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Tysons Corner Center could potentially host another mass COVID-19 vaccination site if booster shots get approved for a broader population, local and state health officials say.

Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu told the Board of Supervisors during its health and human services committee meeting this morning (Tuesday) that the county and Virginia health departments are working together to establish a Community Vaccination Center (CVC) “at the Tysons location.”

The Fairfax County Health Department confirmed that “planning is ongoing” to revive the large-scale clinic that the Virginia Department of Health and Department of Emergency Management opened earlier this year in Tysons Corner Center’s former Lord & Taylor store.

“As with mass vaccination sites operated by the Fairfax County Health Department, the CVC would provide first, second, and third doses to anyone who is eligible based on [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and VDH clinical guidelines,” county health department spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said in a statement.

Fairfax County currently offers third shots of the two-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to people whose immune system is compromised by a medical condition or certain medications and treatments, making them more vulnerable to severe illness if they contract the virus.

The county doesn’t have numbers yet on how many people in the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, have gotten a booster shot.

“FCHD is waiting on additional data to become available from VDH to determine the number of Fairfax Health District residents who have received an additional dose,” Caldwell said.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted on Friday (Sept. 17) to recommend approval of booster shots for individuals who are 65 and older, people at risk of severe illness if they’re infected, and people whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure, including healthcare workers and teachers.

However, the committee voted decidedly against recommending a booster shot for everyone 16 and older as proposed by President Joe Biden’s administration, citing a need to see more safety data, particularly on heart inflammation issues that have been reported in some younger people after getting the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The CDC’s independent advisory committee is scheduled to discuss whether to recommend authorizing booster shots when it meets tomorrow (Wednesday). Virginia and Fairfax County officials have said they’re working with pharmacies, hospitals, and other partners to plan for the possibility of expanding the availability of third vaccine doses.

Bringing back the Tysons CVC and other mass vaccination sites is one of many options currently under consideration, the Virginia Department of Health says.

“The FDA and CDC need to make their decisions before VDH can finalize its plans,” VDH spokesperson Cindy Clayton said by email. “We have been planning for several scenarios and will be able to share more information when we know more.”

Virginia opened the Tysons CVC on April 20 in conjunction with Fairfax County opening up COVID-19 vaccinations to all adults for the first time. Enabling the county to eliminate its registration waitlist, the site had the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 people per day.

The center closed on June 26 as state and local officials shifted their attention to smaller, more mobile clinics intended to target specific pockets of people who were still unvaccinated due to hesitancy or access issues.

During the Tysons mass vaccine site’s one month of operations, VDH administered 27,212 first doses and 50,956 doses overall, according to the department’s data team.

Because the COVID-19 vaccines are more widely available now from a variety of providers, including pharmacies and private health practices, Fairfax County doesn’t anticipate encountering the supply constraints for booster shots that hampered its initial vaccine rollout.

“Given that there will be ample vaccine this time around to meet demand, we are confident that people will have access, and then, through our outreach efforts, we will make sure that our equity clinics continue,” Addo-Ayensu said at today’s Board of Supervisors committee meeting.

Even as the discussion around booster shots heats up, many county residents have yet to get their first vaccine dose.

Almost 400,000 people in Fairfax County remain unvaccinated, including about 195,000 children under the age of 12, who remain ineligible, Addo-Ayensu told the board.

According to the FCHD dashboard, 811,922 Fairfax Health District residents — 68.6% of the total population — have received at least one vaccine dose, including 81.1% of adults 18 and older. 737,467 residents — 74% of adults and 62.3% of the overall population — are considered fully vaccinated.

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Coronavirus illustration (via CDC on Unsplash)

After hovering in the “substantial” category throughout August, Fairfax County is officially seeing high levels of COVID-19 spread within the community, putting it in line with almost all of Virginia.

The county went from orange to red when the Virginia Department of Health updated its dashboard this morning (Monday) for the week of Aug. 22-28. Manassas Park is now the only locality in the state not reporting high community transmission, a dot of “moderate” yellow amid a sea of crimson.

The Fairfax County Health Department attributes the continued rise in virus cases to the prevalence of the Delta variant, which spreads more easily between people than previous strains and is now the most common strain in Northern Virginia.

“We continue to do all we can to educate, vaccinate, and limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu said in a statement. “…The level of community transmission in Northern Virginia — and the rest of the Commonwealth — is now classified as “High”, emphasizing the importance of prevention wherever we live, work, play and learn. We urge everyone to continue to be vigilant about layered prevention strategies and for all those who are eligible to receive vaccination to do so.”

Fairfax County now has high levels of community COVID-19 transmission (via Virginia Department of Health)

Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s metrics, VDH determines the level of community transmission based on the total number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 persons and the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive over the last seven days.

While Fairfax County’s weekly testing positivity rate actually dropped from 6.2% during the week of Aug. 15-21 to 5.1% this past week, which would still be considered moderate transmission, the number of new cases per 100,000 people jumped from 99.2 to 109.5 over that same time frame, putting the county over the 100-case threshold for high transmission.

With one day left in the month, the Fairfax Health District has reported fewer than 100 new COVID-19 cases in a day just twice in August. Another 116 cases came in today, bringing the weekly average up to 182.6 cases — the highest mark since April 14, when the county averaged 184.3 daily new cases over the previous seven days.

The district, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church as well as Fairfax County, has now recorded a total of 83,902 COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic. 4,253 residents have been hospitalized with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 1,164 residents have died, including eight since last Monday (Aug. 23).

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Aug. 30, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

According to the VDH, the vast majority of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths statewide continue to occur in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people, who have contracted COVID-19 at 13.3 and 2.6 times the rate of their fully vaccinated counterparts, respectively.

The Fairfax Health District has administered a total of 1.46 million vaccine doses so far, though the federal government’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine on Aug. 23 doesn’t appear to have spurred a sudden uptick in demand.

787,408 residents — or 66.5% of the district’s total population, including 78.7% of people 18 and older — have now gotten at least one shot, according to the Fairfax County Health Department’s vaccine dashboard. 6,369 more people joined the club over the past week, roughly on par with the 6,257 people who got their first inoculation in the week before that.

712,389 residents are fully vaccinated, which amounts to 71.6% of adults and 60.2% of the overall population.

Photo via CDC on Unsplash

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Bloomie’s is officially opening for business.

Bloomingdale’s smaller, more curated retail concept will welcome its first customers at noon today (Thursday) to kick off a three-day grand opening event in Merrifield’s Mosaic District. The 22,000 square-foot store is the first Bloomie’s to open in the country.

“We’re excited to introduce ‘Bloomie’s,’ our all-new store concept that brings the energy of Bloomingdale’s to a smaller style and service destination,” said Susan Cannaday, the general manager for Bloomingdale’s Tysons Corner location and the new Bloomie’s store.

Cannaday says Bloomie’s is “designed to create a sense of discovery,” with a curated, rotating assortment of merchandise that includes contemporary and luxury brands for clothing, cosmetics, shoes, handbags, jewelry, and other beauty items and accessories.

According to a press release, women’s apparel brands include Ganni, Staud, Maje, Rag & Bone, Cult Gaia, Jonathan Simkhai STANDARD, LoveShackFancy, Moussy, Mother, FRAME, RE/DONE, and AQUA. Meanwhile, the men’s apparel, shoes, and accessories sections include brands like Vince, Helmut Lang, Salomon, Barbour, and McQ.

To mark the store’s launch, Bloomingdale’s is also reintroducing a “Bloomie’s” brand. The first collection includes 35 special pieces from varsity jackets to combat boots to a special edition Zippo lighter. It will be available at Bloomie’s, Bloomingdale’s 59th Street flagship, and online.

“We were strategic in selecting the right categories and brands that reflect the local lifestyle, and offer services that meet our customers’ needs,” Cannaday said. “Whether you’re exploring the latest fashion and beauty trends, grabbing a bite at Colada Shop or working with a stylist, all of this can be done at Bloomie’s.”

Bloomie’s also features a new location for the D.C.-based Colada Shop, a restaurant that specializes in cocktails, coffee, and Cuban-inspired food.

Services offered at the store include a returns drop box, curbside pickup, and an option to pick up online purchases in-person. A customization desk provides personalization, monogramming, and alteration services.

“Bloomie’s is designed to be a more convenient and casual concept that fits into our customer’s everyday lifestyle,” Bloomingdale’s CEO Tony Spring said in the press release. “With our staff of stylists, omni services, lively restaurant, and elevated assortment, Bloomie’s can be their favorite neighborhood store.”

While today is the official opening, Bloomingdale’s started introducing its Bloomie’s concept to the Mosaic District neighborhood earlier this month with a pop-up at the Sunday FRESHFARM markets. Cannaday says they were “thrilled with the engagement we’ve seen from the local community.”

EDENS, the Mosaic District developer and property owner, says it is excited about the partnership with Bloomingdale’s to launch “a bold new concept.”

“Consumer preferences continue to evolve, but retail’s role in bringing people together remains fundamentally unchanged,” EDENS CEO Jodie McLean said in the press release. “Bloomie’s is designed to engage people and will serve more as a hub for experiences, with a focus on fashion.”

Bloomingdale’s existing presence in the Tysons area made the Mosaic District an appropriate place to introduce the Bloomie’s concept, according to Cannaday.

“We have two powerful existing Bloomingdale’s stores in the area with our Chevy Chase and Tysons Corner locations, so Bloomie’s enters a market where customers know our brand,” she said. “We chose this location within Mosaic District…because it provides an approachable and convenient location for the local communities.”

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Coronavirus illustration (via CDC on Unsplash)

The U.S. has its first officially approved COVID-19 vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration announced this morning (Monday) that it has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for individuals 16 and older based on updated data from clinical trials that showed the vaccine is 91% effective at preventing the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

That is lower than the 95% effectiveness rate reported on Dec. 11, when the Pfizer vaccine became the first innoculation authorized for emergency use in the country, but the FDA says the vaccine meets its standards for safety, quality, and effectiveness, including against hospitalization or death due to a COVID-19 infection.

“While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”

The Pfizer vaccine also remains authorized for use by adolescents between 12 and 15 years of age. Moderna started the process to get full approval of its vaccine, which is currently authorized for adults 18 and older, on June 1, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still available for adults after a brief pause this spring.

The full approval allows Pfizer to advertise its vaccine and continue selling it after the federal public health emergency for the pandemic ends, but local and state officials hope it will also convince more people to get vaccinated, as COVID-19 cases continue to climb due to the highly infectious Delta variant.

“Today’s news is yet another reaffirmation that vaccines are safe and effective,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “Though all three COVID vaccines are approved for emergency use, the FDA’s official approval of Pfizer’s vaccine is good news for our community. We have been distributing Pfizer since day one and have plenty on hand for those who would like one. Anyone who is not vaccinated, or who was waiting for this FDA action, should go get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones against COVID-19.”

According to Virginia Department of Health data, Fairfax County reported 206 new COVID-19 cases on Friday (Aug. 20), the first time its single-day caseload surpassed 200 since April 13. With another 336 cases coming in over the weekend and 124 cases added today, including from the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, the Fairfax Health District has seen a total of 82,600 cases since the start of the pandemic.

4,227 people in the district have been hospitalized, and 1,156 people have died from the virus.

The county is now averaging 178.9 cases per day over the past seven days, a tick down from 182.9 cases yesterday (Sunday), which was the highest weekly average since April 14.

With more than 80 cases per 100,000 people reported in the last week and a testing positivity rate of 4.4% as of the week ending on Aug. 14, the county’s community transmission level remains substantial. Read More

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Coronavirus illustration (via CDC on Unsplash)

Fairfax County is still seeing substantial levels of COVID-19 community transmission, necessitating the continued use of masks as the county hopes to get the coronavirus back under control with schools set to reopen next week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health measure community transmission levels using the total number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and the percentage of positive tests in the past seven days.

Fairfax County’s testing positivity rate for the week of Aug. 8-14 was 4.5%, up from 3% at the end of June but still in the threshold for “low” transmission. However, the county has recorded 76.2 cases per 100,000 people in the past week, which is high enough to be considered substantial transmission.

With the addition of 103 cases today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has recorded a total of 81,427 COVID-19 cases during the pandemic. 4,213 people have been hospitalized, and 1,154 people have died, including one person within the past week.

The county is now averaging 136.4 new daily cases for the past seven days — the highest weekly average since April 23, which had a seven-day average of 141.6 cases, according to VDH.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Aug. 16, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

The Fairfax County Health Department had not noticed a “discernable” increase in vaccination rates over the four weeks since the Delta variant-fueled rise in cases began, a department spokesperson told Tysons Reporter last Monday (Aug. 9), but since then, an additional 9,697 Fairfax Health District residents have gotten their first vaccine dose.

In comparison, just 4,627 people obtained their first shot between Aug. 2 and 9.

Overall, 774,782 Fairfax Health District residents have received at least one vaccine dose. That is 65.5% of the total population and 77.6% of residents 18 and older, according to the county health department’s vaccine data dashboard.

699,412 residents — 70.6% of adults and 59.1% of the total population — are now fully vaccinated.

VDH announced on Friday (Aug. 13) that it will provide third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to people with moderate to severe compromised immune systems in accordance with a new recommendation by the CDC.

“Studies have shown that people with a compromised immune system can have a weak response to the standard vaccine regimen, and that a third dose is needed to strengthen immunity in these persons and protect them from serious COVID-19 complications,” VDH said in its news release.

According to CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, immunocompromised people have accounted for 40 to 44% of the hospitalized breakthrough cases reported in the U.S.

As of Friday, Virginia has recorded 4,056 breakthrough COVID-19 cases, including 233 hospitalizations and 52 deaths. However, 240,980 cases, 8,383 hospitalizations, and 2,786 deaths have involved a person who is only partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all.

98.3% of all cases, 97.2% of hospitalizations, and 98.2% of deaths are people who are not fully vaccinated.

Photo via CDC on Unsplash

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Racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. by state (courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)

Fairfax County is now the second most racially diverse county in Virginia, according to 2020 Census data released yesterday afternoon (Aug. 12).

The data confirms recent demographic reports conducted by Fairfax County that showed the share of white residents shrinking and communities of color, particularly Asians and Hispanics, growing since 2010, when the county was the fifth-most diverse county.

Now, only Prince William County is more diverse.

Compared to the rest of the United States, Fairfax County ranked 42nd out of 3,143 counties in the country on the Census’ racial and ethnic diversity index.

While white residents remain the largest racial or ethnic group in the county, they are no longer the majority, making up 47.1% of the overall population with 542,001 residents — a drop of nearly 50,000 people from 2010, when the county’s 590,622 white residents constituted 54.6% of its population.

In other words, Fairfax is now a majority-minority county, due in part to the growth of the county’s Asian and Hispanic/Latino populations, which are the second and third largest racial and ethnic groups, respectively.

According to the 2020 Census data, 20.3% of the county’s population is Asian, an increase of about 55,000 residents from 17.4% in 2010. Hispanic or Latino individuals now constitute 17.3% of the populace, up from 15.6% a decade ago.

The diffusion score — the percentage of the population that isn’t in the top three racial and ethnic groups — is also higher than it was in 2010. At 15.2%, that number is also higher than Virginia and the country as a whole.

The county’s increasing diversity reflects national trends revealed in the new data, which shows the first-ever decline in the country’s white, non-Hispanic population with Latino residents fueling 51% of the population growth.

In total, about 1.15 million people now live in Fairfax County. The population grew by about 68,500 people or 6.3% since 2010, a lower rate of growth than both Virginia as a whole (7.9%) and the U.S. (7.4%).

Fairfax County’s population increase is also significantly lower in terms of percentage than its neighboring localities in Northern Virginia: Arlington County’s population rose by nearly 15%, Alexandria City by nearly 14%, Prince William County by about 20%, and Loudoun County by a staggering 35%.

However, Fairfax remains the largest county in Virginia, as it was in 2010, with more than double the population of Prince William County, which is the second most populous county. Fairfax County residents make up about 13% of the Commonwealth’s total population.

In general, Northern Virginia continues to grow at a much higher rate than the rest of the state.

The new Census data will be used to redraw voting districts locally and nationwide, a process that carries major political implications. Electoral districts are redrawn every 10 years to ensure each one has about the same number of people. The data could also change how many electoral votes are allocated to each state.

This is the 24th official Census count in U.S. history.

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A man receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (via Fairfax County Health Department)

The Fairfax Health District has hit a key milestone in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, even as concerns about the spreading Delta variant of the novel coronavirus keep the area on edge.

According to the Fairfax County Health Department’s vaccine data dashboard, 70% of district residents 18 and older are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning they have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Overall, 692,049 Fairfax Health District residents — 58.5% of the total population — are fully vaccinated. The district includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church as well as Fairfax County.

765,085 residents — 64.6% of the populace — have gotten at least one vaccine dose, including 76.8% of all adults.

Fairfax continues to see a higher vaccination rate than the state as a whole, which has fully vaccinated 65.7% of adults and 54.6% of its total population.

The urgency of Fairfax County’s vaccination effort has intensified in recent weeks in response to increased community transmission of COVID-19 fueled by the Delta variant, the most contagious strain of the virus yet and one that preliminary evidence suggests can be spread even by vaccinated people.

In a press release issued on Friday (Aug. 6), the Virginia Department of Health confirmed that the Delta variant is now the most common form of the coronavirus in the state, causing 80% of all infections as of the week ending July 10 — a 45% increase from June 19 three weeks earlier.

Since June 19, Fairfax County has gone from averaging essentially zero new daily COVID-19 cases in a week to a seven-day average of 16 cases on July 10 and 116.4 cases today (Monday), the highest it has been since April 25, according to the VDH dashboard.

The county health department reported 93 new cases for the Fairfax Health District today, bringing the all-time total up to 80,460 cases.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Aug. 9, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

The daily caseload differs from VDH, which reported 78 new cases for the district today, including two in Falls Church City, because the county switched on Aug. 1 to reporting the total number of new cases. The state is still reporting net new cases, taking into account cases that data clean-ups have revealed to be duplicates or assigned to the wrong health district.

“The health department is now reporting the number of new COVID-19 cases reported and does not subtract cases removed from data cleaning efforts,” said epidemiologist Ben Klekamp, who manages the county health department’s Chronic Communicable Disease Program. “Total Cases will continue to reflect the net number of total cases to account for the changes made from data cleaning.”

One Fairfax Health District resident has died from COVID-19 since last week, bringing the death toll up to 1,153 people. The virus has put 4,195 people in the hospital, including 10 people in the past week.

“The Delta variant is here in Virginia, and it is hitting our unvaccinated population especially hard,” State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said in a statement. “We have a very effective tool to stop transmission of COVID-19: vaccination. There is no question that COVID-19 vaccination is saving lives and preventing and reducing illness.”

As of Friday, 98.5% of COVID-19 cases in Virginia, 97.3% of hospitalizations, and 98.2% of related deaths have been people who aren’t fully vaccinated. The VDH has recorded 218 hospitalizations of fully vaccinated individuals and 50 breakthrough deaths compared to 7,951 hospitalizations and 2,747 deaths of unvaccinated people.

In addition to urging people to get vaccinated if they aren’t already, state and local health officials advise wearing a mask when indoors regardless of your vaccination status, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, maintaining six feet of distance from people not in your household, regular hand-washing, and staying home when sick.

Fairfax County now requires face masks in county facilities, and they will be mandatory for students, staff, and visitors in school buildings when the new academic year begins later this month.

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Woman wearing face mask with hands on head (via Engin Akyurt/Unsplash)

Fairfax County has reached “substantial” community transmission of COVID-19, and as a result, health officials are now recommending that everyone wear a face masks in public indoor settings, regardless of their vaccination status.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had rated the spread of the coronavirus in Fairfax County as “moderate” as recently as Monday (Aug. 2), but that changed when the federal agency updated its COVID-19 data tracker yesterday afternoon (Tuesday).

The shift in categorization brings the county in line with every other jurisdiction in Northern Virginia. The CDC calculates the level of community transmission based on the total number of new cases per 100,000 persons and the testing positivity rate over the last seven days.

A CDC map showing levels of community COVID-19 transmission in Virginia by county (via CDC)

The Fairfax County Health Department and Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay noted in separate statements that the new mask recommendation is in line with current CDC and Virginia Department of Health guidance.

“We will continue to follow the data and spread messaging about the effectiveness of mask wearing, particularly around populations like children who are unable to be vaccinated,” McKay said. “As I have said many times before, the most important thing anyone can do is to get vaccinated if you are eligible.”

Fairfax County has seen an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases since mid-June, when the county was seeing so few cases that its weekly average dipped into negative numbers.

In comparison, the Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, reported 124 new cases yesterday, matching the single-day high for this summer previously set on Sunday (Aug. 1). The seven-day average is now 92.8 cases and could eventually return to the triple digits for the first time since April 28, according to Virginia Department of Health data.

The county is averaging 8.1 new cases per 100,000 people over the past week, and the current seven-day testing positivity rate was 4.7% as of July 30, the highest it has been since April 30.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over past 180 days as of Aug. 3, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

The Fairfax County Health Department has attributed the virus’ resurgence to the spread of the delta variant, which the CDC says is especially transmissible.

Data suggesting that the delta variant can be spread by people who have been vaccinated led the CDC to amend its health guidance for fully vaccinated people on July 27 to recommend that everyone wear a mask indoors in areas with substantial or high spread.

Fairfax County’s announcement about wearing masks echoes advice from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who said on Thursday (July 29) that people should consider wearing a mask when in public, indoor settings where there is increased risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Like Northam, the county frames its guidance as a recommendation, rather than a requirement. VDH has not yet officially updated its guidelines in response to the CDC’s revisions.

The county health department says wearing a mask indoors is “an important approach to prevent further spread of COVID-19” but emphasizes that it should be combined with other measures, including social distancing, getting tested when symptomatic, and most importantly, getting vaccinated if eligible.

“Despite some breakthrough cases, vaccination remains the most important approach to prevent COVID-19 and particularly to prevent more severe infection,” the FCHD said in its blog post.

As of 11 a.m. yesterday, 761,471 Fairfax Health District residents — 76.5% of adults and 64.3% of the total population — have gotten at least one vaccine dose. 689,700 residents — 69.8% of adults and 58.3% of the total population — have been fully vaccinated.

As of July 30, 99.5% of COVID-19 cases, 98.7% of hospitalizations, and 98% of deaths in Northern Virginia since Jan. 21 have involved people who were not fully vaccinated, according to the state health department.

The Fairfax Health District has recorded 79,735 COVID-19 cases, 4,186 hospitalizations, and 1,152 deaths.

Photo via Engin Akyurt/Unsplash

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Coronavirus illustration (via CDC on Unsplash)

COVID-19 cases are still on the upswing, but for the first time in 16 months, the Fairfax Health District did not lose a single person in the past week to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The last reported death occurred on July 23, according to the Virginia Department of Health. A total of 1,152 people in the district, which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, have died from COVID-19 since the first case was identified in early March 2020.

However, 14 more people have been hospitalized by the virus since last Monday (July 26), bringing the total up to 4,185 people, and 616 additional COVID-19 cases have come in, including 112 cases on Saturday (July 31) and 124 cases yesterday (Sunday). The last time Fairfax County reported single-day caseloads in the triple digits on consecutive days was on April 22 and 23.

With 81 new cases today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District has recorded a total of 79,640 COVID-19 cases, and the weekly average has climbed to 86.7 cases, its highest point since the district was averaging 88.3 new cases for the past seven days on May 1.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 90 days as of Aug. 2, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
Fairfax County COVID-19 deaths as of Aug. 2, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

Unlike the rest of Northern Virginia, Fairfax County still has just a moderate level of community transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which calculates community spread based on the total number of new cases per 100,000 persons and testing positivity rates over the last seven days.

Over the past week, the level of community transmission has been raised to “substantial” in all of Fairfax County’s neighboring jurisdictions, including Loudoun, Prince William, and Arlington counties and the City of Alexandria, suggesting Fairfax might not be far behind.

While the increasing prevalence of the delta variant has brought up case levels over the past month, Fairfax County’s relatively high vaccination rates mean infections have been less severe and less likely to lead to hospitalization and death compared to previous surges in the pandemic.

The CDC shared data last week indicating that even fully vaccinated individuals can spread COVID-19 if they’re infected by the delta variant, prompting a revision to its guidance recommending that people wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status in areas with substantial or high community transmission.

However, studies also suggest that the available vaccines remain highly effective against the delta variant, and even the Provincetown, Massachusetts, outbreak that formed the basis of the CDC’s report saw mostly mild cases with only seven hospitalizations and no deaths.

Since the beginning of this year, Northern Virginia has reported 235 breakthrough cases, where a fully vaccinated person contracts COVID-19, with 15 hospitalizations and six deaths. In comparison, there have been 53,326 cases, 1,332 hospitalizations, and 510 deaths among unvaccinated individuals.

According to the Fairfax County Health Department, 760,458 Fairfax Health District residents have now gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. That is 76.4% of people 18 and older and 64.3% of the district’s total population.

688,992 residents — 69.7% of adults and 58.2% of the total population — are fully vaccinated.

With vaccine demand continuing to level out, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is exploring the possibility of requiring all county government employees to be vaccinated. Some prominent local employers, including Google and Inova Health System, have already established vaccine mandates.

Vaccinations are still available at a variety of sites throughout the county. Appointments can be scheduled through the CDC’s Vaccine Administration Management System or directly with a provider through vaccines.gov.

Photo via CDC on Unsplash

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Bird e-scooters now available for rent near Lake Barcroft (staff photo by David Taube)

Hundreds of electric scooters have started popping up around Fairfax County after the county announced last week that it had approved two vendors for its shared mobility device program.

Bird and Superpedestrian’s LINK can each have up to 300 scooters in the county, but depending on usage, that number could go up to a combined 1,200 scooters for the two companies. The devices are available for rent, costing $1 to unlock with rates depending on ride time.

Bird has discounts for low-income and older residents as well as veterans and other users, and the company already listed the devices on its app, including six scooters in West Falls Church as of mid-morning Tuesday (July 27). Other clusters are farther south and southeast in the county.

Superpedestrian says it plans to make its scooters available this fall.

“Like bicycles, e-scooters can be used on a highway, sidewalk, shared-use path, roadway, or crosswalk,” the county said in a news release.

The county required companies to limit scooters’ maximum speeds to 10 miles per hour, and they can’t be used on sidewalks or crosswalks with signage banning shared mobility devices. The county said Tuesday such signage hasn’t been placed so far.

The county says users should leave scooters parked in areas that don’t impede normal car or foot traffic. People who violate the county’s rules can face a misdemeanor and fine up to $50 for the first offense and up to $500 for each subsequent offense.

“When riding an e-scooter, use the sidewalk when possible,” county transportation spokesperson Anna Nissinen said in a statement. “Remember, if you’re riding on the sidewalk, you are required to yield the right of way to pedestrians! If there is no sidewalk or other off-street path to use, you may ride a scooter on the road if the speed limit is 25 mph or less.”

She also noted that e-scooter users should stay as far to the right as practicable and use the bike lane if there is one.

The Board of Supervisors approved the devices in November 2019. They were allowed to start Jan. 1, 2020, but no companies applied for permits until the spring of 2021.

During the approval process, supervisors placed rules on operations as it noted concerns about scooters possibly being abandoned.

To help address issues, the board is requiring $5,000 bonds from companies operating in the county. The money can be used if county staff have to remove and dispose of abandoned scooters.

“If you notice an e-scooter parked in an inappropriate place or left on private property, you can contact the device operator listed on the e-scooter and the operator must remove it,” the county said, noting that people can email [email protected] to report any issues.

Near Arlington National Cemetery, pedestrians and cyclists can at times see rideshare scooters abandoned along trails, scattered horizontally on the grass.

Bird spokesperson Courtney Black said in a statement that the company looks to educate riders with proper scooter etiquette, reminding them to not leave scooters in the public right-of-way, ensuring that sidewalks, driveways, and fire hydrants are accessible.

The company also allows members to use its Community Mode feature to report issues, which can involve things such as damaged or poorly parked scooters. Bird reviews the reports and sends someone to respond.

When asked about the county’s concerns with abandoned scooters, Superpedestrian says it has worked with cities across the U.S. with similar requirements where it operates.

“We’re proud that we’ve never been asked to leave a city or stop operation,” spokesperson Jamie Perkins said in a statement.

To address potential issues, the company has an in-house fleet team of local workers to manage operations in a timely way, using technology to make sure scooters are parked according to requirements and re-parked when needed to ensure availability and prevent them from stacking up in one place.

Superpedestrian is assessing how many scooters it will place in the area, working with Fairfax County as it scales up operations.

“We prioritize our service to areas with critical connections to public transit, areas with parking congestion and business demand, and also serve underserved areas,” Perkins wrote.

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