Reston, VA

A man in his 60s is the second person to die from complications from COVID-19 in the Fairfax County, according to officials.

The Fairfax County Health Department announced Friday evening that the man acquired COVID-19 through travel and later tested positive for the virus.

“This is a tragic loss and our hearts go out to his family and friends,” Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the health department’s director, said in the announcement.

On Saturday, the county announced that a man in his 60s, who got sick through contact with a another coronavirus person, was the county’s first COVID-19 death, WJLA reported.

Earlier today (Friday), the number of known COVID-19 cases jumped to 124 in the Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County, the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church and towns in the county.

Expanding testing capacity in the state could explain the increase in confirmed cases.

Inova Urgent Care locations in Chantille, Arlington and Tysons recently turned into respiratory illness clinics that offer the test.

“This most recent death, along with the increasing numbers of coronavirus cases we are seeing, is a reminder that we all need to be diligent in doing our part to help slow the spread of virus in the community,” Addo-Ayensu said.

“Please continue to practice social distancing, wash your hands and avoid touching your face, and stay home when you are sick,” she said.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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Fairfax County jumped from 80 to 124 known cases of coronavirus from Thursday to Friday.

As of this morning, the county has the highest number of presumptive cases, followed by Arlington County, which has 63 cases, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

An increase in testing capacity in the state could explain the increase in confirmed cases.

Inova Urgent Care locations in Chantille, Arlington and Tysons recently turned into respiratory illness clinics that offer the test.

Statewide, 604 cases of the virus have been identified of the 7,337 people who have been tested. Fourteen people have died from the respiratory illness, with one death in Fairfax County.

Fairfax County has not yet released its daily update on COVID-19 cases.

Data via Virginia Department of Health and Fairfax County

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved today (Tuesday) giving taxpayers more time to file and pay their taxes.

Now, individuals and businesses in the county will have until June 1 to file their personal property tax returns. Additionally, the first half of payments for real estate taxes won’t be due until Aug. 8.

“Both these resolutions are intended to alleviate the negative impact threatened by the potential spread of COVID-19,” according to county documents.

“I’ve been asked a lot about this since a lot of folks in the county have found themselves without paychecks,” Chairman Jeff McKay said.

McKay said that people won’t accrue late fees for following the new deadlines.

By pushing the deadlines, the county will likely be delayed in receiving tax revenue, according to the county. However, county staff said that the benefits to the community by pushing the deadlines outweighs potential impacts on revenue.

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Fairfax County announced today that it is closing both its indoor and outdoor parks “until further notice” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The health and wellbeing of our community, park visitors and staff remain our highest priority,” according to the county. “By limiting park usage to exercising on trails, we hope to reduce the largest crowd gatherings, thus improving the ability to social distance and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Earlier this month, the county closed indoor parks for two weeks starting Monday, March 16. Yesterday, the county announced the closure of its playgrounds, skate parks and restrooms.

Now, all of the Fairfax County Park Authority parks will be closed by tomorrow night.

“This change is in response to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s order to close public access to recreational facilities,” according to the county.

The county’s full list of new closures include:

  • parking lots
  • athletic fields
  • sport courts
  • restrooms
  • nature centers
  • visitor centers
  • golf courses
  • historic sites
  • picnic areas
  • playgrounds
  • amusements
  • boat launches
  • skate parks
  • off-leash dog areas
  • outdoor fitness equipment
  • any areas for open recreation

Additionally, Park Authority programs and events through April 14 and programs at Fairfax County Public Schools through June 15 have been canceled.

People can still use the trails around Fairfax County as long as they keep 6 feet away from other people and don’t form groups.

“While all parks and amenities are closed, trails will remain open for individual use, but not group use,” the county said. “All social distancing recommendations are in effect.”

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Fairfax County Public Schools has changed the time for its grab and go meal sites at 34 school locations.

Starting Tuesday, March 24, FCPS will have the meals available from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The altered times will not affect the breakfast and lunch availability, according to FCPS.

Families can also find breakfast and lunch at 10 pop-up locations around the county and bus stop locations in several school neighborhoods. The complete list is available online, along with an online map created by the county to find food distribution sites.

Curbside pickup is only available at Westgate Elementary in Falls Church and Oak View Elementary in Fairfax from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Meals are free for kids and $2 for adults. Families must bring their kids when requesting meals.

Photo via FCPS

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Superintendent Scott Brabrand said during a Facebook Live event today (Friday) that he is not aware of any new coronavirus cases with Fairfax County Public School employees.

FCPS announced on Saturday (March 14) that a teacher at Lynbrook Elementary School tested presumptive positive for coronavirus.

“We received no additional information about any of our employees receiving such a diagnosis,” he said.

Lynbrook Elementary School has been “thoroughly cleaned,” Brabrand said.

Fairfax County Public Schools closed last Friday (March 13). “It is our plan to return to school on April 14,” Brabrand said today. “This situation continues to evolve from day to day.”

Brabrand said that grade books are not closed and that students will have opportunities to complete assignments from the closure.

Brabrand said that he is trying to delay decisions on canceling proms and find ways for students to participate in graduations, which run from late May to June.

Brabrand said that a decision will be made next week about the laptop distribution that was supposed to happen on Monday (March 16).

More updates from Brabrand:

  • April 13 is still planned as a Teacher Work Day
  • FCPS is “committed to pay employees during the closure”
  • will share decisions on pay for substitute teachers next week
  • working on an access plan to schools for an emergency or critical school supplies
  • parents should wait for schools to reopen before registering their kids
  • teachers will get distance learning training in a distance learning environment

“This is not an optimal situation for any of us here in Fairfax County Public Schools,” he said.

Image via FCPS/Facebook

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Updated at 4:55 p.m. — “Kaiser has set up five different sites across the region for members with a doctor’s prescription for testing,” WTOP reported. “The health maintenance organization has testing sites in Baltimore, Largo, Gaithersburg, Tysons Corner and Woodbridge.”

Drive-thru coronavirus testing sites are starting to pop up around the U.S. to screen patients for the virus.

Fairfax County doesn’t have any plans at the moment to open a drive-through testing site, Ali Althen, a spokesperson for Fairfax County, told Tysons Reporter yesterday.

“The decision to open sites would likely be made by the medical community and not the county government,” Althen said.

Earlier this week, Arlington County and Virginia Hospital teamed up for a drive-thru testing site to cut down on the number of people trying to get tested at hospitals and doctor’s offices.

“Arlington residents, county and school system employees and Virginia Hospital Center patients, who are experiencing symptoms consistent with coronavirus and have a written order from a healthcare provider, will be eligible for testing,” ARLnow reported.

As of Thursday morning, the Virginia Department of Health says there are 77 presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in the commonwealth, with 14 in Fairfax County.

If the county does decide to open drive-thru sites, it would let people know “across our channels to help members of the public find and make use of those sites as necessary and appropriate,” Althen said.

On Thursday afternoon, Fairfax County released more information about testing sites:

Up until recently, COVID-19 testing was only available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state laboratories, with local health departments like ours helping to coordinate and facilitate those tests based on very specific testing criteria. Now that we have commercial laboratories testing capability, physicians have wider latitude to order testing.

Still, several challenges have limited testing for Fairfax County residents:

  1. With shortages of personal protective equipment across the nation, health care providers who lack recommended protective equipment may not test because of the risk to their health and ability to continue providing care in the community.
  2. The materials needed for specimen collection before being sent to the lab are in limited supply nationwide.

The Health Department does not evaluate patients or collect specimens for commercial testing because these functions are best performed by primary care providers, urgent care centers or Emergency Departments where a complete medical evaluation, radiology, and other types of laboratory testing are available.

Let us know what you think of the coronavirus drive-thru sites in the poll below.

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

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As concerns grow about the coronavirus, state and county officials, along with Dominion Energy, want residents to beware scams related to the virus.

“As the coronavirus public health emergency continues, scam artists are taking advantage [of] the situation,” one of the many alerts from Fairfax County said.

Coronavirus Scam Prevention

Due to Virginia’s declared state of emergency, the county noted that it is unlawful of suppliers to sell, lease or license any necessary goods and services “at an unconscionable price.”

As of yesterday (Tuesday), spokespeople for Fairfax County and FCPD haven’t received any reports about scams related to the coronavirus.

Earlier in March, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring urged residents to be wary of coronavirus scams, which could include products for sale claiming to prevent the virus, misinformation or fake solicitations for coronavirus victims, according to a press release.

“Unfortunately, scammers oftentimes take advantage of natural disasters or public health fears like the coronavirus to make a buck,” Herring said in the press release.

The press release offered tips for people to combat scams:

  • Look out for emails that claim to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that they have information about the coronavirus. For the most updated information you can visit the CDC and the World Health Organization websites.
  • Do not click on any links from unknown sources. This could lead to downloading a virus on your computer or phone.
  • Ignore any offers, online or otherwise, for a coronavirus vaccine. If you see any advertisements for prevention, treatment or cures ask the question: if there had been a cure for the disease would you be hearing about that through an advertisement or sales pitch?
  • Thoroughly research any organizations or charities purporting to be raising funds for victims of the coronavirus.
  • Look out for “investment opportunities” surrounding the coronavirus. According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission there are online promotions claiming the products or services of certain publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure the disease and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase because of that.

“It is so important that Virginians stay vigilant and do their research before giving their money to anyone purporting to sell preventative medications or raising funds for victims,” Herring said.

Scams Often Target Seniors

Dominion Energy is working with police to get the scammers’ phone numbers shut down, according to Peggy Fox, a Dominion Energy spokesperson.

“Dominion Energy will never make threatening phone calls, demand you pay over the phone or ask you to pay with prepaid cards,” Fox said.

Often, the scammers — claiming to be from Dominion Energy — will call people and threaten to cut off service if payments aren’t made immediately, Fox said.

“They direct their victims to another number and when you call it (which I have) you may hear our Dominion Energy voice recording — which they’ve stolen,” Fox said, adding that they will also tell people to buy pre-paid cards for payment.

Tips from Dominion Energy on how to spot scams:

  • While robocall scams can be relatively easy to spot, effective scammers continue to make personal phone calls. Some scammers may employ scare tactics, while others will try to gain your trust by sounding friendly and sympathetic.
  • Many utility scammers try to instill fear and a sense of urgency by threatening immediate service disconnection if you don’t provide payment information over the phone or agree to pay your energy bill with a prepaid debit or gift card.
  • Dominion Energy does not make calls requesting immediate payment or require customers to pay with prepaid cards of any kind.
  • Some utility impostors may falsify their caller ID to appear they are using a local number or even Dominion Energy’s customer service number. When in doubt, hang up and call the number located on your energy bill.
  • Don’t let anyone into your home unless you have a previously scheduled appointment or have called about an issue. Always check for proper identification before letting personnel in. Additionally, utility workers won’t ask you to pay an energy bill in person.
  • Hang up. Customers can always verify their account balance and payment due date by signing into their dominionenergy.com account or calling 1-866-DOM-HELP (1-866-366-4357).

“These scams are widespread in each of the 18 states we serve. They’re relentless in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, where we provide electrical service,” Fox said, adding that they often target seniors.

Additionally, Dominion Energy is waiving reconnection and late fees, along with donating $1 million to relief organizations to help people impacted by the coronavirus.

Suspect It’s a Scammer?

So what happens if a scammer calls? Hang up and call these places.

People who have questions or concerns about scams can contact the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Section at 800-552-9963 or the county’s Consumer Affairs Branch at 703-222‐8435, TTY 711.

People who think they’ve received a scam call regarding Dominion Energy should hang up and report the calls to Dominion Energy and the police.

Photo by Jonah Pettrich on Unsplash

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More and more states are ordering eateries and entertainment venues to close or switch to delivery and take-out only to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

When the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted to declare a local emergency earlier this morning, several supervisors mentioned how the county has limited authority to plan restrictions on eating establishments.

“We don’t have as much authority as people think we do,” Vice-Chair Penny Gross said. “We’re also at the mercy of the governor.”

A few days ago, D.C.’s mayor imposed new restrictions on restaurants and bars, prohibiting table seating and allowing them to offer delivery or take-out options. The restrictions also force nightclubs, theaters and health clubs to close for at least two weeks.

Municipalities have limited authority to take action because Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, Arlington Magazine reported, adding that Gov. Ralph Northam could issue a statewide declaration similar to Maryland’s.

Northam said this morning that the state will follow the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation to prevent gatherings of 10 or more people, but that he does not plan to place restrictions on restaurants, WHSV reported.

Northam is “asking them to abide by the ‘rule of 10’ and… encouraging them to focus on delivery and takeout options, instead of in-house dining,” according to WHSV.

“At least 20 states have ordered that their restaurants and bars close to in-person diners amid the coronavirus pandemic,” The Hill reported earlier today.

The limited authority didn’t stop neighboring Arlington County to plead with restaurants and bars to “take responsible action and switch from dine-in service to only offering carryout and delivery.”

While the statement noted that Arlington County does not have the legal authority to force the changes, it said that COVID-19 cases could overwhelm Arlington if restaurants don’t limit community contact.

As of Monday, the Virginia Department of Health says there are 10 presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Fairfax County — a number that officials say is expected to grow.

Photo via Bombay Velvet

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Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn is encouraging residents to give back to their communities as growing concerns about the coronavirus prompt event cancellations and working remotely.

Alcorn, who represents Vienna and Reston on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, took to social media last week to let local organizations and nonprofits know that his office wants to connect them to volunteers and needed assistance.

“Whenever we have the opportunity to step up and help, we should,” Alcorn said. “There’s a lot of concern in the community.”

As of Sunday, March 15, the Virginia Department of Health says there are 10 presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Fairfax County — a number that officials say is expected to grow.

Alcorn said that local organizations are expecting higher demands for food and assistance, especially from people who work in the service industries who have limited or no sick leave and for seniors, who are at a higher risk of getting more severely ill from the virus.

“The anxiety level, particularly for seniors, is very high,” he said, noting that there is a “sizable” elderly community in the Hunter Mill District. “I think we can do a lot as we get through this public health challenge by reaching out to our more vulnerable communities and our neighbors and let them know that we care.”

By Friday (March 13), Alcorn’s office had created a “How to Help Your Neighbors” list on the Hunter Mill District page on the Fairfax County website.

“Locally, specifically in Hunter Mill, we’re focusing on giving folks something to do,” he said, adding that his office is helping to connect people who want to help with organizations that need extra volunteers.

Expecting a higher demand for underresourced families, Cornerstones, a local nonprofit organization that aims to promote self-sufficiency, is looking for donations to help with meal delivery and its food pantry.

Embry Rucker Community Shelter, which is run by Cornerstones, is seeking donations of tissues, hand sanitizer and cleaning products, Alcorn said.

The Herndon Neighborhood Resource Center and Connections for Hope Partnership in Herndon are also looking for cleaning products, he said.

Several organizations, like Second Story in the Vienna area, are asking for gift cards instead of volunteers.

Other opportunities on Alcorn’s list in the Reston area include “non-contact” drivers needed for Meals on Wheels deliveries in the Lawyer’s Road area and donations to Reston-based Shelter House.

People interested in the local organizations’ opportunities focused on the coronavirus can also check out Alcorn’s email newsletter and social media accounts.

“You can contact any of the organizations or call [my] office,” he said. “We’re going to continue expanding the list of needs.”

Alcorn emphasized “one overall need that also we want to make sure gets out there” — blood donations.

“A lot of folks donate blood to Inova,” he said. “We don’t want to get into a situation where [there’s] a low blood supply.”

Additionally, Alcorn is urging people to take “normal precautions,” like practicing good hygiene and frequent hand washing.

“My hope and expectation are that our community will rise to the occasion,” he said.

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(Updated at 6:40 a.m.)

In a late-night decision, Fairfax County Public Schools will close today (Friday) and Monday off so staff can prepare for distance learning due to the recent spread of the coronavirus.

“During the past several hours we continue to hear genuine concerns from parents about keeping our schools open while the coronavirus response escalates around the country.  Schools are closing in Maryland and several other states and a state of emergency was declared in Virginia.  As a result, and in an abundance of caution, I believe it is prudent for FCPS to cancel school tomorrow to help ease parent, staff, and student anxiety,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand wrote in a letter to parents last night.

The change came just hours after Brabrand said at a press conference yesterday (Thursday) that schools are staying open because there is no evidence of “community spread” with the virus.

“FCPS takes very seriously the COVID-19 challenges that are before the community today,” Brabrand said, adding the school system is “working very closely” to monitor the virus with local public health officials.

In a tweet later that day, the school system reversed its decision.

The school system was under growing pressure to close its schools due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

“We woke up to have a neighboring school division close,” he said, referring to Loudoun County’s announcement that it will close its schools through March 20.

FCPS announced earlier this week that there is a plan with different scenarios for school closures.

“If we were to have a positive response, we would make a decision to close that school or schools were that was to happen,” he said today.

Brabrand added that the schools are undergoing “deep cleans” with a protocol confirmed by medical officials that “kills viruses, including COVID-19.”

As of 6:45 p.m. on Thursday, the Virginia Department of Health says that there are 17 cases in the state, with Fairfax County having the most.

Two new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 were announced earlier today in the county, bringing Fairfax County’s known count of coronavirus patients to four.

Also earlier today, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia.

“This is a very serious matter,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said at the press conference. “We must accept this is a changing situation hourly.”

McKay said that Fairfax County is “well prepared” and looking to phase-in additional telework and remote work options for county employees.

While county buildings will remain open, McKay urged people to do transactions online if possible.

Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the director for Fairfax Health, said the risk for the general public in Fairfax County is low.

FCPS announced Thursday evening after the press conference said all extracurricular activities, interscholastic contests, field trips, after-school programs, community use activities conducted by groups not affiliated with FCPS are canceled from March 14-April 12.

“SACC centers will remain open,” FCPS said. “We will share with you updates about today’s decisions by March 31.”

FCPS said it a review is underway for the food service and food handling procedures and that several parent-teacher associations are canceling school-based events “due to anticipated low turnout.”

This story appeared on our sister site Tysons Reporter

Image via Fairfax County

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Fairfax Connector shared the steps being taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as more cases are reported in the D.C. area.

Fairfax County’s Department of Transportation announced on Friday (March 6) that contractors are following these steps:

  • reviewed and updated cleaning protocols based on guidance from public health officials
  • increased vehicle cleaning cycles with a special focus on bus interiors and critical touchpoints such as door handles, handrails and other surfaces.
  • initiated regular communication with Fairfax Connector workforce

The county’s Board of Supervisors is expected to receive an update about the county’s preparations against the virus tomorrow (Tuesday).

Fairfax County also has suggestions for passengers to curtail the rapidly-spreading illness:

  • wash hands often with soap and water and use hand sanitizer
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing
  • avoid contact with people who are sick
  • stay home while you are sick and avoid close contact with others

“FCDOT highly values the health and safety of Fairfax Connector customers and personnel,” the county said.

Virginia has three “presumptive” cases of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

Cases involving a Marine Base Corps Quantico resident at Fort Belvoir and a City of Fairfax resident — were announced yesterday (Sunday). Today (Monday) a presumptive case of coronavirus was announced in Arlington.

As local schools in the D.C. area prepare for possible closures due to local coronavirus cases, Fairfax County Public Schools are currently open today.

In a letter to families on Saturday (March 7), Superintendent Scott Brabrand said that FCPS is working with the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) to monitor the disease.

FCPS-sponsored international field trips and short-term international visitations have been suspended through June 30, the letter notes.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, risk to the U.S. public is considered low at this time,” according to FCPS. “The FCHD has provided an updated handout about COVID-19 for the community.”

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Fatimah Waseem contributed reporting.

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(Updated 2/28/2020) Students at Fairfax County’s public schools will get to stay home on March 3 for Super Tuesday.

Large crowds are expected to turn out for the primary election in Virginia. Brian Worthy, a spokesperson for the county, said that 167 polling places will be in the schools for voters casting their ballots for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The county’s school board voted last spring to make Super Tuesday a student holiday for the 2019-2020 school year.

While students will have the day off, staff will still need to report to the schools, Lucy Caldwell, an FCPS spokesperson, said.

Eligible voters can find their polling location on the Virginia Department of Elections website or the My Neighborhood App.

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A children’s entertainer who used to perform at Reston Town Center pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography, NBC4 reported.

Steven Rossi, who used the stage name “Mr. Knick Knack,” was charged with 10 felony counts of possession of child pornography in the spring.

Prior to his arrest in April, Rossi performed regularly at Reston Town Center.

“A tip from an internet service provider led Fairfax County police to search his home in Reston. Police discovered over 50 electronic files containing illicit images of children,” NBC4 reported.

Photo via FCPD

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Super Tuesday” is in March — but Fairfax County is reminding voters about absentee voting and seeking election officers now.

Absentee voting for the 2020 presidential primary starts later this week on Friday, Jan. 17.

The deadline to register to vote in the March 3 primary is Feb. 10. People can check their voter eligibility on the Virginia State Board of Elections website.

Last week, the county announced that it needs 2,100 election officers for the primary.

The Office of Elections especially is looking for bilingual officers who speak Korean or Vietnamese for the Falls Church area, along with Annadel and Centreville, according to the county.

Election officers help set up voting equipment, check photo IDs and tabulate poll results. Compensation starts at $175 or people can choose to volunteer their time.

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