Tysons, VA

The number of COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County continues to increase with a reported weekly average of cases hovering around the 450-mark. But the data show no signs of acceleration at this point.

In October, the county reported the highest number of weekly cases since Sept. 6, when cases peaked at 494. Since then, 459 cases were reported the week of Oct. 4 and 447 cases the week of Oct. 11. Case rates dipped significantly in June and early August when weekly averages hovered between 308 and 389 cases.

So far, the county has 23,462 confirmed cases, 2,247 hospitalizations, and 606 deaths.

There are no immediate indications of a spike in cases — which is determined when the total confirmed cases are mapped against new confirmed cases per week. In the last month, the familiar story of a slowdown in new cases no longer appears to be the case.

According to county data, in the last three weeks, the rate of new cases charted against the rate of existing cases has stabilized instead of trending downward, which indicates a slowdown in cases.

Fairfax County’s case rate — which is measured by cases per 100,000 people — remains comparable to the surrounding counties and health districts. Its case rate of 2,039 cases is slightly above Arlington’s case rate of 1,921 cases. Meanwhile, Alexandria has one of the highest case rates in the area (2,635).

It’s unclear how case trajectories may change throughout the region as flu season and colder temperatures come into full swing.

County health officials are urging residents to take precautions during Halloween and planned trick-or-treating activities, which have been flagged as high-risk activities.

Photo via Fairfax County Government Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery

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The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in what some local advocates and law enforcement officials are calling a pandemic within a pandemic for domestic violence victims.

The Fairfax County Police Department reported a slight uptick in calls related to domestic abuse. Following statewide orders to remain at home when possible, the average number of monthly calls jumped from 158 in February to 191 in April.

Between then and July, that number remained near the upper 190s, with a high of 200 calls in July and 200 calls in September, according to FCPD data released to Reston Now, Tysons Reporter’s sister site.

More victims are coming forward with serious injuries than before than pandemic, particularly strangulation attempts and the types of weapons used.

Efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 have also presented new challenges for police officers who cannot have face-to-face contact with victims.

“It has been stressed from the very beginning of the pandemic to be aware of domestic issues that arise from long hours confined in a home,” FCPD Sgt. Hudson Bull said.

Officers adapted to the new safeguards but still respond to calls in progress utilizing personal protective equipment and social distancing to ensure victims of crime are safe,” Bull said.

The Fairfax County Department of Family Services reported a 28 percent increase in the number of monthly calls to the county’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline. Since then, the numbers have stabilized, according to Angela Yeboah, a project coordinator for the department’s domestic violence action center.

Emotional and psychological abuse also has been used as a tactic to keep victims in the home and fearful that if they leave, they will have limited housing and economic options due to the pandemic,” Yeboah said.

But advocates at Shelter House, Inc., a Reston-based nonprofit organization that offers services to homeless families and victims of domestic violence, have seen a different story.

The nonprofit, which operates the Patrick Henry Family Shelter in Falls Church along with the Artemis House in Herndon and the Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter in Fairfax, reports a significant decrease in the number of calls since the pandemic began — a silence that concerned many service providers.

“We believe that this initial decrease was a direct result of stay-at-home orders and victims not being able to find safety from their abusive partner in order to reach out for help,” said Terrace Molina, the organization’s marketing and communications manager.

Now, Shelter House, Inc. is seeing case counts return to their previous levels. But the type of abuse is more severe as more victims enter the shelter. More serious injuries were also reported, Molina said.

She says victims need our support “now more than ever.”

High rates of unemployment and added pressures of children attending school virtually have produced more stressors for victims.

For victims who are in our emergency shelter or other programs, maintaining employment has been a challenge, particularly while also tending to the needs of children who are attending school virtually,” she said

Advocates hope to bring more awareness about the issue in light of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which happens in October.

Shelter House operates the county’s only 24/7 emergency hotline for victims of domestic violence, stalking and human trafficking. Individuals in need of help can call 703-435-4940. A domestic violence detective and a victim services specialist are also assigned to each Fairfax County police district station. Anyone in immediate danger should call 911.

Photo via Shelter House/Facebook

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After conditions stabilized in July and early August, the sliding average of COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County is slowly on the rise.

Although the increase is best described as an uptick, the weekly average of new cases hit a count of 105 yesterday (Monday). Following a dip in July, the rolling weekly average of new cases hovered in the 90s.

In October, the health district also hit the highest number of new daily cases since June 7 when 399 cases were reported. State data show 185 new cases were reported on Oct. 8. 

Overall, there have been 22,089 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County, 2,195 hospitalizations, and 599 deaths.  After a slowdown in the rate of new cases per week in June and July, the number of weekly cases grew slightly in August and September. The weekly average for both months hovered around 424 cases. In June and July, that number hovered in the low 300s.

The West Falls Church area south of Route 29 has seen the highest case count in the Tysons area, with that zip code (22042) recording 1,145 COVID-19 cases to date. At 3,414.1 cases per 100,000 people, it has the sixth-highest case rate in Fairfax County, according to county data.

With four additional cases since early September, Dunn Loring remains disproportionately affected by COVID-19 with the 10th highest case rate in the county. Despite having a population of just 2,362 people, the 22027 zip code has reported 75 cases, or 3,175.3 per 100,000 people.

Despite these numbers and the size of the jurisdictions, Fairfax County’s case rate is somewhat low compared to other jurisdictions and health districts. As of today (Tuesday), the case rate is 1,919. Alexandria’s case rate is 2,512 while Arlington’s is 1,772.

Statewide, the number of COVID-19 cases is nearly 160,000, with 3,361 deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.

County health officials continue to urge residents to get tested if symptoms develop or if exposure is possible.

Image via CDC on Unsplash, Virginia Department of Health

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Technical issues with Fairfax County’s car tax¬†payment portal¬†drew ire from residents this week, forcing some to make payments in-person and adding to already¬†long lines¬†for early voting.

In response to website issues, the county has waived penalties and interest on personal property payments made by 11:59 p.m. today (Tuesday).

According to Tony Castrilli, the county’s communications director, the county is working with its vendor to resolve the issue. “To make adjustments that will ensure as many payments as possible can be processed,” he said.

Some residents said the issue compounded already long lines at the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway).

Payments can be made online, by mail, by phone, and in person. Payments postmarked on or before today (Tuesday) are considered on time.

“We apologize for the inconvenience,” Castrilli added.

Staff Photo by Jay Westcott

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is considering a move to allow closed or partially-closed tents for outdoor dining in Fairfax County as temperatures continue to dip in the coming weeks.

At a board meeting on Tuesday, Board Chairman Jeff McKay proposed an emergency ordinance that would allow restaurants and fitness businesses to set up the tents.

“This is an important step we can take to safely help our local restaurants through this difficult time,” McKay wrote.

Currently, restaurants and fitness businesses are allowed to¬† use outdoor areas, including portions of parking lots and sidewalks. That ordinance is set to expire six months after the county’s state of emergency ends.

A public hearing on the matter is set for Oct. 20.

Photo via Melissa Walker Horn/Unsplash

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A Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees member has resigned amid a brewing controversy over comments made by another trustee over the inclusion of diverse titles in the library’s catalog.

Darren Ewing, who represents the Dranesville District, resigned from his position after he stated the library’s catalog homepage was “completely one-sided” at a recent discussion among trustees.

In an email obtained by Patch, Ewing clarified that he did not intend to support the comments of Phillip Rosenthal, the Springfield District representative who is under fire for questioning why Muslim, Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ titles are featured in the catalog.

Here’s more from Patch on Rosenthal’s comments at the July 29 board meeting:

For example, he questioned why Muslim writers were featured but not Catholic, Mormon, Jewish or Baptist writers.

He also took aim at writers involved with the Black Lives Matter movement. On a similar category titled Race in America, Rosenthal said, “Black lives documentaries. Why don’t we have some white lives documentaries?”

And for the category labeled rainbow reads for teens, he said, “Why don’t we have the flipped side of rainbow books for teens?”

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay is joining the NOVA Equity Agenda Coalition’s¬†calls for Rosenthal’s resignation.

“Ultimately, while under the guide of inclusivity, the demand from Mr. Rosenthal serves as a form of division, perpetuating an “us versus them” mentality. It is important now more than ever that we uplift the voices of underprivileged and underrepresented persons in our society,” McKay wrote in an Aug. 26 letter.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity recommended Rosenthal as a trustee in 2018. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved his post.

Fran Millhouser, the chair of the Board of Trustees, has also publicly stated that comments made by Rosenthal and Ewing “do not reflect the collective policies or positions of the full board or of Fairfax County.”

We will not remove materials because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval,” she added.

The Board of Trustees is expected to discuss the issue at a Sept. 9 meeting at 7 p.m.

Photo via Jessica Ruscello/Unsplash

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A new chief information officer will oversee Fairfax County Public Schools’s virtual learning and department of information technology.

Gautam Sethi, who currently serves as the chief technology officer for Douglas County School District in Colorado, will start Sept. 21.

The head of information technology for FCPS resigned in April following distance learning woes. Maribeth Luftglass had held the position for more than two decades. Technical and management problems haunted the beginning of remote education this year, leading the school system to temporarily cancel classes.

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said he is confident Sethi will help ensure FCPS is at “the forefront of innovation and fully supports our students, families, and employees.”

“He has administrative and management skills in K-12 education-including experience supporting remote learning-that make him uniquely qualified to oversee our IT functions,” Brabrand wrote in a statement.

Sethi built an IT security program in Colorado for the state’s third-largest district. He also modernized existing technologies and helped develop online portals to support staff and families, according to FCPS.

Here’s more from FCPS on his background:

Previously, Mr. Sethi led technology teams for Atlanta and New York City public schools.  He served as executive director of information technology for Atlanta Public Schools, where he enabled solutions for successful virtual student-teacher collaboration and human resources functions. He also served as the New York City Department of Education director of enterprise solutions architecture, working on innovative technology solutions resulting in more than 20 new systems initiatives; spearheaded a pilot cloud deployment; and directed IT for special education programs.

Sethi earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Delhi n Indian and his master’s degree in business administration from Emory University in Atlanta.

Photo via FCPS

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Labor Day is fast approaching. And while summer may look very different this year due to COVID-19, we’re curious to know how the pandemic will impact your plans.

The federal holiday — which was first marked in the late 19th century —¬† is celebrated on the first Monday in September. It aims to honor the American labor movement.

Some health officials are bracing for a spike in COVID-19 cases following Labor Day weekend, as parks and other venues become popular spots for celebrations.

For some, the weekend may mark a return to a new normal.  Fairfax County Public Schools will reopen on Sept. 8 with a virtual start. Many companies are planning to reopen offices after the weekend. Other employers are in the midst of rethinking plans for the return to work, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Let us know what your plans for Labor Day weekend are in the poll below.

Photo by Paul Weaver/Unsplash

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As the start date for Fairfax County Public Schools approaches, school officials are in the midst of developing metrics to guide how and when schools would reopen.

At a Fairfax County School Board meeting in late July, the board directed FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand to begin drafting preliminary metrics to inform decisions about school openings and closures.

School officials anticipate a spike in COVID-19 cases in the late fall during flu season. Another possibility is “recurring waves across many months until a vaccine is developed,” which could reflect a “loss of stamina” for strict social distancing precautions, according to FCPS documents.

The move comes in the absence of state or county level metrics on the issue. In a recent email, Melanie Meren, the school board member for the Hunter Mill District, said this step was taken due to lack of guidance from state officials on the issue.

“Therefore, the school board felt it was vital for FCPS to begin developing our own, because no one else was doing that for or with us,” Meren wrote.

The latest plan for reopening and closures notes that “multi-faceted metric and thresholds” will be used to guide decision-making.

School officials will take several factors into consideration based on community transmission and disease trends, which will determine if the level of community transmissions creates conditions for face-to-face transmission.

Other factors include operational metrics like the school system’s capacity to support in-person instruction, personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies. Finally, school officials will also consider school metrics.

Until then, FCPS students are set to return to virtual classes on Tuesday, Sept. 8, right after Labor Day.

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Fairfax Connector will resume full service on all routes next Saturday (Aug. 29), bringing a return to a “new normal” after months-long disruptions in service.

The bus service — which is the largest local bus system in the state — will also feature new services, including a new commuter route from Stringfellow Road Park and Ride to Southwest DC.

Throughout the pandemic, the bus service maintained roughly 70 percent of its service in order to cater to customers who depend on it for essential jobs and vital services.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay thanked customers for being patient with past service reductions. “As we return to full service, the health and safety of¬†Fairfax¬†Connector¬†passengers and personnel continue to be our top priority. Working together to diligently follow public health and safety guidelines will result in safer travel conditions for all,” McKay said in a statement.

A breakdown of new service being offered is below:

Route 699: Enhanced service on this route includes two additional morning and afternoon rush hour trips from the Fairfax County Government Center to Downtown Washington, D.C. (Foggy Bottom); adjustments to the departure times to better align with rider demand; and morning and afternoon rush hour reverse commute trips from Downtown, Washington, D.C., to the Fairfax County Government Center.  This route is supported by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) Commuter Choice Program and I-66 toll revenues.

Route 334: Enhanced weekday service operating every 30 minutes during rush hour and every hour during non-rush hour to better serve the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) facility in Springfield by way of Springfield Center Drive and Metropolitan Center Drive, with access to the Franconia Springfield Metrorail Station, the Defense Logistics Agency, and the Army Museum.

Routes 340/341: Minor route adjustments to maintain efficiency and dependability.

Transdev, the bus system’s operations contractor, will implement improved cleaning protocols, especially on common touchpoints like door handles and handrails.

Customers must continue to enter and exit the bus through the rear doors and wear face coverings. Riders are encouraged to practice social distancing by keeping six fee

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