Reston, VA

As the U.S. experiences an economic downturn as a result of COVID19, Town of Herndon officials plan to revise the previously proposed budget for fiscal year 2021.

Herndon Town Manager William Ashton II recently decided that the budget  is no longer fitting for the town’s needs, according to a press release.

The budget will require “comprehensive changes” before a new draft is presented to the town council and public, the press release said.

Ultimately, because of the suggested changes, the town was forced to miss the FY 2021 plan’s “statutory deadline” of April 1.

To give everyone time to rethink the budget and make essential changes to the plan, Ashton suggested that required public hearings for the new budget be scheduled for May 12 and May 26, according to the press release.

“This gives staff time to adjust anticipated revenues, which are already significantly impacted by the pandemic,” Ashton said in the press release. “As a result, we expect comprehensive changes in our anticipated expenditures. Many of the assumptions in the current proposed budget are no longer valid.”

Typically, the town must adopt a budget prior to June 30, according to the press release, which added that the fiscal year typically begins on July 1.

Photo via Herndon Town Council/Facebook

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The number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb in Fairfax County.

As of today (Friday), there are now 372 cases in the Fairfax Health District — a jump from 328 cases yesterday, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The Fairfax Health District includes Fairfax County, the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church and towns in the county. Five people have died due to the novel coronavirus in the county.

Arlington has the second-most confirmed cases in the Virginia with 135 cases.

Statewide, there are 2,012 confirmed cases and 46 deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health. Last Friday, there were 604 cases and 14 deaths due to the respiratory illness in Virginia.

The number of cases has steadily increased in the state over the last few weeks — likely due to expanded testing capacity and community spread of the virus in Northern Virginia.

On Wednesday, Northam said that Virginia will likely see “a surge in the number of people who test positive between late April and late May.”

Fairfax County now has a webpage for geo-spatial resources for COVID-19. The webpage includes information on community resources like food, healthcare and lodging, along with information on the county’s demographics.

According to the “COVID-19 Impact Planning Report,” the county’s at-risk population for the virus includes nearly 160,000 people who are age 65 or older, roughly 16,000 households without vehicles and 62,000 households with a person who has a disability.

Image via Fairfax County 

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Local police are bracing for an increase in the number of domestic violence cases with a stay-at-home order in effect in Virginia.

The Fairfax County Police Department has seen an “incremental uptick” in domestic violence calls in the county.

“While not an alarming uptick, we’re seeing slightly more than what we experienced prior to three weeks,” Sgt. Greg Bedor told Reston Now.

In the last three weeks, FCPD has received a weekly average of 235 domestic-related calls, data show. Most incidents are reported over the weekend on a weekly basis.

The police department is attempting to triage calls by separating people from their homes and conducting interviews over the phone wherever possible, according to FCPD.

Officers are also making an effort to encourage individuals to turn themselves in if an arrest is warranted.

Although the county’s Domestic Violence Hotline has not seen any increases in reported incidents, county officials are encouraging people to seek help.

They say rising unemployment and the pressure of bounding bills “during the already stressful coronavirus pandemic could lead to an increase in domestic violence.”

“For victims of domestic violence, being home may not be the safest place, particularly as people are financially and emotionally stressed,” said Toni Zollicoffer, Fairfax County’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Services division director. “Victims and survivors of recent sexual and intimate partner violence face unique challenges during this period of extended social distancing and isolation.

Her office offered the following tips:

Call or Text for Help 24/7

Call Fairfax County’s Domestic and Sexual Violence hotline: 703-360-7273, TTY 711. It’s available for help 24-hours a day, every day.

If it’s not safe to talk, text LOVEIS to 22522 to connect with the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You also can online chat with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).

As always, anyone who is in immediate danger should call 9-1-1.

Plan Ahead

There are actions people can take to prepare, including:

  • Be aware of safe rooms with locks and which rooms have doors or windows for quick exit.  Discuss these with children and other family members.
  • Make a list of safe contacts and emergency resources. Some people find it helpful to hide copies of important documents and safe contacts somewhere outside the home, such as buried in a planter or at a safe neighbor’s home.
  • Plan with kids and other family members if you can. Think about their safety options. Think of a place you can go or send other family members in an emergency or long term.
  • Arrange daily check-ins or code words with people you trust.

What You Can Do

“If you are concerned about a friend or family member, it’s more important than ever to check in with them,” said Zollicoffer. “For resources or information on ways to assist those you are concerned about, call the Domestic Violence hotline.”

We can all play a role in preventing domestic violence. Encourage people who are experiencing abuse to make a safety plan, call for help and guidance and let them know that the abuse is not their fault. Let them know you are there to listen, help and support them without judgement.

Photo via Fairfax County Police Department

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Friday Morning Notes

Weird Brothers Adapts to Coronavirus — The local veteran-owned coffee shop has adapted to takeout curbside pick up and is offering local deliveries in the Herndon and Reston area. The owner says he’s seen a 50 percent drop in sales. [Patch]

Reston IT Company Names New CFO — “Reston-based information technology company Contegix announced Thursday that it has named Mike Dunn as its new chief financial officer. Dunn was most recently the CFO of systems integrator and managed hosting provider NeoSystems LLC.” [Virginia Business]

More Postponements for County Dockets — Although the Fairfax County Courthouse remains open, the Circuit Court, General District Court and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court have changed their bond and arraignment schedule until further notice. [Fairfax County Government]

Verisign Inc. Donates $500,00 — The Reston-based company has donated the money to Northern Virginia’s COVID-19 response fund “as part of a broader effort to support those in the region.” [Community Foundation for Northern Virginia]

Metro Scales Back Service — “Metro will operate significantly reduced rail and bus service on Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5, maintaining a core network of 27 “lifeline” bus routes and providing twice-hourly rail service on all lines for the region’s essential travel need.” [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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As COVID-19 continues to cause major economic disturbances across the country, Visit Fairfax has a new program to support local businesses and people impacted by the pandemic.

Fairfax County is heavily reliant on tourism and visitors for conferences. Visit Fairfax’s president Barry Biggar said the organization is working to combat some of the economic downturn.

Biggar said restrictions on non-essential businesses coupled with the economic downturn have had “devastating” consequences for local businesses, services and eateries in the last three weeks.

While many restaurants are trying to pivot by offering delivery, curbside pickup and delivery, some have temporarily closed. Biggar said that he expects many won’t reopen.

Visit Fairfax staffers are trying to help coordinate tools for the community through the “Fairfax First” program, he said.

The program is a collection of tools, lists and opportunities that residents can take advantage of to support themselves and others during this turbulent time, according to the website. It includes fun things to do while at home, virtual tours of popular attractions, mental health resources and ways to support local businesses.

Visit Fairfax is also promoting “Virginia Is for Restaurant Lovers Takeout Week,” which runs from March 30-April 5.

“Virginians are encouraged to order takeout, delivery or curbside pickup from local restaurants and to use the hashtag #VirginiaEatsLocal to spread the word,” according to Visit Fairfax’s website.

Last year around this time, hotels in the area were at or above 70% capacity, according to Biggar, who added that now they are at or below 18%.

Around Virginia, he said more than 24,000 people in the service industry have lost their jobs permanently due to staffing cuts.

Along with other resources, Visit Fairfax coordinated with local hotels to help first responders find a list of steeply discounted rooms that will put them up if they are either self-isolating away from their families or need another place to rest, according to Biggar.

As the pandemic continues in Fairfax County without any sign of slowing, Biggar said that he can’t make a judgment yet about how this will affect the economic well being of the area going forward, but does predict an eventual rise in domestic travel around the third and fourth quarters later this year.

Though things are “changing every day,” Biggar said he wants people to “start thinking and dreaming about what you want to do when this is over” in terms of vacations and getaways to boost the economy again.

Photo courtesy James B. Crusan III

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Reston resident Taruna Rijhwani knew telehealth was the way to go when she added the digital service to her Reston-based physical therapy clinic more than two years ago.

Now, as COVID-19 public health emergency prompts the restaurant industry to shift to delivery and carryout, Rijhwani says she’s shifting Health Watchers Physical Therapy and Wellness to video visits and telehealth.

Here’s more from the clinic on telehealth appointments:

They use secure HIPAA compliant platforms to connect with their patients and are able to continue to provide care without asking patients to leave their homes, keeping them safe & healthy.

Physical Therapist, Taruna Rijhwani has specialized training in the advanced system of Physical Therapy called Mckenzie Method which is especially suited for telehealth and guiding patients through right movements to help with their back, neck, shoulder or knee problems.

She notes that the number of patients coming into her office on 11250 Roger Bacon Drive has been steadily decreasing.

“We are making it up by transitioning to telehealth or video visits,” she told Reston Now.

Rijhwani initially began providing the service to keep the business relevant in the digital age.

“Look at Amazon. That’s our inspiration right there. No one goes retail shopping as much as they used to,” she told Reston Now.

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Fairfax County has now surpassed 300 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

As of today (Thursday), there are now 328 cases in the Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County, the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church and towns in the county, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Five people have died due to the novel coronavirus in the county.

The number of cases has continued to climb over the last several days — likely due to expanded testing capacity. In mid-March, local public health officials said they found evidence of community spread of COVID-19 in Northern Virginia.

Arlington has the second-most confirmed cases in the state with 128 cases. Statewide, there are 1,706 confirmed cases and 41 deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

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Reston Association Reschedules Annual Meeting — The organization has rescheduled its annual meeting from April 14 to April 30 at p.m. The meeting will be held online. Election results will also be announced at the meeting. [Reston Association]

Roundup of Town of Herndon Restaurants and Grocery Stores — Town officials have put together a roundup of local grocery store hours, as well as restaurants that are offering delivery and take out. [Town of Herndon]

Surge of Cases Expected in Late April through May — “It could still be weeks before the worst of the coronavirus crisis hits Virginia. State officials are preparing for a surge in the number of people who test positive between late April and late May, Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that analysis of the latest models shows Northam told residents he was planning for the worst and hoping for the best.” [NBC 4]

FCPS Superintendent Writes to Class of 2020 — Superintendent Scott Braband said that the state superintended plans to provide “maximum flexibility for graduation requirements.” “Even if you were not passing all of your required courses, I want you to know that there is still time for you to graduate this June.  Your teachers will ensure you have access to what you need to be able to complete your coursework through distance learning,” Brabrand wrote. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Three more people in the Fairfax Health District have died due to the novel coronavirus, the Fairfax County Health Department reported today (Wednesday).

All three men were hospitalized as a result of the illness, bringing the total number of deaths in the district, which covers the county and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, to five.

“We are saddened by these additional deaths in our community caused by COVID-19,” said Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu , the health department’s director. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones. 

The men were in their 60s, 80s, and 90s.

As of today, there are 288 confirmed cases in the Fairfax Health District, up from 245 cases yesterday (Tuesday). The number has been steadily increasing over the last several days. The highest rates of growth occurred in mid-March, according to county data.

“This is a reminder that we have to be diligent in doing our part to slow the spread of virus in our community. Please remember to wash your hands thoroughly and often, cover your coughs and sneezes, avoid touching your face, stay home if you are sick, and abide by Governor Ralph Northam’s ‘stay at home’ order,” Addo-Ayensu said.

Photo via CDC/Unplash

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Revenues from decreased ridership are taking a hit on the Fairfax Connector as the fallout of COVID-19 outbreak continues to unfold.

The bus service is set to receive $1.85 million in funds from the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which oversees statewide transportation and transit projects, to help address the impact of the novel coronavirus, including a dip in revenue from fares. Last week, the board approved supplemental funding to help stave off the impact of service reduction, ridership losses, and decreases in revenue.

But the funding, which was OK’d by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a meeting yesterday (Tuesday), would only keep the buses rolling for about two months.

Fares on buses were temporarily suspended last week because fare boxes are located at the front of buses. Customers are required to enter and exit buses using the rear doors.

Here’s more from the board matter approved by the Board of Supervisors:

County staff have been responding to the onset of COVID-19, ensuring that Fairfax Connector employees are prepared, and the County’s capital assets are cleaned frequently to help reduce the potential spread of the disease. At the same time, County staff have been ensuring Fairfax Connector service continues to be available to serve Fairfax County residents who have no alternate way to travel during this emergency. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) is continuing to implement changes necessary to protect the health and safety of Fairfax Connector employees, customers and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as requiring passengers to enter and exit the bus using the rear doors, with the exception of customers who need to use a wheelchair ramp. Fare collection on buses has been temporarily suspended due to the location of fareboxes at the front entrance of buses. The County will continue make adjustments to Fairfax Connector service to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and will ensure information on such adjustments is provided to the public.

An FCDOT spokesperson told Reston Now that although ridership had dipped, statistics on the extent of the increases are not yet available.

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American Armed Forces Mutual Aid Association will be under new leadership after the retirement of its current president and treasurer, according to a press release.

The non-profit organization, which is based in Reston, provides military life insurance,  help with wealth management, survivor assistance and mortgage services, according to its website. Walt Lincoln, who served with the company for 28 years will be succeeded by Michael Meese, the press release said.

Both Meese and Lincoln served in the United States armed forces for significant stints themselves, according to the press release, which added that during Lincon’s management, the company expanded membership growth 36%.

“Working for, and alongside, so many great people for so long, doing work that we know makes such a positive difference in the lives of the families who have sacrificed so much for our country and its freedom — it will be difficult to step away from all of that,” Lincoln said in the release.

It is unclear exactly when leadership responsibilities will transition over to Meese, but he comes into the position after serving as the chief operating officer for the company since 2013, according to the press release.

Photo via Jon Sailer/Unsplash

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Nightly Applause from Reston Residents — “Something is happening at 7 p.m. each day in a cluster of high rises in the heart of Reston. Residents of Midtown at Reston Town Center are stepping out onto their balconies each night to show their support by applauding for healthcare workers and first responders dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.” [Reston Patch]

Local Developers Seek Help from Northam — “The coronavirus outbreak has ground the development review process to a virtual halt across Northern Virginia — and that has developers spooked, sparking new calls for state officials to step in and lend a hand to the industry.” [Washington Business Journal]

2020 Herndon Festival Cancelled — The Town of Herndon announced that the annual festival has been canceled “pursuant to the governor’s order.” The event was slated to take place between May 28-31. [Town of Herndon/Facebook]

Reston Association Closes Tennis Courts, Recreational Facilities — Due to state mandates and public health guidelines, the association has closed tennis courts, tot lots, basketball courts and pavilions. Parklands and ballfields remain open. [Reston Association]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Although Metro is currently cutting routes and closing stations due to COVID-19, planning continues for the extension of the Silver Line into Loudoun County.

Initially, officials estimated phase two of the project would open by the summer. After delaying the projected opening several times and by several months, Metro officials now say the first trains will not begin running until April 2021, according to budget documents.

The 11-mile extension, which includes six new stations, will provide service to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County.

A vote on Metro’s $2.1 million operating budget for the overall system is set for Thursday. But changes could be enacted by June as the coronavirus outbreak unfolds in the region.

The proposal includes an increase in rush-hour rail fares, the restoration of some late-night service, and cuts to the number of bus routes.

Trains would run every 12 minutes instead of every eight minutes on all lines on weekdays between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Photo by Jay Westcott

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As the coronavirus outbreak continues to take a major hit on the economy, Fairfax County leaders are bracing for the impact of the outbreak on the upcoming county budget.

At a budget meeting today (Tuesday), county leaders said they plan to revisit the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget, which was developed before the coronavirus pandemic impacted the area. A revised proposal is expected to go before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors by April 7.

The county is expected to take a hit from losses in the following categories: sales tax, transit occupancy tax, business permits, and licensing tax, personal property tax, and state revenue, among other categories. Over three months, a 25 percent dip in the local sales tax results in roughly $12.7 million in losses.

All agencies are tightening their belts and limiting spending for critical needs only.

This year, county officials hope to set aside $11.3 million to offer help to nonprofit organizations, local businesses, manage the COVID-19 crisis, and fund licensing for the shift to teleworking.

As of today, there are 245 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County, the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church and towns in the county — leading all other jurisdictions in the state.

Support for Businesses and Nonprofits

In addition to federal assistance, a proposed $1 million fund administered through the Community Business Partnership could help small businesses struggling financially and at-risk of closing.

“Many of them are finding it very difficult to even survive right now,” Rebecca Moudry, the director of the county’s Fairfax County Department of Economic Initiatives, said.

The microloan program, if approved, would allow small businesses to apply for a maximum of $30,000 with an interest rate of 3.75 percent. To qualify for funds, businesses must have fewer than 50 employees, demonstrate financial hardship linked to COVID-19 and be based in the county.

Moudry said the program would ensure that local dollars “stay local,” but she cautioned that micro loans are simply a “drop in the bucket.”

Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk said that he wants to see the county diversify its commercial tax base.

“It’s imperative today as we look at the impact on small businesses,” he said at the meeting today.

Local nonprofit organizations are struggling to raise money and need help with services and support, according to Chris Leonard, the director of the county’s Department of Neighborhood and Community Services.

More individuals are calling the department for help with unemployment, low income and financial strife.

A recent survey of local nonprofit organizations found that most organizations are seeing more requests for food, health, hygiene and financial assistance, Leonard said. Youth programming and transportation are most likely to see major reductions.

He hopes to create a program to offer financial assistance and food for individuals most in need, targeted especially for local residents making 200 percent of the area median income. Support would be provided through the county’s existing network of community-based organizations.

County officials noted that the initiatives, programs and funding will shift as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to unfold.

“We’re going to have to evolve this as we go,” Lennard said.

Next Steps For the Budget 

Once the revised budget is ready by April 7, residents can expect opportunities to testify April 14-16.

Joseph Mondoro, the county’s chief financial officer, said that the meeting today that people will be able to testify via video, phone, online forms and even in-person. Although Chairman Jeff McKay said that he would like people to only come in-person as a last resort.

McKay added that quarterly reviews, which the county already does, will will be “much more robust” for the FY 2021 budget.

Much of the discussion between the supervisors today involved ideas they had for where to cut or boost up the new budget, including suggestions from Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross to “keep first responders in mind” and Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity to delay funding the body camera program for the police department.

At the end of the meeting, McKay said there will be “shared pain” in the new budget, noting that cuts should not focus on one area.

McKay said that one of his top priorities is to keep on the county’s employees.

“We want to protect our employees,” he said.

Catherine Douglas Moran contributed to this report

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Coronavirus Hampers Tegna Sale — Reston television operator Tegna, Inc. says the novel coronavirus has hampered its sale talks. Two potential acquirers ended deal discussions with the company following the “market dislocation” fueled by the global coronavirus outbreak. [Nasdaq]

Cornerstones Honored — State Sen. Janet Howell sponsored resolutions to honor the Reston-based nonprofit organization for “50 years of advocating for and promoting self-sufficiency among people in need of food, shelter, and human services.” [Inside NOVA]

Nearby: Inmate at Fairfax County Adult Detention Center Has COVID-19 — A man who had been incarcerated since Jan. 29 tested positive for the novel coronavirus. It is possible that additional cases will occur because individuals have already been exposed, the county says. [Fairfax County Government]

New Coronavirus Call Center Hours — The health department has changed the hours of its call center, which is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekends. [Fairfax County Government]

Online Reviews Scheduled by Design Review Board — Reston Association is offering online review by two members of the board for applications that were previously scheduled for panel meetings in April. Applicants can also defer the review of their application once the regular meeting schedule resumes. [Reston Association]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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