Tysons, VA

Despite hopes that reopening Virginia, which is now in Phase Three, would help the economy, barbershops in McLean are experiencing the opposite. 

Barbershops in McLean Tysons Reporter spoke to have reported very few customers, which owners blame on the fear of catching the virus from their barbers and a lack of social distancing, despite increased sanitation and safety measures.

“They are afraid,” said Ali Virek, the owner of McLean Barber Shop. “They are safe when they come in, but they have to actually come in.” 

Virek reported that business is down 60%, and he believes that is because older people are more nervous about coming in. He added that people have called asking for home visits, but they turned the idea down out of concern for the safety of the traveling barbers. 

“I’m scared. I’m nervous about my business. We’re doing our best, but we have to protect ourselves as well,” said Virek.

Kim’s Family Barber and Dominion Barber Shop also reported slow business since their reopenings.

“[Business] has been very, very slow,” said a manager at Dominion Barber Shop. “Before [the pandemic], every day, we had five customers. Now we have two customers.” 

The barbershops have changed their cleaning procedures to ensure safety and sanitization. Barbers are required to wear masks, clean chairs after each customer and encourage customers to wait in their cars or outside before their appointments.

They have also eliminated services that involve extra contact, such as shoulder massages. At McLean Barber Shop, chairs are even spaced 8 feet apart to ensure the extra distance between customers.

“Everyone has to wear a mask,” said Kim Nguyen, the owner of Kim’s Barber Shop. “We clean everything before another customer comes in.”

All of the businesses reported opening on May 29, and have been trying to draw in customers since then.

“We do it exactly like the news tells us. We sanitize, we take care of the chairs after each customer… After each customer, we do laundry,” according to Dominion Barber Shop.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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Updated at 10:45 a.m. — Corrects reference to Lake Braddock Secondary School.

As the Fairfax County public school system prepares for the fall, some teachers’ unions are expressing concern about how safe in-person learning might be during the pandemic.

To accommodate both families and teachers, FCPS asked both groups to fill out a form by July 10, stating whether they would prefer to stick with a distance learning plan or return to the classroom. After this date, many teachers will find out if they will be required to return or stay at home.

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers and Fairfax Education Association released a press release calling for increased transparency and a clearly outlined health plan for reopening.

Though teachers are allowed to request a full-time remote-learning position, this cannot be guaranteed according to the current plan.

“Teacher placements will be contingent upon student enrollment numbers in the online program; teacher placement decisions will be tiered by individual teacher’s medical need, family medical need, and preference,” FCPS documents said.

Additionally, teachers with medical conditions that increase the risk of COVID-19 will be given “flexible leave and telework assignments,” the plan said.

David Walrod, who teaches 7th grade at Lake Braddock Secondary School, said as a member of the teacher’s union that he wishes teachers would get of choice of whether or not they work remotely.

“Personally I’m hoping that I get a remote position because personally I don’t feel that they will be able to keep schools as safe as they think they are,” he said, adding that he is also concerned for his own young daughter.

“Our educators are overwhelmingly not comfortable returning to schools. They fear for their lives, the lives of their students and the lives of their families,” Tina Williams, the president of Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, said in the press release.

At the school board meeting last Tuesday (June 23), the board members discussed various concerns and options for reopening.

Melanie Meren, the Hunter Mill District representative on the board, spoke on behalf of teachers during the meeting. “We cannot skimp on [personal protective equipment],” she said. “We need to advocate for that if we don’t have the funds.”

Not everyone will be satisfied with whatever is ultimately decided, Karl Frisch, who represents the Providence District, told his fellow board members.

Frisch said that he’s spent almost 100 hours with local families, community members and stakeholders discussing options for the upcoming school year. “There is no perfect solution to this problem,” he said. “We must consider any contingency that may come and meet us.”

FCPS officials have said that input from local health and state health officials will inform reopening plans.

Superintendent Scott Brabrand told the school board earlier this month that he is worried about the realities of social distancing in schools and wants to prevent staff from resigning over safety concerns.

FCFT’s press release called for teachers and educators in the county to speak up about their concerns.

Walrod said that he hopes Fairfax County will adopt a new model like the one for a school district in Pennsylvania where all students and staff will be working and learning remotely for 75 days into the school year until the school board members have a clearer understanding of COVID-19.

Walrod said that there is a chance parents will overwhelmingly want their kids to take advantage of distance learning so there will be less of a demand for in-person lessons.

Kimberly Adams, the president of the Fairfax Education Association, said in a press release that the group is advocating for remote learning until a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 is available.

“All staff should be provided the ability to continue virtual instruction as long as there is community spread of this virus,” Adams said. “We will continue to make every possible effort to assist FCPS in developing a plan that keeps health and safety first.”

Photo courtesy Dan Dennis on Unsplash

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Microsoft Closing Physical Stores — “Microsoft Corp. is closing its physical retail stores around the world… Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) lists a total of 72 stores in the United States, with three mall locations in Greater Washington: Westfield Montgomery in Bethesda, Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and Tysons Corner Center.” [Washington Business Journal]

Latest on COVID-19 Cases — “As the world topped 10 million coronavirus cases, the spread of the virus in Northern Virginia continues to stabilize, according to Sunday’s report from the Virginia Department of Health.” [Inside NoVa]

“Get It to Zero!” Campaign — “The Northern Virginia Regional Commission, which is working with local governments to coordinate the region’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, has released a new video encouraging area residents to help bring the number of positive tests to zero.” [Inside NoVa]

Battle the Beetle — “It has not yet been detected in Fairfax County, but the county government is asking local residents to be on the lookout for the Asian longhorned beetle, which has been found in other areas of the country and is very destructive to hardwood trees.” [Inside NoVa]

Metro’s Plans for Fourth of July — “Metro will run more frequent trains and extend service beyond 9 p.m. at designated stations closest to the National Mall.” [WMATA]

Silver Line Shutdown’s Impact on Tysons — “When Metrorail’s Silver Line opened in 2014, officials had high hopes for its ridership numbers. Though it ultimately did not meet those expectations, it fared better than other lines that have lost ridership since the Silver Line’s launch.” [Greater Greater Washington]

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The growth rate of COVID-19 in Fairfax County and statewide continues to fall as public health restrictions ease across Virginia.

But local and state officials are still cautioning residents to be wary of a possible second wave in the fall.

The number of positive tests has dipped significantly. In the Fairfax Health District, the positivity rate stands at 5.2 percent. In mid-May, that number inched near 27 percent of all cases.

Additionally, the daily count of cases and hospitalizations also continues to drop.

On Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 25 new deaths statewide, the largest number since May 28.

Since COVID-19 tracking began, 459 deaths and 13,705 cases have been reported in Fairfax County.

Recently, county officials stepped up testing efforts throughout the county, including targeted testing locations that are not widely publicized. A breakdown of testing sites is available online.

Data via Fairfax County Health Department

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Gov. Ralph Northam announced today that Virginia is on track to enter Phase Three next Wednesday (July 1). 

“That gives us about three and a half weeks in Phase Two, where we have been able to follow the data,” Northam said, adding that he wants people to keep wearing masks and follow guidelines to avoid recent spikes on other states.

During his press conference today, Northam and state health department officials said that Virginia is seeing a decline in cases and hospitalizations.

Phase Three guidelines will:

  • allow social gatherings with groups of 250 or less
  • lift the restrictions on non-essential retail stores
  • allow fitness centers and pools to open at 75% capacity
  • reopen child care facilities
  • restaurants may resume full capacity though people must stay six feet apart

Still, things such as overnight summer camps for kids will not be allowed, Northam said. Northam said that the “safer at home” recommendation is still in place for people who are immunocompromised, and remote work is encouraged.

Other changes include public access to online data from nursing homes and long term care facilities throughout the state, according to Northam. This data includes the number of cases and number of deaths, one of Northam’s advisers said.

“Now that there are more cases in the facilities, we can release the information without compromising the confidentiality,” he said.

To track and limit the spread of COVID-19 in care facilities, Northam also announced that $56 million will be available for testing of both residents and care-takers.

Image via Facebook Live

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Updated 6:20 p.m. — Corrects a reference to the survey as a study and that the 825 were FCPS staff members — not all teachers. 

After COVID-19 disrupted Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) earlier this spring, teachers, staff and school board members are trying to find ways to offer more mental health support.

Throughout the last several months of remote learning, the focus has been on a combination of peer-led programs, remote family check-ins with school-sponsored mental health staff and a message of “resiliency,” according to Bethany Koszelak, a mental health specialist for FCPS.

“Yes, this has been hard on a lot of people, but most youth are resilient and bounce back,” she said, adding that FCPS has been coordinating with teachers to keep an eye on students who might need help.

Mental Health Chain of Command in FCPS

In the FCPS system, regardless of age or year, students typically have access to a therapist, psychologist and social worker who can provide social-emotional support.

Counselors, which Koszelak considers to provide something called “tier one” support, provide guidance lessons to cope with emotions and social issues. If students need additional support, they will be referred to the school-sanctioned therapists and psychologists by the counselors.

As the county’s school board considers a boost in funding for social-emotional learning in the next school year, part of the funds — if approved in the next few weeks — would go toward hiring more staff and possibly bringing on additional mental health professionals full time, according to Koszelak.

Though nothing is set in stone, Karl Frisch, who presents the Providence District on the school board, said he wants to improve the infrastructure for mental health.

“The last several months have likely caused some trauma here and we need to be in a position to respond to it,” he said. We anticipate students will have an increased need.”

Rising Demand for Mental Health Support

Though Koszelak said she doesn’t have statistics to back up an increase request, a survey released by the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers reported that 55% of the 825 staff members who responded said that their students’ mental health had deteriorated since the start of distance learning.

Still, students are not the only ones at risk for mental health challenges.

More than 90% of the teachers said that their stress level has increased since the start of distance learning in March.

“Respondents chose school counselors to have the highest positive direct impact on student mental health and social-emotional needs, followed by social workers, psychologists and parent liaisons,” the survey takeaway said, backing up the school board’s idea.

Among top sources of stress for teachers, many said that they felt anxiety over technology failures, a lack of direction from FCPS leadership and difficulty adjusting to new technology.

“They need to check in with teachers and really care how we’re doing. Right now, the only message we hear is you’re failing. Not providing mental health support to elementary during this time is so WRONG! These kids need it just as much as the middle and high school kids… If anything, we will all need increased mental health support when returning to school because we are all struggling right now,” one survey respondent wrote.

FCFT sent the survey results to Tysons Reporter on May 12, before the murder of George Floid that re-sparked wide-spread outrage over systemic racism and police brutality.

It is unclear how this might add a toll to students/staff mental health but Koszelak said that there are options for students to incorporate discussions about civil rights and current events in the classroom.  She added that students even begin to learn about civil rights and Martin Luther King Jr. in the second grade.

Meeting an Invisible Need 

In reality, though, the need for help is likely elevated since Frish said that students and families don’t always know how to ask for help when they need it or even realize that it could help.

Around the country, statistics show that issues like domestic violence and child abuse have risen since the start of lockdown since places like child care centers, schools and offices that would typically recognize signs of abuse in-person are closed.

“Children are specifically vulnerable to abuse during COVID-19. Research shows that increased stress levels among parents [are] often a major predictor of physical abuse and neglect of children,” the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said in an online article.

To combat this, FCPS teachers were told to look for signs of violence and abuse while interacting with their students over Zoom, Koszelak said, noting that if a student wasn’t coming to class, a school counselor would be sure to reach out to the family.

“The teachers still had live video conference calls with students,” according to Koszelak. “You can gauge when there are some concerns and the teachers know there are protocols to reach out to the clinicians.”

In addition to basic screening measures, FCPS mental health experts were also keeping a keen eye on families with a history of known problems, she added.

Additional Resources for Students and Families

FCPS offers a variety of programs to assist both students and families.

They include:

Some of these resources are met with concerns though: “I did Mental Health First Aid training several years ago, but it was never implemented at my school,” one teacher wrote in the FCFT survey.

“I think there needs to be widespread training in this program at each school for any and all teachers, coaches, counseling staff, and administrators who are willing and able to handle it because we need as many resources for students and staff as possible,” the teacher added.

Looking Ahead to Upcoming School Year

Though kids are on summer break, the Fairfax County School Board is considering hiring 10 more mental health care specialists and increasing funding for various social-emotional learning programs.

Board members are considering a $7 million addition to the program but it is still uncertain how the money would be distributed.

They are expected to vote on changes and plans for the upcoming school year during the upcoming June 26 meeting, according to Koszelak.

Photo via Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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Use of Force Policies on Agenda — Fairfax County’s Public Safety Committee will hear an update today from the police department on use of force policies. [Fairfax County]

COVID-19 Deaths — “State health officials reported no new deaths linked to COVID-19 in Northern Virginia in the latest daily report Sunday. It’s the first day with no new deaths reported since April 6. It does not mean that no deaths occurred in a 24-hour period — it can take days for deaths to be added to the state’s COVID-19 data.” [Inside NoVa]

Grant Deadline Extended — “The deadline has been extended to Monday, June 22 for the City of Falls Church Economic Development Authority (EDA)’s Small Business and Non-Profit COVID-19 Emergency Grant program.” [City of Falls Church]

Vienna Officials OK Budget — “Vienna Town Council adopted last night a $41 million budget for fiscal year 2020-21, which begins July 1. The adopted budget encompasses four funds, including the general, or daily operations, fund, which totals $24.8 million for the coming year, a $2.5 million decrease from the originally proposed general fund budget…  Cuts to the proposed general fund are necessary in response to anticipated losses in revenue due to impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.” [Town of Vienna]

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Due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has three scenarios for reopening schools this fall.

In May, a task force was created to prepare recommendations for FCPS reopening. On June 9, Gov. Ralph Northam unveiled his phased reopening plan, which provides flexibility for schools in Virginia.

The school board discussed the proposed Return to School plan, which includes three reopening scenarios, Monday afternoon.

The three scenarios are:

  1. virtual learning for all students
  2. in-school learning with health and social distancing
  3. online learning for students with a high risker of severe illness

In the first scenario, students would not be allowed in buildings but the staff would be. Students would have four days of synchronous learning per week and one day of asynchronous learning.

Meanwhile, the second scenario has two proposals for attendance in the buildings at any one time — 50% and 25%.

In-school learning would include cleaning of high-touch areas, daily health screening forms, social distancing in classrooms and on buses and restricting buildings to visitors.

Finally, the third scenario would make groups of students and teachers for online instruction. With the online model, students would receive four days of synchronous learning per week and one day of asynchronous learning.

Additionally, FCPS has proposals for what would happen if the pandemic prompted another shutdown. The plan also mentions shared elements of the three scenarios — middle and high school students having access to laptops via FCPSOn — and how they address equity.

Discussion during the meeting today noted that FCPS needs to prepare for the possibility that more than one scenario might happen, especially if there’s a resurgence of COVID-19.

How to keep students and staff dominated the school board’s discussion.

Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the director of the Fairfax County Health Department, said that there aren’t plans to test students prior to them coming back to school. Addo-Ayensu noted that screening forms are a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Addo-Ayensu and Benjamin Schwartz, a medical epidemiologist with Fairfax County, said that data on the impact of COVID-19 on kids is limited.

They said that the infection rate is unknown for kids and added that information is emerging on Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome of Children (MIS-C) — a rare but serious COVID-19 complication.

Input from local health data and the Fairfax County Department of Health will inform the final decisions, according to the plan.

“You’re talking hundreds and hundreds of kids coming in at once,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand said, adding that social distancing cannot be guaranteed in schools.

Brabrand said that safety procedures are also important for retaining staff: “We don’t want folks resigning.”

FCPS is looking to get face shields for bus drivers and special education teachers, Brabrand noted. Ricardy Anderson, the representative for the Mason District, called for teachers to receive face shields as well.

If FCPS decides to go with an in-person reopening that alternates days for students, childcare could become an issue for families.

Dranesville District Representative Elaine Tholen suggested that FCPS coordinate with the Fairfax County Park Authority so that families and staff have childcare options.

Tholen proposed a “creative idea” to turn outdoor space at the schools and nearby parks into childcare centers contained in tents, adding that kids could access WiFi outside the schools.

Brabrand and Hunter Mill District Representative Melanie Meren agreed that more childcare is needed, with Brabrand calling it a “great idea.”

As FCPS moves forward with plans for the fall, the school board is aware that the botched rollout of online learning this spring puts more pressure on the school system to get the reopening right.

“We can’t risk another failure like we did before,” Providence District Representative Karl Frisch said.

Brabrand addressed the criticism of the distance learning attempts, saying it’s important that FCPS does not overpromise and under-deliver: “We did that before.”

Families will have several opportunities to provide feedback on the recommendations ahead of the deadline for FCPS to announce a reopening decision on June 26.

FCPS plans to host a town hall on Tuesday, June 16, that will talk about the Return to School plans. The town hall is set to run from 6:30-7:30 p.m. and will include Brabrand, the assistant superintendent of Facilities and Transportation Services and the manager of School Health Services.

People can also submit feedback by emailing the superintendent at [email protected] and fill out a survey.

FCPS also plans to hold a virtual public hearing on the Return to School plans at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 18. People can register online to speak.

Photo via Element5 Digital/Unsplash, infographics via FCPS

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COVID-19 Hospitalizations Slow Down in Virginia — “The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported only 959 coronavirus patients in state hospitals, the lowest number since the organization began providing data in early April. That was down from over 1,500 patients as recently as May 29 and a high of 1,625 on May 8.  Only 342 of those patients were in Northern Virginia, down from a high of 818 on April 30.” [Inside NoVa]

Calls to Rename Schools With Confederate Ties — “[The] Falls Church City’s Public School Board is faced with calls to change the names of one or both of its five schools that are currently named for men who were slaveholders at the time of the nation’s founding.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Support for Vienna Police — “Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton usually kicks off Town Council work sessions by listing the evening’s agenda, but on June 8 he began with something from the heart: a statement addressing protests that recently have swept the nation after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Payton… signaled his support for Vienna police and said it was not the time to divest from law enforcement.” [Inside NoVa]

Unemployment Claims — “More than 100,000 Fairfax County residents have now filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic began in mid-March as the region’s job market continues to struggle to recover from business shutdowns.” [Inside NoVa]

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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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