Tysons, VA

Wednesday Morning Notes

Gov. Ralph Northam Shows Up to Fairfax County Early Voting — “I was glad to see voters and election workers in Fairfax today staying safe, wearing masks, and practicing social distancing” [Twitter]

Reminder: Barbie Truck Coming to Tysons Corner Center This Week — “A Barbie truck is crossing the country on a tour that will stop at Tysons Corner Center late next month to sell limited edition retro Barbie material. The truck is scheduled to stop at Tysons Corner Center (1961 Chain Bridge Road) on Saturday, Oct. 24, from 10 a.m.-7 p.m.” [Tysons Reporter]

Vienna Launches ‘Stop and Stroll’ Initiative — “Starting on Oct. 24, a different shopping center will be featured on select Saturdays. The shopping centers will host socially-distant seasonal activities and in-store promotions.” [Patch]

Cut Cable in Vienna Cancels Arlington Classes — “Our ISP notified us of a major fiber cut in Vienna causing a service disruption for APS. The vendor is working to restore service, but there is no estimate for restoration.” [Twitter]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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(Updated 8:10 p.m.) Virginia has teamed up with Google and Apple to offer a smartphone app for COVID-19 exposure alerts, making it the first state in the U.S. to use the new technology.

COVIDWISE will notify users if they’ve been in close proximity to someone with COVID-19 by using Bluetooth Low Energy. The app is meant to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

When announcing the app yesterday, Gov. Ralph Northam said the app can help catch new cases sooner, especially since the virus can spread before infected people show symptoms.

“This is another tool we can have to protect ourselves, our families and our communities,” Northam said. “This is a way we can all work together to contain this virus.”

Once someone gets an alert, Northam encourages them to self-isolate and get tested. If the test is positive, he said that users can add that information into the app, which will then alert users that the person has recently been around.

Android and iPhone users can download the app for free.

More from Google Play about how the app works:

If someone reports to the app that they tested positive, the signals from their app will search for other app users who shared that signal. The BLE signals are date-stamped and the app estimates how close the two devices were based on signal strength. If the timeframe was at least 15 minutes and the estimated distance was within six feet, then the other user receives a notification of a possible exposure. No names! No location!

The BLE framework within COVIDWISE will run in the background, even if the exposure notification app is closed. It will not drain the device battery at a rate that would occur with other apps that use normal Bluetooth and/or are open and running constantly.

“I want to be clear, this app COVIDWISE does not — I’m going to repeat that, does not — track or store your personal information,” Northam said. “It does not track you at all. It does not rely on GPS or your personal information. While we want everyone to download it, it is voluntary.”

Let Tysons Reporter know in the poll and comments section below if you plan to download the app.

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Metro to Give Out Masks — “Metro will start to hand out 500,000 cloth masks it received from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the transit agency announced [in late July]. It’s unclear exactly when and how they will be distributed throughout the system.” [DCist]

Northam’s Approval Rating Drops — “Approval ratings for Gov. Ralph Northam’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic have dropped 15 percentage points since a similar survey in April, according to a new poll from the Center for Public Policy at VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.” [Inside NoVa]

New Law Looks to Cut Back Predatory Payday Lending — “A new law in the commonwealth aims to curb predatory lending practices by limiting the annual rate of interest to 36% plus a monthly service fee. By comparison, the current average annual rate is 251% for payday loans and 217% for title loans.” [DCist]

Teaming Up on Testing — “Virginia is joining five other states in a new effort to expand the use of rapid antigen testing for the coronavirus.” [Inside NoVa]

Local Senior Sets State Golf Record — “In a duel between high-school teammates, rising Langley Saxons senior Kelly Chinn emerged as champion with a record-setting performance at the Virginia State Golf Association’s Junior Stroke Play Championships.” [Inside NoVa]

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Earlier this week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced new regional restrictions to address a surge of COVID-19 cases in Hampton Roads.

The new restrictions, which go into effect today, lower the maximum number of people allowed at gatherings, limit late-night alcohol assumption at restaurants and cut back indoor dining for restaurants.

The eastern region’s beaches and non-compliance with public health guidelines and mandates appear to be some of the factors for why the area became a coronavirus hot spot.

While the eastern portion of the state has seen a rising number of cases, Northam noted that the percent positivity rates for Northern Virginia and the western region were below the statewide rate.

“There’s been a dramatic decrease in Northern Virginia,” Northam said, about the rate.

When asked by reporters earlier this week if he would consider domestic travel restrictions, Northam said that it’s an option he’s considering. Some states are asking travelers from “high-risk” states to self-quarantine following their arrival.

Let us know in the poll and comments section below if you think Northam’s regional effort is sufficient or if he should announce statewide restrictions.

Photo via Governor of Virginia/Facebook

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Gov. Ralph Northam said during a press conference today that local health officials are pointing to a “significant shift” of people in their 20s or younger getting COVID-19.

As of today (Tuesday), just over 19% of the total reported cases statewide affected people in their 20s, making it the highest percentage of all age groups, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH). In the Fairfax Health District, that age group represents 16.6% of the cases — the third-highest age group behind people in their 30s (19.3%) and 40s (18.5%).

Kids and teenagers have roughly the same percentage of cases (10%) compared to people ages 70 and older both statewide and in the Fairfax Health District, VDH says. People ages 70 and older account for the majority of the deaths related to the virus.

Long term care facilities account for roughly half of the outbreaks statewide and just over 75% of outbreaks in the Fairfax Health District. Northam shared that almost 3,000 people have covered from COVID-19 in nursing homes, bucketing the statistic under one of the several “major steps forward.”

Many school systems around the country, including Fairfax County Public Schools, have been struggling recently about how to return to school during a pandemic as health officials learn how the virus affects kids.

The Fairfax Health District has two of the state’s eight cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about MIS-C:

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. However, we know that many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19. MIS-C can be serious, even deadly, but most children who were diagnosed with this condition have gotten better with medical care.

In addition to noting the age demographics for COVID-19 cases, Northam said today that Northern Virginia is one of the areas of the state with an encouraging percent positivity rate of COVID-19.

“There’s been a dramatic decrease in Northern Virginia,” Northam said.

He noted Northern Virginia’s rate is 5.7%, while the western region of the state is at 5%. Statewide, the percent positivity rate is right around 7%.

Concern about a surge of COVID-19 cases in Hampton Roads prompted the governor to announce restrictions for that region.

“I’m worried that people are starting to lose hope and that’s not a good thing,” Northam said.

Photo via Governor of Virginia/Facebook

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As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the U.S., some jurisdictions are turning to domestic travel restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

D.C. recently announced that people arriving from 27 states considered to be COVID-19 “hotspots” for nonessential business will be required to quarantine for two weeks. Several states, including Florida, Hawaii and Maine have asked certain visitors to self-quarantine, according to legal site Justia.

Virginia is among the states listed on the travel advisories for New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, Patch reported.

“Virginia currently does not have any quarantine requirements upon arrival from travel within the U.S.,” according to the Virginia Department of Health, adding that international travelers are asked to self-quarantine for two weeks.

Gov. Ralph Northam tweeted a warning on Saturday (July 25), saying that the state might have to bring back more COVID-19 restrictions if cases continue to rise, especially in the eastern part of the state near the beaches.

Northam is scheduled to deliver a COVID-19 update today (Tuesday).

Let us know in the poll if you think he should put domestic travel restrictions in place.

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson/Unsplash

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COVID-19 Update — “Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 hit a new low in Northern Virginia on Sunday. But, as other parts of the state continue to struggle with the coronavirus, Gov. Ralph Northam issued a new warning this weekend for the public to follow health guidelines.” [Inside NoVa]

Reminder: Lock Your Car — “After responding to a flood of vehicle break-ins and thefts in recent weeks, the Vienna Police Department in its July 24 weekly police highlights issued a statement urging residents to do their part to deter thieves.” [Inside NoVa]

A Note on Notes — Starting this week, Morning Notes will be a little different. When the pandemic hit N. Va., we started publishing Morning Notes every weekday to keep readers informed. Now with August recess approaching for local, state and federal governmental bodies, we’re reducing Morning Notes to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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At a press conference yesterday, Gov. Ralph Northam said that he is increasing enforcement of public health and safety regulations to prevent a statewide surge in COVID-19 cases.

“If you own a restaurant or a business and you’re not following the regulations, your license will be on the line and we will not hesitate to take action if needed,” Northam said.

Northam said he’s created teams to conduct unannounced visits to establishments. Members will include people from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Virginia ABC, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and other licensing agencies. The VDH is deploying 100 employees to help with increased enforcement, he said.

Businesses have the right to refuse service to customers who are not following the rules. “Remember that you don’t have to serve a patron who is not wearing a face covering. You can tell them to leave,” Northam said.

Additionally, Virginia’s health commissioner sent letters to health district officials to remind them of their authority to enforce physical distancing and face-covering rules in restaurants and public places, Northam said.

“I want to make it clear that these enforcement actions are to stop the people who are clearly flouting the rules: You are being selfish and you are hurting everyone who is doing the right thing to help us all beat this virus,” Northam said.

The new measures stem from a large bump in cases in the state’s eastern region, mainly in the Tidewater region, Northam said, attributing to the surge mainly to young people socializing without masks.

“We’re seeing some troubling numbers,” Northam said, pointing to the Hampton Roads area.

The northwest region is “holding steady,” while the southwest and central areas have seen either small increases, Northam said. Northern Virginia, which has two-thirds of the state’s population, has seen a dip in COVID-19 cases.

Until a vaccine is widely available, Northam said that he is considering other actions, like reducing the cap on gatherings. Northam said has told the Virginia ABC to develop a plan for an earlier cutoff for alcohol sales at restaurants and will announce more on that soon.

Image via Facebook Live

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Keeping Coronavirus Out of Classrooms — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Friday students will not be able to return to classrooms in the fall if the state is unable to stay within phase three of its Covid-19 reopening plan.” [Washington Business Journal]

Food Donations in Falls Church — “On the Fourth of July, over 1,700 families received food and household goods during the second onsite distribution hosted at The Falls Church Anglican.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Police Plaza Proposals — “The Vienna Town Council on July 6 tentatively selected a design option for the new Vienna Police Headquarters’ community plaza, but left open the potential for building in more green space at the site.” [Inside NoVa]

Town Hall Tonight — School Board members Karl Frisch and Rachna Sizemore Heizer will host a virtual town hall tonight from 7:30-8:30 p.m. to discuss the Return to School plans. People can participate via Zoom or Facebook Live. [Facebook]

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Vienna Welcomes New Elected Officials — “The new Town Council members, elected during a year with a bumper crop of candidates but virtually no door-to-door campaigning, already are working well together, [new mayor Linda] Colbert said.” [Inside NoVa]

Citizens Group Calls for More Police Accountability — “The Fairfax County Police Department implemented multiple measures following a series of controversial incidents in recent years, but the McLean Citizens Association’s board of directors wants the department to do even more to make officers accountable.” [Inside NoVa]

New Names — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wants school districts across the state to change school names that honor Confederate leaders, writing Monday in a letter to school board leaders that those names ‘reflect our broken and racist past.'” [Patch]

Call to Defund SROs — “Fairfax County NAACP and State Del. Kaye Kory (D) sent a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam Tuesday asking him to reallocate state funding away from supporting police officers in schools and putting it toward more school counselors.” [Patch]

Local Companies Land “Inno on Fire” List — Both McLean-based Somatus, which focuses on kidney care, and Tysons-based RunSafe Security made DC Inno’s list of the companies, organizations, people and initiatives focused on innovation. [DC Inno]

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