and volunteers spent five years driving around America, Turkey, Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Canada.

“Turkish coffee is the world’s first coffee brewing technique, and is the genesis for coffee shops today,” White told ALXnow. “It’s unfiltered, and you are drinking coffee grinds, which is very healthy. If you have two cups without sugar a day, it actually boosts your immune system.”

Courtesy photos

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