Newsletter

Fairfax County Public Schools has reinstated two books that were recently pulled from library shelves after some parents took issue with their sexual content.

“Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison — both books that center on LGBTQIA+ individuals exploring their identities — will be returned to shelves based on recommendations from committees formed to review the materials, FCPS announced today (Monday).

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the school system said in a news release. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journeys.”

FCPS pulled the two books from circulation in late September after local mother Stacy Langston complained at a school board meeting that they contained graphic sexual content akin to pornography, including depictions of pedophelia.

Langston said her complaint was inspired by similar protests at a school board meeting in Texas. Since then, protests of books have proliferated across the country, with a nearly decade-old challenge of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” in Fairfax County even figuring into Virginia’s recent gubernatorial race.

Langston’s challenge prompted FCPS to form two committees to review the books, led by its library services coordinator.

According to FCPS, each committee consisted of two teachers, two parents, a school-based administrator, a member of its Equity and Cultural Responsiveness team, and two high school students.

The committees were formed by FCPS Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Department Noel Klimenko, who randomly selected members from “a pool of stakeholder representatives” submitted by schools.

FCPS says both committees determined that the pedophelia claims were unfounded and that they both have literary value that justifies keeping them in schools.

Klimenko made the final decision to reinstate the books after receiving the committees’ recommendations, in accordinace with the school system’s regulation for handling challenges of school materials.

“I am satisfied that the books were selected according to FCPS regulations and are appropriate to include in libraries that serve high school students,” Klimenko said. “Both books have value beyond their pages for students who may struggle to find relatable stories.”

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An illustration of a coronavirus (via CDC/Unsplash)

Booster COVID-19 shots are now available to all adults in the U.S. — just in time for what promises to be a busy holiday season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded eligibility for a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to everyone 18 and older early Friday night (Nov. 19), encouraging people to get the added protection before they gather for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.

People 65 and older and those at higher risk of infection due to their job or other factors have been able to get boosters since September. The CDC’s move adds approximately 2.2 million Virginians to that pool of eligibility, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“These vaccines are incredibly safe and effective, but no vaccine prevents 100 percent of illness,” Virginia State Vaccination Liaison Dr. Danny Avula said in a statement. “All vaccines’ effectiveness wanes over time, and the data show a tangible benefit to people when they receive a vaccine booster.”

In Fairfax County, all vaccines, including booster shots, are available by appointment at the local health department, the Tysons Community Vaccination Center, and various community sites, which can be located through vaccines.gov.

The Fairfax County Health Department notes that Pfizer and Moderna’s boosters should be administered at least six months after the main two-dose regimen, and people don’t have to get the same brand as their original vaccination.

Coupled with the recent rollout of pediatric vaccines, the push for more booster shots comes at a critical time as the weather cools, and millions of Americans plan to travel for Thanksgiving on Thursday (Nov. 25), spurring the busiest travel period of the pandemic.

While the availability of vaccinations suggest COVID-19 infections are unlikely to reach the heights seen last winter, cases have already started to rise again in Fairfax County after more than a month of decline.

“As more people spend time indoors and as people get together for the holidays, the risk of spreading COVID-19 is higher,” Fairfax County Director of Epidemiology and Population Health Dr. Ben Schwartz said. “Rates of COVID-19 infection in Fairfax County have actually increased again during the past two weeks emphasizing the importance of vaccination, booster doses, and maintaining other measures to prevent infection.”

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Nov. 22, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of Nov. 22, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

With 115 cases added today (Monday), the county now has a weekly average of 123.4 new daily cases, just shy of the 125.1 cases it was averaging on Aug. 11 in the middle of the Delta variant surge. For comparison, though, the county had a weekly average of 273.3 cases on Nov. 22, 2020.

The level of community transmission has returned to substantial after dropping to moderate just two weeks ago, according to VDH data. The county saw 72 new cases per 100,000 people and a testing positivity rate of 3.3% for the week of Nov. 14-20.

In total, the Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has reported 95,798 COVID-19 cases, 4,385 hospitalizations, and 1,225 deaths, including six in the past week.

While COVID-19 cases are trending upwards, so too are vaccinations in the Fairfax Health District, which has seen 1.7 million doses of vaccine administered, FCHD data shows.

867,103 residents — 73.3% of the district’s population — have received at least one dose, including 84.3% of people 18 and older, 86.7% of adolescents aged 12-17, and 21.6% of children between the ages of 5 and 11.

769,721 residents, or 65% of the population, are fully vaccinated, having gotten two Pfizer or Moderna doses or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That includes 77.1% of adults.

Fairfax Health District COVID-19 booster doses administered by age group as of Nov. 22, 2021 (via Fairfax County Health Department)

The popularity of booster shots generally increases with age, with more than 40,000 doses going to people in the 65-74 age group. In terms of percentages, the lead goes to people who are 75 to 84 years old, nearly 47.5% of whom have gotten a booster shot.

In addition to recommending that parents get their children vaccinated, Schwartz urged all community members “to remain vigilant and keep up health and safety measures,” such as wearing masks in public indoor spaces, washing their hands, and staying home when sick.

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

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The results of Virginia’s 2021 general election could have significant ramifications for local efforts to seek alternatives to jail and other criminal justice reforms, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano says.

Descano, a Democrat, addressed expectations that his agenda will clash with that of Republican Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares in an online event on Tuesday (Nov. 16) hosted by the McLean chapter of the American Association of University Women, which seeks to promote equity and education for women and girls.

A day after defeating incumbent Mark Herring, who was seeking a third consecutive term as Virginia’s top legal officer, Miyares told reporters on Nov. 3 that he plans to introduce a bill that would let the state intervene in local cases.

“This legislation was inspired by a child rape case in Fairfax County, where a defendant was charged with repeatedly raping and molesting a 5-year-old child and was eligible for a life sentence,” Miyares said in a statement to FFXnow, pointing to a case involving Oscar R. Zaldivar, 53, who received a 17-year sentence through a plea deal.

Despite objections from the families involved, Descano’s office defended the sentence in statements to media after the September hearing as longer than what 75% of defendants in Virginia face for the same offenses.

Prosecutors typically get discretion to determine when to pursue a case based on whether the available evidence is sufficient and other factors. Descano said Miyares’s proposal would turn the legal system on its head.

“He wants the police to be able to sideline a prosecutor who’s inconvenient for them at anytime,” Descano said, adding that Fairfax County is fortunate to have a professionalized police force.

Miyares countered that he would get guidance from Commonwealth’s Attorneys to advocate for a bill that would “invite” the attorney general to prosecute child rape or violent crime cases “when the local prosecutor refuses to prosecute.”

The clash between Descano and Miyares presages the uphill battle that Fairfax County’s mostly Democratic elected officials will likely face over the next few years in trying to work with the n0w-Republican-led state government.

The county started a veterans court in 2015 to provide support systems for service members faced with charges. It then launched a Diversion First initiative in 2016 that offers rehabilitation over incarceration for certain nonviolent offenses. Since then, the county has also created specialized court dockets focused on the needs of people with drug addiction and mental health issues.

According to Census data compiled by the nonprofit The Marshall Project, Fairfax County’s jail population has declined significantly over the past two decades, from 3,749 people in 2000 to 1,207 people in 2010 and 667 people in 2020.

Elected in 2019 amid a progressive surge in Northern Virginia, Descano has implemented many of his pledged reforms, including eliminating cash bail, not holding suspects on nonviolent charges when they aren’t deemed a danger to the community, and enabling prosecutors to take “community values” into account instead of deferring to judges.

He said on Tuesday that the changes are intended to improve fairness in prosecutions.

The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney also has a data director who is working with researchers from American University and other partners to create a public dashboard with information on how it handles different cases.

Descano says the data will allow for analysis of prosecutors’ decisions, which will help avoid problems, such as unfair treatment based on gender or race.

When asked about the data effort by Aroona Borpujari, a statistician who watched the event, Descano replied that his office will release the data when they have enough of a sample size.

“It’s our pledge that we’re going to be transparent,” he said, describing the office as previously being in the Stone Age.

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The Reston Town Center parking garages have a system that tracks the availability of spaces in real time

If you’ve ever lost precious minutes circling a parking lot for an available spot or questioned the amount of space devoted to parking in a new development, the time to voice those concerns has come.

Fairfax County kicked off a month-long series of town halls last week for the public to weigh in on its first comprehensive parking in decades, inviting stakeholders from business interests and nonprofits to tenants and religious groups to provide feedback.

Any recommended changes are expected to go to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for votes in late 2022.

“We have lots and lots of privately owned parking, and sometimes it seems we have more than enough parking, and sometimes, we don’t have enough,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said during an online town hall meeting on Nov. 10.

Dubbed Parking Reimagined, the county’s initiative focuses on off-street parking. It began last month and could run for 12-18 months. County rules regulate current parking as well as what future developments must build, though exceptions can be made.

The county is partnering with a consultant team, Clarion-Nelson\Nygaard, to study the matter, but a principal with Nelson\Nygaard, Iain Banks, noted that they’re looking at data from 2019 and earlier due to the pandemic’s effects on remote work, the use of transit, and other factors.

“Transportation is changing rapidly, not only as a result of COVID and the subsequent recovery from COVID but also into a future where perhaps traffic peak periods are going to change throughout the day,” Banks said. “It’s not going to be that typical morning and evening rush hour perhaps; it’s going to be more spread out throughout the day as flexible schedules perhaps become the norm.”

Residents expressed the need for parking and observed that parking costs money in the form of taxes, a parking permit, or a parking meter, though Fairfax County currently doesn’t operate any meters for off-street parking.

Michael Davis, parking program manager with the county’s Land Development Services department, said at the town hall last week that the initiative could help people think of parking as a resource.

He said they’re looking at “right sizing” parking, where the supply is appropriate for the demand. He noted that times of high and low demand can change by the hour and season, and there can even be times when cars are unnecessary, such as for nearby commutes.

Davis also raised the idea of shared parking. Instead of requiring a minimum number of parking spots, such as for a site with apartments, offices, and retail, a smaller parking area can be built that provides enough parking for all based on hourly demand.

County officials emphasized their interest in hearing from people at the town hall, which also turned into a brainstorming session of sorts.

Alcorn wondered if there was a way to track the progress of parking availability at developments. Davis noted that technology is already at Reston Town Center and Tysons Corner Center, which have electronic signs in their garages that show how many parking spots are available in real time.

But the changes in behaviors driven by the pandemic are leading officials to cautiously approach how to gather current data.

Information about upcoming meetings and other updates can be found on the county’s website for the project.

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Flooding, power outages, and other impacts from storms are among the top climate change-related concerns for Fairfax County residents, the recently released results of a county survey suggest.

606 community members participated in the survey that the Fairfax County Office of Environmental and Energy Coordination (OEEC) conducted between June 8 and July 2 as part of its Resilient Fairfax initiative, which will produce a plan for how the county can withstand and adapt to the threats introduced by a warming planet.

81% of respondents cited severe storms as a concern, followed by changing temperatures (79%) and flooding (60%), according to the survey results report published on Nov. 8.

55% of respondents said they’re concerned about drought, 40% about fire risks, and 19% listed other climate hazards, including air quality and pollution, health effects, and the impact on plants and animals.

While the survey drew responses from just a fraction of the 1.1 million people who live in Fairfax County, the results still offer insight into the community’s awareness of the risks posed by climate change — and how they are already affecting people’s lives, county staff say.

“It helps us gather information that’s not available through quantitative data that we have,” OEEC Senior Planner Allison Homer said. “People’s opinions or people’s concerns, that’s not something we have access to without asking.”

Flooding

24.6% of the Fairfax County residents who answered the survey said their neighborhood has flooded within the past five years, with 9.8% of residents saying it has affected their home.

Of the respondents who work in the county, 24.8% said they have experienced flooding at their place of employment. 67.1% of respondents said they have witnessed flooding in the county outside their home or work, such as on roads.

The survey identifies Hunter Mill Road, Richmond Highway, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Prosperity Avenue, Huntington Avenue, and Little River Turnpike among the areas most vulnerable to flooding, though Homer says the evenly distributed flood map in the report doesn’t fully align with the county’s data.

“I think it’s sort of biased towards the areas where people lived that are taking the survey,” she said. “Our most flood-prone roads in reality are mostly concentrated towards the eastern part of the county.”

Flood risks tend to be higher in areas with older infrastructure, according to OEEC Division Manager Matt Meyers, citing the Great Falls area as an example.

“Those were country road when they were first built, but now, they’re surrounded by urban development, so those road culverts were not designed to today’s standards,” Meyers said. “They’re already inadequate, and then, when we have these intense rainfalls, they’re just overwhelmed.”

Power Outages

A sizable 80.7% of survey respondents reported experiencing storm damage other than flooding — such as power outages, damage to infrastructure and buildings, and downed trees — in their neighborhood within the past five years.

In particular, 94% of respondents said they have lost power in that time frame. While 46% said they were not significantly affected by a power outage, many reported notable ramifications:

  • Loss of ability to communicate by phone or online (57%)
  • Spoiled food (28%)
  • Unable to stay inside because their home became too hot or cold (28%)
  • Loss of refrigerated medications (2%)
  • Operational issues with a life-supporting medical device (2%)
  • Other impacts, mostly related to using a generator for power (7%)

Many of the areas cited as vulnerable were the same ones seen as susceptible to flooding, including Richmond Highway, Hunter Mill Road, Lawyers Road, Old Dominion Drive, and Prosperity Avenue.

The fragility of the power grid is an issue nationwide, as illustrated by extreme weather from a winter storm in Texas to this summer’s Pacific Northwest heat wave.

Homer says the county government can help reinforce Fairfax County’s power system by investing in backup generators, for example, but many changes, like moving power lines underground, will require cooperation from the state and utilty companies, which are involved in Reslient Fairfax as part of its Infrastructure Advisory Group.

“Renewable energy like solar installations can help enhance resilience if they’re paired with storage,” Homer said. “…But there are some limitations in Virginia as far as [how] we can use that solar plus storage, so we’re trying to see how much we can do that’s within our power to do.”

The Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plan

The survey is just one part of the Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plan that OEEC expects to finalize for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ approval in June 2022.

In the coming months, county staff will release a climate projections report forecasting temperatures, precipitation levels, and other future conditions. They’re also developing a vulnerability and risk assessment that will incorporate feedback from the survey and an audit of the county’s existing policies and programs to determine where updates might be needed.

The final piece of the initiative will be a roadmap for how the county can implement its strategies for climate resilience.

Since launching in April, Resilient Fairfax has held two public meetings, and Homer says another community survey is planned for January. There will be a public comment period after a draft of the resilience plan is released in April.

The initiative works with the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan that the Board of Supervisors adopted in September, which recommends steps for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the Resilient Fairfax team’s goals is to identify strategies that can address both the causes and effects of climate change.

“Resilient Fairfax is acknowledging that we’re already facing impacts from climate change,” Homer said. “We’re already facing more severe storms and flooding and heat, so while we’re all working to reduce our emissions, we also need to make sure that we’re prepared for the impacts at the same time.”

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Gas-powered leaf blower (via Cbaile19/Wikimedia Commons)

Fairfax County will phase out the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in county operations.

Gas-powered leaf blowers are too noisy, dirty, and do not adhere to the newly-adopted Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan, according to several county supervisors. Instead, officials are recommending the use of electric equipment, along with leaf and grasscycling.

Braddock District Supervisor James Walkinshaw presented a joint board matter directing county staff to develop a plan for ending gas-powered leaf blower purchases at last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting. The board approved the matter by a vote of 9-1 with Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity dissenting.

“The use of gas-powered leaf blowers presents a number of problems,” said Walkinshaw at the meeting. “Most prominently, their extreme and pentertraing noise levels and the highly toxic emissions from the out of date two stroke engines.”

Walkinshaw noted that the blowers operate at a noise level that could potentially cause hearing damage. He also mentioned that they are inefficient in terms of its output and emit 23 times the amount of carbon dioxide as a Ford pickup truck.

The board matter additionally calls for contractors that work for the county to begin transitioning away from this type of equipment, encouraged by incentives from the county.

“By taking an incentive-based approach to our procurement policies, we can jumpstart the transition from dirty and noisy gas-powered blowers,” wrote Walkinshaw in a statement. “This initiative sends a strong signal to landscaping contractors that now is the time to invest in cleaner equipment.”

However, specific incentives were not discussed and will be established “when staff reports back,” a spokesperson from Walkinshaw’s office wrote to FFXnow in an email.

As of yet, there’s no deadline established for the phase out.

During the meeting, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn noted that the county currently owns 133 gas-powered leaf blowers.

However, that number doesn’t include ones used by contractors who work for the county, a spokesperson from Walkinshaw’s office confirmed.

Alcron said he still hoped that this idea of banning gas blowers would be also adopted by the Virginia General Assembly, but stated that the county’s adoption was “clearly a step in the right direction.”

McKay acknowledged converting to an entirely electric fleet of blowers could be very expensive for some contractors, but hopes that the county phasing out this type of equipment is “leading by example.”

A cost estimate for phasing out this equipment isn’t available yet, but it’s expected to be minimal, according to Walkinshaw’s office.

Photo via Cbaile19/Wikimedia Commons

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First lady Jill Biden visited Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean to launch the national rollout of the COVID-19 pediatric vaccine (photo by Donnie Biggs/FCPS)

More than 16% of children in the Fairfax Health District have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine dose since the shots became available to them on Nov. 3.

As of today (Monday), 17,578 of the district’s over 108,000 residents between the ages of 5 and 11 have received their first dose of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech regimen, according to the Fairfax County Health Department’s vaccine data dashboard.

Fairfax County COVID-19 vaccinations by age as of Nov. 15, 2021 (via Fairfax County Health Department)

After formally kicking off its pediatric vaccine rollout with first lady Jill Biden last week, FCHD announced on Thursday (Nov. 11) that it will host a series of vaccine clinics specifically for this age group at nine public elementary schools starting tomorrow (Tuesday).

According to the county health department, it is working on the 19 scheduled school-based clinics with Fairfax County Public Schools, the Virginia Department of Health, Giant Pharmacy, and Ashbritt/IEM, the same contractor partnership that operates the mass vaccination site at Tysons Corner Center.

“Capacity at each clinic is expected to be 150 doses,” FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said by email. “In the event supply is exhausted at a particular event, our staff will assist families onsite to make an appointment at a nearby vaccine provider.”

For now, the clinics will all take place after school hours or on the weekend, though FCPS officials have said they plan to eventually make vaccinations available when students are in school as well, likely after their winter break.

Unlike at the county’s mass vaccination sites, which have temporarily suspended walk-ins, appointments are not needed for the school clinics, but children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

According to Caldwell, the schools that will host the clinics were chosen by FCPS and county health department staff based on data showing areas with “higher rates of COVID-19 illness but less access to sites offering vaccine for children ages 5-11.”

However, every clinic is open to all children regardless of whether they attend that particular school.

Vaccinations for all ages can still be scheduled at health department sites, Inova, private healthcare providers, and various community sites like grocery stores and pharmacies through vaccines.gov.

Overall, at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose has been administered to 855,751 residents of the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church. That amounts to 72.3% of all residents, including 83.7% of people aged 18 and older.

762,954 residents, or 64.5% of the population, are now fully vaccinated, including 76.4% of adults.

While vaccinations have helped reduce the pandemic’s threat, they haven’t extinguished it entirely.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days, as of Nov. 15, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

After dropping to 58.7 cases last Wednesday (Nov. 10), the lowest point since July 24, when the Delta variant first took hold, Fairfax County’s weekly average has ticked up over the past few days and now sits at 77.1 cases per day, according to VDH data.

With 93 new cases today, the Fairfax Health District has reported 94,770 COVID-19 cases total. 4,390 residents have been hospitalized by the novel coronavirus, and 1,219 people have died.

While it’s too soon to tell whether the rise in cases is a blip or the start of another surge, past patterns and a resurgence of the virus in Europe have health experts reiterating the need to vaccinate as many people as possible, with the winter holidays and cold weather approaching.

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Fairfax County should minimize disruption as much as possible when adopting new electoral district maps, the chair of the county’s Redistricting Advisory Committee (RAC) said at a public hearing yesterday (Tuesday).

Paul Berry urged the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to make the least-disruptive changes possible, keeping each supervisor’s district — and who they represent — close to the same, while taking into account factors like population growth and equity.

“We strongly encourage the board to consider the concept of minimal disruption,” he said. “Minimal disruption is the idea that residents of a political geography have as much stability in their civic life as possible.”

With a condensed timeline due to the delayed release of 2020 Census data, the board-appointed RAC met 13 times between July 27 and Oct. 12 to develop recommendations for redrawing the boundaries that will determine local supervisor and school board districts for the next decade.

The committee ultimately released a report on Nov. 1 with 64 proposed reapportionment maps: 32 that maintain the county’s current nine-district setup, 25 with 10 districts, and seven with 11 districts.

Berry recommended keeping a 10-member county board with nine district seats and an at-large chair, the most common plan from both the public and RAC members.

The board agreed to adopt a redistricting plan on Dec. 7. The public hearing record has been left open, allowing written comments to be accepted until the vote.

Local Process Differs from State

Redistricting is legally required every 10 years in conjunction with each new Census to ensure electoral districts have proportional representation.

According to the 2020 Census, Fairfax County’s population grew 6%, from less than 1.082 million in 2010 to over 1.15 million in 2020, and it is now a minority-majority locality, with notable growth in its Asian and Hispanic populations.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay contrasted the county’s redistricting process with the one currently underway at the state level, where the new Virginia Redistricting Commission succumbed to the partisan gridlock it was intended to prevent.

The Commonwealth’s new General Assembly and congressional districts will now be drawn by the Virginia Supreme Court instead.

This is a very different process than used in Richmond for redistricting,” McKay said. “I, in past lives, have served on a redistricting committee myself, as has [Hunter Mill District] Supervisor [Walter] Alcorn, and I can attest how open and transparent our process is and a model for how you do redistricting.”

Berry, a substitute teacher for Fairfax County Public Schools, said the effort was 100% citizen-led, drawing more proposals than any previous redistricting effort in the county. RAC members came up with 24 maps, and the public submitted 40, an increase from three in 2011.

Equity, Development Among Concerns

The residents and leaders of public-interest groups who spoke at yesterday’s public hearing were split on whether Fairfax County needs change or stability.

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax Rev. David Miller urged supervisors to consider how the county could promote equity and inclusion.

He argued that Black and Latinx communities’ political power shouldn’t be diluted by breaking them apart, citing the country’s history of discriminatory practices like redlining, where financial services are denied to certain neighborhoods — usually ones that are predominately Black.

Several speakers called for a South County district to be formed, citing the changing character of the region.

“It might have worked okay for decades, but not now,” said Dale Rumberger, president of the South County Federation, an organization that represents residents and civic associations in southeastern Fairfax County.

He cited the increase in homes, shopping plazas, and schools. Looking back at his 31 years in the district, he said he couldn’t count how many new housing developments have emerged and continue to be built.

Meanwhile, others called for continuity:

Resident Cathy Hosek said if any precinct is moved, homes with Springfield addresses should be considered first, noting that it can be confusing for residents who have that mailing address but aren’t in the Springfield District.

She also said supervisors should consider what equitable representation would look like. The RAC report noted that if all nine supervisor districts were equal in population size, each would have 127,874 residents.

After the Board of Supervisors votes on a new electoral district map, the plan will need to be certified by Virginia’s attorney general, which is expected to happen on Feb. 22, 2022.

Earlier in the day, the board agreed to reappoint the redistricting committee on Dec. 7 so it can examine the names of the county’s districts. Conversations about renaming Lee District are already underway, but Supervisor Rodney Lusk said no decision will be made until after the committee makes its recommendations.

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The American flag flies in the skies (via Aaron Burden/Unsplash)

Veterans Day, honoring all those who have served in the U.S. military forces, is Thursday (Nov. 11).

From banks to post offices and more, expect many services to be not operating to observe the holiday.

Libraries, courts and other swaths of county, state and federal services are affected, such as the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

Aside from banks, most businesses will be open. If you’re unsure, call ahead to check.

Meanwhile, Fairfax County Public Schools will have a two-hour early release.

Transportation

The Fairfax Connector will operate on a holiday weekday schedule, meaning some routes will offer their standard, weekday service, while others won’t operate at all.

The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority Metrorail will continue with its reduced frequencies on the Silver Line amid its railcar investigation following a derailment in Arlington on Oct. 12.

WMATA buses will operate on a Saturday schedule.

Metro will have off-peak fares throughout the day, and parking at all Metro-owned lots and garages will be free.

Parks, Falls Church Services

County recreation centers and parts of Frying Pan Farm Park will be open, but other Fairfax County Park Authority centers will be closed.

Rec Center admission will be free for all veterans, active-duty military personnel, and their families with a military identification.

City of Falls Church offices and services, including the Mary Riley Styles Public Library, will be closed.

Photo via Aaron Burden/Unpsplash

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An illustration of a coronavirus (via CDC/Unsplash)

For the first time since the end of July, Fairfax County is seeing only a moderate level of COVID-19 transmission in the community.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, the county reported just 41.8 new cases per 100,000 people during the week of Oct. 31 through Nov. 6, down from 50.2 cases over the previous seven days. That puts it in the 10-49 case threshold for a moderate level of community spread.

The county’s 2.4% testing positivity rate falls in the “low” transmission threshold, but federal and state health officials use the metric that is higher to categorize a locality’s spread.

“We are currently seeing a downward trend in Fairfax County COVID-19 cases, largely because residents have been proactive in getting themselves and their families vaccinated,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “In addition, our community has remained diligent in following COVID-19 mitigation practices. These efforts are producing results.”

Fairfax County’s COVID-19 community transmission levels dropped to moderate for the week of Oct. 31 to Nov. 6 (via Virginia Department of Health)

Fueled by the spread of the Delta variant, Fairfax County started seeing substantial COVID-19 spread on Aug. 4, prompting county leaders to revive their recommendation that everyone wear a face mask indoors regardless of vaccination status.

The county has required masks inside its facilities since Aug. 9, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for localities with substantial or high transmission.

However, with all surrounding Northern Virginia jurisdictions still seeing substantial transmission, the county’s mask requirement will remain in place for the time being.

“Because we know that residents of Northern Virginia travel and interact throughout the region, we will continue to monitor and work in partnership with our neighbors to reach safer levels before changing masking requirements,” McKay said.

With another 54 cases added today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District has recorded a total of 93,990 COVID-19 cases, 4,387 hospitalizations, and 1,214 deaths during the pandemic, according to the Fairfax County Health Department.

The current seven-day average of 66.6 new cases is on par with where the county was on July 27 and just under half the weekly average of 153 cases reported one year ago, when the coronavirus’ winter surge was starting to kick in.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Nov. 11, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of Nov. 8, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

As COVID-19 cases continue to decline, Fairfax County has seen an uptick in vaccinations, buoyed by the availability of booster shots and last week’s expansion of eligibility to children aged 5-11.

According to county health department data, 833,789 Fairfax Health District residents, or 70.4% of the population, have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That includes 83.3% of individuals 18 and older.

McKay says the pediatric vaccine rollout “has gotten off to a strong start,” but the county didn’t provide more specific information about how many vaccinations have been administered to that age group so far.

Fairfax County Public Schools will hold its first vaccine clinic for elementary school-aged children this afternoon at Franklin Sherman Elementary School, with first lady Jill Biden visiting.

Appointments can also be scheduled with FCHD, the Tysons Community Vaccination Center, Inova, and community sites like pharmacies and grocery stores at vaccines.gov.

760,125 Fairfax Health District residents — 76.2% of adults and 64.2% of the overall population — are fully vaccinated.

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

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