Tysons, VA

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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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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Gov. Ralph Northam announced today that Virginia is on track to enter Phase Three next Wednesday (July 1). 

“That gives us about three and a half weeks in Phase Two, where we have been able to follow the data,” Northam said, adding that he wants people to keep wearing masks and follow guidelines to avoid recent spikes on other states.

During his press conference today, Northam and state health department officials said that Virginia is seeing a decline in cases and hospitalizations.

Phase Three guidelines will:

  • allow social gatherings with groups of 250 or less
  • lift the restrictions on non-essential retail stores
  • allow fitness centers and pools to open at 75% capacity
  • reopen child care facilities
  • restaurants may resume full capacity though people must stay six feet apart

Still, things such as overnight summer camps for kids will not be allowed, Northam said. Northam said that the “safer at home” recommendation is still in place for people who are immunocompromised, and remote work is encouraged.

Other changes include public access to online data from nursing homes and long term care facilities throughout the state, according to Northam. This data includes the number of cases and number of deaths, one of Northam’s advisers said.

“Now that there are more cases in the facilities, we can release the information without compromising the confidentiality,” he said.

To track and limit the spread of COVID-19 in care facilities, Northam also announced that $56 million will be available for testing of both residents and care-takers.

Image via Facebook Live

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During his press conference yesterday, Gov. Ralph Northam outlined the plans for Phase Three of easing COVID-19 restrictions in Virginia.

While Northam said that the statewide numbers “are trending in a positive direction,” the date to enter Phase Three has not been determined yet. The earliest date under consideration is next Friday, June 26, he said.

“People need and they deserve to be able to plan, so I want Virginians to see what Phase Three will generally look like,” Northam said. Northern Virginia entered Phase Two last Friday, June 12.

Here’s what Phase Three may look like, according to Northam:

  • fitness centers/gyms may open at 75% capacity
  • pools may open at 75% capacity with physical distancing
  • childcare services may open
  • social gatherings may include up to 250 people

The cap on the capacity for non-essential retail, restaurants and beverage services will be lifted, but physical distancing will still be required.

Meanwhile, entertainment venues like zoos, museums and other outdoor venues may open at 50% capacity with a maximum of 1,000 people.

Just like in Phase Two, the safer at home and teleworking recommendations will still be in place, Northam said, adding that face coverings will still be required in indoor public spaces.

“Studies increasingly show how effective face coverings can be to reduce the spread of this virus, but we all need to wear them and wear them properly,” Northam said. “This is easy to do.”

Personal grooming services and recreational sports will still need to follow physical distancing and overnight summer camps must remain closed.

“We are going to be cautious and careful and watch the data for a little while longer before we move forward,” Northam said, noting that other states have seen surges after easing COVID-19 restrictions “prematurely.”

Image via Facebook, image via Governor of Virginia

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Instead of his usual press briefings in Richmond, Gov. Ralph Northam headed to Fairfax County to address the coronavirus pandemic’s racial disparities in Virginia.

Surrounded by state and local elected officials, Northam held a bilingual press briefing at the Fairfax County Government Center today (Thursday) to talk about the disproportionate impacts of the virus on Black and Hispanic communities.

Northam said that 45% of the COVID-19 cases and 35% of the resulting hospitalizations affect the Hispanic and Latino communities, even though they account for approximately 10% of Virginia’s population.

The concern is not new. For the last several months, Fairfax County’s Hispanic population has been hit hard by COVID-19. Local officials working to address the growing racial disparity say the county needs more testing and increased outreach to vulnerable communities.

“Everyone, everyone in Virginia deserves to have access to testing and access to care,” Northam said.

Jeff McKay, the chairman of Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors, highlighted that the county has seen more than 69,000 PCR testing encounters so far — the highest in Virginia.

The county is now shifting to community testing sites and is continuing to hire contact tracers, who “reflect the demographics of the populations they are serving,” McKay said.

McKay also pointed to other county resources, like a list of COVID-19 testing sites and the multi-lingual call center (703-222-0880) to connect residents to housing, food, financial assistance and more.

“Our board feels strongly that the disproportionality of this pandemic affects all of our residents in this county,” McKay said.

During the press conference, Northam applauded recent news: Prince William County ending its program between local police and ICE and the Supreme Court’s decision to extend DACA protections.

“I hope that this will help set a new tone of trust and support with our Latino communities,” Northam said about Prince William County’s decision.

Phase Three 

Northam also addressed the current and future plans for rolling back more COVID-19 restrictions.

While Virginia’s COVID-19 data are “trending in a positive direction,” the state will not enter Phase Three this week, he said. He did, though, unveil what that phase will look like.

Phase Three includes:

  • safer at home recommendation
  • encourage teleworking
  • face coverings required in indoor public spaces
  • social gatherings may include up to 250 people
  • cap on non-essential retail lifted

“Just because there are more places to go does not mean you need to go there,” Northam said. “The virus has not gone anywhere. We are adapting our lives around it, but it has not changed.”

Northam said that health officials need more time to evaluate the COVID-19 data. Next Friday, June 26, is the earliest date under consideration for Virginia to enter Phase Three, he said.

“We want to make sure that we are inclusive,” Northam said in response to why he chose to hold his press briefing in Northern Virginia instead of Richmond, adding that he met with local leaders before the press briefing.

Image via Facebook

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Government offices in Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church will be closed tomorrow (Friday) due to Juneteenth.

The move comes after Gov. Ralph Northam declared Juneteenth a state holiday earlier this week.

Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when Texas, the last of the former Confederate states, finally heard the Civil War ended and that the Emancipation Proclamation had made slaves free nearly two years earlier. It is formally considered the official commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.

Although the state has marked Juneteenth via proclamation, the date has not been previously declared a state holiday.

“Fairfax County is moving forward and our holidays must reflect that. I am committed to our values that include a diverse, inclusive and equitable society,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay. “I asked that the County Executive commemorate Juneteenth because that commitment requires listening to diverse voices and acknowledging the shared history of all Americans.”

All government offices will be closed. But employees who staff essential around-the-clock county operations will work as scheduled, including public safety and trash collection.

Here’s more from Northam’s statement:

“Since 1619, when representative democracy and enslaved African people arrived in Virginia within a month of each other, we have said one thing, but done another. It’s time we elevate Juneteenth not just as a celebration by and for some Virginians, but one acknowledged and commemorated by all of us. It mattered then because it marked the end of slavery in this country, and it matters now because it says to Black communities, this is not just your history–this is everyone’s shared history, and we will celebrate it together. This is a step toward the Commonwealth we want to be as we go forward.”

Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill also encouraged residents to reflect on this day and take actions to “promote the unity we embrace here in Fairfax County.”

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Plans to Make Juneteenth a State Holiday — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday he will propose legislation to make Juneteenth, a celebration observed on June 19 commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, be recognized as a paid state holiday.” [Vienna Patch]

Transportation Webinars Start Today — The Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, the City of Fairfax, Fairfax County, the Coalition for Smarter Growth and Mason’s Department of Parking and Transportation teamed up on a series of webinars on active transportation. The series kicks off today at noon. [George Mason University]

No Phase Three Yet — “Virginia won’t enter Phase Three of its reopening plan this week, Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday. Speaking during his twice-weekly news conference in Richmond, Northam said that although the state’s health metrics are trending in the right direction, he’s not ready to lift restrictions further that were designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus.” [Inside NoVa]

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As Northern Virginia localities prepare for the second reopening phase on Friday, here’s what people can expect.

Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond delayed entering phase two when the rest of Virginia started the phase last Friday (June 5). Gov. Ralph Northam said that trends of COVID-19 data indicate that Northern Virginia is ready for the next phase.

Here’s a snapshot of the phase two guidelines:

  • “safer at home” guidance, telework encouraged
  • face coverings required in indoor public places
  • social gathering maximum raised from 10 to 50
  • restaurants can have indoor dining at 50% occupancy
  • fitness centers can open indoor spaces at 30% occupancy
  • indoor and outdoor swimming pools can open
  • still closed: overnight summer camps, indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs and carnivals

Museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and outdoor concerts, sports and performing arts venues may open with some restrictions as long as they don’t have shared equipment.

“All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures,” the plan says.

Meanwhile, phase two continues current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail and personal grooming services, according to the plan.

School Schedule

Northam also unveiled yesterday his phased plan to reopen K-12 schools.

“I know that parents are very interested in our plans for how to safely return children to our classrooms,” Northam said.

Previously, Northam closed schools on March 23 for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. “I believe these closures have helped mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

Northam said that the plan will let schools “slowly” offer in-person classes for the summer and 2020-2021 school year.

“We’ll start with small groups, and we will allow each school division the flexibility that it needs to respond to the needs of its own locality,” Northam said, adding that the plan provides schools with options instead of serving as a mandate.

In every phase, the schools must follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including daily health screenings of students and staff, remote learning and working options for high-risk students and staff, required face coverings for staff — and encourage used for students — when social distancing isn’t an option.

More about the plan from Northam’s website:

The K-12 phased reopening plan was developed by the Office of the Secretary of Education, Virginia Department of Health, and the Virginia Department of Education and is informed by guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

All PreK-12 schools in Virginia will be required to deliver new instruction to students for the 2020-2021 academic year, regardless of the operational status of school buildings. The PreK-12 guidance is aligned with the phases outlined in the Forward Virginia blueprint and provides opportunities for school divisions to begin offering in-person instruction to specific student groups…

Local school divisions will have discretion on how to operationalize within each phase and may choose to offer more limited in-person options than the phase permits, if local public health conditions necessitate. Entry into each phase is dependent on public health gating criteria, corresponding with the Forward Virginia plan. School divisions will have flexibility to implement plans based on the needs of their localities, within the parameters of the Commonwealth’s guidance.

The opportunities for in-person instruction in each phase are as follows:

  • Phase One: special education programs and child care for working families
  • Phase Two: Phase One plus preschool through third-grade students, English learners, and summer camps in school buildings
  • Phase Three: all students may receive in-person instruction as can be accommodated with strict social distancing measures in place, which may require alternative schedules that blend in-person and remote learning for students
  • Beyond Phase Three: divisions will resume “new-normal” operations under future guidance

Beginning with Phase Two, local divisions and private schools must submit plans to the Virginia Department of Education that include policies and procedures for implementing Virginia Department of Health and CDC mitigation strategies.

State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA has issued an Order of Public Health Emergency that requires all Virginia PreK-12 public and private schools to develop plans that demonstrate adherence to public health guidance. Public schools must also outline plans to offer new instruction to all students regardless of operational status.

Graph via Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

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Gov. Ralph Northam announced this afternoon at a press conference that Northern Virginia localities can move into phase two starting Friday (June 12).

Northam said that the COVID-19 metrics for Northern Virginia continue to improve.

“Our hospitalizations for COVID are trending downward, particularly in the last week,” Northam said, adding that hospitals are under capacity.

The rest of Virginia entered phase two last Friday (June 5).

At the same press conference, Northam also released a plan to reopen public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Changes will include social distancing measures and adaptations to perform health checks, according to Northam.

Students will not be required to wear face coverings, according to the Virginia superintendent, but they will be encouraged for older students.

Image via Governor of Virginia/Facebook

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School Schedule — “Gov. Ralph Northam is expected on Tuesday to address school reopening, something he had initially planned to do last week. The announcement will give more guidance to school districts and colleges across the state that have been moving forward with their own plans to return.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Protest Photos — “A series of demonstrations took place in and around the City of Falls Church over the weekend to protest the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Evictions Paused — “Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday a temporary statewide moratorium on all eviction proceedings in Virginia.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Statue Staying? — “A Virginia judge has issued an 10-day injunction that prevents Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration from removing an iconic but controversial statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond.” [USA Today]

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