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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Laura Schwartz¬†is a licensed Realtor in VA, D.C. and MD with McEnearney Associates¬†in Vienna.¬†You can follow Laura on Instagram at¬†@LauraSchwartzRealtor¬†or her¬†Facebook page. Laura can be reached at 703-283-6120 or¬†[email protected].

One day, someday, we will all get back to “normal” schedules again.

As you plan ahead for child care needs for “school aged children” which usually means elementary school, a lot of people don’t know that some of the schools don’t have a SACC program in the building. If you have younger kids, keep in mind the dates for registration as you should get on the wait list a year before your child actually starts Kindergarten.

The day assigned for you to call is based on the alphabet. Check the website for details. Also one thing to note is that not all of the schools start at the same time. For example, the “tardy” bell at Vienna Elementary is 8:45 a.m. while the Louise Archer “tardy” bell isn’t until 9:15 a.m. You can register for before care and/or after care based on your needs.

My company made this handy chart for reference when exploring schools around town:

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As the Town of Vienna puts together its legislative agenda for the upcoming session in Richmond, the proposed policies are a mix of addressing the new crises and trying to make progress on old issues.

One of the largest pieces of new policy proposed is eliminating penalties for late payments for those who lost their income during the pandemic.

According to the legislative agenda, the town is requesting:

Waiver of penalties and interest; refunds; taxpayers suffering job loss or business closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Waives penalties and interest for six months for taxpayers who suffered a job loss, business closure, or reduction in business operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The waivers apply to sales and use taxes and all local taxes that were due during a period in which the job loss, closure, or reduction in operations occurred and income taxes for such taxpayers for taxable year 2019. For a taxpayer who made penalty and interest payments prior to the effective date of the act, the Department of Taxation or his locality shall refund such payments to the taxpayer.

Other proposals raised during the discussion included a proposal from Councilmember Nisha Patel to put some of the school reopening planning in the hands of local government rather than solely for the school board.

Proposed legislation that would incorporate a system of checks and balances in Virginia so that school closings are not only determined by the school board. Local government should have a say in school closures during emergencies so that the power not only resides into the teachers union and school board.

The change would force school board to engage with local governments when making decisions about major school closures.

“As many of you all will remember, when the local schools were closed it was done on short notice without any notice to the Town of Vienna or other local governments,” said Town Attorney Steve Briglia. “Councilmember Patel has suggested that when there’s such a major school closing, that it’s not just closed by the school board… The fact that there was no notice or public discussion was of concern.”

One of the returning issues has been a push from localities to try to overturn a requirement for local governments to publish notices in newspapers rather than on their own websites or other sources. The proposed change has been fought by the Virginia Press Association, but Briglia said every time the Town of Vienna needs to run a notice it costs around $500, and they sometimes have to run twice.

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The Postal Distribution Center in Merrifield has been drawn into a national debate over the future of the United States Postal Service.

In a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, Congressman Gerald E. Connolly demanded access to mail facilities for himself and all Members of Congress to oversee operations. Connolly serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations

“I write to reiterate my request for immediate access to the Postal Distribution Center in Merrifield, Virginia — as well as access for my Congressional colleagues to other postal facilities,” Connolly wrote. “Oversight of Postal Service operations is more important now than ever, particularly in light of the troubling¬†findings¬†of the Inspector General that actions taken by Postal Service officials slowed postal operations nationwide in the midst of a global pandemic and economic collapse.”

Connolly said in the letter that he requested access after the Inspector General reported slowed operations at the agency.

“This letter follows my October 2, 2020, request for a tour of the Merrifield Postal Distribution Center in my Congressional District, as well as my October 13 letter requesting your new legal analysis of the Hatch Act, which you baselessly claim prevents Members of Congress from visiting Postal Service facilities within 45 days of an election,” Connolly wrote.

The letter continues with a rebuttle to an argument fron DeJoy that the Hatch Act would prevent Connolly from inspecting the USPS facility. According to the letter:

The Committee on Oversight and Reform is the committee of jurisdiction for the Postal Service in the House of Representatives, and the Subcommittee on Government Operations has been charged with overseeing postal operations. As Chairman of the Subcommittee, I have a responsibility to oversee postal operations–which includes having access to postal facilities, managers, and employees–and this responsibility does not cease merely because an election is approaching. I did not seek access to the Merrifield facility in my capacity as a candidate for office, but rather to discharge my official duties as a Member of Congress and a Member of the Oversight Committee.

On October 20, 2020, you sent a letter citing new Postal Service guidance that you claim was approved by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Yet OSC–the principal enforcement agency of the Hatch Act–has made it clear that the Hatch Act does not prohibit federal employees from allowing Members of Congress to tour federal facilities for an official purpose. According to your own letter, the portions of your Hatch Act policies that you claim OSC did not object to did not include your policy of prohibiting Members of Congress from postal facilities.

A spokesperson for the USPS said that they were aware of the pending request from Connolly and planned to respond directly, though what answer they were planning to give was not clarified.

“We are aware of the Congressman’s most recent request and plan to respond again directly,” said¬†Martha Johnson, senior public relations representative for USPS.

In an email to Tysons Reporter, Connolly said inspecting the USPS facility in Merrifield was about restoring public trust.

“The Postmaster General’s partisan and political actions have eroded trust and caused nationwide concern about the¬†USPS,” Connolly said. “Congress has a responsibility and constitutional duty to provide oversight, and that includes seeing on the ground how operations are being affected by Mr. DeJoy’s reckless changes”

Image via Google Maps

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Monday Morning Notes

Falls Church Middle Eastern Restaurant Officers Discount for Guests Who Voted¬†—¬†“Sheesh¬†Grill¬†[in] Falls Church (8190 Strawberry Lane Ste 4) will offer¬†diners who present their ‘I Voted’ sticker a discount off their meal from Oct. 26-Nov. 3.” [Sheesh]

Locals Help Science Teacher Clear¬†Daniels Run Elementary Courtyard¬†— “On #VolunteerFest weekend, students from Fairfax and Lake Braddock high schools help a science teacher clean up a courtyard at her school, Daniels Run Elementary.” [Twitter]

Tysons Chamber of Commerce Urges Greater Business Collaboration¬†— “The chamber now is focusing on “business verticals” that encourage companies in complementary industries to purchase services from each other, said Andrew Clark, the chamber’s new board chairman.” [Inside Nova]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Vienna Police arrested a man in Maryland for a sexual assault in Vienna last month.

According to a press release, Vienna Police officers and members of the U.S. Marshals Service arrested Saul Alberto Garay-Amaya in Mount Rainier, Maryland, at 5:30 a.m. yesterday (Thursday) morning.

This arrest resulted from a lengthy and thorough investigation by Vienna Police detectives after receiving information that Garay-Amaya had “sexually assaulted a female victim last month,” police said. “Garay-Amaya has been charged with several felonies, including Sexual Assault and Abduction.”

MPO Juan Vazquez said the investigation was still ongoing and couldn’t reveal more information about the case. Vazquez credited Detective Tina Elias, a 20-year-veteran of the Vienna Police Department, for her work on the investigation.

Photo via Vienna Police Department

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This week, Fairfax County businesses received clearance to continue to outdoor dining, fitness, and exercise activities under social distancing rules with heated, enclosed tents this winter.

“Businesses have been able to install open-sided tents outside their storefronts since May, which allowed them to operate while maintaining proper social distancing and thus reducing the spread of COVID-19,” Fairfax County¬†said.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted on Oct. 20 to approve an ordinance amendment that will allow this trend to continue this winter with tents that have sides and heaters both inside and outside of the tents.

Previous permit requirements for heaters from fire officials have been relaxed to make the process much easier.

Under Fairfax County’s ongoing emergency ordinance, permits are not required for tents unless they are 900 square feet or larger in size.

“If an individual tent or a collection of tents is more than 900 square-feet, it needs to go to the fire marshal for a permit,” Fairfax County director of planning and development Barbara Byron said. “There is no fee for that permit.”

Tents must be fire-resistant, and heaters need to be rated, but there are otherwise no requirements, Byron told the county board.

Fairfax County says it made the decision to¬†relax the permitting process “to reduce the stress on businesses working to revitalize the county’s economy¬†while allowing county staff to devote their limited resources to maintaining continuity in government instead of processing an excessive number of applications.”

According to the county, this ordinance will last up to six months after the Board terminates the local declaration of emergency, which was issued on Mar. 17 by the Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County director of emergency management.

The county board adopted an emergency ordinance on May 28 that temporarily allows businesses to conduct outdoor dining and outdoor fitness or exercise activities without having to go through the lengthy application process that is normally required.

The original ordinance only permitted tents with all sides open. It was extended on July 14.

Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce board chairman Andrew Clark applauded Fairfax County for recognizing the challenges that restaurants and other businesses could face as the weather gets colder and taking action before winter arrives.

“We appreciate the county for realizing the need at the moment and acting accordingly,” Clark said.

Clark says that, thanks to the increased flexibility for outdoor dining and other efforts to accommodate public health protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants in the Tysons area have started to see improved business, particularly with the first-ever Tysons Restaurant Week.

“That’s happening because the way restaurants are approaching the situation. They haven’t dropped the ball. They’re adhering to all the guidelines,” Clark said. “So, I think from what the restaurants are doing to the guidance the government has given, it’s given a framework for people to safely engage.”

Photo via Tysons Regional Chamber of Commerce/Facebook

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Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand revealed his suggestions for a new name for Mosby Woods Elementary School to the Fairfax County School Board on Thursday (Oct. 22).

Listed in no particular order, the recommended names are:

  • Mosaic – a nod to the school’s proximity to the Mosaic District
  • Five Oaks – the name of the road where the school is located
  • Katherine Johnson – a mathematician who helped make spaceflight and the Apollo 11 moon landing possible as a “computer” for NASA
  • Mary McBride – a teacher who helped start a school near Fairfax Court House for the children of freed slaves after the Civil War
  • Barbara Rose Johns – a student civil rights activist who led a strike in protest of conditions at the all-black Moton High School in Farmville, Va., paving the way for Brown v. Board of Education

Brabrand compiled his recommendations based on input from the Mosby Woods community after the school board voted on Oct. 8 to change the Fairfax school’s name so that it no longer bears the moniker of John S. Mosby, who achieved prominence as a calvary commander for the Confederate Army.

Providence District School Board representative Karl Frisch and at-large member Karen Keys-Gamarra proposed renaming Mosby Woods Elementary School on June 18 with the support of descendants of Mosby.

Under the current FCPS regulation for renaming school facilities, the school board is required to provide a one-month period for public comment between the superintendent’s submission of recommendations for a new name and the board’s final vote on the new name.

Led by the region assistant superintendent and the school board members who represent the area where the school in question is located, the public comment period must include a community meeting, public hearing, and the acceptance of mail and electronic feedback.

The community meeting on the recommended names for Mosby Woods has been scheduled for Nov. 30, and a public hearing will be held on Dec. 2 before the school board has a deciding vote on the new name on Dec. 3.

Image via FCPS

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Fairfax County and Virginia state officials kicked off passenger service on Thursday (Oct. 22) for Relay, the first test of autonomous technology in public transportation in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

“Won’t it be great to look back and say, ‘We remember the day in 2020 when we were sitting in the Mosaic and this Relay vehicle successfully proved to the country that you can do this in a safe way and also look toward future innovations in transportation,” Jeffrey McKay, the chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said.

Relay, a 100% electric, autonomous vehicle, runs 10 miles per hour from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metrorail Station to the Barnes and Noble in the Mosaic District. It makes the trip every 15 to 20 minutes, Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Relay¬†can¬†transport up to 12 passengers — six seated and six standing — but to encourage social-distancing, it will currently only take three passengers and a safety attendant at a time. The shuttle is fully accessible for people with disabilities.

The project represents a public-private partnership between Fairfax County and Dominion Energy aimed at improving road safety, encouraging the use of public transit, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It received a $200,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and a $50,000 match from Fairfax County. The county is contracting with Transdev to manage the operations of Relay.

EDENS, the developer of the Mosaic District, provides shuttle storage and stop improvements. The Virginia Department of Transportation provided signage, lane striping and bus stops.

The ribbon-cutting event held Thursday, three months after its first test run, was abuzz with officials talking about the future and innovation.

Mark Webb, the chief innovation officer for Dominion Energy, said Relay “is just plain cool.”

“It’s the sort of thing we’d see in a Star Wars movie or Blade Runner movie without lift-off capabilities,” said Webb, whose company purchased the shuttle and¬†contracted with EasyMile, a driverless technology company that mapped the route and manufactured the vehicle.

Even without the futuristic promises, Relay improves road safety, extends public transit, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, Webb said.

Connecting the two ends of the Mosaic District will encourage people to ride public transit who are dissuaded by getting to and from transit stops, said Catherine McGhee, the director of research and innovation for the Virginia Transportation Research Council.

“Relay serves a real purpose. It’s not a one-off demonstration in a parking lot,” she said. “It is part of the transit ecosystem here in Fairfax County.”

Officials also reminisced about the underutilized, industrial, dull feel of the Mosaic District before serious efforts were undertaken to develop it, spearheaded by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia).

“Without a Mosaic, there would be no Relay. There would be no autonomous vehicle project,” McKay said.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik wants to see the development extend to the older, industrial, and partially vacant zone in between the two Relay stops.

“I really hope it will help develop the areas between the two stops,” Palchik said. “We don’t stop here.”

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Police say Christopher Bellini, 59, was stabbed to death in his Falls Church home by his son, Alexander Bellini.

Police were dispatched to the 2300 block of Watters Glen Court around 1 a.m. yesterday for a domestic abuse. According to a police report, Christopher was found suffering from apparent stab wounds. Officers rendered aid until rescue personnel arrived, but Christopher was pronounced dead at the scene.

The report said Alexander Bellini, 28, of Chantilly, was found inside the home and taken into custody.

“Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau determined Alexander is the decedent’s son and was prohibited from contacting his father due to a recent protective order,” police said.

Police said Alexander was taken to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center and charged with second degree murder and violation of a protective order while armed with a deadly weapon. No one else was harmed and a knife allegedly used by Alexander was recovered at the scene.

Photo via Fairfax County Police Department

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