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COVID-19 cases dip to October levels as Fairfax County prepares to resume use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Fairfax County is now reporting its lowest seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases since late October.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, the county currently has a weekly average of 115.3 new cases after the Fairfax Health District reported 74 COVID-19 cases today (Monday), including one case in the City of Falls Church.

The last time the county had a weekly average of 115.3 cases was Oct. 30, when the pandemic’s winter surge was just starting to set in.

After ticking up in early April, Fairfax County’s COVID-19 case rate has been on a steady decline since hitting 194.4 cases on average over seven days on April 13.

The Fairfax Health District’s testing positivity rate has also been falling in recent days, dipping below 5% on April 20 for the first time since it was at 4.9% on Oct. 26. The district’s seven-day moving average for positive PCR tests was 4.5% as of April 22, the latest date with data reported from the state.

The Fairfax County Health Department acknowledged that there is a discrepancy between the VDH data and the county’s reported case numbers for the Fairfax Health District. The county dashboard says that there were just 59 new cases today.

“Our data team is investigating,” FCHD spokesperson Tina Dale told Tysons Reporter.

The Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Falls Church and Fairfax as well as the county, has recorded 76,376 total COVID-19 cases, 3,940 hospitalizations, and 1,095 deaths over the course of the pandemic, according to VDH data.

In addition to seeing signs that community transmission of the novel coronavirus has been diminishing, Fairfax County learned late last week that providers will once again be allowed to administer Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, whose use was halted nationwide on April 13 in response to reports of a few recipients developing rare blood clots.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday (April 23) that the pause should be lifted, saying that the J&J vaccine’s benefits as an effective and generally safe tool for preventing COVID-19 outweigh its known and potential risks.

Virginia State Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said that providers in the state are now free to resume administering the J&J vaccine, effective immediately.

“This extra scrutiny should instill confidence in the system that is in place to guarantee COVID-19 vaccine safety,” Avula said in a statement. “As with any vaccine, we encourage individuals to educate themselves on any potential side effects and to weigh that against the possibility of hospitalization or death from COVID-19.”

The Fairfax County Health Department says it will follow the federal and state guidance and resume offering the J&J vaccine at its vaccination sites, but it’s unclear when doses become available again.

“We will not receive the J&J vaccine this week since orders for vaccine are made the week prior,” Dale said. “I will not know the status on subsequent weeks until our vaccination team has a chance to meet.”

According to its vaccine dashboard, the county received 67,590 first and second vaccine doses from VDH for the week of April 19-25, an increase of more than 10,000 doses from the previous week. Because the county and its partners have primarily been utilizing the Pfizer vaccine, the J&J vaccine pause had a limited impact on vaccine availability and appointments.

Fairfax County providers have now administered more than 811,000 vaccine doses. 512,645 residents have received at least one dose, and 318,705 residents have been fully vaccinated — roughly 27.7% of the county’s total population.

That puts the county’s vaccination rate slightly behind Virginia as a whole, which has fully vaccinated 2.4 million residents, or 28.7% of its population. 3.6 million people — 42.9% of the population – have gotten at least one dose, and the Commonwealth has administered 5.9 million vaccine doses overall.

Images via CDC on Unsplash, Virginia Department of Health

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