Tysons, VA

The cicadas are about to take over the world, or at least much of the East Coast, including Fairfax County.

After biding their time for the past 17 years, Brood X could start emerging in full force as soon as today (Monday), according to the first-ever cicada forecast by The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.

From animals digging for a snack to holes in the earth made by cicada nymphs burrowing up from their underground lairs, signs of the insects’ impending arrival have become more plentiful in recent weeks. In fact, a few bugs have already been spotted, summoned out of their exoskeletons early by the rapidly warming weather.

The prospect of millions of winged insects crawling out of the ground might convince some people to stay inside until July, but as Fairfax County Park Authority naturalist and education and outreach manager Tammy Schwab told Tysons Reporter in March, cicadas are harmless — even edible.

In addition, while some annual cicadas pop up every year, the once-every-other-decade appearances of the periodical variety are natural phenomena unique to the U.S., a product of the creatures’ unusually long life cycles.

Fairfax County has been doing its part to turn anxiety over Brood X into excitement, inviting community members to a game of Cicada Stroll Bingo and highlighting the environmental benefits of cicadas.

How are you planning to greet Brood X? Are you ready to embrace the swarm, or does the idea of stepping outside in the next two months fill you with dread?

Photo courtesy Fairfax County Park Authority

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After months of economic uncertainty and upheaval, movie theaters are hoping to make a comeback in 2021.

Last weekend, the monster mash-up “Godzilla vs. Kong” scored the biggest opening at the U.S. box office since the COVID-19 pandemic threw Hollywood’s release calendar into disarray in March 2020. The recent reopening of theaters in the major markets of New York City and Los Angeles has the industry hoping for a revival this summer, despite the loss of some beloved exhibitors.

Locally, the ShowPlace ICON Theatre at The Boro announced earlier this week that it will reopen next Friday (April 23). This will essentially be a second chance for the theater to introduce itself to Tysons after it held a grand opening in February 2020 only to be shut down by the pandemic a month later.

Like other theaters in the area, ShowPlace initially opened its doors again in August, but a dearth of major new releases and the challenges of operating under Virginia’s capacity limits led the venue to close again in September.

The theater hopes the opening will stick this time, offering “Welcome Back” discounts on tickets and concessions. A recent poll suggests audiences are becoming more comfortable with the idea of sitting in a darkened room among strangers.

However, much of that confidence hinges on vaccines taking effect, and with COVID-19 cases on the rise again, going to an indoor movie theater still poses some health risks, particularly for people who have not been vaccinated yet.

With ShowPlace planning to reopen, how comfortable do you feel right now about going to the cinema? Have you already taken in a blockbuster or Oscar contender, or are you waiting for vaccines to become more widespread?

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The Town of Vienna is funding a sidewalk project that aims to make the town a little more pedestrian-friendly, but walkability remains a big topic throughout the car-heavy Tysons area.

With coronavirus shutting down most international travel, more emphasis was put on traveling by foot around neighborhoods. In Tysons, that led to temporarily closing a section of Tysons Blvd last year to accommodate more pedestrian traffic.

At the northern end of the area, McLean is also in the process over updating some of its busted sidewalks to help make walking around downtown less of a chore.

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This year’s graduating classes may get to celebrate their achievements with socially-distanced graduation ceremonies.

Earlier this week, Gov. Ralph Northam released preliminary guidance for graduation ceremonies at high schools and universities this spring and summer.

“We are releasing this guidance early to allow schools to begin planning for this year’s events,” Northam said Wednesday (March 17) in a statement. “While graduation and commencement ceremonies will still be different than they were in the past, this is a tremendous step forward for all of our schools, our graduates, and their families.”

Northam wants all outdoor ceremonies to be capped at 5,000 people or 30 percent of venue capacity.

Indoors events are limited to 500 people or 30 percent of the venue capacity. All attendees must wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines to the extent possible.

Seating areas should be reconfigured to accommodate social distancing, among other recommendations pitched by Northam.

Updated guidance is expected to be released as part of a forthcoming executive order.

The guidance comes as Fairfax County Public Schools prepares for a return to five days of in-person classes in the fall. Since Feb. 16, more than 98,000 students and staff members have resumed in-person classes.

More than two-thirds of the state’s public school teachers and staff have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The statewide positivity rate for COVID-19 also continues to fall, currently standing at 5.4 percent.

Last year, some Fairfax County students celebrated with car parades, while other schools returned to virtual celebrations or graduate photo opportunities. FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand told the school board on Tuesday (March 16) that he was “confident” there will be in-person ceremonies for the senior Class of 2021.

With this in mind, we’d love to know what you think about how and if in-person graduation ceremonies should resume this year. Let us know in the poll below.

Photo via Andre Hunter on Unsplash

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The COVID-19 vaccination process has been ramping up in Fairfax County in recent weeks, as supplies increase and more partners come on board to help administer the vaccines.

While eligibility for the vaccine has not expanded since mid-January, Fairfax County’s allocation of vaccine has grown over the past month or so from 13,000 to 19,220 first doses per week, and the size of shipments are expected to continue increasing throughout March, allowing the county health department to get through its existing waitlist more quickly.

As of 5 p.m. yesterday (Thursday), more than 111,000 people were waiting for appointments to get vaccinated. A total of 307,659 people have registered through the Fairfax County Health Department, which administered 21,791 first doses during the week of March 1-7.

The authorization of a third vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson helps increase supply, giving providers another option on top of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have been available since December, according to the Fairfax County Health Department.

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which both require two shots separated by three or four weeks, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine needs only one dose. It is also easier to store and seems to less apt to trigger strong side effects.

The J&J vaccine is slightly less effective at guarding against severe disease caused by COVID-19, with an 85% efficacy rate compared to 95% and 94.1% for Pfizer and Moderna, respectively. However, differences in how clinical trials were conducted make comparisons inexact, and all three are considered “extremely effective at preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death,” FCHD says.

Fairfax County currently doesn’t offer a choice between the vaccines, since the health department has been primarily utilizing Pfizer for first doses. The county has been sending its J&J allocation to Inova, which expects to double its capacity later this month with the launch of a new mass vaccination center in Alexandria.

The FCHD says it anticipates getting more of the J&J vaccine by the end of March, though the number of doses is unknown at this time. For now, officials say people should take whichever vaccine becomes available to them.

If you were given a choice, though, which would you prefer? Would you want to get the process over with in one shot, or do you have more confidence in the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines?

Photo via Fairfax County Health Department/Twitter

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Labor Day is almost here — and the end of pool season.

While swimming in the pool or lounging nearby are popular summer activities, the coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on swimsuit season, unless you have a private pool or know someone who does.

Fairfax County didn’t allow public indoor and outdoor swimming pools to reopen until mid-June only for lap swimming, diving, exercise and instruction.

Then when Phase 3 guidelines went into effect on July 1, public pools could allow up to 75% occupancy with 10 feet of physical distance between users who are not from the same household. Public hot tubs, spas, saunas and spray pools are still closed though.

“This guidance applies to all community pools, including those operated by apartment and condominium complexes, recreation centers, homeowner’s associations and swim clubs,” according to Fairfax County’s website.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they don’t have evidence that the novel coronavirus can be spread in the water.

“Plus, proper operation of public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds (such as at an apartment complex or owned by a community) and disinfection of the water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate the virus,” according to the CDC.

When we asked readers in June how they felt about using public pools, roughly 40% said they wouldn’t because of COVID-19 concerns, while 36% said they would.

With Labor Day soon marking the unofficial end to summer, we want to know if you have been to the pool. Let us know in the poll below and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by Toni Cuenca/Unsplash

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School is starting again for kids in the Tysons area, leading parents and educators to not just focus on possible health risks from COVID-19, but also from students who haven’t gotten their required vaccines.

Even though it’s starting the new school year off virtually, Fairfax County Public Schools is requiring all of its students to be up-to-date on required immunizations.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found indications that fewer kids are getting immunizations — possibly due to parents’ worries that their kids will catch COVID-19 at the doctor’s office.

In addition to COVID-19 concerns, some parents are now worried if vaccine-preventable diseases pose a new threat from unvaccinated kids, National Geographic reported.

The CDC said in July that health care providers seem to have the capacity to give kids their routine vaccinations.

Fairfax County officials are urging parents to get their kids vaccinated. This summer, the county expanded its number of community childhood vaccination clinics and the hours for the clinics offering the school-required Tdap vaccine.

Let us know in the poll and comments below if your kids have all their required vaccinations for the new school year.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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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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After delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, several new films are hitting the screens at newly-reopened movie theaters.

“Tenet,” “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Bill & Ted Face The Music” are some of the films poised to hit theaters soon.

In the Tysons area, ShowPlace Icon in The Boro and AMC Theatre in Tysons Corner Center recently reopened. Angelika Film Center’s website says the Mosaic District location is “coming soon.”

Gov. Ralph Northam forced movie theaters to close in the spring, but under Phase Three, which started July 1, movie theaters can open at 50% capacity.

Let us know in the poll and comments below if you are comfortable heading to movie theaters again.

Photo by Corina Rainer/Unsplash

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As families, educators and school systems grapple with how to return to school during the coronavirus pandemic, some parents are turning to “learning pods” this fall.

Learning pods — also known as “pandemic pods” — are essentially micro-schools. Small groups of kids learn together in-person either from a tutor or parents.

A New York Times survey found that most of the families who said they plan to use learning pods said that they address both concerns about health risks at school and desire for in-person education.

Some local parents say that having multiple families chip in makes hiring a tutor more affordable and that the pods will make it easier for them to go back to work than if their kids were learning virtually.

However, the concept has raised questions about the wealth disparity with education.

Fairfax County Public Schools recently brought up concerns about “tutoring pods,” saying that the school system is declining requests from parents to have FCPS teachers lead their pods.

“While FCPS doesn’t and can’t control these private tutoring groups, we do have concerns that they may widen the gap in educational access and equity for all students,” the statement said. “Many parents cannot afford private instruction. Many working families can’t provide transportation to and from a tutoring pod, even if they could afford to pay for the service.”

Let us know in the poll and comments below what you think of learning pods.

Photo by Annie Spratt/Unsplash

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