Tysons, VA

Morning Notes

Vienna Budget Hearings Begin Next Week — The Town of Vienna will hold a public hearing on its proposed FY 2022 budget and water and sewer rates on Monday (April 12), with a public hearing on the proposed tax rate to follow on April 26. Town Manager Mercury Payton proposed increasing the budget by 5.3% and maintaining a flat tax rate for the seventh consecutive year. [Patch]

Northam Endorses McAuliffe for Virginia Governor — “Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that he is backing Terry McAuliffe in the race to succeed him, handing his predecessor one of the contest’s most coveted endorsements…McAuliffe [is] the presumptive front-runner in the five-person Democratic primary, to be held in June.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

Fairfax County Will Get $7.8 Million to Combat Homelessness — Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D) announced yesterday that Virginia will get more than $96 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan to help residents who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless get access to safe, affordable housing. Fairfax County is among 21 localities to receive grant funding. [Press release from Sen. Tim Kaine’s office]

Wolf Trap Announces Grants for Local Performing Arts Programs — Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts has awarded eight grants to high schools in the D.C. area, including Centreville High School in Fairfax County to support their music, dance, and theater programs. Wolf Trap will track the projects through its Virtual Stage platform. [Wolf Trap]

Pop-Up Consignment Sale Now Open at Pike 7Just Between Friends Eastern Fairfax kicked off its spring and summer sale yesterday at Pike 7 Plaza on Leesburg Pike in Vienna. The sale runs through Sunday and allows people to buy or sell toys, clothes, and other items for children. Admission is free, but tickets can be reserved through Eventbrite. [Just Between Friends/Facebook]

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Fairfax County is committing to expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults by April 18, as long as there is sufficient supply, county officials tell Tysons Reporter.

This comes on the heels of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s announcement earlier today (April 1) that all individuals in the Commonwealth over the age of 16 should be eligible for the vaccine starting Sunday, April 18.

“I know that our residents are looking forward to getting vaccinated and to be able to again spend time with their loved ones,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “Fairfax County is ready and prepared to move forward to meet the Governor’s and President Biden’s deadlines. I’m excited that we can continue to open eligibility and vaccinate even more people.”

The April 18 goal is ahead of the May 1 deadline set by President Joe Biden in mid-March for making all American adults eligible for the vaccine.

Governor Northam’s press release notes that this is because the state is making solid progress on delivering the vaccine to currently eligible populations.

“Nearly every Virginian in the highest risk groups who has pre-registered for a vaccination appointment has received one, and those still on the pre-registration list will receive appointment invitations within the next two weeks,” the governor’s office said.

The release also says that nearly 4 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the Commonwealth. More than one in three adults have gotten at least one dose, and one in five are fully vaccinated.

21 out of 35 Virginia’s health districts have also moved to Phase 1c, which encompasses additional essential workers like food servers and construction workers.

After opening eligibility for all people in Phase 1b earlier this week, Fairfax County officials now say that the plan is to move to Phase 1c sometime next week to meet Northam’s target date as well as Biden’s expectation that 90% of adults in the U.S. will be eligible to get vaccinated by April 19.

To meet these goals, Fairfax County plans to open registration for Phase 1c early next week and transition to Phase 2 by the governor’s deadline,” the Fairfax County Health Department said in a newly published blog post.

The health department previously predicted that the county would enter Phase 1c in mid-April.

According to the county dashboard, 363,601 people have been vaccinated by the county health department or one of its partners — a nearly 10% jump from two weeks ago.

That’s approximately 32% of the county’s population, which is slightly lower than the overall percentage of Virginia residents who have been vaccinated based on the governor’s release.

As for when those eligible to register will get appointments and actual shots, that remains to be seen. The health department is currently making appointments for people who registered on March 24 and has gotten its waitlist down to less than 30,000 people.

Earlier in March, Virginia’s Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said that everyone who wants the vaccine should be able to get their first dose by May 31.

However, Fairfax County could not commit to that goal at the time. A health department spokesperson Reston Now on Tuesday that the pace of vaccine administration will depend on “many factors,” including the number of doses that the county gets from the Virginia Department of Health.

Photo via Fairfax County Health Department/Twitter

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Morning Notes

Wind Advisory in Effect Today — A wind advisory will be in effect today for the D.C. area, including Fairfax County, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Winds could reach speeds of 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts up to 50 miles per hour. Gusts could blow around unsecured objects and result in fallen tree limbs or power disruptions. [National Weather Service, Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management/Twitter]

Northam Plans to Speed Up Marijuana Legalization — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to ask the legislature to legalize the adult possession of an ounce or less of marijuana beginning on July 1, according to several sources with knowledge of the administration’s ongoing discussions with lawmakers. Lawmakers passed legislation last month that wouldn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2024.” [VPM]

Falls Church Narrows Down Possible New School Names — Committees tasked with selecting new names for the city’s elementary and high schools will present five recommendations each to the Falls Church City School Board by April 9. The groups have whittled hundreds of suggestions down to 18 options for the high school and 53 for the middle school. The school board will make the final decisions on May 13. [Falls Church News-Press]

Greater Washington Partnership Envisions Regional Train System — “An alliance of the Washington area’s top chief executives is pushing for Maryland and Virginia commuter trains to cross jurisdictions to provide service that would be more frequent and more interconnected…It could be achieved within a quarter-century, said the group, which has rallied support from transit advocates, the region’s passenger railroads and public- and private-sector groups.” [The Washington Post]

Satellite Telecommunications Company Moves Into Tysons — SpaceLink announced earlier this week that it has established a headquarters office in Tysons. The company, which also operates in Silicon Valley and Huntsville, Alabama, is developing a “network of satellites in medium Earth orbit that will provide secure, continuous, high-bandwidth communications between its clients’ low Earth orbit spacecraft and the ground.” [Virginia Business]

Fairfax County Sees Dip in Unemployment Rate — Fairfax County’s jobless rate dropped almost half a percent between December 2020 and January 2021, according to data from the Virginia Employment Commission. However, unemployment rates throughout Northern Virginia are still more than double pre-pandemic numbers. [Sun Gazette]

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Morning Notes

Virginia to Further Ease COVID-19 Restrictions in April — “As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to rise in Virginia, certain sports and entertainment venues may begin to operate with additional capacity and indoor and outdoor gathering limits will increase starting Thursday, April 1…More than two million Virginians, or approximately one in four people, have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.” [Gov. Ralph Northam’s Office]

Fairfax County Board Adopts Resolution Condemning Anti-Asian Racism — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously yesterday to adopt a resolution condemning “all bigotry, harassment, and hate violence directed at Asian Americans in our community.” The move came  in response to the murder of eight people, including six Asian women, in Georgia on March 16 and reported increases in discrimination against Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Chairman Jeff McKay]

Falls Church City Advertises One-Cent Reduction in Tax Rate — The Falls Church City Council voted 5-2 on Monday (March 22) to grant a first reading to the city’s proposed FY 2022 budget with a real estate tax rate of $1.34 per $100 of assessed value, a one-cent decrease from FY 2021. Public hearings on the budget, tax rate, and capital improvement program have been scheduled for April 12 and 26. [City of Falls Church]

Access to D.C. Cherry Blossoms Will Be Limited — “The National Park Service announced today it will be “limiting all vehicular and pedestrian access” around the Tidal Basin once the cherry blossoms start to bloom, which would close down access to parking and paddle boats as soon as this weekend…Pedestrians will still be able to access the Tidal Basin and admire the flowers, the agency said, until crowds surpass a certain capacity.” [Washingtonian]

Town of Vienna Revamps Website — “We have lift off on the Town’s new website!! Info has been streamlined, and navigation organized to be user-focused. On the homepage, scroll down to see links to popular pages, news items, calendar, and links to meeting minutes & media.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Truck of Fish Crashes on Capital Beltway in Tysons — A tractor-trailer filled with 41,000 pounds of frozen fish crashed on the Beltway Outer Loop at Route 7 around 4 p.m. yesterday (Monday), closing three lanes for more than an hour so a towing company could recover the vehicle. Because the trailer was “breached (rendering the fish unsalvagable),” crews ultimately decided to wait until after rush hour to complete the recovery. [VDOT Northern Virginia/Twitter]

Fairfax County Seeks Health Workers to Help with Vaccination Effort — “Since most school public health nurses have returned to schools, the Health Department is hiring approximately 250 vaccinators…in coming weeks to help get the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of residents as quickly as possible. Vaccinators will be assigned to work at Health Department vaccination sites that operate six days a week, including the Fairfax County Government Center.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Virginia Bans Single-Use Styrofoam — Gov. Ralph Northam signed a law yesterday prohibiting the use of polystyrene foam cups and takeout containers. The ban takes effect in July 2023 for food chains with 20 or more locations and in July 2025 for all other food vendors, nonprofits, schools, and local governments. [Patch]

Tysons Digital Security Company Raises $100 MillionID.me officially announced yesterday that it has raised $100 million in new funding, as first reported by Washington Business Journal. The company is now valued at $1.5 billion and says it will use the funding “to build out its secure digital identity network by attracting top talent and expanding the number of businesses and government agencies it serves.” [ID.me]

Photo courtesy Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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This year’s graduating classes may get to celebrate their achievements with socially-distanced graduation ceremonies.

Earlier this week, Gov. Ralph Northam released preliminary guidance for graduation ceremonies at high schools and universities this spring and summer.

“We are releasing this guidance early to allow schools to begin planning for this year’s events,” Northam said Wednesday (March 17) in a statement. “While graduation and commencement ceremonies will still be different than they were in the past, this is a tremendous step forward for all of our schools, our graduates, and their families.”

Northam wants all outdoor ceremonies to be capped at 5,000 people or 30 percent of venue capacity.

Indoors events are limited to 500 people or 30 percent of the venue capacity. All attendees must wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines to the extent possible.

Seating areas should be reconfigured to accommodate social distancing, among other recommendations pitched by Northam.

Updated guidance is expected to be released as part of a forthcoming executive order.

The guidance comes as Fairfax County Public Schools prepares for a return to five days of in-person classes in the fall. Since Feb. 16, more than 98,000 students and staff members have resumed in-person classes.

More than two-thirds of the state’s public school teachers and staff have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The statewide positivity rate for COVID-19 also continues to fall, currently standing at 5.4 percent.

Last year, some Fairfax County students celebrated with car parades, while other schools returned to virtual celebrations or graduate photo opportunities. FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand told the school board on Tuesday (March 16) that he was “confident” there will be in-person ceremonies for the senior Class of 2021.

With this in mind, we’d love to know what you think about how and if in-person graduation ceremonies should resume this year. Let us know in the poll below.

Photo via Andre Hunter on Unsplash

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is easing some of the public health restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the 10 p.m. curfew on alcohol sales.

Effective Mar. 1, Virginians will be able to buy and drink alcohol at restaurants, food courts, breweries, distilleries, and wineries until they are required to close at midnight.

The changes to the current executive order come amid declining rates of hospitalizations and infections and rising vaccination rates in the Commonwealth, Northam said during a press conference this morning (Wednesday).

Northam is also easing restrictions on outdoor entertainment and social gatherings, where evidence shows the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 is lower.

“Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of all Virginians, hospitalization and positivity rates across the Commonwealth are the lowest they have been in nearly three months,” Northam said in the press release. “As key health metrics show encouraging trends and we continue to ramp up our vaccination efforts, we can begin to gradually resume certain recreational activities and further reopen sectors of our economy.”

He attributed the rise in cases over the winter to cold weather and the holidays.

The state’s Safer at Home strategy will remain in place, along with its accompanying requirements for physical distancing, mask-wearing, gathering limits and business capacity restrictions.

“Even as we take steps to safely ease public health guidelines, we must all remain vigilant so we can maintain our progress — the more we stay home, mask up, and practice social distancing, the more lives we will save from this dangerous virus,” he said.

The current modified Stay at Home order will expire on Sunday (Feb. 28).

The full press release from the governor’s office is below. Read More

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All school divisions in Virginia have been directed to establish options for in-person learning by Mar. 15, Gov. Ralph Northam announced today (Friday).

The state is also encouraging school divisions to develop plans to offer some form of classroom instruction during the summer. While extending the school year will not be mandatory, the governor’s office says his administration “is in the process of determining additional resources” to support summer school, including ensuring that educators are properly compensated.

“Our children need to catch up to be ready for learning in the fall,” Northam said during a press conference. “I want our schools to do this safely, and I want them to prioritize students who needs this the most…But it’s time for this to happen. It’s critical to prevent greater learning loss and to support our children’s health and well-being.”

Virginia State Superintendent for Public Instruction Dr. James Lane and State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver released interim guidance on Jan. 14 for local education and health officials to use as they determine when and how to offer classes and other activities to students in person.

Northam said he had a “very open, frank conversation” with superintendents from around the state before announcing the Mar. 15 deadline for offering in-person classes.

He also noted that “none of this is set in stone,” but declining COVID-19 case numbers, including testing positivity rates and hospitalizations, as well as increases in vaccinations give him confidence that schools will be able to proceed with reopening and summer school plans.

The governor’s announcement comes just three days after the Fairfax County School Board approved a plan to start phasing students into hybrid in-person learning on Feb. 16. All students who choose to get in-person classes instead of remaining all-virtual will be back in school buildings by Mar. 16 under the timeline developed by Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand.

FCPS officials have discussed the idea of extending the school year in the hopes of providing more in-person instruction and compensating for the learning losses many students have reportedly experienced as a result of distance learning. However, no official plans have been unveiled yet.

FCPS said in a statement that it has budgeted up to $30 million to support summer learning programs, and additional demand is anticipated.

“While there will be associated costs to the extended summer learning, we understand that these resources are essential to accommodate our students and staff during this unique and challenging transition period,” FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said in the statement.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new research last week that indicates schools can safely operate in-person as long as they implement and enforce mitigation measures, including mask-wearing and social distancing.

“In-person learning is critical to the current and future well-being of our children,” Oliver said. “[The Virginia Department of Health] remains committed to supporting school districts in getting kids back into classrooms as we work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and get Virginians vaccinated.”

Photo via Governor of Virginia/Facebook

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Thursday Morning Notes

Broad and Washington Project Unanimously Approved — “A major mixed use development project at the City of Falls Church’s central intersection of Washington and Broad Streets (Rts. 29 and 7) to feature a huge new Whole Foods grocery was approved unanimously by the F.C. City Council Monday night.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Bloomingdale’s to Experiment with Downsized Store at Mosaic District — “The retailer’s small-format concept, dubbed Bloomie’s, is set to open this fall in Virginia’s Mosaic District shopping complex, reported FN’s sister publication WWD. It’s expected to span roughly 22,000 square feet — a departure from the chain’s average department store size, which measures about 200,000 square feet.” [Footwear News, Mosaic District/Twitter]

Virginia Extends COVID-19 Restrictions Through February — Gov. Ralph Northam has extended mask requirements and restrictions on social gatherings through the end of February. He also announced that the state will get a greater supply of vaccine and addressed questions about a gap between doses distributed and doses administered in a news conference on Wednesday. [Patch]

First Responders Flash Lights for Kids at Inova Children’s Hospital — “Tonight, we were honored to participate in a “flashlight salute” at @InovaHealth Children’s Hospital along with @DLVFRD and @FairfaxCountyPD. We turned on our emergency lights and shined our flashlights at the kids and they returned the favor!” [Vienna Volunteer Fire Department/Twitter]

Virginia Makes COVID-19 Workplace Safety Standards Permanent — “The new regulations, approved last week by Gov. Ralph Northam, require all employers in the state to provide personal protective equipment when workers can’t physically distance, close or control access to common areas like lunchrooms, develop safe “return to work” plans for workers recovering from COVID-19, and regularly clean areas with heavy foot traffic, among other measures. Employees who interact with the public must wear masks.” [DCist]

Photo via Vienna Volunteer Fire Department/Twitter

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More than 40% of Fairfax County residents 16 and older are now in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine following Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s expansion of eligibility requirements.

People age 65 and above, and people between the ages of 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions can now register to receive the vaccine as part of phase 1b. Prior to Northam’s announcement yesterday, these groups were part of the next phase of the vaccine’s administration.

But county officials say it may take months to get through phase 1b, which prioritizes people age 75 and above and essential frontline workers like school staff, police, and grocery store workers.

The ability to schedule appointments will depend on the supply of vaccine available,the county wrote in a statement yesterday. The vaccine supply in the U.S. is still very limited and is expected to increase gradually over the next months.

Although it may take weeks before vaccines are formally administered, the Fairfax County Health Department will begin registering individuals in the newly-eligible group on Jan. 18.

Northam expects all Virginians to be vaccinated by the middle of the summer.

“This means about half of Virginia is now eligible to receive the vaccine. That’s a major logistical effort, and it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.

So far, the state has received 943,000 doses of the vaccine and administered roughly 242,000 doses. On average, the state is administering 12,000 doses daily — far from the governor’s long-term goal of 50,000 doses. Overall, the state is receiving 110,000 doses of the vaccine per week.

Northam is also encouraging schools to reopen, noting that six months of data from schools around the state suggests that schools can reopen if appropriate safety protocols are in place. The newly-released guidance creates a five-step program to guide decision-making on reopening.

The county plans to launch an online form to register for the vaccine today via its vaccine webpage. Residents should be able to schedule a time themselves based on eligibility, availability of appointments, and vaccine interview, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

The health department introduced a pre-screening form on Monday (Jan. 11) to allow people to pre-register for the vaccine. Residents can also call the county’s vaccine hotline at 703-324-7404 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. and on weekends between 9;30 a.m. and 5 p.m. The department will contact individuals who complete the pre-screening form depending on vaccine supply and appointment availability.

Demand for the vaccine flooded the county’s call lines on Monday, prompting local elected officials to encourage the county to improve its communications strategy.

Meanwhile, Walgreens is offering rapid antigen testing across select locations in the state. The new partnership with the Virginia Department of Health, which was announced yesterday, allows adults and children age three and above to receive a test. Walgreen’s testing site is located in Centreville at 13926 Lee Highway.

Photo via Fairfax County Health Department

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