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Vienna’s lone drive-through COVID-19 testing site is officially no more, but the town is moving to make it easier to establish similar facilities in the future.

The Vienna Planning Commission unanimously approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance on Feb. 9 that would allow for temporary medical testing sites during public health emergencies. Such facilities are currently prohibited by the town.

The proposed amendment was brought up by Councilmember Chuck Anderson at the Vienna Town Council’s Jan. 24 meeting.

“This all sort of has evolved out of Covid and the like, where there were a lot of emergency provisions that had to be put in place,” Anderson said.

Vienna allowed the provider Personic Health Care to set up a drive-through testing site in the Emmaus United Church of Christ parking lot at 900 Maple Avenue in early 2021 under an emergency ordinance that waived zoning regulations for certain outdoor, commercial activities.

However, the ordinance could only stay in effect for up to six months after the end of Virginia’s statewide emergency declaration for the pandemic, which was allowed to expire on June 30, 2021.

The Personic site was scheduled to shutter at the end of last year, but with COVID-19 cases surging in Fairfax County at the time, Town Manager Mercury Payton authorized a “wind-down” period on Dec. 31 that kept the facility open through the end of January.

While cases have declined in recent weeks, community transmission of Covid remains high in Fairfax County. The proposed amendment would allow testing facilities in the town during any future surges in this pandemic or other health crises.

“A lot of this has to do with public confidence, because we’ve had a lot of criticisms about this,” Anderson said during the Jan. 24 meeting. “I want to provide the public with the confidence that we’re aware of this and we’re doing something about it.”

If approved by the Vienna Town Council, the amendment would give authority to the town manager to approve licensed temporary medical testing sites when a public health emergency has been declared by local, state, or federal government agencies.

An operator would have to file a conditional use permit application with the town and approved by the town manager before the site can go online. The town manager would also set operational conditions for these facilities, including dates, hours of operation, and how to set appointments.

Appointments came into consideration after issues arose at the Personic testing site this past winter. According to town planner Michael D’Orazio, demand for testing was so high that the lines blocked traffic on Maple Avenue.

Under the amendment, sites where temporary medical testing sites would be permitted include churches and other places of worship, along with public schools and colleges.

Private schools are not included, since Vienna would be required to get permission to use those sites for testing.

The amendment will now head to the Vienna Town Council for its approval. A public hearing is expected to be held on the matter when the council meets on Feb. 28.

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Morning Notes

Input Sought on Renaming Supervisor Districts — Fairfax County’s Redistricting Advisory Committee is seeking input from residents, businesses, and more on whether the county should rename Lee, Mason, Mount Vernon, Springfield, and Sully districts. The committee will make recommendations on March 1. [Fairfax County Government]

FCPS Test-to-Stay Program Begins — Fairfax County Public Schools launched test-to-stay programs at seven schools yesterday (Monday). Part of a statewide pilot, the program allows unvaccinated students identified as close contacts of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 to keep attending school in person if they take a rapid test every morning for five consecutive days, test negative, and are asymptomatic. [WTOP]

White House Replica in McLean Sold — A 12,000 square-foot replica of the White House located at 1111 Towlston Road sold for $2.438 million in January. The six-bedroom house includes an attempted recreation of the Oval Office and was built in 1995 by a Vietnam refugee who wanted to pay homage to the U.S. [D.C. UrbanTurf]

Former Dranesville District Supervisor Remembered — “Former Dranesville District Supervisor Rufus Phillips III (D), who had served in the U.S. Army and later with the Central Intelligence Agency, died Dec. 29, 2021, at age 92 from complications of pneumonia. A longtime McLean resident, Phillips was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1971 and served until 1975, said Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) at the board’s Jan. 25 meeting.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

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Morning Notes

The Lofts at Park Crest apartments after snow (photo by Tripp Piot)

Winter Weather Advisory in Effect — “The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory in effect from 6 a.m. until 1 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 20. Snow accumulations of up to two inches with locally higher amounts around three inches are possible, which could impact the Thursday morning commute.” [Fairfax County Emergency]

Tysons Vaccine Site Delays Opening — The Tysons Community Vaccination Center will open late today (Thursday) due to this morning’s expected winter weather. The site will operate from noon to 5 p.m., and anyone whose appointment has been affected by the change in hours can walk in to get a vaccination today. [Fairfax County Health Department/Twitter]

Police Identify Suspect in Cold-Case Murders — Fairfax County and Prince George’s police believe a man currently serving life in prison for a 2002 murder was behind two decades-old, unsolved crimes. Officials say Charles Helem confessed to killing a woman in Mount Rainer in 2002 and gave details about a 1987 Herndon murder that only the killer would know. [WTOP]

Food Left on Stove Starts McLean Fire — Two adults were displaced by a house fire that occurred around noon on Sunday (Jan. 16) in the 2000 block of Great Falls Street. Investigators determined that the fire was started by food left on a stove burner that ignited cooking oil and “nearby combustibles,” resulting in $93,750 in damages. [FCFRD]

Inova to Close Covid Testing Site — “Due to decreased volume in appointments at Inova’s Vehicle-Side COVID-19 Testing Center – Falls Church, the testing site will close on Fri, Jan 21. The testing site will remain open Wed, Jan 19 – Fri, Jan 21, 8am-2pm for symptomatic patients with appointments.” [Inova Health/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Metro Leader to Step Down — “After more than six years leading the D.C. region’s transit agency…Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul Wiedefeld is retiring. Wiedefeld, 66, will leave his position in six months, Metro Board Chairman Paul C. Smedberg announced in an unexpected statement Tuesday afternoon.” [DCist]

Fairfax County Records First Pedestrian Death of 2022 — Police are investigating a crash that occurred just before midnight on Jan. 8 on Lee Highway at Forum Drive in Fairfax. Joel Gonzalez, 22, of Fairfax was hit by a sedan driving east on Lee Highway and later died from his injuries in a hospital. [FCPD]

Falls Church Supports Voting Rights Bill on MLK Day — “U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Don Beyer joined Edwin Henderson II, founder of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, on Monday to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. with nearly 100 other people at the Tinner Hill Civil Rights Monument in Falls Church.” [Patch]

Website to Order Free At-Home Covid Tests Launches — A federal website where people can order up to four rapid COVID-19 test kits per household is now up and running. The tests will be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service and are expected to take seven to 12 days to ship. [NBC News]

Providence District Supervisor Has New Daughter — “Jeffrey and I were thrilled to welcome our new daughter Sivan Esther Friedman into the world on Monday, January 17, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Our little peanut is a little early, (perfect balance, her mother is always late) and weighs in at 4 lbs. 14 oz., but everyone is healthy, and we couldn’t be more over the moon.” [Dalia Palchik]

Local Hybrid Plane Startup Gets Funding Boost — “Lockheed Martin Ventures has invested in Electra.aero Inc., a Falls Church-based hybrid-electric aircraft designer and builder that specializes in a growing air taxi market…The funding will support Electra’s plans to start flight testing its hybrid-electric ultra-short takeoff and landing aircraft (eSTOL) this year, according to a press release.” [Washington Business Journal]

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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.

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