Fairfax County announced today (Wednesday) that it will start rolling back some COVID-19 restrictions on Friday (May 29).
The announcement follows Gov. Ralph Northam saying yesterday (Tuesday) that Northern Virginia localities are ready to join the rest of the state with the first reopening phase.
“The Forward Virginia plan provides guidelines that all businesses must follow in the first phase but eases previous restrictions on restaurants, fitness facilities, barbers and beauty salons, other retail businesses and houses of worship,” according to the county.
Here’s what will happen in Fairfax County starts reopening on Friday:
- movie theaters, concert halls, bowling alleys, indoor entertainment will stay closed
- social gatherings of more than 10 people will still be prohibited
- “safer at home” recommendation will still be in place
- restaurants may reopen at 50% of indoor capacity with tables spaced 6 feet apart
- restaurants’ bars will remain closed
- restaurants must use disposable menus and require servers to wear face coverings
- gyms, recreation centers, sports centers and pools may open outside
- indoor pools and spas and outdoor basketball and racquetball courts will stay closed
- salons and barbers can open at 50% capacity and require appointments
- retailers may reopen at 50% capacity and employees must wear face coverings
- houses or worship may hold services at 50% capacity, face coverings encouraged
“[The public health directors] have noted the regional attainment of four of the critical metrics and assessed the need for continued focus on expanding our contact tracing capacity and developing sustainable supplies of PPE,” the letter said.
After a surge of new jobless claims seeking unemployment benefits in April, Fairfax County is seeing a steady decline in initial unemployment claims.
Roughly 5,300 initial unemployment claims were filed in the county for the week of May 16 — a drop from 7,000 during the week of May 2, according to the latest data from the Virginia Employment Commission.
Meanwhile, continued unemployment claims — now at 47,000 for the week of May 16 — are rising less quickly in the county.
The county’s unemployment trends mirror statewide data.
More from the VEC:
For the filing week ending May 16, the figure for seasonally unadjusted initial claims in Virginia was 44,699. The latest claims figure was a decrease of 7,440 claimants from the previous week. The weekly total was the lowest since before the initial spike in unemployment insurance claims during the March 21 filing week.
For the most recent filing week, continued weeks claimed totaled 403,557, up 2.8% from the previous week and 385,380 higher than the 18,177 continued claims from the comparable week last year.
The continued claims total is mainly comprised of those recent initial claimants who continued to file for unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus far, continued claims during the May 16 filing equaled 56% of all initial claims filed during the pandemic. This percentage was a significant drop-off from the previous week.
VEC’s preliminary data indicate that the pandemic has hurt the accommodation and food service industry the most.
Workers in that industry “continued to see the greatest percentage of continued claims for unemployment benefits” for the May 16 filing week, VEC said. “Moreover, claimants in that industry comprised over a quarter of pre-pandemic payroll employment.”
Data and image via Virginia Employment Commission
(Updated 5/20/2020) Before Orange and Silver line stations temporarily close this Saturday (May 23), Fairfax County officials for the Tysons and Vienna areas want to know more about the closures’ impact.
Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn plan to hold a virtual town hall on Thursday (May 21), according to staff from Palchik’s office.
The discussion will include representatives from WMATA and the county’s transportation department.
All Orange and Silver line stations west of the Ballston station will be closed through the fall for platform reconstruction at the four Orange Line stations and work to connect the Silver Line with the upcoming stations running from Reston to Ashburn.
The town hall is set to start at 6:30 p.m. People can register online.
Photo by Jay Westcott
Fairfax County continues to have thousands of unemployment claims during the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 7,000 initial unemployment claims were filed in the county for the week of May 2, according to the latest data from the Virginia Employment Commission.
The latest data shows a slow decrease of claims in the county from a spike during the week of April 4. Fairfax County had the largest number of initial claims in Virginia for the May 2 filing week.
“Most areas reported declining numbers of claims compared to the previous week,” the VEC said. “Fairfax reported the largest over-the-week decrease (-2,097).”
Meanwhile, the number of continued claims keeps rising in Fairfax County from nearly 3,000 in late March to 30,000 in mid-April to more than 44,000 during the week of May 2.
The data shows a decrease in the number of claimants from the previous week for Virginia, but the VEC warns that the volume of initial claims “may not return to pre-pandemic levels for some time.”
More data on the trends for initial and continued claims in Virginia:
Data and image via Virginia Employment Commission
While seniors at public schools in Fairfax County may have to wait until the fall for ceremonies, they will have opportunities this spring to celebrate finishing high school.
In a message to families yesterday, Superintendent Scott Brabrand shared that the school board has agreed to his proposals on how to recognize graduating seniors.
“We are committed to celebrating our seniors in the safest and most personalized manner possible,” Brabrand said. “We share the disappointment that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent school closure placed on our senior class.”
Instead of in-person ceremonies this spring, the high schools will schedule individual graduate photo opportunities starting in June where the student and a small group of family members can watch the student get their diploma and have their photo taken.
Fairfax County Public Schools also plans to produce a celebration video with videos submitted by students. Brabrand said that the video will be available for free to everyone in the class of 2020.
If COVID-19 does not pose a health risk in the fall, each school may schedule an in-person ceremony, Brabrand said.
He noted that state health department data indicates that summer ceremonies would “pose too many health risks and too much uncertainty with regard to social distancing requirements and restrictions on large gatherings.” More details will be announced around Labor Day.
“If a fall in-person ceremony cannot be held for health and safety reasons, then we will consider scheduling the face to face ceremony in the winter or next spring,” Brabrand said.
Photo via Tai’s Captures/Unsplash
Gov. Ralph Northam is allowing Northern Virginia localities two extra weeks to start reopening as the rest of the state readies for the first reopening phase this Friday.
Northam’s order that was announced today (Tuesday) delays the reopening, which is outlined in phases, for Fairfax County and other localities in Northern Virginia until midnight on May 28.
Following pressure from county officials to stall their reopening deadlines, Northam said that the decision is “to allow those localities more time to meet the health metrics.”
“While the data show Virginia as a whole is are ready to slowly and deliberately ease some restrictions, it is too soon for Northern Virginia,” Northam said. “I support the request from localities in this region to delay implementation of Phase One to protect public health.”
The localities included are:
- Arlington County
- Fairfax County
- Loudoun County
- Prince William County
- City of Alexandria
- City of Fairfax
- City of Falls Church
- City of Manassas
- City of Manassas Park
- Town of Dumfries
- Town of Herndon
- Town of Leesburg
- Town of Vienna
More from Northam’s announcement:
Data show that Northern Virginia is substantially higher than the rest of the Commonwealth in percentage of positive tests for COVID-19, for example. The Northern Virginia Region has about a 25 percent positivity rate, while the rest of the Commonwealth is closer to 10 percent. Further, in the last 24 hours, the Northern Virginia Region reported over 700 cases, while the rest of the Commonwealth reported approximately 270. On any given day, 70 percent of the Commonwealth’s positive cases are attributable to the Northern Virginia Region.
Northam has said he plans to provide more information on how the reopening will work for Northern Virginia on Wednesday.
Image via Governor Ralph Northam/Facebook
The newly expanded data also offers information on probable cases, deaths by age groups and COVID-19 testing by week, according to the county.
“Per the direction of Governor Ralph Northam, and in coordination with Virginia Department of Health (VDH), case rates are now presented by 5-digit ZIP codes,” according to the county. “The recent data release is a change from VDH’s long-standing policy not to disclose data at the ZIP code level.”
The data from the dashboard shows that the Dunn Loring zip code 22027 has the highest number of cases per 100,000 people: 39 cases among a population of 2,362.
As of today, Fairfax County has reported 6,470 cases, 972 hospitalizations and 253 deaths, according to the state health department.
The zip codes for Reston — 20191, 20190 and 20194 — have a combined total of 262 cases. Zip code 20170, which includes Herndon, has 308 cases.
“Cases represent a place of residence and not necessarily where transmission may have occurred. This information should not be used to measure individual risk,” according to the dashboard.
The Fairfax Health District, which includes the county and its cities and towns, has 45 outbreaks with 41 at long term care facilities and one each at a correctional facility, educational setting and healthcare setting.
Map via Fairfax County
Gov. Ralph Northam announced during his press conference today that Northern Virginia localities may take a slower approach to easing COVID-19 restrictions as the state prepares for its first phase of reopening.
“Different regions face different challenges,” Northam said, calling his phased Forward Virginia guidelines a “floor but not a ceiling.” The first phase is set to start this Friday (May 15).
Northam noted that no region can roll back restrictions faster than the guidelines previously outlined and that he does not want restrictions to be “piece meal across towns and counties.”
“We’re open to some regions moving more slowly,” Northam said, addressing calls from the top officials in Fairfax County, Loudoun, Prince William and Arlington counties to keep restrictions in place in their localities.
Fairfax County has continually had the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths due to the illness in the state. As of today (Monday), there are 6,200 cases and 243 deaths in the county, according to the state’s health department.
Northam said that he is “speaking regularly” to Northern Virginia officials about the plans to reopen Virginia in phases and that he asked the officials to say they are uniform in their request for the delay.
Northam said that more information about “how this will work” for Northern Virginia localities will be released on Wednesday.
“The key to all of this is testing,” Northam said.
Image via Governor Ralph Northam/Facebook
While little more than half of the country has responded to the 2020 U.S. Census, Fairfax County’s response rate is already past 70% and is one of the highest in the state.
As of Friday (May 9), Fairfax County’s self-response rate is 72.7% — well above Virginia’s overall rate of 63.5%, according to census data.
Other counties and cities in Virginia with high response rates include:
- James City: 73.1%
- Roanoke: 73.6%
- Powhatan: 74.1%
- Loudoun: 74.1%
- Hanover: 74.5%
- Falls Church: 75.5%
- Poquoson: 75.8%
- Fairfax City: 76.3%
Previously, Fairfax County’s response rates have fluctuated from the mid-70s-80%, according to census data.
“For each resident who does not respond to the census, Fairfax County could lose $12,000 in potential funding over the course of a decade,” according to Fairfax County’s website.
Households have until Aug. 14 to complete the census.
Map via U.S. Census
When the Silver Line suspends rail service west of Ballston this summer, drivers can use free parking at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station.
Fairfax County announced yesterday that the station will have free parking while work is underway to connect the Silver Line Phase II stations, which will run from Reston to Ashburn.
Metro wasn’t originally planning to add the upcoming Silver Line stations, but due to lower ridership, Metro decided to add the Silver Line work to its summer closure of the Orange Line in parts of Northern Virginia.
“The closures begin Memorial Day weekend 2020 and are expected to continue through the fall,” according to the county.
Photo by Chuck Samuelson/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project
Fairfax County police are investigating a shooting that they say took place in front of a 7-Eleven in Herndon early Thursday (May 7) morning.
After receiving a report for possible gunshots, police said that they found out that a man was being treated for a non-serious gunshot wound at a local hospital.
“Further investigation determined the shooting took place in front of [13190 Parcher Avenue],” police said, adding that the front of the 7-Eleven at that address was damaged.
Police also said that they found several shell casings in the area.
The case is currently an active investigation, according to police. Anyone who has information can contact the police department at 703-246-7800
Fairfax County’s top official wants increased communication with Gov. Ralph Northam as the state administration considers easing business restrictions.
On Monday, Northam unveiled a three-phase plan to roll back restrictions, which could start as soon as May 15.
The next day, Jeff McKay, the chairman for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and the board chairs for Prince William and Loudoun counties sent a letter urging Northam’s administration to collaborate more with them.
More from the letter:
We proudly represent more than 2 million residents; just shy of a quarter of the population of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Sadly, our three counties also account for 40 percent of all known positive cases and hospitalizations due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Commonwealth. Regionally, Northern Virginia equates for 40 percent of the Commonwealth’s GDP…
To that end, we write to you today to communicate our strong desire to be both briefed and consulted as your administration makes decisions about the reopening of the Commonwealth… We request a discussion with you prior to future announcements about the state’s reopening. This is not an attempt to slow our progress. Rather, a recognition of the need for greater collaboration between state and local governments.
Additionally, we request a weekly phone call between a member of your team and our chiefs of staff… In addition to the reopening, some of the topics our respective teams would like to cover include testing capacity, the acquisition of personal protective equipment, racial disparities, and the methodology used for the distribution of CARES Act funds.
Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) also chimed in this week, posting on Facebook today: “I agree with Chairman Jeff Mckay that Northern Virginia needs to be MUCH MORE cautious than other regions of Virginia in reopening our businesses due to the heightened and ongoing threats here.”
Northam said yesterday (Wednesday) that localities might be able to keep some restrictions as the state begins to reopen, WTOP reported. Now that the governor is poised to provide an update tomorrow (Friday), McKay is repeating his request.
“Northam joined regional leaders on a call this afternoon to further outline his gradual plans for reopening Virginia,” McKay said in a statement. “Though this won’t be a locality-by-locality decision, he has recognized the need to look at this issue regionally.”
McKay said that he again requested “continued open lines of communication to ensure coordination between our community, D.C., and Maryland, as well as the need for effective communication to businesses and our residents when a decision to reopen is made.”
Fairfax County continues to have the highest reported number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Virginia.
“We are still in the exponential growth phase of our epidemic curve – that means that COVID-19 cases in our health district continues to increase,” according to the county.
As of today, the county had more than 5,000 cases and 211 deaths, according to the state’s health department.
The county says that the high number of cases may be due to three factors: “significant community-wide transmission,” increased testing and the new inclusion of “probable” cases along with confirmed ones.
Photo via Fairfax County
Fairfax County’s public library system wants to capture people’s COVID-19 experiences for its historical records collection.
The library system is looking for diary entries, photographs, artworks, videos — anything that documents what people’s lives are like during the pandemic.
People can submit material on their pandemic experiences anonymously or with their name attached as a “digital donation” via a Google Form. Submissions will be accepted through June 10.
The information will be used for a project for the Virginia Room, which contains historical records at the City of Fairfax Regional Library.
Image via Fairfax Library/Twitter
People with green thumbs can now return to their rented garden plots from Fairfax County.
The county’s Park Authority reopened its 671 garden plots yesterday, according to Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust’s newsletter.
The plots are now available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and all of the rules apply except for active gardening guidelines, according to the county.
“Gardeners must self-sanitize water hydrants after use and no tools may be shared,” according to the county.
More from the county:
Gardeners are expected to comply with all COVID 19 health and social distancing requirements.
We ask that gardeners:
- Maintain the recommended social distance of six feet from other gardeners.
- Please wipe the handles of the water hydrant after you use it.
- Do not share garden tools with others.
- Wearing gloves and a mask are recommended when interacting with others.
- Please begin to wrap up gardening activities by 5:45 p.m. so that staff can close the gates and replace parking lot barricades by 6 p.m.
Virginia officials are looking to ramp up COVID-19 testing efforts.
Gov. Ralph Northam has said that increasing testing capacity is key to determining when to walk back restrictions on businesses and large gatherings, WTVR in Richmond reported.
The article noted that Northam created a working group to address test backlogs, increase the number of test sites and tackle shortages of equipment needed for tests.
The Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County and its towns and cities, has seen more than 13,000 test results, according to data earlier this week from the Virginia Department of Health.
Fairfax County has a list of resources for people seeking COVID-19 tests.
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If you live in Reston, Herndon or Great Falls and have gotten a test or plan to, please contact us at [email protected] if you are willing to share your experience for an article.
Photo via CDC/Unsplash