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County sees jump in Covid cases after Thanksgiving, as closures of vaccine and testing sites loom

Fairfax Health District COVID-19 cases over the past 26 weeks, as of Dec. 5, 2022 (via VDH)

The Fairfax Health District saw an uptick in COVID-19 cases in Thanksgiving’s wake, a reminder that the coronavirus hasn’t disappeared even if the face masks and other health protocols aimed at limiting its spread mostly have.

The district, which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, is averaging 238 cases per day for the past week, as of yesterday, according to Virginia Department of Health data.

Cases remain far below previous winters or even the surge seen in late May fueled by omicron subvariants, but there has been an increase since Nov. 19 after a plateau through most of the fall. This is the first time the weekly average has exceeded 200 cases since Sept. 15.

In addition, the district is averaging 1.7 deaths per day from Covid. During the pandemic, it has reported 251,405 cases, 5,149 hospitalizations and 1,702 deaths.

All Fairfax Health District COVID-19 cases, as of Dec. 5, 2022 (via VDH)

Though past years suggest cold weather exacerbates Covid transmission, Fairfax County is set to close its mass vaccine clinics and mobile testing sites next week.

Citing “low demand,” the Fairfax County Health Department confirmed Friday (Dec. 2) that the startup Curative will stop operating in the county after Thursday, Dec. 15, as first reported by DCist. The partnership launched in July, bringing Curative’s vans with no-cost PCR tests to six locations in the community.

With rapid at-home testing more widely available now, albeit not necessarily for free, residents can find Covid testing options using VDH’s online search tool, calling health care providers directly or contacting the Fairfax County Call Center at 703-324-7404.

“Call takers will discuss their individual situation and what options may work best for them, which could include an appointment at one of the Health Department’s District Offices,” an FCHD spokesperson said. “We also continue to work on establishing additional options for distribution of rapid COVID-19 tests with our community partners. Many testing options are available in the community and the Health Department remains committed to helping residents find an option that works for them.”

According to its website, the county health department offers testing for individuals who have Covid symptoms, lack access to testing options in the community, are identified as close contacts, or have returned from traveling outside the country.

The county will also close its vaccine clinics at the South County Government Center on Wednesday, Dec. 14 and the Fairfax County Government Center on Saturday, Dec. 17. The operating hours for both sites have been reduced since early November.

The increased availability of vaccinations from private health care providers, pharmacies, and other locations has resulted in fewer people seeking shots from the county-run clinics, FCHD says.

“We sincerely appreciate the support from residents who have made the effort to get vaccinated and to stay up to date on their vaccinations by receiving recommended booster doses,” the spokesperson told FFXnow by email. “The more people who are vaccinated, the better the overall protection for our entire population.”

Health officials say getting vaccinated and boosted when eligible is especially critical now, as higher-than-usual levels of other respiratory illnesses, including the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), have been reported, straining capacity at hospitals.

As of yesterday, 1,015,959 Fairfax Health District residents — or 85.8% of the population — have gotten at least one Covid vaccine dose, including 93% of people 18 and older. 940,669 residents, or 79.5%, are fully vaccinated with at least two Pfizer or Moderna shots or a Johnson & Johnson dose.

However, just 21.5% of kids aged 4 months to 5 years old have received a shot, and only one out of every four people eligible for the omicron-targeting booster has actually gotten it, according to FCHD.

Options for obtaining a Covid vaccine can still be found at vaccines.gov. Eventually, the county sees the process becoming routine, like getting an annual flu shot.

“Closing the Health Department clinics is a step in the transition to residents accessing vaccines as they do for other vaccine preventable diseases, utilizing sites such as their doctor’s office, a pharmacy, grocery store, Urgent Care Center, or other site in the community,” the FCHD spokesperson said.

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