In many ways, this past Thanksgiving weekend looked much more normal than last year’s isolated celebrations.
COVID-19 vaccines enabled many people to gather again with family and friends. Black Friday shoppers returned in droves to local malls, and air travel reached a pandemic high of 2.3 million air travelers the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 24) — only for that to be topped by 2.4 million travelers yesterday (Sunday), according to the Transportation Security Administration.
However, like a crotchety relative who overstays their welcome, the coronavirus still proved difficult to ignore, as reports emerged of a new variant of concern dubbed Omicron that was first identified in South Africa last week but has since been detected in at least a dozen countries, including Canada.
While no cases have been reported in the U.S. yet, and it’s unclear exactly what kind of threat Omicron poses, news of a new, potentially more transmissible variant comes as Fairfax County grapples with already climbing infection rates.
The county’s seven-day average hit a high for November on last Thursday (Nov. 25) with 141.6 cases — the highest weekly average since there were 143.4 new cases per day on Oct. 23, just before the late-summer Delta variant surge waned.
After a slight dip over the weekend, the addition of 149 cases today (Monday) has the weekly average sitting at 119.6 cases.
The Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has recorded a total of 96,651 COVID-19 cases during the pandemic. 4,189 residents have been hospitalized, and 1,226 residents have died, with one death reported in the past week.
Citing an increased demand for testing amid the recent COVID-19 surge, the Fairfax County Health Department announced this morning that the county’s public library branches will soon serve as distribution sites for at-home test kits as part of a state-led pilot program.
Quantities are expected to be limited, but the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Card Home Test kits will be available for free at all 13 of Fairfax County Public Library’s community branches and its eight regional branches starting on Friday (Dec. 3).
The tests are conducted online through eMed. The results are reported within 15 minutes and automatically shared with the Virginia Department of Health.
“Libraries are trusted community hubs, and we are pleased to support public health initiatives like this partnership with the Virginia Department of Health,” FCPL Director Jessica Hudson said in a statement.
The Fairfax Health District averaged 3,861 testing encounters a day for the past week as of Nov. 25. The current seven-day positivity rate for all tests, including rapid antigen tests, is 4.2%.
“For people who have a hard time finding a test kit at a pharmacy or who can’t afford a kit, the new library program provides another opportunity to receive a test kit,” FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said.
COVID-19 testing is also still available from health care providers and clinics, and those who are exhibiting symptoms or have had contact with someone who tested positive can visit FCHD sites.
At the same time, vaccination rates continue to increase, with 883,825 district residents — 74.7% of the total population — having now received at least one dose. That includes 85.1% of people aged 18 and older and nearly 30% of children aged 5-11, according to the Fairfax County Health Department.
775,361 residents — 77.5% of adults and 65.5% of the population overall — are fully vaccinated.
65-74 year olds and 75-84 year olds lead the way in terms of vaccinations, with over 99% of both those age groups getting at least one vaccine dose. 51.3% of 75-84 year olds have gotten a booster shot, the highest rate of any age group, though more doses have been administered to younger residents.
Photo via CDC/Unsplash
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