The stakes are high for the first students at the Arizona College of Nursing’s new school in Fairview Park.
They started classes on Jan. 3, as a snowstorm disrupted travel across Fairfax County and the surging omicron variant of the coronavirus strained hospitals locally and nationwide.
Yet, reports of an overwhelmed healthcare system have not deterred the 22 students in the school’s inaugural class from pursuing a career in nursing. In fact, some of them made that choice because of the pandemic, according to Yolanda Turner, dean of nursing for Arizona College of Nursing-Falls Church.
“We have seen students come in with an interest in nursing, especially those who feel the need to help that was compelled by the images that they saw on national television, what was occurring in the hospitals and emergency departments and ICUs across the country,” Turner said. “So, we do have a group of students who came in because they felt a calling to come in and help.”
The pandemic was already underway when Eduvision Inc., the company that operates Arizona College, submitted plans to Fairfax County for a new nursing school in August 2020.
However, Turner says the workforce shortage that led the college system to establish its first Virginia campus predates COVID-19.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the D.C. metropolitan area ranks 10th in the country in terms of the number of registered nurses employed, but the concentration of nurses in the area is well below the national average, as of May 2020.
With school enrollment trailing demand among the factors behind the shortage, the Arizona College of Nursing hopes to improve the area’s workforce pipeline by offering an accelerated program where students can obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in three years or less.
“Our nursing program employs a mixture of classroom learning and hands-on training in our state-of-the-art simulation labs and through clinical rotations,” Arizona College of Nursing President Nick Mansour said in a statement. “Nursing is all we will teach at this location so students can be confident that our accredited, career-focused, BSN program will prepare them for a fulfilling nursing career.”
Located near Inova Fairfax Hospital, which could eventually be connected via pedestrian bridge over I-495, the new school opened at 3130 Fairview Park Drive on Nov. 17.
Turner says the initial cohort mostly comes from Northern Virginia and surpassed the college’s goal of 18 students. The campus has a capacity of 400 students and is expected to expand in three to five years.
“That interest that’s been generated, we’re excited, because it’s more than we predicted…and our team is growing to accommodate that interest,” she said.
Classes are being conducted both in-person and virtually, with the liberal arts and social sciences online and all nursing, natural science, and math courses in the school building.
In addition to following mask and social distancing protocols, students will need to get vaccinated against COVID-19 once they start clinical work, in accordance with the federal mandate for healthcare workers.
The pandemic has also filtered into the curriculum, putting an increased focus on topics like public health, disaster preparedness, infectious control, ventilation management, and mental health for both patients and staff.
Emphasizing these subjects will help prepare students for a future in health care, Turner says, as the field reckons with issues exacerbated by the pandemic, which has led nearly 1 in 5 workers to quit.
Aware that students can experience burnout too, the Arizona College of Nursing provides counseling services as well as tutoring and learning resources. The small student body also enables strong personal connections between staff and pupils.
“The feedback that we got [on the first month] from our students is very positive, from the students, the staff, and the faculty,” Turner said. “The level of excitement and motivation remains very high.”
A COVID-19 testing company with a location in Falls Church is the subject of numerous complaints from across the U.S. about its practices.
Attorneys general offices from Minnesota to Washington state have gotten complaints about testing sites run by the Center for COVID Control, according to USA Today. Reported issues have included results being delayed or not sent at all, and participants receiving identical QR codes for results from a lab at one testing center in Houston.
Center for COVID Control only has one testing site in Northern Virginia, located at 821 W Broad Street in Falls Church. A representative from the company said it’s in a parking lot for a dermatology business.
The Fairfax County Health Department, Virginia Department of Health, and state attorney general’s office said they’ve received no complaints about the business, which says it provides free testing at over 275 locations.
The company’s Twitter also says it provides rapid tests for $100.
However, local residents have expressed concerns on Nextdoor, and the company has received complaints from the Better Business Bureau stating that the centers asked to see individuals’ driver licenses and didn’t send results. One person questioned the timestamps on the results.
“Was the testing actually done? Is the result accurate?” the person wrote.
The need for testing comes as Fairfax County averages three times more coronavirus cases this January than it did during last winter’s peak.
The company didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Neither the county nor the state health department sanctions testing sites, but VDH has a map of locations that provide testing, and users can filter by free testing sites.
Virginia also plans to add nine community testing centers across the state, including one in Fairfax County, that will provide free PCR tests.
VDH spokesperson Cheryle Rodriguez said that individuals should immediately report any suspected COVID-19 health care fraud through an online form or by calling 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).
The Office of the Attorney General said if people believe they have a complaint against a business, they should reach out to its Consumer Protection Section.
Snow Exacerbates Regional Grocery Supply Issues — “Icy roads and the after-effects of last week’s snowy weather have stripped the shelves at local grocery stores in recent days, compounding supply chain crises that have been in the news for months, says one potato supplier.” [DCist]
County Gives Covid Relief to Businesses — “The Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives announced today that it has awarded more than $16,000,000 in PIVOT grant funds to 1,016 Fairfax County businesses adversely affected by the pandemic. Businesses in the most hard-hit sectors of the Fairfax County economy, including hotel, food service, retail and personal services, and arts and culture industries, were targeted.” [Fairfax County DEI]
FCPS Adopts Updated Covid Quarantine Guidelines — Fairfax County Public Schools has adopted most of the new federal guidelines for COVID-19 isolations and quarantines, allowing staff who test positive to return to work after five days if symptoms are gone or improving. Students must still isolate for 10 days, since school cafeterias don’t have room for social distancing. [Patch]
Christmas Tree Collection Extended — “Christmas tree collection has been extended through January 21, 2022, for recycling. Lights, decorations, and stands must be removed to ensure collection. After January 21, please schedule a brush Special Pickup to have the Christmas tree removed.” [DPWES]
Vienna Starts New Water Main Project Today — “Glen Ave. will be closed to through traffic from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. between Albrecht Circle and Wade Hampton Dr. to allow for installation of a new water main. Detours during those hours will last for 3 weeks or until the project is complete.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
Fairfax Connector Plans Regular Service — “In anticipation of more winter weather and snowy conditions overnight, Fairfax Connector will operate regular service on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. Fairfax Connector officials want to remind passengers to check their route-specific information before heading out because detours on individual routes will be in effect in anticipation of poor road conditions.” [FCDOT]
Metrobus to Follow Moderate Snow Plan Today — “In a moderate snow service plan, service on some routes is suspended and detours will be in effect on certain routes to avoid areas prone to hazardous conditions such as hilly terrain and narrow streets. Approximately 119 out of 183 routes will operate. Bus supervisors will assess roads overnight to ensure they are safe for bus operations.” [WMATA]
Tysons Mass Vaccine Site Closed — “The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is closing five of its Community Vaccination Centers (CVCs) on Friday, January 7, 2022, due to expected inclement weather with some areas of the state expected to see several inches of snow.” [VDH]
County Tweaks COVID-19 Protocols — “Due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases in the Fairfax Health District, the Health Department will no longer provide individuals with clearance letters to return to work or school following COVID-19 infection or exposure. The agency will also stop providing written communications that exclude people from work or school due to illness or exposure.” [FCHD]
Tysons Area Ramen Offerings Highlighted — Northern Virginia Magazine recommends Jinya Ramen Bar, which has locations in the Mosaic District and Reston, and Hokkaido Ramen Santouka at The Boro for those craving a unique ramen bowl. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Get Advice from Tysons Business Leader — “Aspiring entrepreneurs can get start-up tips from Pallabi Saboo, CEO of Tysons-based Harmonia Holdings Group during the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority’s next Entrepreneurship 101 virtual workshop on Tuesday, January 11.” [FCEDA]
Preliminary Snowfall Totals Reported — The amount of snow seen yesterday (Monday) varied widely across Fairfax County, with totals ranging in the Tysons area from 6.4 inches in Langley, as of 1:30 p.m., to 8.3 inches in Dunn Loring. All three major airports in the D.C. region recorded new records for Jan. 3. [NWS]
Tysons Mass Vaccine Site Closed Again — All of the Virginia Department of Health’s Community Vaccination Centers (CVCs), including the one at Tysons Corner Center, will be closed today (Tuesday). This will be the second consecutive day without the mass vaccination site due to the snowstorm, with freezing overnight temperatures expected to make travel challenging this morning. [VDH]
Power Outages Could Take Days to Resolve — Dominion Energy said that restoring power in the wake of yesterday’s snowstorm could be a “multi-day effort” after wet, heavy snow weighing down branches “wreaked havoc on power lines.” As of 12:15 a.m., more than 21,000 of the utility’s customers in Fairfax County were without power. [Inside NoVA]
Vienna Delays Town Government Openings — “Due to inclement weather and hazardous driving conditions, Vienna Town Hall and the Vienna Community Center will open at 10 a.m. tomorrow. All classes and programs at the Community Center and the Bowman House are cancelled until noon. For updates, visit http://viennava.gov.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
COVID-19 Boosters Approved for Young Teens — “The FDA has authorized vaccine boosters for children ages 12-15. However, we must wait for clinical guidelines from CDC and VDH, as we do with all vaccine authorizations, prior to booking appointments. Thank you for your patience.” [Fairfax County Health Department]
Winter Storm Warning in Effect — Fairfax County has its first snow of the year. The D.C. area will remain under a Winter Storm Warning until 4 p.m. today (Monday), with the National Weather Service forecasting 3-7 inches of snow and wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour, making travel difficult. [NWS]
FCPS Closed for Day Due to Snow — Instead of returning to classrooms as anticipated, Fairfax County Public School students will have an extra day of winter break. In expectation of snow, schools have been closed today with no virtual learning, and all activities on school grounds have been canceled, including extracurricular programs and adult classes. [FCPS]
Snow Closes Tysons Mass Vaccine Site — The Virginia Department of Health is closing all of its mass COVID-19 vaccination sites, including the one at Tysons Corner Center, today “out of an abundance of caution for patients and staff.” Those with appointments will be notified and can visit vase.vdh.virginia.gov to reschedule. [VDH]
Vienna Authorizes COVID-19 Testing Site Extension — The Personic Health Care drive-through COVID-19 testing site on Maple Avenue will be allowed to continue operating through the end of January. The facility was supposed to vacate the Emmaus United Church of Christ parking lot on Dec. 31, but with cases still high, Town Manager Mercury Payton granted it a “wind-down period” in response to a request from the church. [Town of Vienna]
Dangerous Driving Filmed on Beltway — A Reddit user posted a dashcam video last week that showed a near-collision where a pickup truck tries to drive a sedan out of its lane on the Capitol Beltway inner loop near Tysons. While there was no crash, the Virginia Department of Transportation shared the video as an example of the dangers of road rage. [NBC4]
Woman Arrested After Police Pursuit Near Scotts Run — Around 4:53 p.m. on Dec. 26, Fairfax County police officers recognized a vehicle that was reported stolen in a neighboring jurisdiction and attempted to stop the driver at Chain Bridge Road at Colshire Drive. The driver, an 18-year-old woman from D.C., hit two occupied police vehicles and fled, striking four other vehicles before she was stopped and arrested. [FCPD]
Inova Launches COVID-19 Testing Site — “Experiencing COVID-19 symptoms? An Inova COVID-19 Vehicle-Side Testing Clinic will open Dec 30. Open M-F, 8am-5pm. PCR testing only, no rapid antigen testing. Appointments are required, please contact call ctr: 571-472-6843. Open M-F, 8am-6pm.” [Inova Health/Twitter]
Fairfax County Public Schools Commits to In-Person Classes on Return — “We recognize that a lot has changed over the past two weeks, with the omicron variant causing an increase in COVID-19 cases nationwide. As we continue to live through this ever-changing pandemic, we are committed to keeping our schools safe and open for in-person instruction.” [FCPS]
Men Arrested for Local 7-Eleven Robberies — Fairfax County police have arrested two men who are allegedly connected to robberies of a 7-Eleven at 9511 Blake Lane in Fairfax on Dec. 6 and a 7-Eleven at 8110 Old Dominion Drive in McLean on Dec. 11. Police believe the suspects were also involved in other robberies in neighboring jurisdictions. [FCPD]
Fire Department Further Adjust Staffing Due to COVID-19 Cases — The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department detailed additional staffing changes yesterday (Wednesday) on top of ones reported earlier that day by Tysons Reporter’s sister site FFXnow. The department now has 66 employees infected by COVID-19, with another 12 staff members required to quarantine. [FCFRD]
Langley Student Gets Perfect ACT Score — “Kaavya Radhakrishnan, a junior at Langley High School in McLean, scored a perfect 36 on her ACT exam this year…Only about a third of 1% of students who take the ACT earn the top score – or just 5,579 out of 1.67 million students who took the ACT in the United States in 2020, according to the nonprofit that administers the test.” [Inside NoVA]
Highline Office Buildings Refinanced — “Westbrook Partners and American Real Estate Partners (AREP) have landed a $148 million refinance from CIM Group for Highline at Greensboro District, a 460,851-square-foot, Class A office campus in Tysons Corner…Westbrook and AREP purchased the two-building Highline complex — at 8401 and 8405 Greensboro Drive in McLean, Va. — in 2017 for $132 million, and have invested a further $31 million to renovate and reposition it since.” [Commercial Observer]
Vienna residents looking for a free, rapid COVID-19 test might have to venture a little farther in the new year.
After Friday (Dec. 31), the town’s only drive-thru testing site will vacate the Emmaus United Church of Christ parking lot that it has occupied since March, even with demand for COVID-19 testing soaring amid the ongoing omicron surge.
Personic Health Care, which operates multiple testing sites across Northern Virginia, was permitted to set up a testing facility at 900 Maple Avenue East under Vienna’s emergency ordinance waiving zoning regulations for temporary outdoor commercial activities.
The town council voted on Dec. 6 to extend the ordinance through Dec. 31, but it can’t be renewed beyond six months after Virginia ended its state of emergency, which happened on June 30.
Once the emergency ordinance expires, the Personic testing site will no longer be allowed in its current location, which isn’t zoned for commercial uses. Unless the town council undertakes the lengthy process of amending Vienna’s zoning code, New Year’s Eve will be the facility’s last day.
“We wracked our brains to see if there was something that could cover it under current zoning,” Vienna Town Attorney Steven Briglia said at the town council meeting. “We stretched the emergency ordinance as far as we could.”
John Mauthe, the moderator at Vienna’s Emmaus United Church of Christ, says the church agreed to rent its parking lot to Personic for the testing site in early 2021 after it was approached by the health care company, which formed in response to the pandemic.
The church obtained the temporary permit from the Town of Vienna, but the facility isn’t an official church program.
“We were excited about it because it gave another rapid test availability to residents that wanted it, that needed it,” Mauthe said.
The site opened on March 16, offering free, rapid antigen testing that provided results in 15 minutes as well as RT-PCR tests with results guaranteed within 24 to 48 hours. It accepts people without health insurance, though a social security number is required, according to the website.
Mauthe says his church hasn’t experienced any issues with the testing site, since its hours don’t interfere with weekend worship services.
The surge in demand over the past couple of weeks, though, contributed to traffic backups on Maple Avenue, prompting Personic to start requiring appointments. When FFXnow contacted the Vienna site last week, an agent said they had been “bombarded” with calls.
When called yesterday (Tuesday), a Personic agent confirmed that all of the company’s testing sites in the area, including the Vienna one, are booked until next week. She said each facility accommodates about 100 appointments per day.
Personic also has locations in McLean, Tysons, Herndon, Springfield, Alexandria, and Annandale.
Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert says the drive-thru testing site has been “an important public health resource,” but there will still be multiple locations offering testing services in the Vienna area, including primary care offices and commercial pharmacies.
The Virginia Department of Health’s testing site map only shows one other location within the Town of Vienna — a primary care physician’s office — but there are several sites in Tysons and Merrifield.
A town spokesperson says Walgreens is offering testing at its stores on Maple Avenue and Nutley Street.
“While the increase in COVID-19 cases is of concern, we are also mindful that the hospitalization rate is not nearly what it was this time last year, which gives us hope that the vaccine is doing what it was designed to do — reduce the risk of serious illness,” Colbert said in a statement. “The Town Council will continue to monitor the situation and consult with public health officials to determine if additional resources are needed.”
County Reduces COVID-19 Isolation Time — Following new CDC recommendations, the Fairfax County Health Department has cut the required isolation period for people infected with COVID-19 from 10 to five days, if the individual has no symptoms. People exposed to someone who tests positive no longer have to quarantine if they’re vaccinated. [FCHD]
Former FCPD Officer Convicted for Sexual Misconduct — “A former Fairfax County police officer has been convicted of sexual misconduct with a 16-year-old police cadet. John Grimes faced three charges of indecent liberties with a minor. He was found guilty of all counts on Monday.” [NBC4]
Vienna’s Tom Yum Thai Closes — “The restaurant informed customers in a Facebook post that it had closed on Sunday, Dec. 26. It had been open for seven years at 226 Maple Avenue W in Vienna. The management did not share a reason for the closure in the post.” [Patch]
County Waste Facilities to Change Hours — “The new year will usher in extended operating hours for residents to drop off their trash, recyclables, and various specialty wastes (e.g., used oil, old batteries, scrap metal) at the I-66 Transfer Station and the I-95 Landfill Complex. The new hours taking effect on January 1, 2022, are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Weekend hours, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., will remain unchanged at both facilities.” [DPWES]
The Town of Vienna has called off its planned New Year’s Eve celebration.
The town’s economic development office had partnered with Cedar Park Shopping Center to host a family-friendly “Noon Year’s Eve” event to usher in the new year. The party was scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. next Friday (Dec. 31) with games, a live DJ, a pop-up artisan market, giveaways, and more.
However, the event has now been canceled in response to rapidly rising COVID-19 cases throughout the D.C. area, including Fairfax County.
Fairfax County has reported more than 1,000 new cases for each of the past two days — the first time that has happened in the pandemic, according to Virginia Department of Health data. The only other time the county has seen over 1,000 cases in one day was Jan. 17, at the height of last winter’s surge.
“Due to an increase of COVID-19 cases in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, we have decided to cancel this event,” the town’s webpage for “Noon Year’s Eve” says. “Please call (571) 235-5705 if you have any questions.
“Noon Year’s Eve” joins a rash of nixed New Year’s Eve celebrations throughout the region.
The City of Falls Church announced on Tuesday (Dec. 21) that organizers had decided to cancel its annual Watch Night, and the City of Alexandria has canceled its First Night Alexandria party, along with its waterskiing Santa.