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COVID-19 cases tick up in Fairfax County as Virginia prepares to ease restrictions

The trajectory of COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County is starting to trend upward again after a roughly two-month decline.

The Fairfax Health District, which also includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, reported 154 new cases today (Monday), bringing the total to 72,111 cases over the course of the pandemic. The district has now recorded 3,752 hospitalizations and 1,066 deaths due to the novel coronavirus.

Now at 174.4 cases per day, the county’s weekly average has hovered around 160 to 170 cases since hitting a low for 2021 of 133.6 cases on March 15. That mark followed a two-month-long drop from an all-time high seven-day average of 696.7 cases on Jan. 17.

Fairfax County still has yet to return to the relative lull in the pandemic that came last summer, when the county had weekly averages of 40 to 50 cases.

The county’s plateauing case levels aligns closely with what is happening statewide. Virginia is currently averaging 1,506 cases over the past seven days, and like in Fairfax County, cases have been slightly but clearly increasing since mid-March, a potentially worrying sign as the Commonwealth prepares to further loosen public health restrictions.

Effective April 1, Virginia will increase the number of people permitted at both indoor and outdoor social gatherings and recreational sporting events, while removing caps on the number of attendees at entertainment and amusement venues, though a 30% capacity limit will remain in place.

Gov. Ralph Northam cited rising COVID-19 vaccination rates when announcing those changes on March 23, reporting that approximately one in four Virginians had received at least one dose of vaccine at that point.

While the upward trend in cases might be cause for concern, the pace of vaccinations continues to accelerate in Fairfax County as well.

The Fairfax County Health Department got 55,470 doses from the Virginia Department of Health during the week of March 22-28, the largest supply yet.

Last week, several Northern Virginia leaders urged the state to increase the region’s allocation of vaccine to match its capacity, which will further expand today with the opening of a mass vaccination site run by Inova Health Systems to serve Fairfax County and the City of Alexandria.

According to its vaccine data dashboard, the county health department is now making appointments for people who registered on March 16. As of 10 a.m. today, the county has whittled its waitlist down to 37,837 individuals — 11% of the 350,429 people who have registered since the COVID-19 vaccines became available in December.

VDH data indicates that 296,241 people in Fairfax County have gotten at least one vaccine dose, and 151,223 of them have been fully vaccinated, meaning they’ve received both shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Virginia has now administered more than 3.5 million vaccine doses. 1.2 million people — 15% of the state’s population — have been fully vaccinated.

Like the state as a whole, Fairfax County hopes to open registration for vaccine appointments to all adults by May 1, and after expanding eligibility to additional phase 1b priority groups, the health department anticipates reaching phase 1c by mid-April.

Images via CDC on Unsplash, VDH

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