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Morning Notes

McLean Soccer Field Conversion Reaches Completion — “The Fairfax County Park Authority, in collaboration with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and McLean Youth Soccer Association, will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the grand opening of Holladay Field in McLean, Virginia. The celebration begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.” [FCPA]

Town of Vienna Downsizes Planning Commission — “Seeking to bring the Vienna Planning Commission’s membership in line with those of similarly sized nearby jurisdictions, the Vienna Town Council on Oct. 11 agreed to reduce the commission’s size from nine members to seven…Three Planning Commission members have departed this year.” [Sun Gazette]

Celebree School Tysons to Hold Grand Opening — “Celebree School, a preschool and infant and toddler care center, is celebrating its grand opening in Tysons with a fall festival on Saturday, Oct. 16. The preschool and child care center announced its opening in September at Valo Park, 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean.” [Patch]

Fairfax County Urges Flu Shots — The Fairfax County Health Department is encouraging everyone 6 months of age and older to reduce their risk of contracting the seasonal flu by getting vaccinated, ideally before the end of October. Public health nurse Alisa Brooks talks about what people should know about this year’s flu season in a YouTube video. [FCHD/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Drop in Domestic Violence Cases Could Be Misleading — “Fairfax County Police data obtained by WTOP showed domestic violence decreased by roughly 190 cases each year since 2019. However, Saly Fayez, who oversees its victim services division, said it’s likely because the crime is underreported…Fayez said the pandemic kept victims from reporting, skewed the data, and gave abusers another tool of control.” [WTOP]

Fish Die-Off Reported in Chantilly Area — “We have received reports of a fish die-off in Rocky Run in the Greenbriar area. Fairfax County Stormwater Management the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which investigates such incidents, have been notified. Our thanks to those who have reported the issue to us.” [Fairfax County Park Authority/Twitter]

MCA Wants to Keep McLean Together With Redistricting — “The Greater McLean area should be kept intact when new Fairfax County magisterial districts are redrawn, according to a Sept. 18 letter from the McLean Citizens Association to the 2021 Fairfax County Redistricting Advisory Committee…MCA’s membership area includes not only McLean, but also portions of Tysons, Falls Church and Great Falls.” [Sun Gazette]

Health Department Launches Literacy Initiative — “The Fairfax County Health Department has begun a new initiative to improve health literacy among local African-American, African and Hispanic communities. Named ‘Stronger Partnership, Stronger Community: Using Health Literacy to Increase Resilience (Stronger2),’ the program seeks to improve health outcomes by cultivating an individual’s ability to find, understand and use health information and services in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate.” [FCHD]

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The mass vaccine clinic in the old Lord and Taylor store in Tysons Corner Center

(Updated 1:10 p.m.) The mass COVID-19 vaccination site at Tysons Corner Center will reopen on Friday, the Fairfax County Health Department announced this morning (Tuesday).

The possibility that the community vaccination center (CVC) could return was first publicly raised during a Board of Supervisors health and human services committee meeting on Sept. 21, when county health officials discussed plans to accommodate the anticipated expansion of eligibility for booster shots.

Booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine became widely available in Fairfax County last Tuesday (Sept. 28) after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines recommending them for:

  • people 65 and older
  • residents of long-term care facilities
  • people 50-64 years old who have underlying medical conditions
  • people 18-49 years old with underlying medical conditions that may make them more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19
  • people 18-64 years old who are at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure or infection due to their job, including teachers, first responders, and grocery store workers

With the capacity to vaccinate up to 3,000 people a day, the Tysons CVC will once again be located in the mall’s former Lord & Taylor store (7950 Tysons Corner Center). It will be offer first and second of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as well as third doses of the Pfizer vaccine for those who are eligible.

Organized by the Virginia Department of Health and operated by contractors AshBritt Inc. and IEM Health, the site “is being re-established to increase the number of high-throughput locations administering the COVID-19 vaccine across Virginia,” the county health department says.

Colin Brody, the mass vaccination branch director for the FCHD’s COVID-19 response, said in a statement that the county is grateful to VDH and its partners for reopening the Tysons CVC.

“This brings another mass vaccination site to the Fairfax Health District, allowing hundreds of individuals who are interested in receiving a booster, additional dose, or part of their primary series an opportunity to get vaccinated each day,” Brody said by email. “We know that as members of our community become eligible for booster doses, and as we look towards the authorization of vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, having another high-throughput site in Fairfax will greatly benefit our community.”

Tysons Corner Center previously hosted the clinic from April 20 through June 26 when COVID-19 vaccines first became available to all adults. In that month, the site vaccinated 27,212 people, administering a total of 50,956 doses, according to VDH.

The CVC will operate from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays. People seeking a second or third dose willl be asked to present their vaccination card with the dates of their previous doses.

Walk-ins will be permitted, but the FCHD is encouraging people to make appointments through Vaccinate Virginia, which can also be used to request a copy of COVID-19 vaccination records.

“CVC sites are intended to augment opportunities for vaccination, adding another site to those operated by local health departments, pharmacies, healthcare providers and healthcare facilities,” the FCHD said in its blog post.

Fairfax Health District residents can schedule vaccine appointments at county-run clinics through the Vaccine Administration Management System.

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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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Morning Notes

(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Former Container Store Gets New Name — The former Container Store at 8508 Leesburg Pike has been dubbed The PARC (People, Art, Recreation, and Community) as Fairfax County, the Tysons Partnership, and Celebrate Fairfax Inc. turn the vacant site into a community events venue. Determined by a social media poll, the name was announced on Friday (Sept. 17) at Celebrate Fairfax’s Tysons Block Party. [Celebrate Fairfax/Twitter]

County to Use Mobile COVID-19 Testing Lab — “The Fairfax County Health Department is deploying its mobile laboratory to provide COVID-19 testing in several locations starting Tuesday, Sept. 21. These mobile testing opportunities are for individuals who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to COVID-19.” [FCHD]

Tysons Corner Nordstrom Robbed — A man entered the Nordstrom in Tysons Corner Center (8075 Tyson Corner Center) at 5:22 p.m. on Sept. 11 and took merchandise while assaulting an employee. Three days later, the store was robbed again at 11:17 a.m. by a man who took merchandise and implied he had a weapon as he exited the store. No injuries were reported in either incident. [FCPD]

See New Scotts Run Fire StationFairfax County leaders celebrated the opening of the new Scotts Run Fire Station 44 at 1766 Old Meadow Lane with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday (Sept. 18). Community members can get a glimpse inside the station, which became operational on Aug. 14, with a virtual tour led by Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Lt. Payne. [FCFRD/YouTube]

Police Officers Recognized at Cultural Festival — “Yesterday, our officers participated in the Korean American Festival, KORUS, at Tysons Corner Center. Several of our Korean American officers were recognized for their contributions to our community.” [FCPD/Twitter]

School Boundary Policy Meeting Tonight — Consultants hired by Fairfax County Public Schools will share information about their review of the district’s boundary policy at a virtual public meeting at 7 p.m. today (Monday). Requested by the school board in 2019, the review focuses on what factors should be considered when making boundary changes, rather than the boundaries for specific schools. Register online to get the meeting link. [Dranesville District School Board Member Elaine Tholen]

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Morning Notes

Health Department Tweaks Approach to Quarantined Students — Starting today (Thursday), students who have been exposed to COVID-19 can complete wellness checks and get guidance from the Fairfax County Health Department online instead of having to wait for a phone call. The change is part of an ongoing effort to speed up the contact-tracing and quarantining processes so students can return to school buildings. [FCHD]

Local Arts Groups See Bright Spots Amid Upheaval — “Fairfax County’s art scene is under-funded, under-capacity and still weathering the pandemic, but several upcoming projects will bring it closer to its potential, the president of ArtsFairfax said. The county’s prospects are changing more quickly than at any other point in her 12 years with the organization, Linda Sullivan told the Greater Tysons Citizens Coalition during a Sept. 9 roundtable.” [Sun Gazette]

Vienna Schedules Meeting on Economic Strategy — The Town of Vienna will hold a public meeting from 6-7:30 p.m. on Sept. 30 for residents to discuss a draft economic development report that looks at how the town could more effectively attract and support businesses. The town hired a consultant in January to conduct a market study and propose an economic development strategy that were released in June. [Patch]

Italian Bakery Sets Tysons Corner Grand Opening — “Handcrafted Italian pastry is coming to Tysons Corner Center! Celebrate the Grand Opening of DreamStart Winner Bisnonna Bakeshop on Saturday, 09/18 with family-friendly activities starting at 10am” [Tysons Corner Center/Twitter]

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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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Spring Hill Elementary School students attend a morning meeting on the first day of the 2021-2022 school year (via FCPS)

The first day of school is always a nerve-wracking affair, but the stakes felt especially high on Monday (Aug. 23), when Fairfax County Public Schools brought back roughly 180,000 students after more than a year of mostly virtual instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the return to school unfolded relatively smoothly, students, staff, and parents raised a multitude of concerns as well, primarily around transportation and the lack of distancing and masks in cafeterias, Fairfax County School Board members said during a work session on Tuesday (Aug. 24).

The transportation challenges were largely expected, as FCPS advised families last week that a school bus driver shortage would lead to delays. In a presentation to the board, Superintendent Scott Brabrand reported that the district had filled 86.4% of its 1,121 bus driver positions as of Monday, leaving 152 vacancies.

Still, the advance warning didn’t make the delays less frustrating for students and their parents.

“[Parents] want to know how long is it going to take for their children to come in, and [there were] also lots of concerns with students who were left outside to wait for their buses, and they don’t know how long,” Mason District Representative Ricardy Anderson said. “Is it 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 45? When we have the heat we had yesterday and rain that’s going to come, because let’s be clear, this transportation issue is not going to be resolved any time soon.”

According to an FCPS spokesperson, the Langley area has been hit hardest by the shortage, though the school system was unable to provide data on exactly how many students have been affected by bus delays.

Noting that the school system has 20 “double-back” routes this year, compared to just eight last year, FCPS Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Transportation Services Jeff Platenberg told the board that delays were reduced by 40% from Monday morning to Tuesday.

Even on Tuesday morning, however, late runs to Langley High School, Spring Hill Elementary, and Longfellow Middle School were all an hour off of their schedules.

“We know everybody is anxious about it, including us,” Platenberg said. “We’re excited about this start for the school year. We have some extreme challenges with this bus driver shortage, but we are working with our communities.”

He added that kiss-and-ride lines at schools were “jammed” on Monday and Tuesday, calling it “a healthy problem to have” since the crowds indicated that parents were heeding FCPS’ advice to drive or walk their children to school if possible.

One parent who asked to not be identified described the kiss-and-ride experience at her son’s elementary school as “absolute pandemonium,” with supervising staff seemingly scrambling to figure out where students were supposed to go.

In one case, a 4-year-old girl ended up on a shuttle to an after-school program that she doesn’t attend, leading her parents to post on social media that she was missing.

“I’m not trying to disparage the teachers who are clearly out there doing the best that they can, but from a system standpoint,” the parent said on Tuesday. “Yesterday and today were very, very hot days to just sit there for 30 minutes with no shade. What if it’s a pouring rainy day? What is your system? There has to be a better way to think through this.” Read More

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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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Morning Notes

NOVA Welcomes Afghan Refugees with Beds and Donations — Several hundred refugees and Special Immigrant Visa recipients arrived at Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale campus on Saturday (Aug. 21) after being evacuated from Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover. The Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management set up more than 500 cots, while volunteers provided food, water, and donated clothes and other supplies. [The Washington Post]

Person of Interest ID’d in Burke Double Homicide — “Police in Fairfax County, Virginia, have identified a person of interest who they say lived at the Burke home where two female victims were found dead on Friday. It is being treated as a double homicide by detectives. Authorities said in a news release that Bradley Lister, 33, is currently unaccounted for.” [WTOP]

Lewinsville Adult Day Health Care Reopens Today — “Adult Day Health Care teams are reviewing health and safety protocols as our centers plan their reopening (on Monday in Lewinsville, and Sept. 7 for other locations). We are looking forward to welcoming back our participants to our program!” [Fairfax County Health Department/Twitter]

Inova Hosts Back-to-School Health Clinic — “Visited the @InovaHealth back to school clinic in Falls Church this am- they were expecting 350 but had over 1000 patients show up for physicals & school immunizations & to enroll in expanded Medicaid – spent most of my time handing out water and snacks to kids in line” [Del. Marcus Simon/Twitter]

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