Tysons, VA

Although the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to drop, local health officials are encouraging residents to maintain social distancing as the county enters phase three of Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan today.

The number of COVID-19 cases has dramatically declined from a peak of around 300 cases per day to an average of 60 to 70 cases per day, according to Benjamin Schwartz, the Fairfax County Health Department’s medical epidemiologist.

“We have not seen a rebound of disease associated with our community moving into phase one and two. However, the time has been limited,” Schwartz told the county’s health committee at a meeting yesterday, adding that cases are expected to increase as health restrictions relax.

The county is using a “box it in” suppression strategy to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Efforts include intensive contact tracing in order to isolate the spread of the virus. Hiring and training for case investigators to lead contact tracing efforts are underway.

Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the health department’s director, said that COVID-19 surges in other states following reopening should “serve as a reminder that the virus has not gone away.”

“Until we develop a vaccine, we cannot return to the way things used to be,” she said, adding that residents need to “stay the course” on social distancing, wearing facial masks, and quarantining if exposed to COVID-19.

The health department launched several community testing clinics — which were targeted for specific hotspots. Herndon, which has been identified as a hotspot, had a nine percent positive test rate. Other hotspots include the Mount Vernon District and Springfield.

“We are far from over, but I do want to at least acknowledge that we have come a long way,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay.

Schwartz noted that the overwhelming impact of COVID-19 on the local Hispanic community has lessened somewhat, although significant disproportionality remains.

The county is recruiting Hispanic community health tracers and contact tracers. The department is also working with nongovernmental and county agencies to help families and individuals in quarantine.

Photo via Fairfax County 

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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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After her graduation from McLean High School in 2018, Isabel Romov received a prestigious scholarship that allows her to study a rare heart disease that can cause sudden death in young adults.

Romov is an upcoming junior studying biotechnology at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. As the inaugural Beckman Scholar, Romov will assist JMU Chemistry Professor Nathan Wright with research over the course of a roughly 15-month period, according to a press release.

Romov will focus on arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathy. The disorder is transferred genetically from someone’s family and causes arrhythmias and thickens the walls of the ventricles in the lower chambers of the heart, the press release said. It affects roughly one in 5,000 people, according to Boston Childen’s Hospital and can cause sudden death, cardiac arrest or the sudden loss of consciousness.

Though Romov hasn’t worked with Wright before, she first expressed interest in his work after viewing one of his guest lectures.

For the research, the team is looking at the DNA, learning how to block the disease mutation and creating a “molecular Band-Aid” to cover it up, Romov said.

The scholarship includes $18,600 to funnel into her research.

Romov said the scholarship is competitive, and she thinks she was chosen because of her dedication to perfection, high grades and drive to help people after her mother passed away from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) almost two years ago.

“It has given me a motivation I don’t think anyone else has unless they’ve been in that situation,” she said. “I want to help people and the fact that science works for me and I love it is secondary.”

Growing up, Romov said she struggled during high school because many of her teachers didn’t realize what was going on in her family life, but she said she was thankful for the competitive curriculum that helped her prepare for college.

Now at JMU, Romov serves on the board for Delta Gamma, a social sorority she said strives towards high grades, and is also a member of TriBeta, an honor society for biology students.

After college, she hopes to work with a biotech company or another institution that will help her pursue a graduate degree. Since Romov said she has been working since she was 14 years old, one of her main goals in life is to become financially independent.

“Going to a job is very exciting for me and I’m excited to learn and work in the science field.”

Photo via JMU/Facebook

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Fairfax County’s Hispanic community is bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Hispanic individuals comprise just under 17% of the total population, they account for nearly 66% of all confirmed cases in the county.

The gap has raised alarms about equity issues between different racial groups in the county. County health officials say that higher infection rates may be caused by the need to go to work, lack of sick leave, the inability to socially distance while on the job and lack of unemployment insurance.

Cases have grown over the last three months in the Hispanic community, while the effort to flatten the curve in the black and white communities has been more successful, county data show.

“This risk reflects a group’s niche in society rather than a particular racial effect,” said Benjamin Schwartz, a medical epidemiologist with the Fairfax County Health Department.

Many local Hispanic residents work in jobs where the risk of transmission is especially high.

Roughly 25% of Hispanic men in the county work in natural resources, construction or maintenance, according to the 2018 American Community Survey. That’s compared to just 5% of blacks in the same industry.

Similarly, 45% of Hispanic women work in the service industry, more than double the percent of black women in the same industry, according to the survey.

Additionally, roughly 12% of Hispanic households are defined as overcrowded based on county metrics, compared to 4% of the black community and less than 1% of the white community.

But the same racial disparity is not prevalent in other parts of the county. In Richmond, for example, blacks are being hit hard by the pandemic while poor whites are disproportionately impacted in southwestern Virginia.

On a national level, blacks account for a higher share of confirmed cases and deaths compared to the rest of the population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Roughly 20% of the COVID-19 cases in the Fairfax Health District, which includes the county, do not contain race and ethnicity information.

Exacerbating the Divide

At Cornerstones, a nonprofit organization based in Reston, the pandemic has exacerbated the daily struggle with housing, poverty, quality education, and living-wage jobs.

Already, 33% of families in Cornerstones’ affordable rental housing have lost all or some of their income due to mass layoffs. Some have limited access to daycare and the internet, complicating long-distance learning, even if the school system provides a laptop for students.

Parking lots may offer free wifi access, but a car and time are needed to park there. Others turn to families and friends to watch their children, increasing the risk of exposure for all.

Public health officials are also seeking ways to improve community communication and increase testing in local hotspots, including the Town of Herndon.

In April, 385 new households came to Cornerstones’ pantry in need of food. That’s more than six times the number of new households in fiscal year 2019.

For low-income members of the immigrant community in the time of COVID, it’s never one thing. The pandemic only exacerbates their daily struggling with housing, poverty, quality education, and living-wage jobs,” said Sara Newman, the division director of community change partnerships at Cornerstones.

For these residents, the financial burden of COVID-19 is “inescapable,” Newman said.

Unpaid rents are continuing to accumulate. People keep working or look for employment regardless of the viral spread so they can keep a roof over their family and food on the table.”

Photo by Morgan Von Gunten/Unplash

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Sen. Tim Kaine Receives Positive Antibody Test — “Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said Thursday he and his wife, Anne, tested positive for coronavirus antibodies earlier this month after experiencing symptoms of the respiratory disease in March and April.” [Patch]

How’s the Local Real Estate Market Faring? — Patch compiled local numbers for homes that came on the market, ones that went under contract and closed sales. [Tysons Corner Patch, McLean Patch, Vienna Patch]

Expanded Contact Tracing — “The Fairfax County Health Department is pleased to partner with the Institute for Public Health Innovation (IPHI) to hire and train staff for COVID-19 contact tracing efforts… To meet the need for large-scale contact tracing efforts, IPHI will hire and train contact tracing staff, community health workers, and other staff as needed.” [Fairfax County]

No Fourth of July Festivities — “The Fairfax County Park Authority’s Summer Entertainment Series will be canceled through July due to public safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Fourth of July events have been canceled, too.” [Fairfax County]

Photo courtesy Jae

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People wondering where they can go to get tested for COVID-19 in Virginia now have a new resource.

The Virginia Department of Health made a map of facilities offering testing. Tysons Reporter took a look and found the phone numbers, addresses and requirements for testing at the sites in the Tysons area.

For people on the fence about whether or not to get tested, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers information and things people should consider before seeking medical attention.

Tysons

AllCare/Synergy Immediate Care (1980 Gallows Road) is offering tests Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 p.m. until 1:30 p.m., the site said, adding that results will usually be available within three business days. People must first go through a phone appointment before being referred to a drive-thru test, the page added.

Inova Urgent Care Center (8357 Leesburg Pike) is open for testing seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. People must visit with a provider first, who will then order a test for the patient, according to the website. 

Falls Church 

Kaiser Permanente at the Falls Church Medical Center (201 N. Washington Street) is offering tests for Kaiser patients only once they meet with a doctor or nurse, the page said. Drive-thru testing is available seven days a week from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and again from 3:30-7:3o p.m.

McLean

Mclean Medical Center & Urgent Care (6858 Old Dominion Drive) accepts all insurances and is open for walk-in care from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on weekdays, the website said. 

Mclean Pharmacy (1392 Chain Bridge Road) offers testing for Medicare patients Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. People must call ahead at 571-488-6030.

McLean Immediate Care (1340 Old Chain Bridge Road) offers testing for anyone who thinks they may have the virus. A drive-in test costs $175, the website said. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon until 6 p.m. 

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The number of COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County surpassed 10,000 today (Wednesday). But the trajectory of cases appears to be on the decline as Northern Virginia gears up for phase one of its reopening plan on Friday.

According to data released by the state’s health department, a slowdown in the number of new cases emerged this week. Public health experts determine the trajectory of COVID-19 by charting the total number of confirmed cases against new confirmed cases per week.

Additionally, the number of new cases per week has decreased. In the first two weeks of this month, the county saw a weekly case count of between 1,200 and 1,300 cases. Last week, that number dipped to around 1,000 new cases.

Still, 365 people in the county have died from the respiratory illness. On Monday, a record number of new cases — 493 — was reported. Since then, the number of new daily cases dipped to 357 yesterday (Tuesday) and 230 today.

As the state’s testing capacity has expanded, the number of positive cases has also declined slightly since the week of April 19, county data show.

Overall, 40,439 cases have been confirmed statewide, resulting in 1,281 deaths. A surge in testing partly explains the increase in the number of cases reported daily on Monday and Tuesday.

Northern Virginia continues to account for a majority of cases.

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

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More than 100 people in Fairfax County have died as a result of COVID-19, according to state data.

As of today (Tuesday), 114 people in the county died from the respiratory illness. The number of total cases continues to rise.

A dashboard created by the county offers new insights into localized data.

The number of new cases by week for the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church and towns in the county, is below:

  • Feb. 28: four cases
  • March 1: 27 cases
  • March 8: 103 cases
  • March 15: 247 cases
  • March 22: 305 cases
  • March 29: 411 cases
  • April 5: 532 cases
  • April 12: 553 cases
  • April 19: 239 cases

Data for the last three weeks is incomplete due to gaps between the time of exposure and the onset of symptoms, according to the county.

So far, the pandemic continues to grow exponentially if the number of total confirmed cases is charted against the number of new confirmed cases per week. This means that the rate of new cases is equal to the rate of existing cases.

A slowdown in new cases is detected when the line begins to trend downward.

Images via Fairfax County Health Department

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To check-in with local doctors to see how they are faring during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tysons Reporter reached out to Kaiser Permanente, which has locations all over the mid-Atlantic region.

Dennis Truong is the regional telemedicine director and assistant physician in chief in Northern Virginia for Kaiser Permanente, who sees patients at the Tysons Corner Kaiser medical center, according to a KP spokesperson.

Truong told Tysons Reporter in a Q&A about his experience helping patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How are you feeling emotionally during this time?

Each day is a crazy mix of emotions. To keep a balanced mind, I take time every morning to acknowledge each one, from worrying about loved ones and colleagues, near and far, to the stress of getting the necessary work things done in this race against time. But with these emotions also brings appreciation, for what I have and for the opportunity to serve others and transform health care during this pandemic.

Many of us health care workers have trained and prepared most of our lives to serve in a moment like this. So overall, I feel emotionally strong because I’m inspired by those around me and know that doing my part, while they do theirs, will get us through this.

Each day also bring elements of pleasant emotional surprises, from family texting jokes and spontaneous words of encouragement and appreciation, to dentist friends donating masks from their practices, to colleagues willing to pitch in to help when telehealth surges all hours of the day.

This leads to the most important emotion — a glimpse of happiness — as we’re seeing how so many people care about each other’s well-being and are willing to take personal responsibility to help “flatten the curve.”

For many of my health care colleagues around the world, hope and happiness fuels us to keep fighting the fight with a positive attitude against COVID-19.

What is the attitude of patients who come in for things other than COVID-19 concerns?

In three short weeks, we’ve dramatically transformed the care delivery system at Kaiser Permanente in the mid-Atlantic region to meet the needs of our members virtually.

More than 85% of our encounters are now virtual across urgent care, primary care, and specialty care departments. This paradigm shift was possible for three key reasons. First, at Kaiser Permanente we’ve been doing virtual care (aka telehealth) since 2013 so our providers were prepared.

Also, the Kaiser Permanente culture has always been patient-centric and extremely responsive to the needs of our members. The ability to quickly pivot and rapidly scale our telehealth offerings across all services was universal.

Last, we communicated with our members early and often, so they understood the significance of using our telehealth options before they came into a clinic to keep themselves and our communities safe.

Almost all of our patients use our telehealth options of the advice nurse, e-visits, phone visits and video visits to get personalized care and care coordination before coming in to one of our medical centers. We’ve had many patients express gratitude for being able to access care, for COVID and many other medical needs that are still arising, from the comfort of home.

Do you feel that there are enough medical supplies in the Reston, Tysons, McLean and Falls Church area to support the needs of patients and doctors? What are you running low on?

COVID is now spreading quickly through many communities including here in the D.C. area and our equipment and supply needs have increased significantly as a result. Yet, we have leveraged our national network and with the support of our supply teams and our staff, have increased our supply of personal protective equipment. Through diligent conservation efforts and ongoing procurement efforts, we have the appropriate PPE to protect our team today and in the days ahead.

What trends or changes to the medical system have surprised you the most during this pandemic?

Since early March at Kaiser Permanente, we have seen a total delivery system transformation to “virtual first.” This means that our first approach to an appointment is a virtual appointment through video, phone or secure email. We have evolved to providing more than 85% of all encounters virtually. Our priority has been keeping our members safe and educating and notifying them about care choices. It is amazing how many patients and providers are now using our system “virtual first.”

How prepared is the NoVA area compared to the rest of the country for the peak of the pandemic? When do you think the peak will happen?

The latest information indicates that we could see a surge of patients in our region over the next two to three weeks. However, these models are changing and this timing may change too. We are working diligently to make sure that we are ready to care for all our patients whether they come this week, next week or later. We are also set up to continue expanding our virtual care and pharmacy delivery options as the surge occurs.

How will the pandemic affect people who come into the ER with other (non-COVID-19) life-threatening emergencies?

We are using our robust telehealth services to have our physicians safely evaluate and follow members at their homes. If patients show up to our centers, we have created separate areas to triage COVID and non-COVID patients.

For COVID patients, we triage them to a special triage location with skilled emergency medicine physicians dedicated to that work. Therefore, other patients coming to us for urgent care are treated in separate area by a separate group of emergency physicians to assure continued delivery of highest quality care.

How do you feel that this pandemic will affect the rest of your career in healthcare?

The pandemic has already affected my career in extraordinary ways. As a board-certified emergency physician, I trained in Detroit hospital systems that only knew about dealing with emergencies or those that couldn’t afford preventative care. As an active-duty Air Force physician, I learned the importance of structure but lacked the right technology.

When I came to Kaiser Permanente, I learned the importance of proactive and integrated care alongside a provider and patient-friendly electronic medical records. As the director of Virtual Care for Kaiser Permanente, I am part of a team that has spent years preparing our technology and organizational culture to understand the important role virtual care has in safely extending our care delivery reach.

Every pandemic is an opportunity to learn, and when the dust settles on COVID-19, I believe the U.S. health care system and our citizens will have fully embraced telehealth as the leading approach in healthcare.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Fairfax County has now surpassed 300 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

As of today (Thursday), there are now 328 cases in the Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County, the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church and towns in the county, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Five people have died due to the novel coronavirus in the county.

The number of cases has continued to climb over the last several days — likely due to expanded testing capacity. In mid-March, local public health officials said they found evidence of community spread of COVID-19 in Northern Virginia.

Arlington has the second-most confirmed cases in the state with 128 cases. Statewide, there are 1,706 confirmed cases and 41 deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

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