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Tysons Corner Center could potentially host another mass COVID-19 vaccination site if booster shots get approved for a broader population, local and state health officials say.

Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu told the Board of Supervisors during its health and human services committee meeting this morning (Tuesday) that the county and Virginia health departments are working together to establish a Community Vaccination Center (CVC) “at the Tysons location.”

The Fairfax County Health Department confirmed that “planning is ongoing” to revive the large-scale clinic that the Virginia Department of Health and Department of Emergency Management opened earlier this year in Tysons Corner Center’s former Lord & Taylor store.

“As with mass vaccination sites operated by the Fairfax County Health Department, the CVC would provide first, second, and third doses to anyone who is eligible based on [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and VDH clinical guidelines,” county health department spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said in a statement.

Fairfax County currently offers third shots of the two-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to people whose immune system is compromised by a medical condition or certain medications and treatments, making them more vulnerable to severe illness if they contract the virus.

The county doesn’t have numbers yet on how many people in the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, have gotten a booster shot.

“FCHD is waiting on additional data to become available from VDH to determine the number of Fairfax Health District residents who have received an additional dose,” Caldwell said.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee voted on Friday (Sept. 17) to recommend approval of booster shots for individuals who are 65 and older, people at risk of severe illness if they’re infected, and people whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure, including healthcare workers and teachers.

However, the committee voted decidedly against recommending a booster shot for everyone 16 and older as proposed by President Joe Biden’s administration, citing a need to see more safety data, particularly on heart inflammation issues that have been reported in some younger people after getting the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The CDC’s independent advisory committee is scheduled to discuss whether to recommend authorizing booster shots when it meets tomorrow (Wednesday). Virginia and Fairfax County officials have said they’re working with pharmacies, hospitals, and other partners to plan for the possibility of expanding the availability of third vaccine doses.

Bringing back the Tysons CVC and other mass vaccination sites is one of many options currently under consideration, the Virginia Department of Health says.

“The FDA and CDC need to make their decisions before VDH can finalize its plans,” VDH spokesperson Cindy Clayton said by email. “We have been planning for several scenarios and will be able to share more information when we know more.”

Virginia opened the Tysons CVC on April 20 in conjunction with Fairfax County opening up COVID-19 vaccinations to all adults for the first time. Enabling the county to eliminate its registration waitlist, the site had the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 people per day.

The center closed on June 26 as state and local officials shifted their attention to smaller, more mobile clinics intended to target specific pockets of people who were still unvaccinated due to hesitancy or access issues.

During the Tysons mass vaccine site’s one month of operations, VDH administered 27,212 first doses and 50,956 doses overall, according to the department’s data team.

Because the COVID-19 vaccines are more widely available now from a variety of providers, including pharmacies and private health practices, Fairfax County doesn’t anticipate encountering the supply constraints for booster shots that hampered its initial vaccine rollout.

“Given that there will be ample vaccine this time around to meet demand, we are confident that people will have access, and then, through our outreach efforts, we will make sure that our equity clinics continue,” Addo-Ayensu said at today’s Board of Supervisors committee meeting.

Even as the discussion around booster shots heats up, many county residents have yet to get their first vaccine dose.

Almost 400,000 people in Fairfax County remain unvaccinated, including about 195,000 children under the age of 12, who remain ineligible, Addo-Ayensu told the board.

According to the FCHD dashboard, 811,922 Fairfax Health District residents — 68.6% of the total population — have received at least one vaccine dose, including 81.1% of adults 18 and older. 737,467 residents — 74% of adults and 62.3% of the overall population — are considered fully vaccinated.

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Morning Notes

Controversy Hits Tysons Korean Cooking Contest — Half of the judges for the 2021 K-Food Cook-Off have quit after a statement introducing one of them drew social media criticism for suggesting that the D.C. area has a lack of Korean restaurants. The competition, which will be held on Sept. 26 at the Tysons Hyatt Regency, has also come under fire for only having one judge of Korean heritage on its original panel. [Washington City Paper]

Police Investigate Possible Murder in Falls Church — Fairfax County police found the remains of 78-year-old Truman Nguyen in a shallow grave behind his house near Bailey’s Crossroads yesterday after a family member reported him missing on Monday (Sept. 6). His son was arrested and has been charged with murder, which would make it the county’s 18th homicide this year, triple the number that had been reported at this time in 2020. [The Washington Post]

Family of 9/11 Victim Shares Memories of Tragic Day — Now a student pursuing a master’s degree at George Mason University, Fairfax County resident An Nguyen was just 4 when his father was killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon, where both of his parents worked. His mother, who came to the U.S. from Vietnam as a child, was not at the Pentagon when the plane hit. [NBC4]

Tysons Business Group Hosts Statewide Candidates Forum — “The Multicultural Chamber Alliance (MCCA), a powerful collaborative initiative of the Asian American Chamber, the Northern Virginia Black Chamber and the Virginia Hispanic Chamber, invites the press and general public to attend the Annual Candidates Forum. The Candidates Forum will take place Thursday, September 9, 2021, from 10 am-12 pm, at the University of North America (12750 Fair Lakes Circle) in Fairfax, Virginia.” [MCCA]

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Morning Notes

Lieutenant Governor Candidates Speak at Tysons Luncheon — “Candidates for lieutenant governor of Virginia told their personal stories and articulated their values at a Sept. 1 luncheon in Tysons, but provided few specifics on what they would seek to accomplish if elected.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

MCC to Hold Public Meeting on Budget Tonight — “The McLean Community Center (MCC) Governing Board will hold two, in-person budget meetings this month in order to gather input and suggestions from the residents of Dranesville Small District 1-A on the Center’s fiscal year 2023 budget. The first meeting, the Finance Committee Meeting of the Whole, will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 8.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Tysons Startup Raises Millions in Funding — The Tysons-based startup theCut, a mobile platform that enables users to book and pay for barbershop appointments, announced last week that it has raised $4.5 million in seed money, bringing its total funding to $5.35 million to date. Company leaders say they will use the funds to build out a team that currently consists of 20 employees, including interns. [DC Inno]

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Morning Notes

Rainbows appear over Tysons after a recent storm (photo by ERTRIPP9/Twitter)

FCPS Looks to Tighten COVID-19 Protocols — Missed emails have led some Fairfax County Public School students to show up for class when they’re supposed to stay home after coming into close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The school system is working with county health officials to speed up the complicated contact-tracing process. [Reston Now]

Abortion and Taxes Take Center Stage at Tysons Forum — Nearly 300 people gathered at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons to hear all six major-party candidates for statewide offices. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe warned that the abortion restrictions approved in Texas on Wednesday (Sept. 1) could come to Virginia if his opponent is elected, while Republican Glenn Youngkin detailed his recently announced tax cuts plan. [Associated Press]

Falls Church Sets Opening Date for Renovated Library — The Mary Riley Styles Public Library will reopen next Friday (Sept. 10) after a year-long renovation that expanded the facility by 6,000 square feet, reconfigured the layout, and updated its amenities and infrastructure. City officials and library staff will mark the opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, with a public grand opening celebration to come later in the fall. [City of Falls Church]

Caliburger Food Truck Coming to The Boro — “Southern California burger joint @caliburgerdc is coming to #TheBoroTysons next year! In the meantime, get a preview of their sunny SoCal style from the CaliBurger Food Truck on Sat evenings from 6:30-8:30pm (beginning 9/4), & lunch on Wednesdays from 11:30am-2pm (starting 9/8).” [The Boro/Twitter]

Photo by ERTRIPP9/Twitter

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Fairfax County Public Schools’ first electric school bus (courtesy Dominion Energy)

Fairfax County Public Schools will soon add another 10 electric school buses to its fleet, thanks to a new $2.65 million state grant.

19 school districts, including FCPS, will collectively receive more than $10 million in the latest round of allocations from Virginia’s Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust — enough to replace 83 diesel school buses with electric and propane-fueled vehicles, Gov. Ralph Northam announced last Wednesday (Aug. 19).

“Virginia’s investments in electrifying the school bus fleets is an important and critical part of our comprehensive approach to reducing pollution,” Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor said in the news release. “Collectively, the replacement of these school buses is calculated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10,000 tons per year, and will save one million gallons of diesel fuel, equivalent to removing 2,000 cars from the road.”

Administered by Department of Environmental Quality, the Volkswagen trust comes from Virginia’s $93.6 million share of the $2.7 billion settlement that the automobile manufacturer agreed to in 2016 after violating the Clean Air Act by cheating vehicle emissions tests.

Virginia announced the first round of funding from the trust on May 7, awarding over $9.4 million to help local governments purchase electric vehicles for their fleets. Fairfax County got more than $4 million for shuttle buses, waste and recycling trucks, and a truck for its public library system.

FCPS currently has eight electric buses that were placed in service this past May. The first bus arrived in January as part of a pilot program developed by Dominion Energy, which rolled out 50 buses across the state with plans to replace all diesel school buses with electric ones by 2030.

However, the future of Fairfax County’s transition to electric school buses has become a little hazier after the Virginia House of Delegates rejected an expansion of Dominion’s program that would’ve added 1,000 more electric school buses, a sign of legislators’ growing wariness of the utility company’s influence.

During its spring special session, the General Assembly voted to create an Electric Vehicle Grant Fund to help with the costs of adding electric school buses. Northam signed the bill into law, but the program has no funding yet.

Dominion confirmed that the newly awarded DEQ grants are unrelated to its program, which covered the difference in cost of an electric bus versus a diesel one as well as the cost and installation of charging stations.

“Children deserve clean transportation to school and we’re excited to see Virginia moving that way,” Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox said. “The goal with our innovative program was to accelerate the adoption of electric school buses, so we’re thrilled to see more of these clean-running buses with zero emissions rolling out across Virginia.”

The utility says it is still offering to install charging stations for school districts for free in exchange for the ability to return stored energy back into the electric grid when the buses are idle and the chance to buy the bus batteries after the vehicles pass their life span.

“We will be involved if schools systems chose so,” Fox said in an email.

FCPS says its transportation department “continues to evaluate” its existing electric buses and work with vendor Thomas Built Buses to make adjustments.

While shifting to electric buses is expected to reduce operational and maintenance costs in the long run, the district’s transition is currently limited by the availability of funding and charging infrastructure, which affects where the buses can be assigned.

“As more funding opportunities become available, as the technology is refined for school division needs, and as charging infrastructure becomes readily available, FCPS plans to transition its fleet of 1,625 buses to electric,” FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult said by email.

The 10 new buses funded by the DEQ grant are scheduled to arrive in March 2022.

“Operation and maintenance of the electric buses are being monitored and evaluated for efficiency of operation and cost savings,” Moult said.

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Morning Notes

Virginia Redistricting Commission Splits on Map — The commission will submit two possible maps for new congressional and legislative districts to the General Assembly in October after its Democratic and Republican members couldn’t agree on who will draw the maps. Del. Marcus Simon (D-53rd), who called the commission flawed when it went on the ballot last November, was not impressed. [WTOP]

Virginia Tech Expert Backs Mite Theory for Bug Bites — An entomologist with the Virginia Tech Insect ID Lab says oak itch mites are likely behind the mysterious, itchy bug bites that many D.C. area residents have reported in recent weeks, possibly linked to the cicada emergence. A Fairfax County environmental health official told Tysons Reporter last week that the mites were a suspected cause but had not been confirmed. [ARLnow]

County to Hold Meeting on Pickleball Study — “The Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) seeks the public’s input on the emerging sport of pickleball and invites the community to attend a virtual meeting to introduce its draft Pickleball Study…The event will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at 7 p.m. and will be available online afterward for those unable to attend live.” [FCPA]

Vienna Dog Park Closed This Morning — The Vienna Dog Park at the corner of Courthouse Road and Moorefield Road SW will be closed for maintenance from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. today (Thursday). It is the only publicly owned dog park in the Tysons area. [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

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The Virginia State Capitol building in Richmond (via Doug Kerr/Flickr)

The Virginia General Assembly has wrapped up its first fully in-person session since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Convened on Aug. 2, the special session concluded on Tuesday (Aug. 10) after the House of Delegates and state Senate appointed eight new judges to the Virginia Court of Appeals and passed a plan to spend $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds.

The eight-day session marked the first time in 17 months that the State Capitol in Richmond hosted the entire legislature. While the Senate continued meeting in person throughout the pandemic, the House conducted most of its business remotely, with the exception of a one-day veto session in April 2020 and the initial days of a special session in August 2020.

“It was just really nice to see people again getting together,” Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) said by phone while driving back from Richmond on Tuesday.

The special session still required some adjustments in response to the continued threat of the coronavirus.

Plexiglas shields were erected around each legislator’s desk in both chambers, and Keam says all of the Democrats at least were fully vaccinated with masks donned throughout the session, though there was less consensus about the etiquette for greeting people.

“Some people shook hands. Some people just bumped their elbows,” Keam said. “…I can’t speak to what the Republicans are doing, but for the Democrats, we went out of our way to not only practice safe protocols, but also to show to the public that, you know, you’ve got to take this seriously still.”

For Keam, whose district includes Vienna and part of Tysons, highlights of the adopted American Rescue Plan Act budget bill include the $700 million to expand broadband with the goal of achieving universal access by 2024.

That kind of major investment would’ve taken much longer to put together without the federal funds, which were approved by Congress in March, Keam says, noting that while the need for broadband is most acute in Virginia’s rural areas, Fairfax County also has gaps in coverage.

“As a one-time expense, we’re finally able to catch up on the broadband infrastructure that we need,” he said.

As chair of House’s higher education subcommittee, Keam cited subsidizing financial aid for college students as another top priority. The General Assembly allocated $111 million to that, along with $250 million to upgrade ventilation systems in K-12 public schools.

Other ARPA funds were allocated to small business recovery, unemployment benefits, water and sewer infrastructure, and bonuses for some law enforcement officers. The bill also requires that the Department of Motor Vehicles resume walk-in services.

Keam and the rest of the recently formed Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus had hoped to see more money devoted to making government services — particularly the Virginia Employment Commission, which will receive more than $800 million — more accessible for people who are not fluent in English.

The budget includes $500,000 to help state agencies expand language access, according to a news release from the AAPI Caucus.

“Things like language [assistance] and other things that take more time to develop and hire more people, they didn’t think that we could use the money right away for that,” Keam said. “But that’s something that they want to work with us into the next year.” Read More

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Morning Notes

Virginia Requires Vaccinations for All State Workers — About 122,000 state employees must show proof that they have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 1 or undergo weekly testing with proof of a negative result, Gov. Ralph Northam said yesterday (Thursday). Noting that 98% of COVID hospitalizations since January have been unvaccinated people, he encouraged local governments and businesses to adopt similar mandates. [Office of the Governor]

Woman Shot by Fairfax County Police Officer Charged — “Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis on Thursday released body-camera video of the July police shooting of a resident of a group home for the intellectually disabled…Police identified the woman who was shot as 30-year-old Jiyoung Lee of Springfield. Lee, who was later charged with assault on an officer, was taken to the hospital following the shooting and is still recovering.” [The Washington Post]

County Prosecutor Launches New Specialized Units — Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano announced on Tuesday (Aug. 4) that his office has established two new teams that will focus exclusively on domestic violence cases and crimes against children. The units will consist of 15 new prosecutors who will all be trained in working with victims of trauma. [WTOP]

Capital One Hall to Hold Job Fair — Scheduled to open on Oct. 2, Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road) in Tysons will hold a job fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday (Aug. 10) as the performance venue prepares for its inaugural season. Available positions include bartenders, cooks, banquet servers, dishwashers, security, audiovisual technicians, and more. [Capital One Hall/Twitter]

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Face masks (via Mika Baumeister on Unsplash)

(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Virginia recommends that even vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors in certain circumstances, but with different locations experiencing different levels of COVID-19 transmission, the state has stopped short of issuing a mandate.

While some states revised their mask rules shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement on Tuesday (July 27), Virginia had not indicated how it will approach mask-wearing amid rising COVID-19 case levels, with officials saying only that they were reviewing the new guidance.

Gov. Ralph Northam issued the first official statement on the issue via social media on Thursday (July 29), writing that “all Virginians should consider wearing a mask in public indoor settings where there is increased risk of COVD-19  transmission, as the new CDC guidance recommends.”

“This is not a requirement, but a recommendation,” he said.

These situations include masking indoors at K-12 schools and in areas of the Commonwealth that have “substantial” community transmission of the virus.

Northam noted in further tweets that there has been a dramatic rise in COVID cases in Virginia over the last month due to the delta variant and that “over 98%” of hospitalizations and deaths are residents who are unvaccinated.

When asked why the state is recommending but not requiring indoor mask-wearing, a Virginia Department of Health spokesperson said the department “doesn’t have anything to add at this moment” beyond Northam’s statement.

When explaining the decision to revise its guidelines, the CDC cited new scientific evidence showing that vaccinated people infected with the delta variant could potentially spread the virus to others. While the available vaccines effectively protect against severe illness and hospitalizations, the findings concerned officials enough to prompt a reversal of sorts after mask requirements were eased in May.

“This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said.

With case numbers climbing locally, as they have elsewhere around the country, Fairfax County has moved to put new rules in place in the hopes of slowing the virus’ spread without jeopardizing plans to reopen workplaces and schools.

Fairfax County Public Schools announced yesterday (Wednesday) that it will require universal masking in school buildings regardless of an individual’s vaccination status, and the Board of Supervisors approved a motion on Tuesday (July 27) to evaluate whether to implement a vaccine mandate for 12,000 county employees.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement that he supports a shift back to wearing masks indoors for places with high COVID-19 transmission and around people who are unable to get vaccinated:

With the delta variant surging in unvaccinated communities, I support masking in areas with more people vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 who aren’t able to be vaccinated (such as schools) and areas with a high risk of transmission. In Fairfax County we will continue to follow state guidelines on masking and sharing the effectiveness of masking to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Currently, 76% of Fairfax Health District residents over the age of 18 have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 69.4% are fully vaccinated, according to the Fairfax County Health Department’s vaccine dashboard.

While that’s above Virginia and national rates, those numbers have barely budged over the last several weeks as the county looks for ways to get more residents immunized.

Health experts and public officials continue to reiterate that vaccines are the best tools in the fight against the pandemic.

“The vaccine is the strongest tool we have to fight this pandemic,” McKay wrote. “For the sake of our economic recovery, sending students back to school, and returning to normal, we need even more people to get vaccinated. If you aren’t vaccinated, go to vaccine.gov to get scheduled, there are appointments available near you!”

In terms of transmission rates, Fairfax County is currently doing better than many other Virginia counties.

While the CDC’s COVID tracker shows that a large swath of the Commonwealth has “substantial community transmission,” Fairfax County currently has “moderate” transmission like Arlington County. A number of nearby localities like the City of Alexandria, Stafford, and Spotsylvania counties have “substantial” or even “high” transmission.

D.C., which has substantial spread, announced today that it will require everyone 2 and older to wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status starting Saturday (July 31).

Photo via Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Storm Brings Power Outages, Hail to Fairfax County — Thunderstorms swept through Fairfax County last night (Wednesday), resulting in reports of damaging winds and even hail “that toppled trees and wires.” As of midnight, Dominion Energy’s outage map showed thousands of people in the county without power, particularly around McLean. [Capital Weather Gang]

Farmer’s Market Nonprofit Awarded State GrantFRESHFARM will get a $50,000 grant from the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund to establish new fresh food mobile markets in food-insecure areas of Northern Virginia. The nonprofit operates several farmer’s markets in Fairfax County, including the ones at the Mosaic District and The Boro. [Patch]

More Traffic Control Sought for Great Falls Park — “Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) officials are seeking to have the federal government provide $100,000 in permanent, annual funding for U.S. Park Police to control traffic at Old Dominion Drive and Georgetown Pike outside the park’s entrance when park usage is especially heavy…Traffic congestion outside the park routinely occurs on weekends, holidays and fee-free days from March through early November, GFCA leaders said.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

Madison HS Student Brings Books and Bikes to Tanzania — James Madison High School rising junior Sophia Brown organized a bicycle drive at the Vienna school in May and collected dozens of donated books to bring to Tanzania for a Girl Scout project. Sophia traveled to the East African country this summer with support from the nonprofit Wheels to Africa, which she has worked with since she was in second grade. [FCPS]

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