Update on Covid Vaccines
Covid vaccinations are dominating everything at the moment and understandably so. I am hopeful that the sudden change in vaccine distribution by the State late last week and the following necessary cancellation of scheduled vaccinations by Virginia Hospital Center (VHC) was the low point in the vaccine roll out; and that the vaccination process will only improve moving forward.
This past week, County staff organized the information from VHC about whose appointments were cancelled and we trained several dozen staff on calling and rescheduling those appointments. We began calling those 75 and older who had their appointments cancelled by VHC. And, we hope to have this group called by early next week. They should all get their first vaccinations in the next two weeks. Our webpage sets out pretty clearly the categories for vaccinations. However, I know many people still have questions and unique situations. We’ve increased staffing on our Covid hotline, and people should feel free to call 703-228-7999 with questions. Looking forward, we have been told we will get about 2,750 doses from Virginia each week until the supply increases, and I believe that is a number we can count on. We have the ability to vaccinate about 14,000 people per week, so are able to vaccinate many more than we will have vaccines for. We are continually working with the State to find more doses. When we get them, we are doing pop-up clinics to vaccinate groups of people such as teachers, shelter staff, and fire and rescue personnel.
Reporter Jo Devoe wrote a good article for ArlNow that you might find helpful. If you are wondering, I myself have not been vaccinated yet. I pre-registered online some time ago, but do not expect my first dose until well into February or March. Meanwhile, I’m being extra careful, staying home except for walks in the neighborhood. If I ever have to be inside at all with other people, I wear a double mask. Staying 6-feet apart whether inside or out and washing your hands is still crucial for everyone.
Rosslyn Residential Development
The regular work of government continues. At our Saturday meeting, we approved a new 740 unit multi-family residential development with ground-floor retail and office/retail flex space in 2 towers in Rosslyn. The development incorporates the church on Fort Myer Drive and North Nash Street. The buildings will have affordable units on site and help us achieve a key portion of the 18th Street corridor, which is important to our long-term plans for Rosslyn. The main issues we discussed were the extra height needed for an elevator shaft, and the fact that balconies pictured with plants in the drawings provided by the developer were only “aspirational.” The Board decided to approve the elevator shaft, subject to approval of how it would look. Our sector plan makes clear that blocking critical view corridors must be avoided. We determined that the relatively small structure for the elevator shaft would not block those views. The issue of developer plans not being accurately portrayed in their drawings concerned me the most, and I said so. The developer said it was difficult for plants to live on buildings, especially on higher floors. I pointed out there are many buildings in the world with plants on high balconies. In the end, we required that the lower 1/3 of the balconies have plants. I think it is important that developers show what they actually plan to build, not what might be aspirational, but I decided a compromise was the best solution.
Dialogues on Race and Equity
On Tuesday, we heard a good report on our Dialogues on Race and Equity (DRE). I am pleased that our community conversations about race are beginning in a systematic way and look forward to their continuation. Achieving true racial equity in our community and our country will take a long time, but this is the kind of work that will carry us forward. We now have some baseline on where we are as a community in awareness of racial equity and I look forward to more and more people better understanding the issue through continued conversations and work.
Waterpark in Crystal City
The main issue for Board discussion was about the Waterpark in Crystal City. The owner, JBG, is planning to improve the park and maintain it, but will grant an easement for public use to the County. I think this is a real asset for that area and I was pleased with most of the design. However, in our discussion it became clear that there was a safety issue with the pedestrian and bike paths that go under the train tracks to the VRE station. Our Transportation Commission and others noted that the design created hazards as cyclists and pedestrians intersected going different directions on a fairly steep slope with poor sight lines. In the discussion it became clear the plan needed more work. We deferred the item, and it will come back to us in March. I look forward to seeing much improved bike-pedestrian routes then and, eventually, a much improved park.
Covid Work Session
This coming Tuesday, February 2, we will hold another Covid work session with our staff at 3 pm. I encourage you to tune in or watch it later. We will be getting updates from our staff on our vaccination efforts. The information we have becomes more solid and clear every day. I expect, and very much hope, that next week will go much more smoothly. And I expect vaccinations to pick up in February as more vaccine becomes available.
Finally, it looks like we may actually have a fair amount of snow on Sunday and Monday. Many of us are staying home anyway, so hopefully it will not be very disruptive.
Stay well and stay warm,