Arlington Faces Covid-19

A typical morning rush hour in Rosslyn is a cacophony of sight and sound. Whistles shriek as ACPD directs traffic and pedestrians at Wilson and Lynn. Jets departing and arriving to DCA reflect and reverberate off the tall glass towers. Construction up the hill at 1500 Wilson. Traffic. Pedestrians. Metrobuses. 

Not anymore. 

Monday, Mar. 16 was the first work day after the region began teleworking in earnest and schools were closed. The intersection of Wilson and Lynn felt like the opening scene to the movie “I Am Legend.” In an hour’s time I saw less than 10 pedestrians. To call this surreal is an understatement. 

But that was the first morning. As the weather has warmed, people are venturing out more and more, and people are being really cavalier about social distancing. This is not a time for picnics in the park or group bike rides. And people don’t seem to realize how far six feet actually is. Sure, you may be six feet behind someone ahead of you on the trail, but people coming at you from the other way are passing within a foot of you. You have to remember this virus can live in the air for 3 hours. You can’t bump into people, you can’t try to squeeze past someone in the grocery store. You have to actively pay attention to your surroundings and people just don’t seem to be doing that. 

Around Arlington, rush hour seems to be non-existent. Don’t get me wrong, people are still out driving around, but from what I have been seeing traffic at 8:30 a.m. is no different than traffic at 1 p.m. or 6 p.m. From my place in Shirlington to the Key Bridge takes less than 15 minutes. I can’t help but imagine what it would be like if the majority of people that can do so continue working from home as much as possible after this pandemic has been contained. 

Seeing the COVID-19 test site open up on Quincy St. N was both welcome and frightening. 60 tests a day. 60. That is a lot, right? Is it enough? 

I am encouraged to see businesses find new and creative ways to continue operating through this, like Acme Pie and El Pollo Rico offering delivery. I had El Pollo Rico last week and if there was ever a comfort food to have in a time like this, it’s their amazing chicken. 

I hope my fellow Arlingtonians take this seriously. I have a friend in Colorado that has COVID-19. He flew through Seattle for work at the end of February and likely picked it up there. He’s now two weeks into the illness. His fever hit 103 last week, and he went to the ER on Friday with pneumonia-like symptoms. He is retired military, physically fit and it’s wiped him out. Before the ER trip he was in bed for three days straight. “It’s no joke,” he said. 

Please, stay safe. Stay home. Stay away from people.