Reston, VA

Frying Pan Farm Park’s annual Spring Farm Day has been canceled for the second year in a row due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The fundraiser had been scheduled to take place on May 1, but Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park, the nonprofit that supports the park, announced this morning (Wednesday) that plans have “unfortunately” changed.

Spring Farm Day’s cancellation means that the Friends group has to scramble again to raise the funds need to support the dozens of animals that live at the park in Herndon.

“We’ll lose thousands of dollars Spring Farm Day would have raised. This money would have helped feed our farm animals and support the farm,” the organization said in a Facebook post. “If you can, please make a donation to help replace our lost funding.”

Spring Farm Day typically takes place in May and offers crafts and activities, such as sheep-shearing demonstrations and encounters with the baby farm animals, that highlight the park’s role in showcasing early and mid-20th century farm life.

When the pandemic shut down the event last year, the Friends organized an online fundraiser to collect the $30,000 that the group said is required to feed, care for, and shelter the roughly 100 animals on the farm each year. The fundraiser exceeded its goal, ultimately bringing in $44,254 from 513 supporters.

Frying Pan Farm Park is operated by the Fairfax County Park Authority, but the animals are owned by the Friends group, which is responsible for covering their food, shelter, and medical care.

Both one-time and recurring donations can be made online through the Friends of Frying Pan Farm Park website.

Reston Now contacted Frying Pan Farm Park for a comment on the decision to cancel this year’s Spring Farm Day but has not heard back as of press time.

Photo via Yvonne Johnson

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The Herndon Town Council has deferred action on an ordinance that would prohibit firearms on town property.

Mayor Sheila Olem announced Tuesday (April 13) at the council’s meeting that it will hold off on any action with the firearm ordinance until Town Manager Bill Ashton can come back with additional information on the subject.

Olem added the council would also like to hold an advertised public hearing on the matter so it “can gather input from our residents.”

“Following last week’s work session discussion on the item, the council’s consensus was that we should give the town manager time to analyze the budgetary impacts of this,” Olem said.

Ashton will return to the council on May 6 to present his findings during a strategic planning session.

The proposed ordinance follows initial discussions the council had in September after Virginia adopted legislation allowing localities to institute ordinances to prohibit firearms on their public property.

Herndon’s proposed ordinance falls in line with similar ordinances that have been adopted in Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington counties, as well as in cities including Falls Church and Alexandria.

The ordinance, if passed, would prohibit the “possession, carrying, or transportation of any firearms, ammunition, or components or combination thereof” on town property.

The town property listed in Herndon’s proposed ordinance includes any building used or owned by the town, or any authority or local government entity controlled by the town for governmental purposes. The ordinance extends to public parks and recreation or community centers owned or operated by the town.

The ordinance would not to apply military personnel when acting within their official capacity, sworn or retired law enforcement officers, on duty private security hired by the town, and for educational programs or historical reenactments conducted or permitted by the town and wherein the firearms used are not loaded.

A violation of this ordinance would constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Photo via Thomas Def/Unsplash

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This week in Reston, there are 50 properties available to rent, according to Homesnap.

Below are five recently listed rentals:

In the market? Check out the latest in Reston real estate.

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Reston Association has elected two new members and re-elected one to their Board of Directors.

The board’s two open at-large seats went to Sarah Selvaraj-D’Souza, who won a second three-year term with 4,275 votes, and Timothy J. Dowling, who was elected for his first three-year term with 3,987 votes.

They both bested John Farrell by a relatively slim margin. The former RA Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee member received 3,719 votes, while 26-year-old software engineer Vincent Dory received 1,221 votes. There were 647 votes to abstain.

Voters could vote for one or two candidates on their ballots.

In the South Lakes District, Jennifer Jushchuk ran unopposed, though about 12% of the votes cast were abstentions.

The results were announced last night (April 13) at RA’s annual members’ meeting. Full results, including vote count and turnout, are publicly available.

The board candidates were announced in February. Voting opened on March 1 and closed on April 2.

RA Election Committee Chair Ed Abbott tells Reston Now that the election ran smoothly and was free of the technical glitches that cropped up last year.

“The Election Committee did not encounter any major issues in the election process,” he said by email. “The use of Zoom for the Candidate Forums and Meet and Greet Sessions went well thanks to the technical support of the RA staff and the cooperation of the candidates.”

Voter turnout also actually went up this year to about 19%, a roughly 5% increase from last year, Abbott notes.

Nonetheless, it remains low, something that the Elections Committee hopes to look into for next year.

“The Elections Committee will evaluate this year’s election process in the coming months and report to the Board of Directors,” Abbott said. “The evaluation will consider, among other things, increasing member participation, reducing costs and improving the overall election process.”

Voters could use either paper or online ballots, though nearly two-thirds of the votes came through online ballots.

The new board will select their officers at their first board meeting tonight (Wednesday). The officer positions include president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer.

Reston Association’s outgoing president Julie Bitzer was first elected to the Board in 2015 and was president for the last year.

Image via Reston Association/YouTube

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Fairfax County’s government workers union urged the Board of Supervisors yesterday (Tuesday) to adopt a fiscal year 2022 budget that includes increased compensation for employees, whose year-long pay freeze would be prolonged if the county’s proposed budget takes effect.

The testimony came during the first of three public hearings on the advertised FY 2022 budget that have been scheduled for this week. There will also be hearings at 3 p.m. today and tomorrow (Thursday).

Service Employees International Union Virginia 512, which represents social workers, librarians, maintenance staff, and other general county government employees, says that its top priorities for the new budget are ending the pay freeze and establishing rules for collective bargaining.

“For over one year, we have worked tirelessly to keep the community running,” SEIU Virginia 512 President Tammie Wondong said. “We have done everything we can to keep Fairfax families healthy and safe, even when we have not been healthy and safe ourselves. Today, we are asking that you recognize and value county employees in this year’s budget.”

Wondong acknowledged that the county has made an effort to support employees during the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding leave options and providing hazard pay. The board is also considering offering one-time bonuses in the FY 2021 budget as part of its third-quarter review, which will be approved on April 27.

However, the union argues that that remains insufficient compensation for employees who are essential to maintaining county services but often struggle with the rising costs of housing, healthcare, and other needs.

Fairfax County Health Department employee Jenny Berkman-Parker said in a video that played during the public hearing that the most recent evidence of the ongoing pay freeze’s impact on her family came in the form of an email from her son’s university, which announced that it will raise tuition costs by 5% next year.

“I was trying to be understanding the first year. The second year is definitely more stressful,” she said. “…Now that we’re having pay freezes for two years in a row and we’ve had pay freezes in the past, my income is no longer keeping up with the cost of living.”

Fairfax County Public Schools employees would also have their pay frozen again under the advertised FY 2022 budget. The Fairfax County School Board requested a 3% pay raise for all employees, but that was not incorporated into the county’s proposal, which increases funding for the school system by just $14.1 million.

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, which represents all non-administrative FCPS staff, said in a press release issued on Monday (April 12) that 60% of respondents to a poll it conducted reported living paycheck to paycheck. Three out of four respondents said they have considered leaving for another school district due to the pay freeze.

“These statistics should not be the case in one of the wealthiest districts in the Commonwealth,” FCFT President Tina Williams said. “…Our district and county must do better.”

County Executive Bryan Hill’s proposed budget largely limits spending in response to the ongoing demands of the pandemic and uncertainty about the county’s future recovery.

When he presented his proposal on Feb. 23, Hill told the Board of Supervisors that it would cost more than $55 million to fund the county’s employee compensation program, including almost $30 million for a 2% market rate adjustment.

He recommended reducing the real estate tax rate by one cent to provide some relief to property owners, though rising home values mean that residents will still see a 4.25% increase in their tax assessments on average. The Board of Supervisors voted on March 9 to advertise a flat rate of $1.15 per $100 of assessed value as the ceiling for the new rate.

The question of how to support county services and workers while giving taxpayers some relief has formed the crux of the community conversation around the FY 2022 budget.

“So many folks in Fairfax County are hurting. The last thing they need is a tax increase,” said Fairfax County Republican Committee parlimentarian James Parmalee, the lone speaker at Tuesday’s public hearing on the tax rate.

Residents expressed differing points of view on whether the tax rate should be lowered at a town hall on the proposed budget hosted by Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn on March 29.

One resident, who identified herself as a county employee, said that she was disappointed at the potential extended salary freeze, while another resident worried that climbing housing values will exacerabate the county’s affordability issues.

The Board of Supervisors will mark up the budget proposal on April 27 before adopting an approved budget on May 4. Fiscal Year 2022 begins on July 1.

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County Reconfigures COVID-19 Call Center — “The Health Department has implemented a new call center system to better meet the needs of our residents during the upcoming transition to Phase 2 and beyond. As we work to implement this new system, wait times for callers may be longer than expected.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Virginia Woman Died After Receiving Johnson & Johnson Vaccine — “Virginia health officials say a woman who died a few weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is among six cases nationwide that prompted a pause in use of the one-dose shots. The woman’s death last month had similarities to the blood-clotting problem that halted distribution of the vaccine Tuesday, said Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccination coordinator.” [Inside NoVA]

U.S. Labor Secretary Visits Reston Business — Labor Secretary Marty Walsh held a discussion at Vantage Point Consulting’s Reston office on Friday (April 9) to talk about President Biden’s jobs plan and how it could help recent veterans and others transition back into the workforce. Vantage Point provides career readiness services and is owned by a veteran. [Patch]

Herndon Police Welcomes Support Dog — “Herndon Police Department is proud to announce K9 Bragg has joined the family, serving as HPD’s first certified facility dog. Bragg, a Labrador Retriever, was graciously gifted to HPD from Mutts With A Mission, a 501(c)(3) based in Portsmouth, VA, that specializes in training dogs to serve the needs of first responders, veterans, and wounded warriors.” [Herndon Police/Facebook]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Reston Hospital Center has again partnered with the Fairfax County Police Department to host a drug collection site in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Drug Take Back Day on April 24.

Located at 1850 Town Center Parkway, the hospital’s collection site will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for visitors to drop off unused or expired opioid medications. It will be situated in the circular drive at the Pavilion 1 rear entrance, which will also be available for drive-thru drop-offs.

Reston Hospital Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tom Taghon says the “Crush the Crisis” drug take-back day is an especially vital initiative this year, as the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic could be contributing to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

“Stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic may be exacerbating the opioid crisis by causing Americans to have feelings of anxiety, grief, social isolation, financial worry, and general uncertainty, all of which can affect those with substance use disorders and those at risk of developing one,” Taghon said. “Now, more than ever, it’s critically important to get unused pain medications out of homes and to educate the community about the serious threat of opioid misuse and abuse.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. saw the number of overdose deaths involving prescription opioids more than quadruple from 1999 to 2019, with nearly 247,000 people dying over the time period.

The Fairfax County Health Department called opioids the top cause of unnatural death in the county. They were linked to 83 deaths in 2018, including 70 that involved heroin or fentanyl.

For the upcoming drug take-back day, Reston Hospital volunteers will collect tablets, capsules, and patches of the following drugs:

  • Hydrocodone (Norco, Lortab, Vicodin)
  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet)
  • Tramadol (Ultram)
  • Codeine
  • Fentanyl (Duragesic)
  • Morphine
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Oxymorphone (Opana)

However, needles, syringes, lancets, or liquids will not be accepted at the collection site.

Officers from the Reston District Police Station will be present at the site to assist with the collection and disposal of the medications, according to Reston Hospital.

Reston Hospital is one of eight drop-off sites that will be available around Fairfax County for Drug Take Back Day, which is being coordinated by the police department.

Fairfax County also now has permanent drug drop-off boxes at each of its district police stations as well as some pharmacies and medical facilities in the area.

Photo courtesy Reston Hospital Center

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(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) Fairfax County will not be administering any Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines “until further notice,” following the advice by Virginia and the federal government.

“While this action limits the amount of available vaccine, its impact on the Fairfax Health District is minimal since the Fairfax County Health Department and its partners have primarily been using Pfizer vaccine for the past several months,” the county health department wrote in a blog post.

The county health department says this latest setback does not affect any of its clinics or appointments, and the “small amount” of the J&J vaccine that was being used will be substituted with the other vaccines.

“Fairfax County did not receive any J&J vaccine this week, and we were not expecting any next week. A small amount of J&J vaccine remaining from last week and allocated for this week will be substituted with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to avoid any cancellations at our Health Department sites,” the county said.

They also advise those who did receive the J&J vaccine to contact their health provider if they develop a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended this morning (Tuesday) that use of the J&J vaccine be paused while they review reports that six recipients, all women, developed a rare disorder involving blood clots after taking the vaccine.

In total, more than 6.8 million doses of the vaccine has been administered across the country, and the FDA is classifying the adverse, though dangerous, reactions as “extremely rare.”

The CDC and FDA say their recommendation comes “out of abundance of caution” so that further review and study can be done.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced just before 9 a.m. that Virginia would follow the federal government’s guidance and temporarily pause its use of the J&J vaccine until an investigation is complete.

“This pause is reassuring in that it demonstrates that the systems that are in place to monitor vaccine safety are working,” Virginia Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said in a statement. “We look forward to a thorough review by federal health officials.”

Neighboring jurisdictions in the D.C. area, including Arlington, Alexandria, D.C., and counties in Maryland, have all also paused their use of the J&J vaccine.

This is the second snag that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has hit in the past two weeks after a production mess-up at a Baltimore manufacturing plant contaminated as many as 15 million doses.

As a result, many states, including Virginia, have had their vaccine orders significantly cut. Virginia was expected to receive only about one-tenth of the number of doses of the J&J vaccine this coming week than the previous week.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay told Reston Now that the county did not anticipate getting any of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine this week or next week due to that supply shortage.

“The possible side effects of the vaccine are concerning for our national vaccination efforts because they [are] significantly dependent on the Johnson and Johnson vaccine,” McKay said. “At the end of the day however, safety and efficacy is most important and we are lucky we have two great vaccine options still available.

Earlier this month, Fairfax County committed to the same goal as the Commonwealth in having everyone over the age of 16 be eligible for the vaccine starting April 18. However, that was contingent on there being a sufficient supply.

Northam reiterated during a press conference outside Metz Middle School in Manassas, which hosted a vaccination clinic today, that Virginia still hopes that all adults who want to get vaccinated will receive their first dose by the end of May.

“Hopefully, this is just a small setback that we’ll overcome,” Northam said.

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report.

Photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools

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Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston) has endorsed Irene Shin to represent the 86th District in Virginia’s House of Delegates, Shin’s campaign announced yesterday (Monday).

Executive director of the nonprofit Virginia Civic Engagement Table, Shin announced on Feb. 9 that she would campaign for the 86th District seat currently occupied by Del. Ibraheem Samirah, who is seeking his first full term after winning a special election in February 2019.

The 86th District include the Town of Herndon as well as portions of Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

“When I look for leadership in elected office, I look for approachable, community-focused leaders who listen to people first and work to deliver solutions in state government,” Howell said in a statement. “Irene Shin is the epitome of this kind of leadership. Irene will bring effective, pragmatic leadership back to the 86th District, and will represent the Democratic values that we all support.”

According to her campaign website, Shin is the daughter of Korean immigrants and a resident of downtown Herndon. Her political experience primarily comes from work as a community organizer for campaigns, nonprofits, and startups.

In addition to working for VCET, which supports and trains progressive nonprofits and activists, Shin currently serves on the board of the Competitive Commonwealth Fund, which helps recruit and raise funds for Democratic candidates in Virginia.

When she announced her candidacy in February, Shin said that she was inspired to run for office after watching Vice President Kamala Harris get sworn in on Jan. 20 as the first female vice president in U.S. history. According to her LinkedIn profile, she worked on Harris’s Senate campaign in 2015 as a finance director.

“My top priorities as a candidate for the House of Delegates are ending the pandemic and rebuilding Virginia back to be a better, fairer society, finally bringing access to Universal Pre-K for all families, and refocusing the office of delegate on community-based collaborative leadership,” Shin said in a statement to Reston Now.

Shin says she is proud to get Howell’s support, along with endorsements from current Herndon Mayor Sheila Olem and former mayors Lisa Merkel and Mike O’Reilly.

Samirah’s endorsements so far include Herndon Vice Mayor Cesar del Aguila and Councilmembers Naila Alam, Pradip Dhakal, and Jasbinder Singh. He is also backed by Hunter Mill District School Board Representative Melanie Meren.

On his campaign website, Samirah says that he sees “improving public health as the central issue that touches all others,” but he also highlights housing affordability, gun safety, and criminal justice, among other topics.

Shin and Samirah will face off in the Democratic primary on June 8. The ballot will also feature a battle for the 36th House District between incumbent Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) and challenger Mary Barthelson, along with statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general.

Early voting for the primary will begin on April 23 at the Fairfax County Government Center. The first mail ballots will also be sent out that day.

Fairfax County will not have a Republican primary this June. The state party opted instead to select its nominees through a convention with remote voting.

Photo courtesy Irene Shin

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Reston pools are reopening for the season starting May 15 with similar restrictions and guidelines as last summer.

The heated pools at North Shore and Ridge Heights will be the first two to reopen. The rest of the Reston Association’s 12 available pools will open in phases on May 29, June 1, and June 12.

Like last summer, reservations will be required, even for open swim, so that the pools can limit capacity and maintain 10-foot social distancing requirements.

Residents will be able to book two-hour blocks for open swim and one-hour blocks for each lap swim and water fitness.

A registration system will open on May 10 at 9 a.m., allowing reservations to be booked on a rolling basis one week in advance of each day.

This is how RA plans to operate the pools for the moment, but it could change later in the summer, RA Director of Communications Mike Leone wrote in an email to Reston Now.

“The situation remains fluid and RA will continue to monitor it as we move into the later spring and summer,” Leone said. “It’s possible the procedures could change if the Governor further relaxes social distancing and gathering restrictions, but for now we are following similar guidelines as last summer.”

Cleaning protocols instituted last summer will still be in effect, according to Reston Aquatics.

All spas, hot tubs, and spray features will remain closed, in accordance with a March 23 Executive Order from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.

Starting on May 15, North Shore Heated Pool will be open on Mondays through Fridays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Ridge Heights Heated Pool will also be open on Mondays through Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Leone says that the opening dates for specific pools is based on known activity levels, and the timing of all the pools’ openings corresponds with the beginning of summer break for Fairfax County Public Schools.

Besides a high number of students using the pools, RA aligns the pool openings with school dismissals, because local high school students are often hired for lifeguard positions. Hiring enough lifeguards has been a challenge in the past.

Below are the opening dates for the rest of the available RA pools:

May 29

  • Dogwood
  • Glade
  • Lake Newport

June 1

  • Golf Course Island
  • Lake Audubon
  • Newbridge
  • North Hills

June 12

  • Autumnwood
  • Hunters Wood
  • Uplands

Three of RA’s pools — Lake Thoreau, Shadowood and Tall Oaks — are closed due to capital improvements, according to the website.

The new Lake Thoreau pool is set for a groundbreaking in October with a likely reopening in May 2023. Shadowood is also expected to undergo a full-scale renovation, and Tall Oaks has had past issues with contamination.

Image via Reston Association/YouTube

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Morning Notes

Hail Spotted During Evening Showers — Hail pelted Reston and Herndon last night when a rainstorm passed through the area around 7:45 p.m. The storm moved through fairly quickly but still made an impression. [Capital Weather Gang/Twitter]

Reston Association Annual Meeting Tonight — Reston Association will hold its annual members’ meeting virtually at 7 p.m. today. Member comments will be followed by an announcement of the results of the 2021 Board of Directors election and an introduction of the new directors. [RA]

Developers Undeterred by Silver Line Delays — The second phase of Metro’s Silver Line will not open until next year, but developers and local economic leaders still have a “positive long-term outlook” for the Reston and Herndon area. In the short term, though, the delays have “added challenges to those under construction and looking to break ground.” [Bisnow]

Fairfax County Joins Solarize Program Again — For the fifth year in a row, Fairfax County is participating in the Solarize Virginia program, which helps reduce costs for homeowners and businesses seeking to adopt solar power technology. This year’s program runs from April 12 through June 30, and for the first time, participants have the option to also install battery storage systems. [Fairfax County Government]

Outdoor “Twelfth Night” Production Coming to Herndon — The Herndon Community Arts Lab, Arts Herndon, and Dark Horse Theatre are putting on performances of Willian Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night or What You Will” on the Arts Herndon Lawn Stage in Old Town this spring. There will be a “pay what you will” preview on April 23, followed by regular performances on April 24 and 25, and May 1 and 2. [Patch]

Local College Student Bombarded by Camel Calls — A college student was baffled by a rash of callers asking to buy a camel he didn’t have until he learned about a Craigslist post advertising a camel for sale in Fairfax County with his phone number. The legality of private camel ownership in the county is unclear. [DCist]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Given a quick glance, Great Falls Nike Park appears to be just baseball fields, a trail, and a parking lot near an elementary school just off Leesburg Pike in Herndon.

Visitors who take a closer look, however, might stumble across a small, odd dome-like structure mere feet from a parked Toyota — a remnant of the key role that the Fairfax County park played in protecting the nation’s capital from a potential Russian missile attack during the Cold War.

Located 1199 Utterback Store Road, Great Falls Nike Park is one of three Fairfax County parks that were once home to anti-aircraft missiles designed to bring down Russian projectiles aimed at D.C. landmarks. The other two sites can be found along Fairfax County Parkway and in Lorton.

“We felt Russia, and other countries, had the ability to potentially attack us,” David Buchta, heritage conservation branch manager for the Fairfax County Park Authority, said. “And these missile sites were specifically designed to keep that from happening. The [parks] are certainly an interesting relic of curiosity left over from Cold War times.”

Despite the recent end of one war, the world hovered on the brink of another in the mid-20th century. The Cold War was a time of tension, particularly between the United States and the Soviet Union, and the federal government felt like they needed to protect D.C. from attack.

So, the government acquired land around the city to set up sites for their anti-aircraft missile launch systems. They were christened NIKE sites after the Greek goddess of victory.

Due to the abundance of rural land available at the time, Fairfax County became the site for three of these military installations, which all opened between 1953 and 1955.

“The idea was to create a ring of defense,” Buchta said. “The range of the missiles was pretty limited, but it was enough that we could protect the entire corridor of D.C. out to the Atlantic Ocean.”

Straddling the Herndon and Great Falls border, the Great Falls site sat on land that was owned by dairy farmer Mark Turner before the government acquired it by exercising eminent domain. Another site cropped up off of Fairfax County Parkway at what is now Pope’s Head Park. The third and largest site was on land that was part of the Lorton Prison Complex.

Each of them consisted of a launch area and a control area that was located one to three miles downrange.

For the Herndon site, the control area was on Turner Farm, while the missile launch area was about a 1.5 miles west along Utterback Road.

The Herndon and Fairfax sites were smaller and very similar to one another, but a historical report produced by Fairfax County describes the Lorton missile site as a “double site” that served as “a national showpiece” for the NIKE program. In 1958, the missiles in Lorton were even upgraded to include nuclear warheads.

The Herndon site also boasted a special feature: a radar dome, a repeating structure that was intended to be reflective and bounce signals to another location, Buchta says. Read More

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More than one-fifth of Virginia’s population has now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Virginia Department of Health’s vaccine dashboard indicates that 1.8 million residents — or 21.3% of the state’s population — have now received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

That puts the Commonwealth in line with the U.S. as a whole, which has fully vaccinated 21.9% of its population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Virginia is slightly ahead of the country overall when it comes to first-dose vaccinations. According to the VDH, 3.1 million people — or 36.6% of the state’s population — have gotten at least one vaccine dose, compared to 35.9% of the total U.S. population.

Fairfax County, however, seems to be a beat behind the overall state. 223,113 residents have been fully vaccinated, which is about 19% of the county’s total population of 1.1 million people. 402,129 residents have received at least one dose.

Still, the county has been delivering vaccinations at a steadier pace in recent weeks as the availability of supplies has increased.

In the initial weeks of the vaccine rollout, residents had to wait more than a month between when they signed up to get the vaccine and when they could actually schedule an appointment. That gap between registration and scheduling is now closer to a week, based on the Fairfax County Health Department’s dashboard, which says that the department is currently making appointments for people who registered on April 5.

The county received 65,710 first and second vaccine doses from the state during the week of April 5-11. There are just under 32,000 people on the health department’s waitlist, about 8% of the 418,023 people who have registered so far.

With Fairfax County aiming to join the rest of the state in opening registration for all adults on April 18, the faster pace of vaccinations has been countered by a rise in COVID-19 cases and concerns about variants that are believed to spread more quickly than the original virus.

With 196 new cases reported today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District has now recorded 74,259 total COVID-19 cases, 3,859 hospitalizations, and 1,080 deaths.

The county’s weekly average went up from 150.1 cases over the past seven days on April 5 to 181.4 cases today, and has been generally trending upward since hitting a low for 2021 of 133.6 cases on March 15.

According to CDC data, as of today, Virginia has reported 349 cases of the B.1.1.7. variant that orginated in the United Kingdom and has been associated with an increased risk of severe illness or death. There have also been 37 reported cases involving the B.1.351 variant, which was first detected in South Africa.

There is no evidence yet that the B.1.351 varient causes increased risks of severe illlness or death, but there is a “moderate reduction” in the immune protection offered by a vaccination or natural infection, according to the VDH.

The CDC estimates that the U.K. variant now constitutes about 11.5% of all COVID-19 cases in Virginia, though surveillance efforts to track the variants’ spread have been slow to ramp up.

Image via Virginia Department of Health

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Monday, April 12 

  • Rock the Park (10-11:30 a.m.) — Find a new pet rock! Join NoVa Parks staff for a hike down to the stream at Potomac Overlook Regional Park to introduce yourself to a new rock friend. Then, paint it in whatever colors and designs you like. Afterward, search the nature center for more pet rocks hidden by staff.

Tuesday April 13 

  • Cicadas in Your Garden (7-8 p.m.) — Prepare your garden for Brood X. Adria Bordas, a horticulturalist with the Virginia Cooperative Extension, will help local gardeners prepare — and protect — their gardens from the millions of cicadas that are set to emerge in our area come May. This is a virtual event.

Wednesday, April 14

  • Fundamentals of Falling (6-7 p.m.) — Learn how to take a fall safely while exercising. This course from Fairfax County Public Library and the Virginia Spine Institute will help you learn movement patterns and techniques to reduce the risk of injury when you inevitably fall while exercising.

Thursday, April 15

  • Yoga with the Magnolias (5:30-6:30 p.m.) — Take a small, socially distant, in-person yoga class at Carlyle House Historic Park’s Magnolia Terrace in Alexandria. The class is limited to six students to ensure proper spacing. Find a gentle flow while peering into the beautiful scenery.

Friday, April 16

  • World of BBQ (6 p.m.) — Hear James Beard Award-winning chef Rodney Scott talk about the secrets of barbeque in this virtual event hosted by Barnes and Noble and accessible via the store in the Mosaic District.

Saturday, April 17

  • Pollinator Garden Dedication (10 a.m.) — Join in-person or virtually for the dedication ceremony of the new Margaret Kinder Education and Pollinator Garden at Lake Accotink Park. The pollinator garden has 800 plants of 14 varieties with a number of interpretive signs. Kinder, its namesake, is a county educator, naturalist, and a longtime volunteer at the park.
  • Nature Kayaking (2-4 p.m.) — Paddle Lake Fairfax in a kayak with a Fairfax County Parks Authority naturalist. Learn about all the flora and fauna in the lake and what might be swimming underneath your kayak. A single kayak rental is included in the cost.

Sunday, April 18

  • Bird Walk (7:30-10:30 a.m.) — Join fellow birders for an early morning walk around Bright Pond in Reston. A limited number of participants are allowed, and masks must be worn at all times.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The Virginia Department of Transportation unveiled its initial concept designs for a future Town Center Parkway extension under the Dulles Toll Road during a virtual public information meeting on April 7.

Roughly a half-mile in length, the proposed underpass will connect the existing parkway at Sunset Hills Drive to the north with Sunrise Valley Drive to the south by dropping underneath the Dulles Toll Road, the Dulles International Airport Access Highway, and the new Metro Silver Line tracks.

According to Volkert Mid-Atlantic Director of Municipal and Highway Engineering Jeff Cutright, the consultant hired to conduct VDOT’s feasibility study, the extension was initially envisioned as a tunnel, but the study team realized after reviewing the project that an underpass would be “preferable.”

“A tunnel requires an expensive and complex ventilation and fire control system,” Cutright said. “Constructing this as an underpass opens the area, allowing in natural light, and is more economic and provides a more desirable solution.”

According to VDOT’s presentation, the underpass will consist of two travel lanes in each direction.

Between the Sunrise Valley intersection and Dulles Toll Road, the northbound and southbound lanes will be separated by a grass median. There will be a 10-foot-wide shared-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists on the southbound side and a five-foot-wide sidewalk on the northbound side, both of which will tie into off-street cycle tracks on Sunrise Valley Drive.

When the roadway passes under the Dulles Toll Road, the northbound and southbound lanes will be divided by a pier wall that has already been constructed by Metro to support the Silver Line tracks. A left turn lane would be added on the northbound side as the roadway approaches the intersection at Sunset Hills Road.

The shared-use path and sidewalk will continue for the length of the roadway, but they will be narrower under the Dulles Toll Road because of space constraints imposed by the Metro pier walls. Cutright says the height of the toll road bridge will allow a minimum clearance of at least 16 feet and six inches.

Other potential concerns include anticipated reductions in parking for the CoreSite data center and Reston Metro Center One office building on Sunrise Valley Drive. The project would also affect an existing Metro stormwater management facility at the Town Center Parkway and Sunset Hills intersection. Read More

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