Tysons, VA

A Vienna learning center is helping out kids in need by temporarily supplying them with laptops during this era of online learning.

Stemtree of Vienna typically offers four different science, technology and engineering courses for students but decided to loan laptops to students throughout the community who don’t have access to computers for online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to its Facebook page.

The center’s curriculum director Abdelghani Bellaachia said that the program distributed roughly 10 laptops in the last few weeks and still has availability for students in need. He added that a student doesn’t have to meet any criteria for the free laptop loan besides being in need and a promise to treat the equipment with respect.

Though families might have one or two laptops to share between kids, Bellaachia said he understands this might not meet the demand of online school. “We understand families might need an extra laptop.”

The center has been working with public schools like Westbriar Elementary School in Vienna to ensure the needs are being met, according to Bellaachia.

Anyone interested can register online and then set up a time to pick it up by calling (703) 281-STEM (7836) or sending an email.

All laptops must be returned by June 10 so the center has its equipment to start summer camps on June 15 under the first phase of the reopening plan set forth by Fairfax County and the Virginia Department of Health, Bellaachia said.

Students in the camps will be with peers in groups of 10 or less and have designated equipment for the week, according to Bellaachia, so families and the center can limit risk.

Photo via Stemtree/Facebook

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Though firework displays and community gatherings are canceled for this year’s Fourth of July in Vienna, the town is offering a solution so people can still partake in festivities.

People can purchase a “4th of July in a Box” package from the town for $20. The box includes s’mores supplies for four people, glow sticks, a picnic blanket, a craft activity for two kids and an assortment of patriotic accessories and toys, according to Vienna’s website.

People can pick up their packages from the Vienna Community Center (120 Cherry Street SE) starting June 29, the webpage said.

Though anyone, not just Vienna residents, may purchase the package, the town has imposed a two-box limit per household.

“Visit Webtrac and use activity #610701-A1 to reserve your box,” the webpage said.

Photo by Paul Weaver on Unsplash

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Now that Fairfax County has started to ease some COVID-19 restrictions, new activity at the Mosaic District suggests that the shopping center may return to its pre-pandemic popularity.

Tysons Reporter’s staff photographer Jay Westcott ventured out to the Mosaic District last week right before the first part of Gov. Ralph Northam’s multi-phase reopening strategy started in the county.

Westcott spotted at least a dozen people milling around the green outside the Angelika Film Center, walking dogs, getting takeout from local eateries and sitting outside 6 feet apart from other people.

Deka Lash and Mom and Pop have now reopened, while Anthropologie is offering curbside pick-up, according to the Mosaic District Facebook page. Meanwhile, home goods store Great Gatherings re-reopened in its new location, the posts said.

In addition to the businesses opening their doors again after temporary closures, people can also spot signs for upcoming businesses, like Sephora, Gyu Shige and Urban Hot Pot.

Tables and chairs — with a sign warning people against moving them — are set up outside West Elm. Some of the stores and restaurants have placards on the ground to remind people to social distance.

“Practice social distancing. Wash your hands often. Wear a mask when appropriate,” the sign said.

For that last point, many of the people Westcott captured in his photos did have face coverings.

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CVS announced dozens of new drive-thru testing sites for COVID-19 in Virginia with a few near Tysons.

Of the 39 pharmacies offering the tests, two locations are near Merrifield and one is in Great Falls, according to the company’s website.

The locations near Merrifield can be found at 3921 Prosperity Avenue and 10090 Fairfax Blvd, while the address for the Great Falls location is 1020 Seneca Road.

These locations are a part of a nationwide initiative offering 986 total testing locations, the website said.

Patients must register in advance at CVS.com and take a brief survey before making an appointment, according to the website.

The locations will accept most major insurance providers so people may be able to get a free test, the site said.

Respondents are asked for information including birthdate, symptoms, if they have a reference from a doctor or official and if they have preexisting health conditions that might put them at a higher risk.

CVS joins the growing list of places where people can get tested. Tysons Reporter recently compiled a list of places where people can get COVID-19 tests around Tysons.

Image via Google Maps

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Nightlife is zilch in Tysons at the moment due to the pandemic. After a brief hiatus, the “Tysons After Dark” series is back to highlight different online and at-home activities from local organizations and offerings from eateries that keep people busy once the sun goes down. 

A Falls Church comic book and game store is keeping people at home entertained with supplies for creating and customizing miniature figures.

Shoppers at Victory Comics can find paints, primers, brushes and a “wide variety” of miniatures, Gareth Hoskins, the store manager, said. Some of the store’s miniatures require assembly, while others need to get primed before they are painted. Others come pre-primed.

Before the pandemic, the store had “Paint and Take” events — painting classes capped at 12 people where participants would learn from Hoskins how to paint different miniatures.

When COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and the stay-at-home order happened in Virginia, Hoskins said that the store saw an upsurge in the number of people who hadn’t painted miniatures before.

So Hoskins created a Google Doc guide, which he said is constantly getting updated, as a “one-stop for any kind of miniature work.” The guide covers tools, brushes, glue, color theory, assembly, painting and techniques to create effects.

“We get a lot of people asking us, ‘Where do we even begin?’ and having something to point them towards seemed like a good idea,” he said. “We found ourselves answering the same questions over and over.”

For novices, basic supplies usually cost around $20-$25, Hoskins said.

“It’s a lot easier than most people think. A lot of people get worried about how a complex model will work,” Hoskins said. “There are easier techniques that will make details pop without doing a lot of work.”

For people starting off, Hoskins recommends that they get a handful of paint pods, one or two brushes and a miniature — some at the store are already pre-primed.

Hoskins said that he’s been painting miniatures — mostly Warhammer and D&D minis — for more than 10 years, noting that his Death army has lots of vampires and skeletons.

“I tend to like minis that have a lot of detail to them,” he said, adding that most of the miniatures on the market are large enough so that people won’t need a magnifying glass or specific brushes to paint tiny details.

While Hoskins said that people have been playing D&D virtually over Zoom and using websites like Roll20, “those only go so far for customization,” he said.

The great part about miniatures is that people can paint them exactly how they envision them, he said, adding that monster ones tend to be a popular choice.

The store’s offerings help entertain people who aren’t playing D&D in person at the moment and have extra time on their hands to customize miniatures for their game setups.

The store (586 S. Washington Street) is open until 6 p.m. every day and opens at 11 a.m. except for Saturdays, when it opens at 10 a.m., Hoskins said. Shoppers are required to wear masks inside the store.

The store also delivers within a 10-mile radius and offers curbside delivery and people can place orders by contacting the store via Facebook, email or phone.

Image via Victory Comics/Facebook

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Book lovers can check out books and pick up holds at Fairfax County Public Libraries beginning next week — albeit under different circumstances.

On Monday, June 1, FCPL will kick off a curbside pickup and grab bag program. Although libraries remained closed, patrons can park in designated areas, call the bank number and pick up any items on holds. Patrons must provide their library card over the phone. Once the items have been deposited on a designated pickup table and library staff has returned to the building, items may be picked up.

Over the phone, residents can also request a specific book or a grab-and-go bag prepared by staff based on reading levels and preferences.

All returned library materials, however, should be deposited in the library’s book drop. Returns will be accepted based on a staggered system since more than 500,000 items are currently are in the queue to be returned:

On Mondays we will accept returns from borrowers with last names beginning with letters A-H (Anderson, Daqqa, Howard, etc.). On Wednesdays we will accept returns from borrowers with last names beginning with letters I-Q (Jefferson, Nguyen, Park, etc.), and on Fridays we will accept returns from borrowers with last names beginning with letters R-Z (Rodriquez, Shen, Williams, etc.).

Staff will wear cloth face masks and all books will be packaged in a plastic bag in order to “streamline handling.”

More information about changes to services is available online.

Image via Fairfax County

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Updated June 1 — This update reflects a comment from Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik. 

After upcoming restoration projects sparked concerns from residents in a Tysons neighborhood, Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn is trying to minimize potential damage to local flora and fauna.

Some Westwood Village community members are worried that the project is distrustful to established trees and nesting wildlife in the area some have dubbed “Tysons Last Forest,” according to Jack Russell, who has been active in speaking out against the projects.

“The citizens have done a good job getting my attention,” Alcorn told Tysons Reporter, adding that he first became aware of the issues with the restoration projects after he heard feedback similar to what Russell has heard.

Contested projects include the Old Courthouse Spring Branch at Gosnell Road stream restoration project, which runs loosely along Route 7 and is currently under construction to restore roughly half a mile of the natural stream channel. Other projects include the installation of a new bike bath to the Metro, replacement of old sewage lines and a project to decommission an old stormwater pond, according to Alcorn.

Though Russell said he understands the need for watershed restoration projects since erosion is threatening certain area homes, he thinks the ecosystem should be at the forefront of peoples’ minds.

Russell and his wife Susan submitted a letter to Alcorn and Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik in late April, hoping to get their attention.

“I am greatly dismayed by what I see in the forest today. Various Fairfax County projects are leading to massive tree loss and deforestation,” Russell wrote. “The forest is under siege. Wildlife habitat is being decimated.”

Supervisor Palchik never replied or even acknowledged the letter, according to Russell, but Palchik told Tysons Reporter that the area is out of her geographic jurisdiction.

Alcorn, who does have jurisdiction over the area, spent several hours with Russell visiting the forest to get a better understanding of the area.

“The fact he came out on short notice and spent two and a half hours shows sensitivity to the environment and great leadership,” Russell said, adding that the two trekked through “pure mud and muck” built up from several rainy days leading up to the meeting.  

“It was very helpful to see the sites and the trees and understand their concerns,” according to Alcorn. 

Though Alcorn sees the community concern, he said that these projects are essential to the overall health of the area’s watersheds and have already gone through the necessary procedures clearing them for construction.

Despite the community petitions, “none of this is coming to the Board of Supervisors,” Alcorn said. 

Instead, Alcorn said he will help facilitate communication and find a way for the projects to move forward with more attention to environmental welfare for the local plants and animals. 

“I’m trying to use my influence to suspend the project to identify where there can be better coordination with these projects as they go forward,” Alcorn said.  

Already, Russell said his own coordination efforts have saved a “significant” number of trees. He is currently coordinating walkthroughs and teleconference with planners for phase two of the project — to minimize unnecessary destruction.

Photo courtesy Jack Russell

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COVID-19 restrictions have started to ease up around Fairfax County today (Friday).

Now that the county is joining the first phase of Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan, here’s what people who live and work around the Tysons area need to know about county-operated facilities.

Parks and Recreation 

Parks and parking lots controlled by the Fairfax County Park Authority are open with the exception of dog parks, visitor centers, playgrounds and public restrooms, according to the website.

Athletic fields will officially open for unpermitted groups of 10 or less on Friday (May 29) under phase one of plans to reopen the county.

Both publicly and privately run pools are currently not allowed to open yet, the website said, adding that certain pools might open for lap swimming during phase one. Pools run by the Park Authority will not open at all this summer.

At schools in Fairfax County, both the tracks and tennis courts have been reopened but playgrounds, basketball courts and athletic fields will remain closed for the time being, according to the website.

Fairfax County summer camps have already been canceled, according to a press release.

For people indoor entering public spaces, the Virginia Department of Public Health announced that they are required to wear a mask or protective face covering. This order will go into effect on Friday (May 29) but the Centers for Diseases Control have suggested for weeks that people cover their mouths and noses to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Anyone with additional questions can check out the website or email staff members from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Farmers Markets

Farmers Markets will look different this year with the implementation of preorder options and social distancing guidelines.

In the City of Falls Church, people can visit the market only to pick up preordered goods. Shopping and browsing will not be allowed, according to the website. A list of vendors at the Falls Church Farmers Market can be found online.

The future of the McLean Farmers Market, which is run by the county, is still unclear. Opening dates have not been announced yet, according to the Fairfax County website.

Libraries

All Fairfax County Public Library branches will be closed until further notice, according to the website — but this doesn’t mean that libraries aren’t offering online resources for patrons.

Anyone with a library card can check out digital resources such as e-books, audio files, online magazines and videos.

People can also pick up a new hobby like learning a new language, redesign their home using tips from the library and even learn about family heritage, according to the website.

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People wondering where they can go to get tested for COVID-19 in Virginia now have a new resource.

The Virginia Department of Health made a map of facilities offering testing. Tysons Reporter took a look and found the phone numbers, addresses and requirements for testing at the sites in the Tysons area.

For people on the fence about whether or not to get tested, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers information and things people should consider before seeking medical attention.

Tysons

AllCare/Synergy Immediate Care (1980 Gallows Road) is offering tests Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 p.m. until 1:30 p.m., the site said, adding that results will usually be available within three business days. People must first go through a phone appointment before being referred to a drive-thru test, the page added.

Inova Urgent Care Center (8357 Leesburg Pike) is open for testing seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. People must visit with a provider first, who will then order a test for the patient, according to the website. 

Falls Church 

Kaiser Permanente at the Falls Church Medical Center (201 N. Washington Street) is offering tests for Kaiser patients only once they meet with a doctor or nurse, the page said. Drive-thru testing is available seven days a week from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and again from 3:30-7:3o p.m.

McLean

Mclean Medical Center & Urgent Care (6858 Old Dominion Drive) accepts all insurances and is open for walk-in care from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays, the website said. 

Mclean Pharmacy (1392 Chain Bridge Road) offers testing for Medicare patients Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. People must call ahead at 571-488-6030.

McLean Immediate Care (1340 Old Chain Bridge Road) offers testing for anyone who thinks they may have the virus. A drive-in test costs $175, the website said. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon until 6 p.m. 

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nation-wide shortage of hand sanitizer due to COVID-19 prompted Falls Church Distillers to change their alcohol production practices to meet local demand.

Now months later, the distillery not only managed to boost production of its Aim High Sanitizer by expanding its facility and workforce but also developed a health guide to help community businesses implement new “best practices” issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The distillery can produce roughly 2,000 gallons of hand sanitizer on a weekly basis, but the distillery’s owner Michael Paluzzi said that a shortage of containers — not ingredients and the production facility — limit their operations, especially for smaller 6 and 8 oz. bottles.

Staff use “whatever we can get our hands on,” Paluzzi said, adding that they usually order from various wholesalers each day because of purchase caps imposed by the high demand.

For front line workers, homeless shelters, various charities and restaurants, the distillery sells larger quantities, like 5-gallon buckets, of the sanitizer, spokesperson Meghan Morgan said.

For people with specific requests, Morgan said that the distillery can slightly alter the sanitizer for people who want various scents like lavender or eucalyptus, which cut the plain “vodka-like scent.”

Right now, Paluzzi said that their priority is helping to supply businesses and restaurants with hand sanitizer so they’re able to reopen safely.

“We have a lot of retail that are reaching out to us now — a lot of recreation centers, gyms, dental offices and all kinds of surgical centers,” Morgan said, adding that the distillery has also been in touch with the U.S. Postal Service.

For individuals interested in picking up hand sanitizer, to-go food and drink or bottles of liquor, they can visit Falls Church Distillers (442 S. Washington Street) Thursday-Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.

Regarding the community health guide, Paluzzi said that it is an evolving document that takes into consideration best practices and new information from the CDC to keep both workers and guests safe.

Throughout the four weeks it took to compile the document, Morgan said that they consulted the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and the Fairfax County Health Department.

“We’ve gone out of our way with qualified individuals, including Dr. Kallie Stavros on our staff, to take the CDC guidance and Fairfax County guidance to create a living document of sorts that we will continue to mature over time,” Paluzzi said, adding that is is available for free to any retailer who asks.

Photo courtesy Falls Church Distillers

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