If there were any doubts that the novel coronavirus is experiencing a resurgence in Fairfax County, the past week put those to rest.
With an additional 39 cases reported today (Monday), the county is now averaging 36.6 COVID-19 cases per day for the past week — the highest since May 15, when the seven-day average was 37.4 cases, according to Virginia Department of Health data.
The 48 cases recorded last Thursday (July 15) were the most in a single day since May 27, but the 78 cases that came in that day were an anomaly, whereas this appears to be part of a gradual increase in transmission after a month-long lull in June.
The Fairfax Health District, which also includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has now reported 78,567 COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic. 4,161 people have been hospitalized, and four more people have died from the virus since last Monday (July 12), bringing the death toll up to 1,151 people.
Fairfax County is hardly alone in seeing a rise in COVID-19 levels.
Virginia as a whole has gone from a weekly average of 129 cases on June 20 — its lowest since the initial days of the pandemic in March 2020 — to a weekly average of 376 cases today. Nationwide, community transmission remains substantial, particularly across the South, lower Midwest, and Mountain West, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, director of Epidemiology and Population Health with the Fairfax County Health Department, says the more infectious delta variant “is likely a major contributor” to the county’s recent increase in COVID-19 cases.
As of Friday (July 16), the Fairfax Health District has confirmed 13 infections stemming from the delta variant, which hasn’t become as prevalent in Virginia as it is elsewhere in the U.S. In some areas around the country, that variant accounts for more than 70% of new cases.
However, infectious disease experts with Virginia Commonwealth University say “it’s not a matter of if but when” the delta variant will become widespread here.
“The key messages are, we can’t let down our guard, and everyone who isn’t vaccinated should be vaccinated as soon as possible,” Drs. Gonzalo Bearman and Michael Stevens said in a VCU Health news release.
As with the rest of the country, COVID-19 appears to now be mostly spreading in Fairfax County among people who have not been vaccinated. According to the VDH’s dashboard, which is updated every Friday, 99% of the cases, hospitalizations, and deaths recorded in Northern Virginia since Jan. 1, 2021 have involved people who were not fully vaccinated.
“While we can’t predict future case numbers, we do know that the delta variant increases the risk of infection for people who are not vaccinated,” Schwartz said in a statement. “Vaccination is the most important step someone can take to not only reduce their chance of being infected with the delta variant but also protect others in their family and community.”
While demand has started to level out in recent weeks, the Fairfax Health District has administered 1.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 759,473 residents, including 76.2% of all adults. 64.2% of the district’s overall population has received at least one dose.
664,007 residents are now fully vaccinated, which amounts to 67.7% of adults and 56.1% of the total population.
“While we have done well — vaccinating about 3 of every 4 adults in the county — we need to do even better vaccinating people 12 years and older if we are to stop the increase in infections,” Schwartz said.
He encourages people who remain hesitant about getting vaccinated to consult their health care provider or the Fairfax County Health Department, which has a call center at 703-324-7404, to discuss their concerns.
“People for whom getting vaccinated just hasn’t been a priority should be aware of the increase in infections as added motivation to get protected,” Schwartz said. “With over 300 sites in Fairfax County providing vaccinations, many accepting walk-ins, vaccination never has been easier.”
Photo via CDC on Unsplash
While Fairfax County’s COVID-19 vaccination rate has only incrementally crept up over the last several weeks, county officials believe their campaign to get as many people vaccinated as possible still has a ways to go before it hits a ceiling.
About 75.5% of people over 18 have had at least one vaccine shot in the Fairfax Health District, which includes the county and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church. About 67% of all residents over 18 are considered fully vaccinated.
“Vaccination numbers are increasing more slowly than previously but we would not define it as ‘plateauing,'” Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, Fairfax County’s director of epidemiology and population health, said.
Schwartz says national data suggests that about 15% of the population say they definitely do not want to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but that percentage is “likely much lower here.”
“So there still are many in the county who are open to getting vaccinated,” writes Schwartz. “The challenges are addressing people’s concerns about the vaccine and making vaccination easy for people who may be less motivated [and] for whom vaccination just isn’t a priority.“
Messaging is key, says Dr. Amira Roess, a professor of epidemiology at George Mason University, when it comes to local jurisdictions concentrating their efforts on helping those folks get vaccinated.
“75% of folks being vaccinated is really good…and higher than the national average,” Roess said. “But…we have to shift to look at which groups have lower vaccination rates…find out why they haven’t gotten vaccinated and what are their questions.”
County data shows that, in terms of age, those over 55 years old have gotten their vaccine at a higher percentage than those in their 20s and early 30s. About two thirds of adults from 25 to 34 years old have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine compared to more than 80% of those over the age of 55.
While older folks becoming eligible for the vaccine earlier due to their increased vulnerability to the virus is likely a factor in that difference, it remains a concern that younger residents are less likely to get the vaccine than the county average.
To address that gap, county officials say they are doing targeted outreach at venues like barber shops, fraternities, sororities, and hair salons as well as placing ads on Tiktok and other social platforms.
Health data also indicates that Black and Latinx county residents have gotten vaccinated at lower rates than white residents.
Roess says it’s on officials to better understand the concerns that have produced racial and ethnic disparities in who has received the vaccine.
“For a lot of African-American populations, they are part of this culture, this decades-long experience of being experimented on in really unethical trials,” Roess said. “So, there’s some real legitimate concerns there because of the history.”
She also notes that many folks work all day and are only available at night.
Fairfax County officials say over 300 sites currently offer the vaccine, including pop-up clinics every day of the week at schools, libraries, and apartment complexes. The county also employs 18 “vaccine navigators,” who go out into communities, food distribution events, and places of businesses to address concerns and help people sign up to get the vaccine.
However, in recent weeks, some services that were previously offered have ended, including a free shuttle service to the Mount Vernon Square vaccine equity clinic as well as several community clinics.
In addition, the clinics are only open to 7:30 p.m. at the latest. Most close between 5 and 7 p.m.
With nearly all COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations now occurring among unvaccinated people, health officials are racing to expand vaccinations to counter the growing prevalence of variants that could spread more easily and cause more severe illness.
Of particular concern is the Delta variant, which is thought to be more contagious. As of Friday (July 9), Northern Virginia had reported 617 infections stemming from variants of concern, including 23 cases linked to the Delta variant.
Roess says the fear of the Delta variant may lead to more people getting vaccinated, but it could already be too late.
“It’s a…race between the Delta variant spreading and the vaccination rate,” Roess said. “What we might end up seeing is that by the time [more] people end up getting vaccinated, they are already exposed or infected by the Delta variant.”
Fairfax County Urges Adolescents to Get Vaccinated — The health department will host three COVID-19 vaccine clinics at public schools this week in an effort to vaccinate more people aged 12-17. The Pfizer vaccine, the only one authorized for that age group, takes five weeks to take full effect, so students have to get their first dose by July 19 to be fully vaccinated when the school year starts on Aug. 23. [Fairfax County Health Department]
Madison HS Baseball Player Drafted by MLB — The Chicago Cubs chose James Madison High School graduate James Triantos with the 56th pick of Major League Baseball’s 2021 draft, which started Sunday (July 11). Drafted as a shortstop, Triantos ended his tenure with the Warhawks in June by throwing six perfect innings and scoring the two runs the team needed to win its first state title since 2015. [James Madison HS/Twitter]
Fairfax County Students Build Houses — “Each year, 15-20 Fairfax County high-schoolers hang drywall, use power tools, and learn technical and life skills that come with building a home. None has proved as challenging as the 2020-2021 covid-wrought academic year.” [The Washington Post]
Wolf Trap Welcomes First Go-Go Band — When it takes the stage on Sunday (July 18), Trouble Funk will officially be the first go-go band to ever play at Wolf Trap National Park’s Filene Center, according to frontman “Big Tony” Fisher. The band has been making music for over 45 years and will perform with guests Sugar Bear and DJ Kool. [WTOP]
While case numbers are still much lower than any other point in the pandemic, Fairfax County has started to see a definite uptick in COVID-19 transmission over the past couple of weeks compared to earlier in the summer.
A month ago, the rate of incoming cases had slowed to the point that the county’s weekly average dipped into negative numbers, but after reporting double digits six out of the past seven days, including 16 new cases today (Monday), the county is now averaging 16.7 cases a day for the week.
The Fairfax Health District, which also encompasses the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has recorded a total of 78,318 COVID-19 cases. 4,145 residents have been hospitalized by the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 1,147 people have died, including two people since last Tuesday (July 6).
According to the dashboard, which will be updated every Friday, 99.6% of the 290,770 cases reported in the Commonwealth so far this year have involved people who were not fully vaccinated. That trend is even more pronounced in Northern Virginia, where 99.8% of the 69,315 cases recorded since Jan. 1 are among people without the protection of a vaccine.
In comparison, there have been just 173 breakthrough cases in Northern Virginia among fully vaccinated people, representing 0.004% of that population.
In addition, 99.6% of the region’s COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths this year have been people who weren’t fully vaccinated. There have been six reported hospitalizations of individuals who were vaccinated and two breakthrough deaths.
Health officials say the data illustrates the overwhelming effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines that are available in the U.S.
“I applaud those who have chosen to protect themselves and the community by getting vaccinated, and we appreciate the work of all who are helping to vaccinate Virginians,” State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said in a press release last week. “I continue to encourage everyone who is able to get vaccinated to do so.”
Vaccination rates, however, have flattened out as COVID-19 case numbers have fallen and public health restrictions have lifted, pushing officials to adopt a more targeted approach to get the vaccine to people who have not received it yet, either due to hesitancy or a lack of access.
According to the Fairfax County Health Department’s dashboard, 750,982 Fairfax Health District residents — 75.5% of adults and 63.5% of the overall population — have gotten at least one vaccine dose. 658,221 residents — 67.3% of adults and 55.6% of the overall population — are now fully vaccinated.
Virginia has administered more than 9.1 million doses. 59.3% of the state’s population, including 71.1% of people 18 and older, have received at least one dose, and 51.7% of residents, including 62.8% of adults, are fully vaccinated.
Top photo via CDC on Unsplash
PIVOT Grant Application Deadline Today — This is the last day for hotels, restaurants, and other local businesses affected by the pandemic to apply for COVID-19 relief funding from Fairfax County’s PIVOT grant program. The application portal will close at 11:59 p.m. [Fairfax County Government]
COVID-19 Mostly Spreading Among Unvaccinated People Now — “From December 29 to June 25, 99.7 percent of new COVID-19 cases have occurred among unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Virginians, according to VDH. Those residents made up 99.3 percent of hospitalizations and 99.6 percent of deaths over the same time period.” [Virginia Mercury]
McLean Nonprofit to Raffle Off Nats Memorabilia — “The McLean area branch of the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) used-book sale, its annual charitable fund-raiser, has been postponed again due to lingering effects of COVID-19. Instead, the group will hold a substitute fund-raiser featuring [Washington Nationals pitcher Max] Scherzer memorabilia, along with a request for contributions to support education and local scholarships for women.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Help Clean Up Nottoway Park This Weekend — “Join us at Nottoway Park on Saturday, July 10th, to celebrate Latinx Conservation Month, and help manage invasive plants, visit some sheep, and learn how to care for plants. Nottoway Park is located at 9537 Courthouse Road in Vienna, VA.” [Palchik Post]
With the Fourth of July now in the rearview mirror, community transmission of the novel coronavirus remains low in Fairfax County, but some indicators suggest COVID-19 levels could be on the rise again.
With the addition of four new cases today (Tuesday), the Fairfax Health District has reported exactly 100 new cases over the past week — almost as many as the entire month of June — bringing the total for Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church to 78,204 cases.
The weekly average has ticked back up since mid-June, climbing from zero cases over the preceding week on June 19 to 13.3 cases today, as has the testing positivity rate, which went from a moving seven-day average of 0.7% on June 27 to 0.9% as of July 2, according to Virginia Department of Health data.
These trends reflect the state of the pandemic in Virginia as a whole, which saw May’s steady decline in cases level out in June and now has a weekly average of 180 cases, up from an all-time low of 129 cases on June 20.
Fairfax County’s primary metrics of a 0.9% testing positivity rate and 1.2 new daily cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days are still well within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s thresholds for a low level of community transmission, which is defined as fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate under 5%.
In addition, the severity of cases has been reduced from earlier in the pandemic. The Fairfax Health District reported one hospitalization in the past week for a total of 4,138 people and four deaths for 1,145 deaths overall.
In a blog post published on Friday (July 2), the Fairfax County Health Department attributed the continued low levels of COVID-19 transmission to its ability to identify and isolate individuals who are sick with the respiratory disease and the success of the ongoing vaccination campaign.
According to the FCHD vaccine data dashboard, 743,038 Fairfax Health District residents have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. That is 62.8% of the overall population and three out of every four adults (75.1%). 651,344 residents — 66.5% of adults and 55% of the total population — have been fully vaccinated.
“While we still have work to do and need those unvaccinated to continue to be diligent and wear masks, Fairfax County has made incredible strides in our vaccination efforts,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a newsletter on Friday, reporting that there is only one zip code in the county with a vaccination rate under 70%.
McKay announced that the county flag outside the Fairfax County Government Center has returned to full mast to reflect the end of Virginia’s COVID-19 State of Emergency at the beginning of July. The county’s state of emergency remains in place, however.
County health officials also warn that COVID-19 case levels could surge, particularly among people who have not been vaccinated, due to the spread of variants. The Delta variant first detected in India is considered the biggest current threat.
As of July 2, Northern Virginia had recorded 596 infections caused by variants of concern, including 17 cases confirmed to come from the Delta variant. That variant, which has proven especially contagious, now accounts for more than one in every five cases nationwide, according to the FCHD.
The county health department says studies suggest that the COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized in the U.S. “remain very effective against the Delta variant.”
“Vaccination remains the best tool in preventing a Delta surge,” Fairfax County Director of Epidemiology and Population Health Director Dr. Benjamin Schwartz said in a statement. “This virus can take advantage of any cracks in our defenses. For those who have not yet gotten vaccinated, I urge you to do so. Your actions will keep us on the road to recovery from the pandemic.”
A June that generally provided reason for optimism comes to a close with the Fairfax Health District almost doubling its COVID-19 case total for the month over the past week.
The district, which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has added 103 new cases since June 1 for an all-time total of 78,104 cases, but 66 of those cases came in the last seven days, including four today (Monday), according to Virginia Department of Health data.
However, the district’s hospitalization total stayed flat from last Monday (June 21) at 4,137 people.
VDH data shows that two people were hospitalized by the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in the past week — one county resident and one Falls Church City resident — but both jursidictions also subtracted a case in the same time period, resulting in a net-zero increase.
Five more people died from COVID-19 in the last week, bringing the district’s overall death total up to 1,141 people.
An Associated Press analysis of national health data from May found that just 0.1% of new COVID-19 hospitalizations and 0.8% of deaths were people who had been fully vaccinated, suggesting that the mortality rate would now be almost zero if everyone eligible for vaccination got the shot.
The Fairfax County Health Department did not return Tysons Reporter’s query about whether the county is seeing the same trend of unvaccinated people accounting for nearly all hospitalizations and deaths by publication time.
As of this morning, 1.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to Fairfax Health District residents. 737,991 residents — 74.7% of adults and 62.4% of the total population — have gotten at least one shot, and 644,361 residents — 66% of adults and 54.4% of the total population — are fully vaccinated, according to the FCHD dashboard.
Statewide, about half (50.5%) of Virginia’s population is now fully vaccinated, including 61.4% of people 18 and older. 70.9% of adults or 58.7% of the overall population have received at least one vaccine dose.
In addition to lowering the risk of hospitalization and death, the COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for use in the U.S. can provide protection from variants of the virus that could spread more easily or cause more severe illness, according to VDH.
The Delta variant contributed to India’s devastating second wave of the pandemic and has been linked to surges elsewhere, including the United Kingdom and Australia, leading some countries to reimpose public health restrictions.
As of Friday (June 25), when the dashboard was last updated, Virginia had recorded 48 cases of the delta variant, including 15 in Northern Virginia, but VDH says the actual number of cases is likely higher since not all positive samples are tested to determine the strain of the virus.
“To protect yourself and others, get vaccinated for COVID-19,” VDH said in its news release. “Until you are fully vaccinated, continue wearing a mask correctly, stay at least six feet from others outside of your household, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and wash your hands often…The best way to stop variant strains from developing in the first place is to stop the spread of the virus.”
Photo via CDC on Unsplash
While a large percentage of Fairfax County residents have received their COVID-19 vaccine, there are still ongoing efforts to help — and convince — those who have not yet gotten the vaccine.
About 65% of residents are considered fully vaccinated, meaning at least two weeks have passed since they received their final shot.
However, those statistics do not take in account those who got their vaccine through federal sources, such as the defense and veterans’ affairs departments, notes Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay.
“We remain committed to making vaccine as easily as possible to obtain for those in our community who want it,” he wrote in a statement.
While the days of supply scarcity long gone, some people still remain reluctant or hesitant to get vaccinated for a variety of reasons.
About 7.5% of county residents answered that they were “unsure,” “probably not,” or “definitely not” going to get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a federal survey distributed in late May and early June.
To help address hesitancy, public officials and businesses have developed several incentive programs, like free baseball tickets and Krispy Kreme donuts, though Virginia is not offering cash or lottery incentives like other states.
Now that a majority of county residents are vaccinated overall, McKay says the county’s goal is to vaccinate at least 70% of adults in every neighborhood, and it has turned to a variety of methods, from a regional, multimedia awareness campaign to partnerships with local businesses and nonprofits, in its effort to hit that target.
“Community partners continue to offer up space for vaccination clinic sites, with community leaders urging the importance of getting vaccinated,” McKay said. “I have always said that we would only get through the COVID-19 pandemic together and am proud that our Fairfax County community continues to get us closer to that goal.”
For many residents, getting vaccinated is more a question of access than desire.
In recent months, the county and state health departments have set up several community vaccine centers, including one in an abandoned Lord & Taylor, and equity clinics. The county is even offering free transportation to some via the Fairfax Connector. Fairfax County Public Schools also hosted a series of vaccine clinics over several weeks.
Child care can be another barrier to access, so a number of companies are offering free child care to those getting the vaccine or recovering from it.
In total, the Fairfax County Health Department says it has held 307 vaccine equity clinics since February with an additional 23 clinics scheduled for the remainder of this month.
Mobile clinics are also still occuring and ongoing in partnership with George Mason University’s Mason and Partners mobile vaccination unit.
However, some clinics and access points are shutting down in the coming weeks as the vaccine becomes more widely available. For example, the Tysons mass vaccination site is slated to close on Saturday (June 26) and the FCPS clinics ended on June 10.
“Our outreach team and community health workers continue to work with community partners to provide vaccine education, identify potential vaccination clinic sites and help residents navigate the vaccination process,” an FCHD official wrote. “While the Tysons Community Vaccination Center is closing June 26, the Government Center remains open and will continue to offer walk-in service.”
Of course, getting the remaining portion of the population vaccinated isn’t only a county challenge, but a nationwide one as well.
Just today (Tuesday), U.S. officials admitted that the country is not going to hit the White House-stated goal of at least 70% of American adults having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Inova Will Require COVID-19 Vaccinations for Workers — “Inova Health System is requiring all employees to receive a Covid-19 vaccine, making the Falls Church-based nonprofit the latest in the region to employ such a mandate. Inova, which counts 18,000 employees across the organization, notified staff last week of the requirement, which goes into effect Sept. 1.” [Washington Business Journal]
McLean Swimmer Qualifies for Summer Olympics in Tokyo — “After coming up short at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in 2012 and 2016, McLean native Andrew Seliskar has made the Olympic Team. The 24-year-old placed fourth in the 200-meter freestyle at Trials, earning a spot on the 4×200 meter freestyle relay team.” [WJLA-ABC7 News]
New Tysons Child Care Center Now Enrolling — After breaking ground on its new early childhood education center on Jones Branch Drive in March, Celebree School has opened enrollment for kids from infants through pre-kindergarten. The private school is also currently looking to hire teachers in preparation for its anticipated opening later this summer. [Celebree School]
Wolf Trap Announces More Summer Shows — “On Tuesday, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts announced the following new concerts: The Avett Brothers, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue with Michael Franti & Spearhead, A Tribute to Marvin Gaye featuring Raheem DeVaughn and Friends, and ABBA the Concert. The shows are part of the Filene Center’s 5oth anniversary season.” [Patch]
There were 14 new COVID-19 cases in the Fairfax Health District today (Monday), as reported by the Fairfax County Health Department.
Even a month ago, that total would’ve been on the low end for a single day, but in June, when daily case counts have been more likely to dip into negative numbers than to enter double digits, it’s an anomaly, representing the biggest influx of new cases since 22 came in on May 30.
After adding 25 new cases in the past week, including 11 cases just last Wednesday (June 16), Fairfax County is now averaging three cases over the past seven days, the highest weekly average since June 8, according to the Virginia Department of Health dashboard.
Three people died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in the past week, and six more people have been hospitalized, bringing the respective totals up to 1,137 deaths and 4,137 hospitalizations. There have been 78,038 total cases in the Fairfax Health District since March 2020.
Even so, it has now been three weeks since Virginia lifted all capacity limitations over Memorial Day weekend, which typically brings an uptick in travel and social gatherings, and at least in Fairfax, the COVID-19 surge that followed other holidays during the pandemic has not emerged, likely due to increased vaccinations.
As of today, 725,862 Fairfax Health District residents, including people from the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That is 73.7% of adults and 61.3% of the district’s total population.
628,151 residents — 64.8% of adults and 53.1% of the population overall — are fully vaccinated, according to the county health department.
The Fairfax Health District is outpacing Virginia as a whole, which hit the 70% mark today for adults who have gotten at least one vaccine dose, making it the 16th state to meet the July 4 target set by President Joe Biden, Gov. Ralph Northam announced.
“Virginia has reached a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19,” Northam said. “Thanks to the millions of Virginians who have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated, the virus is in retreat, our economy is growing, and we are closer to putting this pandemic behind us.”
According to VDH, 4.9 million people — 57.8% of the overall population — have received at least one dose, and 4.2 million Virginians are fully vaccinated, which is 60.3% of adults and 49.3% of the state’s population.
With the demand for vaccinations slowing, Virginia has started to close its mass vaccine sites in favor of more mobile, targeted clinics. This will be the last week of operations for the community vaccination center at Tysons Corner Center, as it is scheduled to close on Saturday (June 26).
Until then, the site is accepting walk-ins from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.
Individuals 12 and older can register for an appointment there or at other Fairfax County clinics through the Vaccine Administration Management System. Other providers can be located through Vaccines.gov.
Top photo via CDC on Unsplash