Tysons, VA

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department is coming up with more ways to help local residents receive CPR in the event of an emergency.

On Jan. 18, the department announced the official launch of PulsePoint, a mobile phone app that connects to 9-1-1 and alerts CPR-trained residents if someone in a nearby, public location is experiencing Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).

The rate of survival from SCA decreases by 7-10% for every minute that passes before help arrives, according to the department. The app can be downloaded from the Apple Store or on Google Play. Potential resident responders are also alerted to the exact location of a defibrillator.

Fire Chief John Butler is encouraging residents to download the app.

“In working with PulsePoint, our goal is to get every resident with access to early intervention in order to save as many lives as possible,” Butler said.

Butler pushed for the institution of the app in Howard County, Md., where he served as fire chief before becoming the head of Fairfax County’s department in 2018.

Last year, the American Heart Association (AHA) created new guidelines urging fire departments to have the capability to alert willing bystanders to the need for CPR.

The AHA recommendation was considered and played a significant role in the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Departments’ implementation of PulsePoint,  Battalion Chief George Robbins, Fairfax County’s community risk reduction program manager, said.

He noted that CPR-related calls are fairly common in Fairfax County. In 2019 and 2020, the department responded to 645 and 663 patients where EMS crews attempted resuscitation respectively, Robbins told Reston Now, Tysons Reporter’s sister site.

An email is required to set up an account once the app is downloaded.

Photo via PulsePoint Foundation/Facebook

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The Fairfax County Police Department is preparing for Inauguration Day tomorrow (Wednesday) with a heightened police presence throughout the county.

In a statement to Reston Now, Tysons Reporter’s sister site, FCPD said the department’s focus is safeguarding the community, major thoroughfares, critical infrastructure, and transit hubs.

FCPD has also staffed its civil disturbance unit, neighborhood patrols, and operational support units if they are needed in an emergency situation.

“Community members can expect to see an increased and vigilant police presence and if they have any concerns or observe any suspicious or. concerning activity, we encourage them to report it to an officer or call 911,” FCPD wrote in a statement.

The department noted that the county had an increased presence in past inaugurations.

FCPD deployed officers to D.C. on Jan. 6 to help law enforcement agencies to quell the U.S. Capital riots, which were started by a mob of Donald Trump supporters.

No Fairfax County police officers were seriously injured earlier this month. The FCPD has not commented yet on whether there are plans to formally deploy any officers to D.C. during the inauguration.

number of bridges connecting D.C. to Arlington are either completely shut down or have severely altered traffic patterns. Memorial Bridge is now closed through Thursday morning at 6 a.m. It was closed and then reopened over the weekend.

D.C.-bound lanes on Roosevelt Bridge, I-395 Bridge, and 14th Street Bridge will also be closed until Thursday morning, but lanes leaving the city “will flow normally” according to the Metropolitan Police Department traffic advisory. There are also a host of D.C. road closures

Key Bridge will remain open, but there’ll be no access to Whitehurst Freeway and only local traffic may turn right on M Street. Thru traffic can only turn left onto Canal Rd/MacArthur Blvd, this also according to the advisory. 

Chain Bridge in McLean will remain open in both directions, as will the Wilson and American Legion Bridges connecting Virginia to Maryland.

Matt Blitz contributed reporting to this story.

Photo via FCPD

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The first day of pre-screening and COVID-19 vaccine registration for Fairfax County residents between the ages of 65 and 74 and those with high-risk medical conditions began with a bumpy start after the county’s system went down for most of the morning on Monday (Jan. 18).

Now, as the system returns to normal and vaccine registration resumes, county officials are urging residents to remain patient. Instead of contacting the county through the health department’s vaccine hotline, officials encourage residents to complete an online pre-screening form and appointment questionnaire.

At the same time, some residents — including frontline healthcare workers who received the first dose of the vaccine in December — say they’re still receiving uncertain answers about when to schedule their second dose.

A local healthcare worker told Tysons Reporter’s sister site, Reston Now, that she and several others she knows have had trouble receiving any information from the health department on when the second dose will take be administered. All residents receive a vaccination card and are required to receive a second dose of the two-course vaccine roughly four weeks after the first dose.

But some say they haven’t received any information on when the second dose will be available.

“I have called the department hundreds of times to attempt to schedule the second required vaccine,” a healthcare worker told Reston Now. “A week ago, I literally called 50 times and was unable to get through to speak to someone.”

When residents were able to get someone on the line, the information provided was scant, the source told Reston Now.

“A system that is already overloaded is becoming even more overwhelmed,” she said.

Tina Dale, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Health Department, told Reston Now that residents do not need to call the health department to schedule the second dose of the vaccine. The health department will provide residents with a link to schedule their next appointment by email.

The earliest the second dose can be administered by the health department is late this week, but it may be weeks before registered residents receive information from the health department to set an appointment.

Within the first few hours of pre-registration expanding on Monday, the county received more than 33,000 new registrations. Gov. Ralph Northam recently expanded the number of eligible Virginians who can register for the vaccine.

Now, more than 40 percent of the county’s total population is eligible to register. The Fairfax County Public Schools System began vaccinating employees on Jan. 16. Vaccinations for FCPS are offered through the Inova Center for Personalized Health in Fairfax.

Once residents complete the pre-screening process through the online form or by phone, they will be contacted by the health department to schedule an appointment. The county has also launched a webpage with commonly asked questions about the vaccine.

The technical difficulties that plagued the vaccine registration system on Monday were the result of “a cloud-based problem” with the vendor that Fairfax County uses for the sign-up form, according to Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.

“While we want to encourage everyone who is eligible to register, our ability to vaccinate is entirely dependent on vaccine being sent to us from the state,” Foust said in a newsletter. “Your patience will be critical both in registering and understanding that we have a very limited supply of vaccines coming from the state and we are constantly working to get more.”

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Alcorn said that while he understands the issues were unforeseen, the challenges so far are “still not acceptable.”

“We need to do better.”

Photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools

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More than 40% of Fairfax County residents 16 and older are now in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine following Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s expansion of eligibility requirements.

People age 65 and above, and people between the ages of 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions can now register to receive the vaccine as part of phase 1b. Prior to Northam’s announcement yesterday, these groups were part of the next phase of the vaccine’s administration.

But county officials say it may take months to get through phase 1b, which prioritizes people age 75 and above and essential frontline workers like school staff, police, and grocery store workers.

The ability to schedule appointments will depend on the supply of vaccine available,the county wrote in a statement yesterday. The vaccine supply in the U.S. is still very limited and is expected to increase gradually over the next months.

Although it may take weeks before vaccines are formally administered, the Fairfax County Health Department will begin registering individuals in the newly-eligible group on Jan. 18.

Northam expects all Virginians to be vaccinated by the middle of the summer.

“This means about half of Virginia is now eligible to receive the vaccine. That’s a major logistical effort, and it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.

So far, the state has received 943,000 doses of the vaccine and administered roughly 242,000 doses. On average, the state is administering 12,000 doses daily — far from the governor’s long-term goal of 50,000 doses. Overall, the state is receiving 110,000 doses of the vaccine per week.

Northam is also encouraging schools to reopen, noting that six months of data from schools around the state suggests that schools can reopen if appropriate safety protocols are in place. The newly-released guidance creates a five-step program to guide decision-making on reopening.

The county plans to launch an online form to register for the vaccine today via its vaccine webpage. Residents should be able to schedule a time themselves based on eligibility, availability of appointments, and vaccine interview, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

The health department introduced a pre-screening form on Monday (Jan. 11) to allow people to pre-register for the vaccine. Residents can also call the county’s vaccine hotline at 703-324-7404 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. and on weekends between 9;30 a.m. and 5 p.m. The department will contact individuals who complete the pre-screening form depending on vaccine supply and appointment availability.

Demand for the vaccine flooded the county’s call lines on Monday, prompting local elected officials to encourage the county to improve its communications strategy.

Meanwhile, Walgreens is offering rapid antigen testing across select locations in the state. The new partnership with the Virginia Department of Health, which was announced yesterday, allows adults and children age three and above to receive a test. Walgreen’s testing site is located in Centreville at 13926 Lee Highway.

Photo via Fairfax County Health Department

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Following a flood of demand yesterday, Fairfax County plans to launch a new online COVID-19 vaccine registration system as early as tomorrow that will allow residents to schedule an appointment, the county’s information technology department told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors during an information technology committee meeting today.

Virignia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday (Jan. 8) that the Fairfax Health District is one of several districts in the state to jumpstart the next phase of vaccinations. Priority groups in this phase include adults age 75 and older and frontline essential workers like police and grocery store workers.

Fairfax County introduced a pre-registration tool yesterday (Monday) after overwhelming demand from people looking to schedule an appointment to get vaccinated jammed county phone lines and flooded the overall system.

The pre-registration form determines whether an individual is eligible to get a vaccine dose at this time, but applicants need to wait to be contacted by the Fairfax County Health Department — likely by email — to set up an appointment. The form launched earlier than originally anticipated in order to shift demand from the county’s phone line to the online system.

During the IT committee meeting, some members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors expressed dismay at the initial rollout of the registration system and phone line, which received nearly 1.2 million calls and more than 286,000 voicemails yesterday. The system was jammed within an hour of the phone line going up.

Jeff McKay, the board’s chairman, said that he was concerned the board did not receive information about the issues facing the county until around 6 p.m. yesterday.

“I know it is disappointing that we weren’t better prepared for this,” McKay said. “I will say that we need to be a lot quicker.”

He also noted that residents should be aware that phase 1b is not a first-come, first-serve system. Frontline essential workers will be vaccinated in a pre-determined order, with police, fire, and hazmat workers at the top of the list.

The county is testing out the new system today in cooperation with the Fairfax County Health Department, according to Gregory Scott, director of the county’s department of information technology.

The IT department also plans to implement a virtual system with automated chatbots and work with external vendors to help manage call volume. The county also routed some calls to a voice message that said to call back later due to busy phone lines.

“Everybody was in this predicament yesterday morning,” Scott said.

Staff noted that additional manpower may be needed to manage call volume and respond to registration forms to sort out missing or conflicting information.

Fairfax County hopes to automate as much of the registration process as much as possible. For instance, the county health department says residents who are ready to get a second dose of the vaccine will likely receive an email about registering.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, who chairs the IT committee, encouraged the county to ensure the registration form is friendly for seniors. The first version of the preregistration form that went online yesterday required providing a cell phone, for example.

The new registration form is expected to be available as early as tomorrow, pending final testing and revisions.

Photo via Fairfax County Health Department

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With nearly. 2.1 million Virginians now eligible to receive vaccines, Fairfax County is experiencing challenges handling the overwhelming demand to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations.

The county received more than 10,000 calls in the first ten minutes the call system went live.

An online vaccine registration system that was supposed to be operational this morning is still not available, prompting Fairfax County residents to turn to a hotline for support. The number experienced such high demand that phone calls were being dropped.

“Our vaccine call center is experiencing a high call volume today and we are asking residents to be patient,” Fairfax County Health Department spokesperson Tina Dale said.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said just before noon that the phone line had been reset and is now back online.

The county health department’s online pre-screening form for confirming eligibility for the vaccine is now also available. The department will call or email those who are eligible to set up an appointment “within a few days,” according to its website.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn says he understands concerns associated with the process for receiving a vaccination.

“I share every’s frustration with this situation and appreciate the enthusiasm this shows by so many to get the vaccine as soon as possible,” Alcorn wrote in a statement.

Alcorn, who chairs the board’s information technology committee, added that the county’s vaccine registration system will be the first agenda item for the committee meeting scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday).

Fairfax County is among several health districts in the state to begin phase 1b of vaccinations, which includes frontline essential workers, people age 75 and above, people in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and migrant labor camps.

The state’s definition of frontline essential workers includes police, fire, teachers, food and agriculture, manufacturing, public transit, mail carriers, and other employees.

Adults above the age of 75 —  who will be vaccinated first as part of phase 1b —  can register by calling 703-324-7404.

The Virginia Department of Health has also developed an online tool that people can use to find out when they will be eligible to get vaccinated.

Photo via Fairfax County Health Department/Twitter

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Fairfax County set a new record today by averaging 534.9 new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days, a sobering sign even as the county starts making vaccines available to more segments of the population.

The number of new daily COVID-19 cases continues to follow an upward trajectory. Fairfax County reported 741 new cases today — the second-highest number of daily reported cases since the county recorded a single-day record of 897 cases on Dec. 21.

The Fairfax Health District has now recorded 50,379 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, along with 723 deaths and 3,115 hospitalizations.

The new weekly average record comes as the Fairfax Health District expands COVID-19 vaccinations to the phase 1b population. Starting today, the Fairfax County Health Department is scheduling appointments for the following individuals:

  • Frontline essential workers
  • People age 75 and older
  • People in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and migrant labor camps
  • Police, fire, and hazmat
  • Corrections and homeless shelter workers
  • Childcare/pre-kindergarten-12 teachers and staff
  • Food and agricultural personnel including veterinarians
  • Manufacturing
  • Grocery store workers
  • Public transit workers
  • Mail carriers
  • Officials needed to maintain continuity of government like judges

Fairfax County Public Schools has partnered with Inova to administer the vaccine to 40,000 teachers and staff of public and private schools and childcare programs beginning Saturday, Jan. 16. The county’s health department is currently finalizing logistics with Inova and hopes to complete the endeavor over the next three weeks.

“The availability of this vaccine for our staff, coupled with the implementation of the five key mitigation strategies, strengthens our ability to gradually return to in-person instruction. Hope and help are now truly on the way,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand wrote in a letter to the community last night.

The first phase of the vaccine program, which began in December, involved vaccinating health-care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff. Vaccinations for those individuals are continuing.

State officials say it could take months to vaccinate the roughly 1.2 million Virginians in phase 1b. So far, the federal government has allocated roughly 110,000 doses for the state on a weekly basis. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two doses taken between 21 and 28 days apart respectively.

As of today, 20,794 people in Fairfax County have received at least the first dose of the vaccination.

Closed vaccination clinics are planned for police, fire and hazmat, corrections, and homeless shelter workers today through the county’s health department. These individuals are not required to contact the department to schedule appointments.

Vaccination dates for other frontline essential workers will be announced in the future.

The next phase of vaccinations — 1c — will include 2.5 million people who are essential workers in transportation, food service, utilities, adults above the age of 65, and people between the age of 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions.

“Getting Virginians vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to end this pandemic, rebuild our economy, and move our Commonwealth forward,” Gov. Ralph Northam said. 

Image via CDC on Unsplash, Virginia Department of Health

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The number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb in Fairfax County as the statewide rollout of vaccines continues.

So far, 4,181 people have been vaccinated in Fairfax County, with a total of 41,709 vaccines administered nationwide. The Virginia Department of Health began releasing vaccine data on Dec. 23. No second doses in the two-round vaccine have been administered yet.

Since a record-high count of 897 new daily cases was reported on Dec. 21, the moving weekly average of cases has hovered in the 460s. The third highest peak was reported on Dec. 27, when cases stood at 690. Today, the county reported 330 cases.

The number of hospitalizations in the county has increased steadily over the last few weeks, with a moving seven-day average of 16 hospitalizations. In June, hospitalizations peaked when that average stood in the low 30s. Since the pandemic began, 687 residents in the county have died to the pandemic and nearly 3,000 have been hospitalized.

The current positivity test rate for the state is 12.3 percent, roughly two percentage points below the countywide average.

Last week, the Fairfax County Health Department received 5,000 of the Moderna vaccine, which will be administered to healthcare workers who are not affiliated with hospitals. Fairfax County Fire Chief John Butler and Fire and Rescue Department personnel started getting vaccinated yesterday (Sunday).

Earlier this month, staff in the Inova Health System and Reston Hospital Center received vaccine shipments and began vaccinating staff and affiliated providers. Nursing home residents and staff are also covered in the first phase of the vaccination program.

Image via CDC on Unsplash

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The county is seeking to gauge the public’s support for pickleball, a new and rapidly expanding paddleball sport that combines elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis.

The Fairfax County Park Authority has launched an online survey to gauge support for new pickleball activities. The survey is open through Jan. 24. County officials say they’ve received multiple requests to expand the number of pickleball facilities in its parks, recreation centers, and community centers.

The game was invented in 1965 by two dads in Washington who wanted to entertain their kids and use an old badminton court.

A feasibility study is underway on how to address the desire for the sport, identify sites for possible improvements or new facilities, and develop criteria and design guidance used for selecting and constructing pickleball amenities.

Local pickleball players advocating for Fairfax County to develop more facilities devoted to the sport officially formed the Vienna Pickleball Club in June.

Now boasting 179 members, the group successfully convinced the Town of Vienna to turn the Glyndon Park tennis courts into hybrid tennis/pickleball courts when they underwent renovations earlier this year.

However, Fairfax County currently does not have any facilities specifically for pickleball. The closest dedicated facility is Pickleballerz, which opened in October in the Loudoun County portion of Chantilly.

The county’s feasibility study will be completed by the spring of 2021. Currently, the county has 15 parks with either a tennis or basketball court lined for pickleball. Within those parks, there are 28 courts available to play the game.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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More students and teachers in the Fairfax County County Public Schools system have been identified as victims of a ransomware attack that took place in September.

In a letter to parents, FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said his staff has identified more people who may have been impacted by the attack.

”In line with our commitment to providing credit monitoring and identity restoration services to those who may need them, we have distributed additional individualized notices to ensure all eligible members of our community who wish to utilize these services have access to them,” Brabrand wrote to parents and students last night.

On Sept. 11, just a few days after virtual learning resumed, hackers posted personal information of some students and staff on the dark web. Maze, a group of cybercriminals, claimed responsibility for the attack, which uses ransomware to prevent users from accessing files. In some cases, data is extracted and held hostage until a ransom is paid.

While the incident remains under investigation, Brabrand said that the school system is working with the FBI and Virginia State Police to investigate the attack.

Brabrand’s complete letter is below, after the jump.

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