Reston, VA

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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Reston’s newest Pet of the Week is Rosa, a petite lady who is looking for a warm lap to nap on.

Here’s what her friends at Fancy Cats Rescue Team had to say about her:

Meet sweet Rosa! This little lady is looking for her forever family. She loves to sit on laps for scratches or sleep in a warm lap.

Rosa is very petite girl, weighing only 5 pounds. She’s a good eater and has perfect litter box habits. Rosa would prefer not to share your affection with another cat as she thinks she deserves all the pets!

She’s truly an amazing girl!

Are you and little Rosa the perfect match?

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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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Mina Fies, founder and CEO of Synergy Design and Construction

By Makaila Oaks

Mina Fies, founder and CEO of Synergy Design & Construction, recently collaborated with Redfin and a number of remodeling experts from across the country to compile the most important questions to ask before you hire a home remodeling contractor.

The following is an excerpt of the top five questions we think you should ask before you sign on the dotted line.

1. Ask yourself if the project calls for a full-service remodeling contractor or if a handyman can do the job.

Using a glorified handyman to take on a complex project can be disastrous. The difference is professionalism. If your project involves more than just minor repairs or you’re doing more than just updating finishes (such as tile or paint), you want a bona-fide remodeling contractor.

Ask the company you’re considering, “What type(s) of work do you specialize in? Are you registered/licensed, and do you belong to a professional industry group like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) or BBB? Show me your work, give me some references, and tell me about your processes.”

Adding these items to the list of questions to ask a contractor will help you decide if they’re a good fit for your project.

— Michael Hill, owner, CCH Design | Remodel of Meridian Idaho

Photo courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction

2. Do you handle all phases of the project — from design to construction?

You’ll want to hire someone who can walk you through the entire process, from helping with the design and renderings, to acquiring necessary permits, to executing the work professionally. Working with the same company throughout the entire project keeps the process smooth and seamless, as opposed to hiring different people throughout every phase.

Yourson Contracting

Photo courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction

3. How many projects do you have going on, and what is the timeline for our project?

This is an important question to ask a contractor to make sure they aren’t too busy to take on the homeowner’s project. The homeowner will also want to know when the contractor will start and complete the project, and what the project schedule will be. This way the homeowner can be prepared and plan around the construction. This will also help the homeowner be ready for any materials they are providing to be on site for when the contractor needs them, avoiding delays.

AGA Construction Inc.

Photo courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction

4. Can you tell me about an issue you’ve dealt with recently where something went wrong on a project and how you handled it?

Interview your contractor as you would interview a prospective employee by asking open-ended questions. Hearing stories about how they’ve overcome obstacles in the past will provide valuable insight on how they would handle issues on your project. It will also open up a discussion around expectations for communication going forward.

— Mina Fies, Synergy Design & Construction

Photo courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction

5. Will there be a dedicated team working on my project?

As we navigate home renovations during COVID-19, this might be one of the most important questions to cover with your contractor. When it comes to who will be on the job, consistency is key. It’s normal for contracting companies to be working on multiple projects at once, so make sure to verify that there will be a dedicated team on your project. If this is not an option, make sure the company goes over the safety precautions that have been put in place due to COVID-19.

Penn Construction & Design

Photo courtesy of Synergy Design & Construction

Ready for a full service design-build home remodeling experience with a company right here in Reston who can help you answer these questions? Get in touch!

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