Families and school systems are starting to make plans for when school starts again in the fall.
For Fairfax County Public Schools, students will either learn fully online or with a combination of in-person and online classes.
Roughly 45% of respondents to our poll earlier this week on learning options said they prefer fully online classes, while about 40% said they want the hybrid model. Approximately 15% of the respondents said they either don’t know which to choose or that the topic doesn’t apply to them.
FCPS and county officials are worried about childcare options for working parents, especially ones who can’t work from home.
Let us know in the poll before if you are facing childcare challenges ahead of school starting back up. Feel free to discuss in the comments section what your experience has been like.
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The deadline is nearing for families to decide how they want their kids to return to Fairfax County public schools this year.
Families have until Wednesday, July 15, to complete a form indicating whether they want their kids to take fully online classes or join a hybrid model combining in-person and online learning.
Families who pick the fully online option would have four days of synchronous learning. The hybrid model would combine two days of learning in schools with asynchronous online learning.
Superintendent Scott Brabrand has said that the school system will consider adding more in-person days — not to exceed four — depending on the demand for the hybrid model.
For families who are having trouble deciding, Brabrand encourages parents to see how their kids react to wearing a face covering for six hours — the amount of time they would need to wear it while at school.
No matter which option parents pick, students will return to the county’s public schools on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Let us know in the poll below what your preference is for students returning to school this fall.
Virginia started Phase Three of reopening last week, opening the door to more options for indoor public spaces like restaurants and fitness centers.
The recent surge of coronavirus cases in California and Texas has led to growing doubts that indoor dining and bar services will — or should — open soon.
While Virginia is fortunate enough to see the number of new cases per day on the decline, some suggest that indoor dining should remain closed to further slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Bolstered by a growing body of research, public health officials say that indoor dining poses more dangerous health risks than other retail activities, even with social distancing. Patrons can breathe indoor air that is contaminated by the virus and air conditioning.
But restaurants — some of which are already struggling due to previous closures and restrictions — may need indoor dining to remain in-tact in order to survive.
Let us know what you think. Should Virginia continue with Phase Three restrictions or try to preempt a resurgence by closing indoor dining completely?
Photo via Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis on Unsplash
July marks the fifth month of reported COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County — and testing for the virus is becoming more widely available.
In total, Fairfax County has seen more than 14,000 COVID-19 cases, 1,600 hospitalizations and 495 deaths since March, according to the Virginia Department of Health. The number of cases reported daily has been decreasing for the last few months while testing has ramped up in the Fairfax Health District, according to the state health data.
People can get a viral test — called a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test — to test for a current infection or antibody tests, which test for recent or past infections, according to Fairfax County.
The Tysons area has several testing sites, including Inova Urgent Care and certain CVS stores. People looking to get tested can check out lists of testing sites from the VDH website, Fairfax County and CVS.
Fairfax County officials are encouraging residents with symptoms to get tested, along with supporting increased contact tracing efforts and community testing sites.
When we asked readers in May, roughly 82% (316 votes) said they had not gotten a test yet, while 14% (55) said they planned to and 4% (14) said they had been tested. Now, we want to see whether or not more that’s changed/
Let us know in the poll below, and if you’re willing to share, we’d be interested in hearing what your COVID-19 testing experience was like. Feel free to share in the comments or send us an email at [email protected]
Several Tysons-area fireworks and festivities for Independence Day have been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
The McLean Community Center. Town of Vienna and City of Falls Church called off their fireworks display. Falls Church said that it canceled the fireworks due to construction on the new George Mason High School.
“The city previously said an alternative event would be planned,” Patch reported on Falls Church. “The Recreation and Parks Department is putting together a virtual scavenger hunt for the Fourth of July. Details will be announced at a later time.”
Fireworks are still set to take place in D.C., though.
People in Vienna looking for an alternative can order a “4th of July in a Box” package for $20. Meanwhile, Fairfax County has advice for using fireworks safely and determining which are illegal and legal.
Let us know in the poll below what you plan to do for the Fourth of July.
Photo by Sheri Hooley on Unsplash
People who have missed hitting the gym for the last few months are seeing options reopen.
Several gyms and yoga studios in the Tysons-area pivoted to online classes in April. Ahead of Northern Virginia starting to ease COVID-19 restrictions, some fitness center owners and clients pushed for more opportunities.
Now, fitness centers are allowed to open indoor spaces at 30% occupancy under Phase Two, which Northern Virginia entered June 12.
Fairfax County offers indoor and outdoor public swimming only for lap swimming, diving, exercise and instruction. Public pools, including community pools, are not allowed to open for recreational use.
When Virginia enters Phase Three, Gov. Ralph Northam said that pools and gyms may open at 75% capacity. The date for when Virginia will enter that phase has not been announced yet.
Just because pools and gyms can open in limited capacities doesn’t mean that they will. Some gyms, like 24 Hour Fitness in Tysons, won’t reopen at all.
We want to know how you feel about going back to the gym during the pandemic. Let us know in the poll below.
Photo by Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash
Updated 6/22/2020 — Corrects the date for when the swimming pools reopened.
Now that Northern Virginia has entered the second reopening phase, Fairfax County is now allowing public swimming with some restrictions.
The county allowed indoor and outdoor swimming pools to open on Friday, June 12, only for lap swimming, diving, exercise and instruction.
Public pools, including ones in communities, cannot open right now for recreational use. Currently, hot tubs, spas, saunas, splash pads, spray pools and interactive features are still closed.
People who operate public aquatic venues can find a list of safety recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some of the suggestions include disinfecting frequently touched areas, ensuring there’s proper ventilation and encouraging swimmers to social distance.
“There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds. Additionally, proper operation of these aquatic venues and disinfection of the water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate the virus,” according to the CDC.
The CDC notes that decisions for whether or how to open the facilities “should be made locally” with input from local health officials.
Fairfax County’s restrictions on public swimming include:
- limiting pool lanes to three people spaced 10 feet apart
- limiting diving areas to three people spaced 10 feet apart
- limiting water classes so participants can stay 10 feet apart
- cleaning and disinfecting shared equipment after each use
How do you feel about using public pools?
Photo by Marcus Ng on Unsplash
COVID-19 prompted restrictions on personal grooming services for two months. Now with Virginia progressing with its phased reopening plan, people can get their hair cut or nails done professionally.
Today, Fairfax County entered the second phase of the reopening plan. Personal grooming services that have reopened are still by appointment-only under the Phase Two guidelines.
Personal care services were first allowed to reopen in the county on May 29. Currently, customers and employees must wear face coverings, and the businesses are limited to 50% capacity.
Let us know in the poll below if you’ve been to a salon, barber, spa, tanning salon and/or tattoo shop since the rollback started on the COVID-19 restrictions. If you have any interesting stories about haircuts at home, let us know in the comments section.
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While grocery stores have been booming with customers during the coronavirus pandemic, many farmers markets in Fairfax County have been closed due to public health concerns.
The county recently decided to reopen three of its 10 farmers markets.
Meanwhile, the Vienna Farmers Market, which is run by the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna, plans to open in June. FRESHFARM, which has a location in the Mosaic District, has pre-order and pick-up options. The NOVA Central Farm Market in Vienna is encouraging — but not requiring — pre-orders.
When Gov. Ralph Northam issued restrictions for non-businesses in March — which are still in effect for Northern Virginia — some people wondered why farmers market weren’t included in the list of essential businesses. Northam’s orders placed the same restrictions on farmers markets as restaurants.
Let us know in the poll below what you think.
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The Town of Vienna’s election is underway, and voters have less than four hours to vote in-person or drop off their ballots.
As masked voters file into the Vienna Community Center or drive to the Fairfax County Government Center to drop off their ballots in a special box, Tysons Reporter is exploring what civic duty looks like during a pandemic.
Voter turnout has typically fluctuated between 5% and 23% for the town’s elections for the last 20 years. But that may change this year.
“Traditionally, for municipal elections, it’s hard to get a good turnout,” Councilmember Howard Springsteen, who is running for the mayor’s seat, told Tysons Reporter.
Starting in March, Fairfax County officials took to social media to encourage Vienna voters to use the “disability or illness” box when requesting absentee ballots, hoping that mail-in ballots would decrease long lines for in-person voting.
The reminders worked. Vienna voters requested more than 3,200 absentee ballots, according to the town.
There are roughly 11,800 registered voters in the town, according to the state election department. If all of the absentee ballots are completed and submitted, that would put the voter turnout percentage around 27% — not including in-person voting.
“I think voter turnout will be higher than we’ve had in a while,” Mayor Laurie DiRocco told Tysons Reporter.
Signs of the times for voting in the time of a #pandemic. Voters will find these floor markers and signs at the polls in Vienna & Clifton today. Polls close at 7 p.m.#viennava #cliftonva #election2020 #covid_19 #COVID19 #socialdistancing #fairfaxcounty #virginia pic.twitter.com/Cw4wwP2LPr
— Fairfax County Votes (@fairfaxvotes) May 19, 2020
Voters weren’t the only ones urged to do their civic duty by voting from home.
DiRocco, who is retiring when her term ends this June, told Tysons Reporter on Friday that she asked all of the candidates to stay away from the Vienna Community Center today (Tuesday) to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
In previous years, it has been “very much of a social gathering,” according to DiRocco, who added that people would bring picnics and socialize with one another outside of the 40-foot distance line as people prepared to vote.
“I had reached out to the candidates and recommend we do not show up at the election,” DiRocco said. “All of the candidates agreed to that, which I thought was really good.”
But DiRocco sounded frustrated when she told Tysons Reporter that she received messages from people this morning “who were a little nervous” because they spotted mayoral candidate Pasha Majdi outside the Vienna Community Center.
“I don’t know what else to say at this point,” DiRocco said, stressing that it’s important to respect public health and safety concerns for voters.
Majdi told Tysons Reporter that he was about 300 feet away from the community center — “I could not throw a football from across the street.”
“We thought it would be a nice gesture to thank people for voting by waving from across the street, several hundred feet [away] from the polls,” he said.
The decision of whether or not to stand outside the polling place was never a dilemma before the pandemic, and it is not the only issue that candidates recently faced as Northern Virginia’s coronavirus numbers continue to rise.
Many of the candidates responded to Tysons Reporter’s inquiry about how the pandemic changed their campaign strategy, saying that social media has played a larger role in getting their messages out.
“My team of supporters and I had to change the game plan,” mayoral candidate and current Councilmember Linda Colbert said.
Colbert said that she started her campaign this year with the goal of getting to “every house in Vienna.” Instead, she ended up writing a letter to every resident instead.
Traditional face-to-face methods of interacting with voters — going door-to-door, attending events and handing out campaign literature — are moot while social distancing guidelines and the stay-at-home order are in effect.
“Voters in Vienna appreciate it when candidates knock on their doors and take a few minutes to answer questions before leaving a pamphlet,” Roy Baldwin, a councilmember candidate, said. “Since early March, none of that has been possible — the last thing I would want to do would be to either pick up or unwittingly spread the coronavirus by such close contact.”
Baldwin said that this campaign is “certainly nothing” like the one he ran in 2016.
“I’ve gone to the phone a lot more, and to email, text messages, and Facebook posts, as well as traditional mailers and print ads,” he said, adding that he’s even done Zoom conferences.
Ray Brill Jr., a councilmember candidate who said face-to-face “was to be the cornerstone of my campaign,” said that he pivoted to social media, word-of-mouth, signs and mailings to reach voters.
Brill also said that sharing his message through candidate essays, like he did for Tysons Reporter, “gave voters the opportunity to compare and contrast each candidate’s position on key issues facing the Town of Vienna so they could make an informed decision before they voted.”
Brill isn’t the only candidate missing in-person communication.
“I much prefer face-to-face. I don’t think you have a dialogue with people on social media,” Springsteen, who is running for the mayor’s seat, told Tysons Reporter. “I don’t get a lot of feedback [from voters].”
He said that he’s relied on boosting Facebook posts and sent out two mailings — a letter and a postcard — this year, adding that he’s put out fewer yard signs to reduce in-person contact.
While he said he’s “getting a lot of hits on my website,” he said that posting online can feel like putting a message out into a void.
Limited traditional campaigning tactics have forced some candidates to get creative.
“I have no idea if it will translate into votes, but my daily bike rides with the Choose Chuck velocipede has at least brought smiles to people’s faces,” councilmember candidate Chuck Anderson said.
Anderson noted that he keeps “at least 20 feet” away from people while on his bike rides down the middle of the street.
“With a number of neighbors strolling the streets, I have been able to get my name out, at least, to a large number of voters,” he said.
Colbert, a mayoral candidate, turned to daily videos.
“One day I posted a video expressing my concerns for town residents and businesses,” Colbert said. “After receiving positive feedback, I did it another day until I was doing it every day.”
Some of the biggest COVID-19 challenges have impacted the candidates’ jobs more than their campaigns.
“My day job is dealing with the coronavirus,” councilmember candidate Ed Somers said. “So I’m certainly busier in my day job… I think the challenge is the balance of doing what I need to do for work and doing the outreach I need to do for the campaign.”
Majdi shared a similar sentiment, saying that he shifted his focus away from the campaign more to his duties as a current councilmember.
“Campaigning has taken a back seat to the COVID-19 response,” Majdi said. “The top priority is public health and safety.”
Still, Majdi is talking to voters over the phone, and Somers is relying on his network to vouch for him.
“I’ve found [the campaign] to be a good experience,” Somers said, adding that he thinks online communication has “made us more authentic… [since] we’re going more off our instincts.”
Photo via Fairfax County Votes/Twitter
Ashley Hopko contributed to this story, photo (2) courtesy Chuck Anderson