Reston, VA

Before we head off into another weekend amid receding COVID-19 spread, let’s take a look back at the biggest stories on Reston Now in recent days.

  1. Red Velvet Cupcakery is returning to Reston, opening in August along with Little Beast Bistro
  2. Taste of Istanbul to open at Reston Town Center on May 16
  3. DEVELOPING: South Lakes BB&T Bank robbed, police say to avoid area
  4. A GoFundMe is helping a Restonian experiencing homelessness afford shelter
  5. True Food Kitchen settles in at Reston Town Center

If you have ideas on stories we should cover, email us at [email protected] or submit an anonymous tip. Photos from around the Reston and Herndon area are also welcome, with credit always given to the photographer.

Feel free to discuss these topics, your socially distanced weekend plans, or anything else that’s happening locally in the comments below.

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The Reston Citizens Association is on the lookout for residents who want to get more involved in the community.

The association will hold an election on May 27 to fill four district seats on its board of directors, which consists of 13 members who serve three-year terms. The filing deadline for candidates is coming in just 10 days on May 24.

A nonprofit, non-partisan organization that serves more than 60,000 residents, RCA says in a news release calling for candidates that this will be an “exciting” year, with the Reston Comprehensive Plan Study Task Force preparing to wrap up its review of a document that will shape the area’s future.

Other issues that RCA expects to tackle in the near-future include major transportation projects like the proposed Town Center Parkway underpass and the ongoing commitment to preserving Reston’s golf courses.

“We have learned in recent years the importance of having an informed and involved community,” RCA President Dennis Hays said. “By working together we are able to have an effective — and if need be loud — voice in preserving the Reston we have come to love and cherish.”

The four board seats up for election this year include two at-large directors, a Hunters Woods District director, and a South Lakes District director.

Candidates must be Reston residents who live in the Reston Community Center tax district, also known as Small Tax District 5. They must also be 18 years of age or older and vote at Reston district precincts.

The application can be downloaded from the RCA website, and completed forms must be submitted by email to RCA Elections Chair Brian Steiner at [email protected]

Any questions can be sent to RCA at [email protected]

Photo courtesy Reston Citizens Association

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If you’re in the market to buy a house, you’ve got options.

According to Homesnap, there are 163 homes currently for sale in Reston — 95 condos, 31 detached homes and 37 townhomes. Additionally, as of May 9, there have been 61 new listings in the past four weeks.

This weekend, you’ll find a number of open houses across Reston, including:

Photo via James Lee on Unsplash

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Another capital improvement project is moving closer to completion in the Town of Herndon.

The Herndon Town Council unanimously voted in favor of awarding a contract to Fort Myer Construction Corporation for improvements at the Elden and Center streets intersection during its public session on May 11.

Fort Myer submitted a bid of $863,000, the lowest of five bids that the town received for the project.

The project will reconstruct and realign the existing intersection “to incorporate additional turn lanes as well as a new fully operational traffic signal,” Herndon Deputy Director of Public Works John Irish says.

According to the project description, the lane and signal changes will be installed in conjunction with improvements to the existing storm drain system and enhancements to pedestrian facilities located at the intersection, including the addition of brick sidewalks.

The project description states that these enhancements “will assist with the existing and future mixed-use residential development on Center Street which places greater traffic volumes in this project area.”

The project is expected to be completed by 2023.

Up to 50% of the construction contract will be covered by reimbursement funds through a revenue-sharing agreement between Herndon and the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Irish told the council during a work session on May 4 that the cost fell below the $930,000 that had been budgeted for the project.

He added that the plan to make up the half of the costs not supported by revenue-sharing funds is to use local funds collected from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The NVTA funds come from the 30% local distribution revenue given to localities for transportation projects through House Bill 2313, which was passed in 2013.

The Elden-Center Street project is one of 48 capital projects included in Herndon’s FY 2021 – FY 2026 Capital Improvement Program that was adopted June 9, 2020. Irish says this is the first of several capital improvement projects that will be brought before the town council in the next few months.

Image via Town of Herndon

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Fairfax County officials say they plan to follow the state government’s lead on how to handle the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated mask guidelines, which now state that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask outdoors or indoors in most settings.

The CDC announced the revised guidelines yesterday afternoon (Thursday) in a move intended to highlight the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We will continue to follow the masking guidance put out by the state and follow the data,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “While there are still times that a mask may be necessary, the vaccine works. This is a strong incentive to get vaccinated if you have yet to do so. It is crucial and effective in protecting your family, friends, and community.”

Virginia officials are currently reviewing the new guidance and expect to issue updates to Virginia’s mask requirements soon, according to Alena Yarmosky, the press secretary for Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.

“Virginia will continue to follow CDC guidelines, as we have throughout this pandemic. We are reviewing this guidance and expect to have more updates soon,” Yarmosky said in a statement. “Ultimately this reinforces the importance of getting vaccinated. Vaccines are our pathway out of this pandemic, and they are how we can all get back to doing what we love.”

The change comes almost exactly one year after the Commonwealth first instituted a mask mandate in an effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

There are caveats to the significant loosening of mask-wearing guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, defined by the CDC as people who have gone at least two weeks since their last needed dose.

Fully vaccinated individuals must still cover their face and maintain social distancing when going into doctors’ offices, hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and congregate settings, such as prisons or homeless shelters. Masks are also still required on public transportation and in transportation hubs like airports.

Nonetheless, the move reflects the progress that the U.S. has made in finally getting COVID-19 under control.

With cases declining locally and statewide, and more of the population getting vaccinated, Virginia already loosened its mask guidelines in April, and several capacity restrictions are set to ease tomorrow (Saturday). Northam plans to lift all limits on June 15 if case rates continue to fall.

The new mask guidance was announced within 24 hours of the CDC — along with Virginia and Fairfax County — expanding eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine to adolescents between the ages of 12 to 15.

“With the expansion of eligibility to everyone 12 and older, more Virginians can get vaccinated than ever before,” Yarmosky said. “If you haven’t already, now is the time to get your shot.”

Clinical trials for vaccinating kids under the age of 12 remain ongoing as well.

Photo via Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

County Board Discusses Impact of Telework on Hiring — “After companies in the county have spent more than a year with much of their workforces teleworking — and with county office vacancy rates hovering at 14.6% in 2020, the highest rate in two years — Fairfax Board Chairman Jeffrey McKay asked the Fairfax County EDA whether the number of tech vacancies could lead companies to pivot to recruiting remote workers and what the ripple effects would be.” [Washington Business Journal]

Metro Waives Special Events Fee — Metro’s Board of Directors approved a temporary policy yesterday (Thursday) waiving the $100,000 per hour fee normally charged to large-scale event organizers to keep stations open past standard closing hours. The waiver will apply for professional sports games and other approved special events through Dec. 31. [WMATA]

Suffragist Memorial Dedication on Sunday — The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial will be dedicated at Occoquan Regional Park in Lorton at 2 p.m. on Sunday (May 16). It is the first memorial in the U.S. devoted to the women’s suffrage movement. The ceremony, which will be live-streamed, was originally scheduled for Aug. 26, 2020 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification but got postponed due to the pandemic. [Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association]

Colvin Run Mill and Frying Pan Recognized — The National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials named Colvin Run Mill in Great Falls and the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon among the winners of its 2021 NACPRO Awards. The Colvin Run Miller’s House Exhibit won the Historical or Cultural Facility category, and the Friends of Frying Pan won the Outstanding Support Organization category. [Fairfax County Park Authority]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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A new restaurant that offers sushi and Thai cuisine has taken up residence at Plaza America in Reston.

SAAO Thai and Sushi will open its doors in late May, according to Naruedon “Don” Senatham, a partner on the restaurant.

It is located in Suite 105 at 11730 Plaza America Drive, taking the place of Nikko Sushi and Hibachi. Other tenants in the building include The Melting Pot and NCI Information Systems Inc.

This will be the fifth restaurant in the D.C. area for the ownership team, which also operates Teak Wood Thai & Sushi, Kruba Thai & Sushi, and The Regent Thai in downtown D.C. as well as Galae Thai in Alexandria.

Senatham told Reston Now that the restaurant team became interested in expanding into Reston after seeing the area grow over the past 10 years. Plaza America’s proximity to key transportation hubs like the Dulles Toll Road, Metro Silver Line, and Dulles International Airport suggested it had “great potential” for doing business.

“Over 15 years, we served millions of dishes of our Thai and Sushi culinary expertise in D.C.,” he said by email. “Now, we are offering Reston residents [the chance] to enjoy the dining experience with 2 cuisines in 1 place.”

The Thai menu features several staple dishes, such as pad thai, tom yum soup, and panang curry. There is also a Japanese menu with sushi, sashimi, and ramen.

According to Senatham, SAAO takes its name from the Northern Thai word for “twenty,” and its logo incorporates the number 20 in Thai numerals, a nod to the fact that it was intended to be established in the year 2020.

Inside, the restaurant has been furnished with woodcarvings and decorations made in Thailand.

“Saao Thai and Sushi offers an authentic Thai dining experience,” Senatham said, noting that the restaurant will use freshly sourced produce. “From smooth, aromatic curries to fresh salads and perfectly balanced pad thai, our menu provide an insight into the best of Thai and sushi cuisine.”

Photo courtesy SAAO Thai and Sushi

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This is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

The number of unemployed Virginians increased from 145,294 in March 2020 to 482,111 in April 2020 causing unemployment insurance claims to increase ten-fold within a month! In addition to the rising number of unemployed, Congress created several temporary programs to extend unemployment insurance benefits and expand them to many previously ineligible workers. Since those federal programs are administered by the states, the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) was overwhelmed with claims. In the fall of 2020 VEC ranked lowest nationwide for timeliness in processing unemployment insurance claims that required further review. Citizens were understandably frustrated and upset with a process that has left some without benefits for many months. My office, along with that of other legislators, was deluged with e-mails and calls from those desperately seeking help. My legislative assistant has put in many extra hours helping constituents with their filings and follow up.

A review of unemployment rates throughout the Commonwealth reveals that the rise in unemployment was statewide with areas having a high rate of unemployment going into the pandemic getting hit the hardest, but more prosperous areas got hit as well. According to data on the VEC website, the rate of unemployment for March 2021, the last period for which numbers are available, ranged from a low of 3.2 percent in Madison County, an agricultural area in the center of the state, to a high of 12.9 percent in Petersburg City, one of the poorest areas in the state. On the low end of the unemployment numbers, Falls Church City was number 2 with a rate of 3.4 percent, and Fairfax County was 39th lowest at a rate of 4.6 percent. On the high end, Richmond was 7.1 percent, and the cities in the Hampton Roads region including Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Hopewell ranged from 7.1 percent to 10.0 percent, just below Petersburg City.

The COVID-19 relief checks were very helpful in slowing the slide of the economy toward recession levels of unemployment. The additional funding now being debated in the Congress for infrastructure and additional relief will shore up the economy further until the normal activity of the economy returns with the end of the pandemic. I will leave to economists to debate the amount of stimulus needed to restore the economy, but I can say that the federal money that has flowed into the state has prevented widespread reductions in staff and services that would have been necessary without that funding.

For those who have borne the brunt of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic I can only offer my sympathy and compassion for what you have had to endure. I continue to be impressed with the resiliency of individuals and communities in times of challenge like these. The response of state government in this pandemic was unsatisfactory. True the bureaucracy was swamped with requests, but we should have been quicker to respond. True our existing technology was not up to the demand, but the technology that was to have been upgraded should have been done years ago. As Chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission (JLARC), I promise that the results of the study that we are undertaking of VEC will address current concerns and provide recommendations to prevent this kind of situation from arising again!

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(Updated 11:20 a.m.) Fairfax County residents aged 12 to 15 years old can get the Pfizer vaccine starting today.

Last night (May 12), the Virginia Department of Health announced that adolescents in this age range are eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine after federal officials approved the change earlier in the day.

This morning, the county health department announced on its blog that this expansion of eligibility will include those in the Fairfax Health District, which encompasses the county and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church).

Appointments can be made for this age range by calling 703-324-7404 or by going online to the CDC’s Vaccine Administration Management System, which is being used to manage county health department clinics and a clinic at George Mason University.

The Tysons Community Vaccination Center at the former Lord & Taylor store in Tysons Corner Center will begin vaccinating 12 to 15 years old starting tomorrow (Friday). The clinic will accept walk-ins, though appointments are highly encouraged.

A parent, guardian, or another adult must accompany anyone under the age of 18 to their appointment or walk-in vaccination at all health department-run sites.

Retail pharmacies are also now offering the Pfizer vaccine to this age group, a county health department spokesperson confirms to Reston Now. Residents can search vaccines.gov, which was previously known as VaccineFinder, to see where doses may be available.

The county also suggests that families contact their physician about availability.

In addition, the health department is working with school systems in the Fairfax Health District to coordinate “strategies” to ensure vaccine access to all students.

“The Health Department is working with the school administrations of Fairfax County Public Schools and Fairfax-Falls Church Public Schools on strategies to ensure equity in access to vaccination for under-resourced students,” the blog post says. “Parents are encouraged to monitor their email and school announcements for information and updates.”

In a joint statement this morning from FCPS and the health department, it’s noted more information about this should be provided later this month.

In terms of supply, the county anticipates being able to meet demand immediately.

“There remains a large supply of vaccine in our community with numerous vaccine providers unlike in months past,” a county health department spokesperson told Reston Now. “We anticipate a rush, but there are numerous appointment slots to choose from so we don’t expect a lag in terms of meeting demand.”

Based on census data, the county estimates there are nearly 63,000 residents in this age range in the Fairfax Health District.

The administration, side effects, and how long it takes to be fully vaccinated is the same for adolescents as it is for adults. The Pfizer vaccine is given in two doses separated by 21 days, and side effects include pain or redness in the shot location, fatigue, fever, and muscle aches.

Adolescents are also considered fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving the second dose.

Clinical trials for vaccinating kids under the age of 12 remain ongoing.

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