Tysons, VA

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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Friday Morning Notes

Virginia Issues New Guidance to Support Schools Reopening — “A school division’s capacity to successfully implement mitigation strategies AND local community disease data should be factored into school operations plans…As local school and health leaders evaluate and adjust instructional offerings in 2021, they must carefully balance the risks associated with operating during a pandemic and the long-term effects of students not attending school in person.” [Virginia Department of Education]

Vienna Planning Commission Kicks Off Comprehensive Plan Review — Virginia law requires localities to review their comprehensive plan every five years. Planning commissioners don’t expect this new review to be as extensive as the Town of Vienna’s last update in 2016, but some sections, such as the chapter dealing with economic development, could be in need of revision. [Town of Vienna]

Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office Starts COVID-19 Vaccinations — “Today was the day! We are so very grateful to get the COVID-19 vaccine. @VDHgov @fairfaxhealth #FairfaxStrong” [Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office/Twitter]

Staff Photo by Jay Westcott

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Thursday Morning Notes

Fairfax County Public Schools to Start Vaccinations on Jan. 16 — “All FCPS employees will have access to the COVID-19 vaccine as a part of the Virginia Department of Health 1b group of other essential workers. All FCPS staff who wish to access the vaccine will have the opportunity to receive their first dose in the next three weeks.” [FCPS]

Metro Announces Inauguration-Related Service Changes — Metro will close 13 stations starting Friday (Jan. 15) through Jan. 21. Trains will operate according to a Saturday schedule, bypassing the closed stations, and 26 bus routes will be detoured around the security perimeter that law enforcement authorities have put in place for the Inauguration on Jan. 20. [WMATA]

Airbnb Cancels Reservations in D.C. Area — “Today, in response to various local, state and federal officials asking people not to travel to Washington, D.C., we are announcing that Airbnb will cancel reservations in the Washington, D.C. metro area during the Inauguration week.  Additionally, we will prevent any new reservations in the Washington, D.C. area from being booked during that time by blocking such reservations.” [Airbnb]

Tysons-based Alarm.com Debuts No-Touch Video Doorbell — The video doorbell uses “video analytics to ring itself whenever it sees someone standing on your mat. That design eliminates the need for anyone to physically press a button, and the built-in camera and microphone let you talk with them through your phone without opening the door.” [CNET]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Following a flood of demand yesterday, Fairfax County plans to launch a new online COVID-19 vaccine registration system as early as tomorrow that will allow residents to schedule an appointment, the county’s information technology department told the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors during an information technology committee meeting today.

Virignia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday (Jan. 8) that the Fairfax Health District is one of several districts in the state to jumpstart the next phase of vaccinations. Priority groups in this phase include adults age 75 and older and frontline essential workers like police and grocery store workers.

Fairfax County introduced a pre-registration tool yesterday (Monday) after overwhelming demand from people looking to schedule an appointment to get vaccinated jammed county phone lines and flooded the overall system.

The pre-registration form determines whether an individual is eligible to get a vaccine dose at this time, but applicants need to wait to be contacted by the Fairfax County Health Department — likely by email — to set up an appointment. The form launched earlier than originally anticipated in order to shift demand from the county’s phone line to the online system.

During the IT committee meeting, some members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors expressed dismay at the initial rollout of the registration system and phone line, which received nearly 1.2 million calls and more than 286,000 voicemails yesterday. The system was jammed within an hour of the phone line going up.

Jeff McKay, the board’s chairman, said that he was concerned the board did not receive information about the issues facing the county until around 6 p.m. yesterday.

“I know it is disappointing that we weren’t better prepared for this,” McKay said. “I will say that we need to be a lot quicker.”

He also noted that residents should be aware that phase 1b is not a first-come, first-serve system. Frontline essential workers will be vaccinated in a pre-determined order, with police, fire, and hazmat workers at the top of the list.

The county is testing out the new system today in cooperation with the Fairfax County Health Department, according to Gregory Scott, director of the county’s department of information technology.

The IT department also plans to implement a virtual system with automated chatbots and work with external vendors to help manage call volume. The county also routed some calls to a voice message that said to call back later due to busy phone lines.

“Everybody was in this predicament yesterday morning,” Scott said.

Staff noted that additional manpower may be needed to manage call volume and respond to registration forms to sort out missing or conflicting information.

Fairfax County hopes to automate as much of the registration process as much as possible. For instance, the county health department says residents who are ready to get a second dose of the vaccine will likely receive an email about registering.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, who chairs the IT committee, encouraged the county to ensure the registration form is friendly for seniors. The first version of the preregistration form that went online yesterday required providing a cell phone, for example.

The new registration form is expected to be available as early as tomorrow, pending final testing and revisions.

Photo via Fairfax County Health Department

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With nearly. 2.1 million Virginians now eligible to receive vaccines, Fairfax County is experiencing challenges handling the overwhelming demand to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations.

The county received more than 10,000 calls in the first ten minutes the call system went live.

An online vaccine registration system that was supposed to be operational this morning is still not available, prompting Fairfax County residents to turn to a hotline for support. The number experienced such high demand that phone calls were being dropped.

“Our vaccine call center is experiencing a high call volume today and we are asking residents to be patient,” Fairfax County Health Department spokesperson Tina Dale said.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said just before noon that the phone line had been reset and is now back online.

The county health department’s online pre-screening form for confirming eligibility for the vaccine is now also available. The department will call or email those who are eligible to set up an appointment “within a few days,” according to its website.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn says he understands concerns associated with the process for receiving a vaccination.

“I share every’s frustration with this situation and appreciate the enthusiasm this shows by so many to get the vaccine as soon as possible,” Alcorn wrote in a statement.

Alcorn, who chairs the board’s information technology committee, added that the county’s vaccine registration system will be the first agenda item for the committee meeting scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday).

Fairfax County is among several health districts in the state to begin phase 1b of vaccinations, which includes frontline essential workers, people age 75 and above, people in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and migrant labor camps.

The state’s definition of frontline essential workers includes police, fire, teachers, food and agriculture, manufacturing, public transit, mail carriers, and other employees.

Adults above the age of 75 —  who will be vaccinated first as part of phase 1b —  can register by calling 703-324-7404.

The Virginia Department of Health has also developed an online tool that people can use to find out when they will be eligible to get vaccinated.

Photo via Fairfax County Health Department/Twitter

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Fairfax County set a new record today by averaging 534.9 new COVID-19 cases over the past seven days, a sobering sign even as the county starts making vaccines available to more segments of the population.

The number of new daily COVID-19 cases continues to follow an upward trajectory. Fairfax County reported 741 new cases today — the second-highest number of daily reported cases since the county recorded a single-day record of 897 cases on Dec. 21.

The Fairfax Health District has now recorded 50,379 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, along with 723 deaths and 3,115 hospitalizations.

The new weekly average record comes as the Fairfax Health District expands COVID-19 vaccinations to the phase 1b population. Starting today, the Fairfax County Health Department is scheduling appointments for the following individuals:

  • Frontline essential workers
  • People age 75 and older
  • People in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and migrant labor camps
  • Police, fire, and hazmat
  • Corrections and homeless shelter workers
  • Childcare/pre-kindergarten-12 teachers and staff
  • Food and agricultural personnel including veterinarians
  • Manufacturing
  • Grocery store workers
  • Public transit workers
  • Mail carriers
  • Officials needed to maintain continuity of government like judges

Fairfax County Public Schools has partnered with Inova to administer the vaccine to 40,000 teachers and staff of public and private schools and childcare programs beginning Saturday, Jan. 16. The county’s health department is currently finalizing logistics with Inova and hopes to complete the endeavor over the next three weeks.

“The availability of this vaccine for our staff, coupled with the implementation of the five key mitigation strategies, strengthens our ability to gradually return to in-person instruction. Hope and help are now truly on the way,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand wrote in a letter to the community last night.

The first phase of the vaccine program, which began in December, involved vaccinating health-care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff. Vaccinations for those individuals are continuing.

State officials say it could take months to vaccinate the roughly 1.2 million Virginians in phase 1b. So far, the federal government has allocated roughly 110,000 doses for the state on a weekly basis. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both require two doses taken between 21 and 28 days apart respectively.

As of today, 20,794 people in Fairfax County have received at least the first dose of the vaccination.

Closed vaccination clinics are planned for police, fire and hazmat, corrections, and homeless shelter workers today through the county’s health department. These individuals are not required to contact the department to schedule appointments.

Vaccination dates for other frontline essential workers will be announced in the future.

The next phase of vaccinations — 1c — will include 2.5 million people who are essential workers in transportation, food service, utilities, adults above the age of 65, and people between the age of 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions.

“Getting Virginians vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to end this pandemic, rebuild our economy, and move our Commonwealth forward,” Gov. Ralph Northam said. 

Image via CDC on Unsplash, Virginia Department of Health

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As Virginia continues to roll out the COVID-19 vaccines to healthcare professionals and workers in long-term care facilities, Gov. Ralph Northam provided some clarity regarding the next phase of the state’s vaccination plan during a press conference yesterday (Wednesday).

Phase 1B, the next group to be prioritized for innoculations, will focus on essential workers, people who are at high risk of being exposed to the novel coronavirus, and people who are unable to do their jobs remotely, Northam said.

The largest segment of that group will be teachers, childcare workers, and other school employees. There are roughly 285,000 teachers and childcare workers in Virginia, according to Northam’s presentation.

“They’re high on the list of essential workers, because teachers are critical to getting schools back open, and that’s critical to people getting back to work and literally getting back to normal,” Northam said. “Opening schools doesn’t depend on vaccinating teachers, but that sure will make it a lot easier.”

Phase 1B will also include first responders; grocery, agriculture, and food processing plant workers; manufacturing workers; postal workers; and bus drivers and other transit workers as well as those who are 75 and older.

Virginia is currently in Phase 1A of its vaccination plan, which is limited to healthcare workers and workers in long-term care facilities.

Northam did not provide details on when to expect the state to advance to the next phase, but he hopes the Commonwealth will eventually have the supplies to deliver 25,000 doses per day. Right now, Virginia is getting about 110,000 doses a week, or roughly 14,000 doses per day.

With a population of 8.5 million people, Virginia needs to administer 17 million shots total since the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that have been authorized for distribution both require two doses. That means the state will need to double its distribution rate in order to vaccinate everyone by the end of this year, Northam says.

To ensure that no doses are wasted, Northam says healthcare providers, health departments, hospitals, and any other organizations responsible for administering the vaccine must utilize their entire supply, or else risk getting fewer doses in subsequent shipments.

“You use it or you lose it,” the governor said. “So, I want you to empty those freezers and get shots in arms. No one wants to see any supplies sitting unused.” Read More

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Vienna Police Respond to Republican Senator’s Report of Vandalism and Threats by Protestors — “Officers were called to [Missouri Sen. Josh] Hawley’s home in Vienna, a Washington suburb, around 7:45 p.m. after someone reported that there were “people protesting in front of the house.” Officers who responded to the scene found that the “people were peaceful,” said Master Police Officer Juan Vazquez, a spokesman for the Town of Vienna Police Department.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

VDOT Schedules Meeting on American Legion Bridge Transit Recommendations — “After draft transit recommendations for the Interstate 495 American Legion Bridge Transit and Transportation Demand Management study were shared, a virtual public meeting will be held on Jan. 12.” [Patch]

Fauci to Hold Virginia Town Hall on COVID-19 Vaccine — “Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will speak about the COVID-19 vaccine during a virtual Friday afternoon event co-sponsored by Gov. Ralph Northam’s office, the state health department and faith leaders from around the state.” [Inside NoVA]

Local Students Named to Statewide Honor Choir — “Twenty-four Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) students from 13 high schools have been named to the 2020 Virginia Music Educators Association (VMEA) Senior Honors Choir. This group will present a virtual concert in March at a time and date to be announced.” [FCPS]

Staff Photo by Jay Westcott

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10,565 Fairfax County residents have now received a dose of one of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for distribution as of Sunday (Jan. 3).

That is by far the most vaccine doses that have been administered in a single locality in Virginia, according to a Virginia Department of Health dashboard, which shows that no other locality has administered more than 5,000 doses.

Like the rest of the country, Fairfax County is in the 1A phase of the vaccine distribution process, meaning that vaccinations are limited to health care personnel and long-term care facility residents. Some emergency responders with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department have also gotten vaccinated.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that were granted emergency use authorizations by the federal government both require two doses that are administered three or four weeks apart. No Virginia residents have gotten a second dose of either vaccine yet.

The vaccine rollout has been slower than anticipated. Virginia has distributed 404,675 doses to healthcare providers, but only 87,618 doses have been administered so far, according to the state health department.

Meanwhile, the Fairfax Health District reported 353 new COVID-19 cases today (Monday) for a total of 46,595 cases since the pandemic began. The disease caused by the novel coronavirus has killed 703 people in the district, which includes the Cities of Falls Church and Fairfax as well as the county, and put 3,032 people in the hospital.

Today’s caseload breaks Fairfax County’s streak of four consecutive days with more than 500 new cases that started on New Year’s Eve. The county’s current seven-day average is 472.9 cases.

Virginia recorded more than 5,000 new cases in a single day for the first time on Dec. 31 and has now exceeded that number three times within the past week.

Worse may be to come as the Commonwealth and the U.S. as a whole starts to see the impact of holiday gatherings and travel.

The Transportation Security Administration reported this morning that it screened 1.3 million people at airport checkpoints nationwide on Sunday, the highest volume since the COVID-19 pandemic hit early last year. TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said that yesterday marked the eighth time in the past 12 days that airports recorded more than 1 million travelers.

Photo via Fairfax County Health Department

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School is starting again for kids in the Tysons area, leading parents and educators to not just focus on possible health risks from COVID-19, but also from students who haven’t gotten their required vaccines.

Even though it’s starting the new school year off virtually, Fairfax County Public Schools is requiring all of its students to be up-to-date on required immunizations.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found indications that fewer kids are getting immunizations — possibly due to parents’ worries that their kids will catch COVID-19 at the doctor’s office.

In addition to COVID-19 concerns, some parents are now worried if vaccine-preventable diseases pose a new threat from unvaccinated kids, National Geographic reported.

The CDC said in July that health care providers seem to have the capacity to give kids their routine vaccinations.

Fairfax County officials are urging parents to get their kids vaccinated. This summer, the county expanded its number of community childhood vaccination clinics and the hours for the clinics offering the school-required Tdap vaccine.

Let us know in the poll and comments below if your kids have all their required vaccinations for the new school year.

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

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