FedWings has opened at Reston Town Center, smoking and frying out of the Ted Bulletin's kitchen (Photo courtesy of Salis Holding)
FedWings has opened at Reston Town Center, smoking and frying out of the Ted Bulletin’s kitchen (Photo courtesy of Salis Holding)

A delivery-only chicken wing spot from the owners of Ted’s Bulletin and Federalist Pig has opened at Reston Town Center.

FedWings opened the outpost last month, smoking and frying chicken wings out of Ted’s Bulletin kitchen at 11948 Market Street.

The wings were being served at their barbecue restaurant Federalist Pig (with locations in D.C. and Maryland) prior, but it became clear to the owners that there was a big appetite for this easy-to-eat-at-home, finger food.

“When the pandemic happened, a lot of people wanted more wings,” co-owner Nick Salis tells Reston Now. “And we were trying to figure out how to keep our kitchen staff employed and keep people working… so we launched this wings brand.”

Their first so-called “ghost kitchen” was out of Kramer’s Bookstore in D.C.(which they also own) and have since expanded to eight locations, including Reston as well as ones in Merrifield and Arlington.

Salis says what makes their wings unique is that they smoke them, quickly deep fry them, and, then, toss them in a proprietary rub.

“These wings are not the easiest wings to make,” he says. “We smoke them for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the wood. Smoking is a little bit of an art.”

Since they started smoking and frying in mid-September, Reston’s FedWings has been doing crisp business, Salis notes.

While the pandemic continues to change and debilitate the restaurant industry, Salis says that the Ted Bulletin’s location at Reston Town Center has been hurting ever since Boston Properties infamously instituted paid parking back in 2016.

“There was a drop in sales of 30% overnight,” he says. “It was like your worst nightmare. It leaves a scar.”

Salis is hopeful though, since sales are climbing back, creeping closer to what it was when the restaurant opened there in 2014.

The hope is that FedWings will help continue that trend. The response has been “awesome” so far and the company is evaluating what the next steps could be, whether that means opening more ghost kitchens or establishing dedicated brick and mortars for FedWings.

“As of right now,” Salis says, “We’re just enjoying serving these wings to the community of Reston.”

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Morning Notes

Lake Anne housing (Photo by vantagehill/Flickr)

Reston Resident to Lead County Park Authority — Jai Cole, a Restonian, has been named the executive director of the Fairfax County Park Authority. Cole has more than two decades of leadership experience with recreation and park agencies. [Fairfax County Government]

Finland-based Company Choses Reston for North America Headquarters — Cloudpermit, a software company, has selected Reston as its North American headquarters. The company’s CEO says that Virginia was the right choice because of the “the highest concentration of tech talent in the U.S.” [PR Newswire]

Health Department to Improve COVID-19 Contact Interviews — The county’s health department is working on improving how to expedite contact with students who have been exposed to COVID-19 but haven’t been notified by health department staff. [Fairfax County Government]

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To keep school buildings open five days a week, Fairfax County Public Schools has worked with county health officials to develop intricate procedures for handling reported COVID-19 cases, but the school system has been notifying students that they need to pause in-person learning by email, sometimes late in the day.

This has resulted in some students coming to school early the next morning without knowing that they are a close contact of someone who has contracted the coronavirus and shouldn’t be at school that day.

“Due to the quick turnaround of pause notifications, we are aware that students have incorrectly attended school on a small number of occasions, unaware that they should remain at home,” a FCPS spokesperson told Reston Now. “When this occurs, the school administration acts quickly to alert the student and send them home.”

The FCPS spokesperson confirmed that only one email is required to go out, though some follow-up calls are made, if time allows, to confirm that the communication has been received.

“Currently, email notifications go out in eight different languages to ensure non English speaking families are communicated to in their home language,” the spokesperson wrote in an email. “Follow-up phone calls, while not currently part of our required notification processes, may be considered as our protocol evolves. Our principals make every effort to reach all our families.”

Earlier this week, Reston Now received a tip from a South Lakes High School teacher that several of their students were in class even though they were sent notifications instructing them to pause in-person learning.

While the students had not directly tested positive for COVID, they were considered close contacts, and under FCPS policies, those students shouldn’t have been in class.

The teacher also says one student who came to their class was “obviously ill,” making them feel unsafe and not confident with school procedures and communications. They are considering their options about returning.

FCPS says teachers are not alerted about these notifications due to privacy concerns, and there is no manual check at the door to see if anyone is entering who shouldn’t be there.

When a student tests positive for COVID-19, principals at each individual school use seating charts to determine who should be considered a close contact, the FCPS spokesperson confirmed.

At that point, the school sends an in-person learning pause notification via email to those close contacts.

A pause typically lasts between one to three days, according to the FCPS website, while the county health department clarifies each student’s vaccination status and completes contact tracing.

The pause takes effect immediately when the notification goes out, the FCPS spokesperson said.

However, if an email goes out in the evening, students and their families might not think to check their email before heading out to school the next morning.

While the notification does go out in nine languages, including English, there remains a possibility that it could not be understood by some.

9% of students at South Lakes High School are “English Learners,” meaning they are learning how to communicate and learn effectively in English. Nearly 30% of Reston residents speak a language other than English at home, according to 2019 census data.

After FCPS sends the initial notification, the Fairfax County Health Department takes over with contact tracing, communicating how long quarantine should be, and providing public health guidance.

Since Aug. 13, South Lakes High School has had seven confirmed positive cases of COVID, according to the FCPS dashboard. This includes three staff and four students.

FCPS has updated its COVID-19 procedures and guidelines over the last week. On Monday (Aug. 30), it announced that all high school students will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate in winter and spring school sports.

Just today (Thursday), FCPS said it has worked with the Fairfax County Health Department to speed up the process of identifying students who are fully vaccinated so they can quickly return to in-person learning if they’re identified as a close contact to a positive COVID case.

“We appreciate our community’s patience as we navigate through these challenging times,” the FCPS spokesperson wrote. “As we do our best to provide safe in-person learning, five days a week as mandated by the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

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Morning Notes

As seen from Leesburg Pike, waters rose at Colvin Run after an early morning storm on Sept. 1, 2021 (photo by Ed Schudel/Twitter)

Virginia’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Now in Effect — “A mandate that most of Virginia’s state workers will have to be vaccinated or agree to regular COVID-19 testing is taking effect. Gov. Ralph Northam’s order kicks in Wednesday and will apply to more than 120,000 executive branch employees.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

Reston Police Community Meeting Tonight — “Join the @FairfaxCountyPD Reston District Station for a Community Information Forum on Thursday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m. The virtual meeting will cover statistics, trends, cases from the previous month, and discuss upcoming events.” [Supervisor Walter Alcorn/Twitter]

Lake Anne Elementary Postpones Back-to-School Night — “Many families have asked for a virtual Back to School Night because people are hesitant to be around large crowds. In response to that request, we will be changing our Back to School Night to a virtual format on Tuesday, September 14, 2021…More details will follow in next week’s News You Choose.” [FCPS]

Park Authority to Honor Frying Pan Volunteers — The Fairfax County Park Authority Board will give Ronnie Billodeaux, Ed Robichaud, and Steve Williams the 2021 Harold L. Strickland Partnership and Collaboration Award, which recognizes teamwork in bringing state-of-the-art facilities to parks. The three volunteer wagon ride drivers worked over the winter to repair and expand picnic facilities at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon. [FCPA]

Photo by Ed Schudel/Twitter

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A new art show and sale at Lake Anne Plaza’s Reston Art Gallery and Studios (RAGS) will benefit COVID-19 relief efforts in Nepal.

More than 50 works from Ugandan and Nepali artists will be on display and on sale starting tomorrow (Wednesday) through Thursday (Sept. 2) with a reception tomorrow at 5 p.m.

The show is being presented by Scott DeLisi, the former U.S. ambassador to both Uganda and Nepal, and his organization Engage Nepal. Proceeds will go toward funding a pediatric intensive care unit in a Nepal hospital that will help care for young COVID patients.

“Nepal has been devastated, so we are doing all we can to help,” DeLisi wrote in the press release. “This includes the sale of these wonderful paintings and photos donated by a variety of artists, including many from Uganda who truly wanted to help the people in Nepal in a time of need. I met those artists when I served as Ambassador in Uganda and was so touched by their kindness and concern.”

Currently, the hospital has constructed the ward with beds, and the local government has provided two ventilators, DeLisi elaborated to Reston Now in an email.

“But much remains to do,” he noted.

The show and fundraiser are being held in Reston thanks to local artist and former Foreign Service officer Rosemarie Forsythe, whose month-long show “Illuminations” is set to debut at the Reston Art Gallery on Sept. 3.

“I learned about Engage Nepal through a former Foreign Service colleague who is on the board of directors,” Forsythe said in the release. “I spent over a decade as a Foreign Service officer in the late 1980s to late 1990s. I like to think that this event is my way of showing appreciation for the time I enjoyed traveling, hiking and mountain climbing in Nepal.”

RAGS Director Pat Macintyre said she is “honored” to host the event.

“All artists are world artists, and we are honored to host this event and help raise awareness of this global concern,” Macintyre wrote. “We hope that our community of Reston and beyond will enjoy Engage Nepal’s art show and support the work of this important organization.”

Artworks that will be featured in the show include a painting of the African Cape buffalo, Ugandan wooden sculptures, and works from artist Lima Mugalu.

“[She’s] one of the most active female artists in Uganda,” DiLisi told Reston Now. “She paints women celebrating weddings, at introduction ceremonies, and in other social interactions using mixed media, acrylics and fabrics.”

Prices range from $50 to $850. Monetary donations will also be accepted.

DiLisi says that he’s touched by the gallery’s willingness to host the show and sale.

“I have to say…that the community spirit of everyone associated with Reston Art Gallery has touched me,” DiLisi said. “Their willingness to act to help kids in need in Nepal has been heartwarming.”

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Coronavirus (Photo via CDC on Unsplash)

After hovering in the “substantial” category throughout August, Fairfax County is officially seeing high levels of COVID-19 spread within the community, putting it in line with almost all of Virginia.

The county went from orange to red when the Virginia Department of Health updated its dashboard this morning (Monday) for the week of Aug. 22-28. Manassas Park is now the only locality in the state not reporting high community transmission, a dot of “moderate” yellow amid a sea of crimson.

The Fairfax County Health Department attributes the continued rise in virus cases to the prevalence of the Delta variant, which spreads more easily between people than previous strains and is now the most common strain in Northern Virginia.

“We continue to do all we can to educate, vaccinate, and limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu said in a statement. “…The level of community transmission in Northern Virginia — and the rest of the Commonwealth — is now classified as “High”, emphasizing the importance of prevention wherever we live, work, play and learn. We urge everyone to continue to be vigilant about layered prevention strategies and for all those who are eligible to receive vaccination to do so.”

Fairfax County now has high levels of COVID-19 community transmission (via Virginia Department of Health)

Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s metrics, VDH determines the level of community transmission based on the total number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 persons and the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive over the last seven days.

While Fairfax County’s weekly testing positivity rate actually dropped from 6.2% during the week of Aug. 15-21 to 5.1% this past week, which would still be considered moderate transmission, the number of new cases per 100,000 people jumped from 99.2 to 109.5 over that same time frame, putting the county over the 100-case threshold for high transmission.

With one day left in the month, the Fairfax Health District has reported fewer than 100 new COVID-19 cases in a day just twice in August. Another 116 cases came in today, bringing the weekly average up to 182.6 cases — the highest mark since April 14, when the county averaged 184.3 daily new cases over the previous seven days.

The district, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church as well as Fairfax County, has now recorded a total of 83,902 COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic. 4,253 residents have been hospitalized with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 1,164 residents have died, including eight since last Monday (Aug. 23).

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Aug. 30, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

According to the VDH, the vast majority of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths statewide continue to occur in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people, who have contracted COVID-19 at 13.3 and 2.6 times the rate of their fully vaccinated counterparts, respectively.

The Fairfax Health District has administered a total of 1.46 million vaccine doses so far, though the federal government’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine on Aug. 23 doesn’t appear to have spurred a sudden uptick in demand.

787,408 residents — or 66.5% of the district’s total population, including 78.7% of people 18 and older — have now gotten at least one shot, according to the Fairfax County Health Department’s vaccine dashboard. 6,369 more people joined the club over the past week, roughly on par with the 6,257 people who got their first inoculation in the week before that.

712,389 residents are fully vaccinated, which amounts to 71.6% of adults and 60.2% of the overall population.

Photo via CDC on Unsplash

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(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) All high school students will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate in school sports, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced this morning (Monday).

The requirement will apply to students who plan to get involved in Virginia High School League winter and spring sports this school year, along with activities like dance team and out-of-season workouts that require a physical, but it will take effect on Nov. 8, prior to the postseason for fall sports like football and field hockey.

An FCPS spokesperson says the Nov. 8 date was chosen, because that’s when the school system will start having indoor sports.

“As FCPS students return to our school buildings, our priority must be on our academic programming,” the spokesperson said. “Our data is showing that a significant number of our cases stem from athletics and a disproportionate number of students are having their learning impacted. Therefore, we have made the decision to mandate vaccinations for students who wish to partake in a number of close contact athletic disciplines. By taking this step, we hope to limit the number of students who are being instructed to remain out of school buildings.”

The announcement comes one week after FCPS started its 2021-2022 academic year and 10 days after the district issued a vaccination mandate for employees that’s expected to take effect in October.

As recently as last Tuesday (Aug. 24), school officials had expressed uncertainty about the legality of requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for students.

“As I understand it, that’s not something we’re able to do yet in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Brabrand said at a school board work session. “…I do think, just like the staff vaccination mandate, we need to, as this pandemic evolves, continue to go back and return to these kinds of issues that can really help make our schools safe for in-person instruction now and forever.”

Mount Vernon District School Board Representative Karen Corbett-Sanders, who served on a state task force that looked at the issue, confirmed that Virginia law requires any vaccination requirements for students come from the Virginia Department of Health, which would refer the mandate to the General Assembly.

“The legislature is not meeting again until January, but this may be an area where this board, as we look at our legislative priorities, would urge that,” Corbett-Sanders said.

However, in that same meeting, some board members raised concerns about students missing class time due to sports-related COVID-19 cases and the amount of time that health officials needed to conduct contact tracing, since there was no system in place to quickly determine who had already been vaccinated.

FCPS says vaccinations can be mandated for student athletes without state approval, because sports aren’t required activities and students don’t earn grades or credit for participating in them.

According to the FCPS case dashboard, 234 people, including 164 students and 69 staff members, have reported testing positive for COVID-19 to the school system this month as of Friday (Aug. 27).

Most cases appear to be occurring in elementary schools, but Brabrand says the majority of instances where high school students need to pause instruction have been the result of exposure during athletic activities.

“While we know this is a difficult decision for some families, it is an essential step that we must take to limit the duration of a pause, getting students back to the classroom and their activities sooner, but still safely,” Brabrand said, noting that FCPS will work with the Fairfax County Health Department to ensure students have access to the vaccine before the mandate takes effect.

Brabrand’s full message to the FCPS community can be found below: Read More

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria (via Google Maps)

A Reston man has been sentenced to more than five years in prison for a bank fraud and identity theft scheme where he created fake COVID-19 stimulus checks, the Department of Justice announced yesterday (Wednesday).

Jonathan Drew, 39, was sentenced in federal court in Alexandria yesterday by Senior U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga. His 70-month prison sentence is significantly less than the maximum of 32 years that he faced for charges of bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

He pleaded guilty to the charges on April 14.

Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Raj Parekh announced the sentencing. He was joined by Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis, Loudoun County Sheriff Michael Chapman, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, and Daniel A. Adame, the inspector in charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Washington Division.

“In addition to causing financial harm to the individuals from whom he stole checks and credit cards, the defendant’s sweeping criminal conduct also inflicted emotional harm and distress to his identity theft victims,” Parekh said in a statement. “As this case demonstrates, we are determined to hold accountable those who seek to illegally enrich themselves by defrauding and stealing from our residents.”

According to the DOJ news release, Drew stole the identities of more than 150 people between December 2019 and August 2020:

According to court documents, between approximately December 2019 and August 2020, Jonathan Drew, 39, stole U.S. mail addressed to more than 150 individuals in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. The mail Drew stole included bank statements, credit cards, credit card statements, W-2 forms, and more than $700,000 in checks, including a COVID-19 stimulus payment and checks Drew used to create counterfeit checks.

According to court documents, Drew used the stolen stimulus check to create counterfeit stimulus checks ranging from $1,200 to $2,400, and he negotiated his own authentically issued stimulus check twice. Drew also used the personally identifiable information of several individuals without authorization to lease an apartment; open bank accounts; and attempt to conduct fraudulent transactions through counterfeit checks, forged checks, unauthorized use of credit cards, and wire transfers.

The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys Olivia Zhu and Roberta O. Roberts, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell L. Carlberg.

Attorney General Merrick Garland established a COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force with the Department of Justice and other government agencies on May 17 to investigate and prosecute crimes related to the pandemic and the various relief programs created to address its economic impact.

The DOJ says people can stay alert for fraud involving COVID-19 vaccinations and testing, unemployment benefits, and taxes by not responding to unsolicited phone calls or emails and avoiding sharing personal or health information with anyone other than trusted medical professionals.

Anyone who thinks they might be a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the DOJ National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or submitting a National Center for Disaster Fraud complaint form.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Lake Anne Plaza fountain in August (via vantagehill/Flickr)

COVID-19 Vaccine Recommended for Pregnant People — “COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for everyone 12 years and older, including those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or would like to get pregnant. The rise in COVID-19 cases, low vaccine uptake among pregnant people, and the increased risk of severe illness during pregnancy make vaccination more urgent than ever.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Local Cycling Studio Announces Vaccine Requirement — Starting Sept. 1, New Trail Cycling in Lake Anne Plaza will require patrons to provide proof that they’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to take an indoor class. Owner Liz Camp says she’s not aware of any other businesses in the Reston and Herndon area with a similar policy but felt it’s a necessary extra step to keep people safe and healthy as cases rise. [New Trail Cycling]

Police Union Supports Eliminating Ticket-Writing Quotas — The Virginia Police Benevolent Association, which represents 750 state troopers, says it’s working with the General Assembly on a law that would prohibit law enforcement agencies from imposing quotas on officers, saying that approach is outdated and leads to more negative interactions with the public. Virginia State Police officials deny using quotas, but emails suggest troopers are evaluated in part by how many tickets they write. [WTOP]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Fairfax County Public Schools is considering providing $1,000 bonuses to its employees, along with a base pay increase for bus drivers.

FCPS administrators and the school board discussed the potential compensation boosts during a work session yesterday (Tuesday), when they also debated how to spend and oversee $189 million in federal COVID-19 relief money.

As part of its fiscal year 2021 budget review, the district could use $32.7 million for one-time bonuses to employees, which is unrelated to the relief money. A retention strategy similar to bonuses given to county government workers, the bonuses would be $1,000 for contracted employees and $500 for 3,352 hourly workers.

A vote on the budget review is scheduled for the school board’s meeting tomorrow (Thursday). If approved, the bonuses would be paid in November, according to FCPS staff.

Springfield District School Board Representative Laura Jane Cohen raised concerns about the proposed gap between what full-time and temporary staff would receive.

“I would argue that there is no way in the world we could have gotten through last year and now even more with folks being quarantined [without substitute teachers],” Springfield District representative Laura Jane Cohen said.

The discrepancy led the school board to consider whether temporary staff could also get $1,000. Those workers include some 2,500 substitute teachers as well as other workers, such as coaches and dining room assistants, but someone who worked one day would also be eligible, according to Sean McDonald, interim assistant superintendent with the Department of Human Resources.

During their work session, the school board also discussed plans for the ESSER III money (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) that FCPS got from the $1.9 trillion stimulus that Congress passed as part of the American Rescue Plan Act this spring.

The ESSER III fund is intended to help FCPS respond to pandemic-related issues and will run from this current school year through June 2024. The proposed spending plan covers increased workloads for Individualized Education Program (IEP) staff, addresses students’ social and emotional needs, and supports other school operations.

FCPS staff also pitched allocating nearly $3.3 million to increase bus drivers’ pay, citing a need to stay competitive with surrounding school districts.

“I believe our labor market is fundamentally restructuring before our eyes right now,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand said.

He said the ESSER III money could raise the minimum pay of the district’s 325 bus drivers to “step six,” or around $23 or $24 per hour. Faced with a shortage of drivers, FCPS is currently offering a starting salary of $19.58 an hour to new drivers, along with a $2,000 signing bonus.

Braddock District representative Megan McLaughlin expressed disappointment with the ESSER III spending plan, saying she wanted more information on how staff came up with the dollar amounts for each line item.

“I’m sitting here in shock,” McLaughlin said. “…There’s no way I’m voting for this on Thursday, and here’s why. At some point, this board has got to demonstrate where we stand on our fiduciary responsibility.”

FCPS has proposed spending the money based on four categories:

  • Address learning deficits
  • Provide for students’ academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs
  • COVID-19 prevention and mitigation strategies
  • Other uses, such as technology, communication, translators, interpreters, project management, and transportation

Those will help give individual schools flexibility in how to spend their money with FCPS providing oversight.

“The flexibility is there so a school with those needs can shift the funds and resources as approved by the region to take care of those specific needs,” said Mark Greenfeld, assistant superintendent of the Department of School Improvements and Supports.

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Coronavirus (Photo via CDC on Unsplash)

The U.S. has its first officially approved COVID-19 vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration announced this morning (Monday) that it has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for individuals 16 and older based on updated data from clinical trials that showed the vaccine is 91% effective at preventing the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

That is lower than the 95% effectiveness rate reported on Dec. 11, when the Pfizer vaccine became the first innoculation authorized for emergency use in the country, but the FDA says the vaccine meets its standards for safety, quality, and effectiveness, including against hospitalization or death due to a COVID-19 infection.

“While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”

The Pfizer vaccine also remains authorized for use by adolescents between 12 and 15 years of age. Moderna started the process to get full approval of its vaccine, which is currently authorized for adults 18 and older, on June 1, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still available for adults after a brief pause this spring.

The full approval allows Pfizer to advertise its vaccine and continue selling it after the federal public health emergency for the pandemic ends, but local and state officials hope it will also convince more people to get vaccinated, as COVID-19 cases continue to climb due to the highly infectious Delta variant.

“Today’s news is yet another reaffirmation that vaccines are safe and effective,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “Though all three COVID vaccines are approved for emergency use, the FDA’s official approval of Pfizer’s vaccine is good news for our community. We have been distributing Pfizer since day one and have plenty on hand for those who would like one. Anyone who is not vaccinated, or who was waiting for this FDA action, should go get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones against COVID-19.”

According to Virginia Department of Health data, Fairfax County reported 206 new COVID-19 cases on Friday (Aug. 20), the first time its single-day caseload surpassed 200 since April 13. With another 336 cases coming in over the weekend and 124 cases added today, including from the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, the Fairfax Health District has seen a total of 82,600 cases since the start of the pandemic.

4,227 people in the district have been hospitalized, and 1,156 people have died from the virus.

The county is now averaging 178.9 cases per day over the past seven days, a tick down from 182.9 cases yesterday (Sunday), which was the highest weekly average since April 14.

With more than 80 cases per 100,000 people reported in the last week and a testing positivity rate of 4.4% as of the week ending on Aug. 14, the county’s community transmission level remains substantial. Read More

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All Fairfax County government workers will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the county announced today (Friday).

Employees who don’t get vaccinated, including those who request an exemption for medical or religious reasons, will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing to remain employed.

The timing of when the mandate will take effect remains unclear, as the announcement says only that it will begin this fall.

“We know vaccinations save lives and that these vaccines are safe and effective,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “Throughout the pandemic we have focused on measures to keep our employees and our community safe, and this is another key piece of that effort. As one of the largest employers in Virginia, and one that has successfully and consistently stressed to our residents the importance of being vaccinated, we must practice what we preach.”

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on July 28 to direct County Executive Bryan Hill to explore the possibility of a vaccine requirement while developing an official return-to-office plan for the county government.

Fairfax County Public Schools announced this morning that it will require employees to get vaccinated, starting in October, though the new school year will begin on Monday (Aug. 23).

“We join organizations including Fairfax County Public Schools, public universities, privately held companies, and our federal and local governments, taking these measures to help protect employees and the public from this significant health threat,” Hill said in a statement. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, Fairfax County has focused on policies and procedures that support the health and well-being of our staff and the community, and we will continue to do so.”

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(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) All Fairfax County Public School employees will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing, the school system announced this morning.

The requirement will take effect “by late October,” according to the news release:

To keep our commitment to provide students with five days a week of in-person instruction this year. Vaccination is the most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent severe illness. We must take every measure possible to keep our schools safe.

To give employees the peace of mind that comes with knowing their workplace is a safe place. Knowing coworkers are either vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19 provides confidence and comfort so we can focus on our mission- educating kids.

To reassure FCPS students and families they are learning in the safest environment possible. We can assure everyone who enters our building that our workforce is either vaccinated or is reporting to work with a negative COVID-19 test.

To lead by example. FCPS continues to promote vaccination for everyone, including our students, as soon as they are eligible. Our goal is for every eligible employee to be vaccinated. The sooner our community reaches a high vaccination rate, the sooner we begin to put the pandemic behind us.

FCPS had already established a universal masking policy for all students, staff, and visitors inside school buildings, but as recently as Wednesday, officials had said that they were not mandating vaccinations, though the option had not been definitively ruled out.

The change comes days after two unions representing FCPS employees — the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers and the Fairfax Education Association — issued statements saying that they would support a vaccine mandate.

“Our teachers and staff have gone above and beyond to keep their students safe and healthy during the pandemic. Most signed up for vaccines as soon as they were available,” Providence District School Board Member Karl Frisch said in a statement. “This was the right decision. To keep our students safe and our schools running smoothly, it is critical that everyone in our community who is eligible gets vaccinated — not only our educators and school employees. That is how we will ultimately put this pandemic behind us.”

As of 9:50 a.m. today (Friday), a majority of respondents in an informal poll conducted by Reston Now and sister site Tysons Reporter said they would support a vaccine requirement not just for staff, but also for students. However, the opposition to a mandate has grown since the results were checked last night.

Students will return to classes on Monday (Aug. 23).

“FCPS continues to encourage vaccination for everyone, including students, as soon as they are eligible,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a message sent out to families this morning. “This summer, Fairfax County has seen vaccination rates for our young people soar. We have some of the highest vaccination rates across the country for this age group.”

According to FCPS, 61.9% of adolescents aged 12-15 in Fairfax County are now fully vaccinated, along with 74.4% of 16 to 17-year-olds.

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An FCPS employee at an Inova COVID-19 vaccine clinic from earlier this year (Photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools)

The first day of school is less than a week away, and for many students, teachers, and parents, it’s coming with even more anxiety than usual.

For the first time since mid-March 2020, nearly all Fairfax County Public School students will attend in-person classes five days a week starting on Monday (Aug. 23).

With COVID-19 still in the air and students younger than 12 unable to get vaccinated, FCPS has an array of health protocols aimed at curbing the risk of infection, including an indoor mask requirement, outdoor classes and dining where possible, and diagnostic testing for people who display symptoms.

However, the school system is not requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employees or eligible students. Arlington Public Schools is the only Northern Virginia district to issue a vaccine requirement for staff so far, though the Alexandria City school board is expected to discuss the issue today (Thursday).

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, the union that represents FCPS educators and non-administrative staff, said earlier this week that it would support a mandate, and FCPS says it will “continue to consider all options that keep our staff and students safe.”

While many colleges and universities have issued vaccine mandates for students, legal and political concerns make it unlikely that any K-12 schools will take a similar stance, even though they already require other immunizations.

According to Fairfax County Health Department data, 78% of adolescents aged 12-17 and 65.6% of all Fairfax Health District residents have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

“While mandatory vaccination is a policy decision and not a policy that the health department would be in charge of making, we do really support and urge everybody to get the information they need in order to make a positive decision to get vaccinated, which is really more important than ever with the Delta variant,” FCHD Director of Epidemiology and Population Health Dr. Benjamin Schwartz said during a virtual town hall on Monday (Aug. 26).

With the COVID-19 vaccines shown to be effective at preventing serious illness, albeit slightly less so against the Delta variant, should FCPS require the shots?

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Updated at 7:50 p.m. on 8/19/2021A second FCPS employees’ union, the Fairfax Education Association, released a statement today (Thursday) saying that it would also back a vaccine mandate for all workers and urged the school system to extend its paid sick leave policy for staff who have to quarantine through Dec. 31.

Earlier: The union that represents Fairfax County Public Schools teachers and staff says it would back a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for employees if the school system decides to institute one.

Fairfax County Federation of Teachers leaders released a statement expressing their support for requiring staff to provide proof of vaccination or submit to weekly testing on Monday (Aug. 16) as FCPS staff returned to work in preparation for the start of the new school year on Aug. 23.

“Feedback from our members shows that there is strong support for a vaccine mandate among our membership,” the FCFT executive board said in its statement. “As we see the Delta variant spreading across the US and the growing case numbers among children, and knowing that our students under 12 are not eligible to be vaccinated until at least winter, we support all measures we can take to reduce the spread and protect these students.”

FCPS has emphasized the importance of staff and eligible students getting vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, including in a virtual town hall that Superintendent Scott Brabrand hosted with county health officials on Monday, but the district has stopped short of requiring shots.

Arlington Public Schools became the first Northern Virginia system to implement a vaccine mandate for its employees, announcing last week that the requirement will take effect on Aug. 30.

With COVID-19 cases surging again due to the infectious Delta variant, vaccination requirements are becoming increasingly commonplace among both public and private employers. Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Aug. 5 that state government workers must show proof that they are fully vaccinated or undergo weekly testing, encouraging localities and businesses to follow suit.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on July 27 to explore requiring vaccination or weekly testing when county government employees return to offices in September, though no official plan has been publicly announced yet.

While it doesn’t have specific data on which staff members are vaccinated, FCPS says 90% of its staff had registered to get vaccinated as of February, suggesting that the vaccination rate is higher now. School officials have not ruled out the possibility of making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory in the future.

“At this present time, we are not mandating vaccinations for staff but we continue to consider all options that keep our staff and students safe,” an FCPS spokesperson said.

In addition to endorsing the idea of a vaccine requirement, the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers says its members “strongly support” FCPS’ universal mask policy, which has been expanded since it was first announced on July 28 to include all individuals in all indoor settings regardless of their vaccination status.

The union also called on FCPS to work with the Fairfax County Health Department to provide more on-site vaccine clinics and rapid testing sites, let employees participate in required staff meetings virtually, provide administrative leave for any staff member who has to quarantine due to a work-related COVID-19 exposure, and give staff at least one day to transition to virtual instruction if a class, school, or the district has to close.

Clear, consistent, and timely communication will also be key to ensuring that the return to five days of in-person learning is successful, the union said.

“While ever-changing COVID conditions contributed to the upheaval of last year, there are many places where strong leadership and clear communication could have reduced staff workload and stress, rather than add to it,” FCFT said. “It is imperative that FCPS leadership seek out feedback from staff members who work directly with students to utilize the expertise of those with firsthand experience on how policies and procedures work in classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, and buses.”

An FCPS spokesperson says the school system will finalize details on how staff leave will work for quarantine situations before the start of the school year, and it will offer staff a virtual option for meetings with parents.

“We continue to consider all requests from staff and families as we work together to ensure a smooth and safe school year,” FCPS said.

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