Updated at 7:50 p.m. on 8/19/2021 — A 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.”
1. FCFT supports FCPS requiring all staff members to provide proof of vaccination and requiring all those who do not provide proof of vaccination to participate in weekly COVID testing.
— Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (@FCFTcares) August 16, 2021
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.
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.
Fairfax County is still seeing substantial levels of COVID-19 community transmission, necessitating the continued use of masks as the county hopes to get the coronavirus back under control with schools set to reopen next week.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health measure community transmission levels using the total number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and the percentage of positive tests in the past seven days.
Fairfax County’s testing positivity rate for the week of Aug. 8-14 was 4.5%, up from 3% at the end of June but still in the threshold for “low” transmission. However, the county has recorded 76.2 cases per 100,000 people in the past week, which is high enough to be considered substantial transmission.
With the addition of 103 cases today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has recorded a total of 81,427 COVID-19 cases during the pandemic. 4,213 people have been hospitalized, and 1,154 people have died, including one person within the past week.
The county is now averaging 136.4 new daily cases for the past seven days — the highest weekly average since April 23, which had a seven-day average of 141.6 cases, according to VDH.
The Fairfax County Health Department had not noticed a “discernable” increase in vaccination rates over the four weeks since the Delta variant-fueled rise in cases began, a department spokesperson told Reston Now last Monday (Aug. 9), but since then, an additional 9,697 Fairfax Health District residents have gotten their first vaccine dose.
In comparison, just 4,627 people obtained their first shot between Aug. 2 and 9.
Overall, 774,782 Fairfax Health District residents have received at least one vaccine dose. That is 65.5% of the total population and 77.6% of residents 18 and older, according to the county health department’s vaccine data dashboard.
699,412 residents — 70.6% of adults and 59.1% of the total population — are now fully vaccinated.
VDH announced on Friday (Aug. 13) that it will provide third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to people with moderate to severe compromised immune systems in accordance with a new recommendation by the CDC.
“Studies have shown that people with a compromised immune system can have a weak response to the standard vaccine regimen, and that a third dose is needed to strengthen immunity in these persons and protect them from serious COVID-19 complications,” VDH said in its news release.
According to CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, immunocompromised people have accounted for 40 to 44% of the hospitalized breakthrough cases reported in the U.S.
As of Friday, Virginia has recorded 4,056 breakthrough COVID-19 cases, including 233 hospitalizations and 52 deaths. However, 240,980 cases, 8,383 hospitalizations, and 2,786 deaths have involved a person who is only partially vaccinated or not vaccinated at all.
98.3% of all cases, 97.2% of hospitalizations, and 98.2% of deaths are people who are not fully vaccinated.
Photo via CDC on Unsplash
Virginia Requires Masks in Schools — Gov. Ralph Northam issued a public health order yesterday (Thursday) requiring universal mask-wearing in all K-12 schools in response to concerns about the COVID-19 Delta variant. Fairfax County Public Schools announced a mandate on July 28 that had some exemptions for fully vaccinated individuals, but the district updated its policy on Wednesday (Aug. 11) to require masks indoors for everyone. [The Washington Post]
Fairfax County Opens for Vaccine Site Requests — “Businesses and community event organizers can now request to host a vaccination team to provide COVID-19 vaccines or education/outreach services so that people can learn more about the vaccines. Requests will be reviewed and matched with an outreach or nursing team from the Fairfax County Health Department.” [FCHD]
Route 7 Traffic Changes Coming Next Week — Utterback Store Road in Great Falls will be closed from 9:30 a.m. on Monday (Aug. 16) to 2 p.m. on Friday (Aug. 20) while crews remake the intersection for the Route 7 Corridor Improvements Project. Construction, which will continue until 2024, will also require westbound Route 7 lane shifts from Reston Parkway to Reston Avenue on Aug. 17 and between Utterback Store and Springvale roads on Aug. 19. [VDOT]
Senate Infrastructure Bill Boosts D.C. Area — Metro would receive $150 million annually for capital improvements over the next eight years from the $1 trillion infrastructure funding bill that the Senate approved 69-30 on Tuesday (Aug. 10). The bill allocates more than $8 billion to Virginia for highway and bridge repairs, public transit support, and expansions of the state’s broadband and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. [DCist]
The Town of Herndon has taken its initial steps toward utilizing federal funding earmarked to help alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Herndon Town Council approved the allocation of the town’s funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) during a public session on Tuesday (Aug. 10). However, the budgeting of the funds will take place in the future as the town reviews capital projects and other operations and maintenance needs.
“This is the initial [move] just to kind of get the town started,” Herndon Director of Finance Robert Tang said. “We can do future budget amendments and re-appropriations as needed.”
Passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in March, ARPA allocated $350 billion to assist state, local, territorial and tribal governments affected by the pandemic, establishing the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.
Virginia’s windfall included over $633 million to provide a “substantial infusion to local governments” that are in turn meant to help turn the tide on the pandemic, address economic fallout, and lay a foundation for a strong and equitable recovery, according to Tang.
Herndon received a first installment of $12.7 million, and a second installment of roughly the same amount is expected in summer 2022, giving the town a total of $25.5 million in relief funding.
The funds can be used to address public health expenditures, negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency, lost public sector revenue, premium pay for essential workers, and water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure investments.
Tang detailed plans for the funding to support operations, maintenance, and capital projects from fiscal years 2020 and 2021 in order to recover and prepare for another potential economic downturn.
The focus points include addressing the pandemic’s negative economic impacts, supporting safe operations and working conditions for staff, replacing lost public sector revenue, and funding water and sewer projects.
However, Tang told the town council that there are a variety of challenges to meet, including vague and shifting guidance from the US Treasury and the need to follow proper procurement, documentation, reporting, and monitoring requirements.
The ARPA funds are subject to audits to ensure they are utilized for their intended purpose. Funds that are deemed to be improperly utilized would have to be paid back.
Mayor Sheila Olem said that once a spending plan is created for the town, the council will have further public hearings before approving the final allocation of these funds.
The ARPA funds must be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024, and expended by Dec. 31, 2026.
Photo via Google Maps
An online petition calling for Fairfax County Public Schools to provide a virtual learning option when the new school year starts on Aug. 23 has garnered some support.
Citing concerns about kids returning in person amid increases in COVID-19 cases, the Change.org petition asks FCPS to shift to a hybrid model to let families choose between in-person and virtual instruction, a setup that the district adopted for the 2020-2021 academic year due to the pandemic.
“While we understand that in-person school is the best option for our kids to learn and grow, safeguarding our kids during a pandemic is equally important to their wellbeing,” the petition says.
As of yesterday afternoon (Wednesday), the petition had garnered more than 2,000 signatures, with people continuing to sign it and post comments.
Parents voiced numerous concerns through the petition. One mother noted she’s concerned about her unvaccinated sons with asthma, while another parent shared that their family would send their children to school if they’re fully vaccinated.
Though some community members have been vocally opposed to virtual learning, including a group that has been campaigning to recall Fairfax County School Board members, some petition signers said there’s no reason why virtual schooling must be discontinued.
FCPS will have a limited virtual program for this upcoming school year for some students. Families had to complete an eligibility form that required a health or medical certification of need from a licensed physician, nurse practitioner, psychiatrist, or a licensed psychologist.
The application window for the program closed May 28.
FCPS says 99.5% of its students will attend school in person five days a week this upcoming school year.
“We believe that in-person learning is the best approach to instruction, and are focused on providing a safe and positive learning experience for all students,” FCPS spokesperson Jennifer Sellers said in a statement.
State legislators passed a law this spring requiring public schools to provide in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year, though school boards can shift to entirely remote or hybrid learning “only for as long as it is necessary to address and ameliorate the level of transmission of COVID-19 in the school building.”
With the Delta variant fueling a resurgence in COVID-19 transmission in Virginia and the U.S., FCPS announced at the end of July that all students, teachers, staff, and visitors will be required to wear masks inside school buildings.
The policy initially exempted vaccinated staff when students aren’t present, but FCPS said in a newsletter released yesterday that the mask requirement has been expanded to include everyone, regardless of vaccination status or location.
“We are aware that COVID-19 case numbers are rising in Fairfax County, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant and slowing vaccination rates,” Sellers said. “We have put layered prevention strategies in place to counter this rise. The American Academy of Pediatrics Guidance recommends a continued focus on layered prevention strategies, including universal mask wearing for all students and staff.”
FCPS says it’s confident that its strategies will “support a safe and healthy environment in our schools for our students and staff — especially those who are not yet able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.”
While visiting a vaccine clinic last week, Superintendent Scott Brabrand said FCPS is preparing to have vaccines administered to students in schools once the Food and Drug Administration approves its use for younger kids.
Virginia health officials said earlier this week that they anticipate the FDA will approve vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 in September, when the federal agency is also expected to give full approval to the vaccines that have been authorized for use in the U.S.
After nearly a year and a half spent working with colleagues over video, Del. Ken Plum was happy to be able to see all of his fellow Virginia General Assembly members in-person again.
“It’s good to see and work with people after such a profoundly long time,” said Plum, who represents Virginia’s 36th House District, including Reston.
When the Virginia General Assembly met for a special session on Aug. 2, it had been about 17 months since the entire legislature last convened in person at the State Capitol in Richmond. With COVID-19 cases again on the rise, lawmakers still saw some notable deviations from their usual procedures.
Plexiglass walls surrounded a number of legislators’ desks with many wearing masks, though not everyone did, despite Gov. Ralph Northam’s recommendation late last month.
“All the Democrats seem to be wearing masks,” Plum told Reston Now by phone as he sat in the back of the chamber waiting for it to reconvene after a recess. “Many Republicans have chosen not to [wear masks].”
The General Assembly concluded the special session yesterday (Tuesday) after approving a host of new appeals court judges and a plan for spending $4.3 billion in federal aid.
The American Rescue Plan Act package included:
- $800 million for unemployment
- $120 million for utility bills assistance
- $700 million to expand rural broadband access
- $411 million to improve aging sewer infrastructure and provide better access to clean water
- $353 million for small-business recovery
- $250 million to fix school HVAC systems
Additionally, $1.1 billion — about a quarter of the aid — is being left unappropriated in case those funds are needed later this fiscal year.
“We are getting monies out to communities and residents that need it,” Plum said.
In addition to allocating coronavirus relief funds, the General Assembly voted yesterday to confirm eight new judges to the Virginia Court of Appeals. That expands the number of seats on the court from 11 to 17, as the Commonwealth will allow appeals for all civil and criminal cases to the court for the first time.
The confirmations also make the Court of Appeals significantly more diverse by adding four Black judges and four female judges.
“For the first time, this is no longer a white boys and girls’ club,” Plum said. “The appelate will look and feel like a justice system representing the full community.”
He noted that it was an “incredibly exhaustive effort” to vet and choose the right people after more than 80 candidates applied.
“That’s a lot, which is wonderful and means people are interested,” Plum said.
While Plum is comforted by being able to work again in person, he believes a hybrid approach would be ideal, allowing votes to be cast in person, for example, while public meetings and other activities that might draw people from far away can be conducted virtually.
“[Zoom] actually didn’t limit participation, but expanded it,” Plum said. “It wasn’t all bad and we shouldn’t give up on it entirely.”
Fairfax County residents who drive used cars may get a higher vehicle tax bill this year than they were anticipating.
An unusual rise in the value of used cars will result in an average tax increase of $25 for about 12% of county residents, primarily those who own vehicles valued at $20,000 or less, the Fairfax County Department of Tax Administration (DTA) said in a news release yesterday (Tuesday).
“This COVID thing is really making an impact on everything here,” said Juan Rengel, director of the DTA’s Personal Property and Business License Division. “What’s happening with vehicles [is] we are experiencing an increase of about 5% in vehicle values of used cars. Typically, used cars depreciate in value year over year. That’s not the case this year.”
According to Fairfax County, the increase in assessments stems from a reduced supply of vehicles due to global shortages in automobile parts, particularly microchips, and an uptick in demand for used cars over newly manufactured cars from both customers and dealerships.
People holding onto their used cars instead of selling them, low turnover in fleets for rental car companies, and dealerships compensating for the shortage in new vehicles by filling out their lots with used ones are all putting pressure on the used car market, driving up prices, Rengel says.
He added that low interest rates have also been a factor, enabling more people to obtain loans to purchase cars.
Like the rest of Virginia, Fairfax County calculates a vehicle’s assessed value based not on the purchase price, but rather, on the market value of its specific year, make, and model over all the sales for that vehicle as of Jan. 1.
“Whatever the car value is as of January 1, that’s what we use,” Rengel said.
Vehicle taxes can be appealed if the owner believes their vehicle has been overassessed based on body damage, rusting, or high mileage, according to the DTA.
Fairfax County’s current vehicle tax rate is $4.57 per $100 of assessed value. Personal property tax bills will start to go out in the mail soon, with payment for existing and new vehicles registered in the county prior to July 1 due on Oct. 5.
Rengel notes that Virginia partially relieves the tax burden on owners by subsidizing a portion of the first $20,000 of assessed value for vehicles utilized for personal use. This year, the state will pay 57.5% of the tax bill, though owners are required to certify to the county annually that their vehicle remains qualified to receive the subsidy.
According to Rengel, Fairfax County projects that it will collect $496.7 million in personal property tax revenues this year, all of which will go into the county’s general fund that supports schools, public safety, human services, and other government functions.
Though it’s unusual for car values to go up over the course of a year, the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic means vehicle taxes could increase again next year.
“If things continue the way they are, we can see prices going up again in 2022, but of course, we’re speculating for 2022 at this point,” Rengel said.
Photo via Obi Onyeador/Unsplash
NextStop Theatre announced yesterday (Tuesday) that it will join other local theatre companies in requiring proof of vaccination from all patrons who attend any live performance at its theater (269 Sunset Park Drive) through at least December 2021.
The theater says it already had a vaccination mandate in place for all of its staff, contractors, and volunteers.
Other policy changes intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus include requiring that everyone wear masks inside at all times, except for on-stage performers. The theater’s capacity will be reduced by 50% to a maximum of 60 seats per performance.
NextStop will also postpone the opening of their upcoming production of “An Act of God” from Aug. 12 to Aug. 20 to give the company time to adjust to the new procedures and communicate the new policies to those who have already bought tickets. Those who purchased tickets for the first week of “An Act of God” will be contacted by NextStop to reschedule their tickets.
In addition, NextStop will push back its previously announced fall shows of “Sherwood: The Adventure of Robin Hood” and “Disaster (the Musical)” until 2022. Those productions are larger in scale, resulting in more challenging casting, technical, and financial requirements, according to the theater company.
A revised fall 2021 schedule will be announced in the next few weeks.
NextStop will issue refunds to those who purchased season ticket packages, as well as extending them special discounts for “An Act of God” and other shows in the 2021 season.
“We recognize and apologize for the significant disruption that these changes represent,” NextStop Producing Artistic Director Evan Hoffmann said. “We remain passionate about honoring both our mission of creating high-quality theatrical performances for the community and keeping an unwavering commitment to do everything in our power to protect the health and well-being of all those who honor us with the gift of their labor, their creativity, and their patronage.”
Emergency Alert Test Coming Today — Expect an alert message “accompanied by a unique tone and vibration” on your mobile phone around 2:20 p.m. today as part of a test of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission regularly test the nationwide system to ensure the infrastructure works in case of an emergency. [Ready Fairfax/Twitter]
Herndon Reinstates Mask Requirement — “Effective Wednesday, August 11, all members of the public over age two are required to wear masks indoors in town facilities…Masks are required for all visitors to town facilities, regardless of vaccination status. Masks are also required for attendees at public meetings, including public hearings of the Herndon Town Council, boards and commissions.” [Town of Herndon]
COVID-19 Vaccines Could Be Fully Approved Soon — “The head of Virginia’s vaccination program said on Tuesday that next month, the Food and Drug Administration will likely fully approve the COVID-19 vaccines, and approve their use for children ages 5 to 11 as well…Currently, the COVID-19 vaccines distributed in the U.S. are authorized but not approved.” [WTOP]
New Traffic Signal Installed at Fox Mill Road — A temporary traffic signal is now active at the Fox Mill Road (Route 665) and Pinecrest Road intersection in Herndon to address safety concerns before construction begins on a long-term project in fall 2024. That project will include a permanent signal, new left-turn lanes on Fox Mill, crosswalks, sidewalks and curb ramp reconstructions, and an eight-foot-wide walkway and curb ramp at the southeast corner. [VDOT]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
This summer was supposed to be a celebration, or at least a period of transition, when the U.S. could go from grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic to recovering from it.
For a while, things looked promising. Infections were down, and vaccinations were up. With the end of Virginia’s distancing and capacity restrictions came the return of eating at restaurants, summer concerts, traveling, socializing, and large-scale events, including Fourth of July festivities.
Just as white-collar offices were starting to bring workers in and students are preparing to head back to school, however, the Delta variant took over, and the immediate future doesn’t look quite so rosy. Mask-wearing is back in, and vaccine mandates could follow suit, since about a quarter of Fairfax County adults have yet to get a shot.
According to a recent poll by The Washington Post and George Mason University’s Schar School, 59% of respondents from D.C.’s Virginia suburbs say they have mostly or fully returned to normal, pre-pandemic lives. That’s lower than the national rate of 66% but higher than the overall D.C. region (50%).
Published on Sunday (Aug. 8), the poll surveyed 1,000 people nationwide and 1,000 people in the D.C. area from July 6-21, but conditions have changed since then, with all of Northern Virginia going from moderate to substantial community transmission in the past two weeks.
Has the rise of the Delta variant convinced you to change or cancel any plans recently? Are you thinking twice about eating at a restaurant or taking a summer vacation, or has the pandemic stopped factoring into your decision-making? If you’ve made a change that isn’t included in the poll, share in the comments below.
The Fairfax Health District has hit a key milestone in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, even as concerns about the spreading Delta variant of the novel coronavirus keep the area on edge.
According to the Fairfax County Health Department’s vaccine data dashboard, 70% of district residents 18 and older are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning they have received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Overall, 692,049 Fairfax Health District residents — 58.5% of the total population — are fully vaccinated. The district includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church as well as Fairfax County.
765,085 residents — 64.6% of the populace — have gotten at least one vaccine dose, including 76.8% of all adults.
Fairfax continues to see a higher vaccination rate than the state as a whole, which has fully vaccinated 65.7% of adults and 54.6% of its total population.
The urgency of Fairfax County’s vaccination effort has intensified in recent weeks in response to increased community transmission of COVID-19 fueled by the Delta variant, the most contagious strain of the virus yet and one that preliminary evidence suggests can be spread even by vaccinated people.
In a press release issued on Friday (Aug. 6), the Virginia Department of Health confirmed that the Delta variant is now the most common form of the coronavirus in the state, causing 80% of all infections as of the week ending July 10 — a 45% increase from June 19 three weeks earlier.
Since June 19, Fairfax County has gone from averaging essentially zero new daily COVID-19 cases in a week to a seven-day average of 16 cases on July 10 and 116.4 cases today (Monday), the highest it has been since April 25, according to the VDH dashboard.
The county health department reported 93 new cases for the Fairfax Health District today, bringing the all-time total up to 80,460 cases.
The daily caseload differs from VDH, which reported 78 new cases for the district today, including two in Falls Church City, because the county switched on Aug. 1 to reporting the total number of new cases. The state is still reporting net new cases, taking into account cases that data clean-ups have revealed to be duplicates or assigned to the wrong health district.
“The health department is now reporting the number of new COVID-19 cases reported and does not subtract cases removed from data cleaning efforts,” said epidemiologist Ben Klekamp, who manages the county health department’s Chronic Communicable Disease Program. “Total Cases will continue to reflect the net number of total cases to account for the changes made from data cleaning.”
One Fairfax Health District resident has died from COVID-19 since last week, bringing the death toll up to 1,153 people. The virus has put 4,195 people in the hospital, including 10 people in the past week.
“The Delta variant is here in Virginia, and it is hitting our unvaccinated population especially hard,” State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said in a statement. “We have a very effective tool to stop transmission of COVID-19: vaccination. There is no question that COVID-19 vaccination is saving lives and preventing and reducing illness.”
As of Friday, 98.5% of COVID-19 cases in Virginia, 97.3% of hospitalizations, and 98.2% of related deaths have been people who aren’t fully vaccinated. The VDH has recorded 218 hospitalizations of fully vaccinated individuals and 50 breakthrough deaths compared to 7,951 hospitalizations and 2,747 deaths of unvaccinated people.
In addition to urging people to get vaccinated if they aren’t already, state and local health officials advise wearing a mask when indoors regardless of your vaccination status, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, maintaining six feet of distance from people not in your household, regular hand-washing, and staying home when sick.
Masks Now Required in County Facilities — “Beginning Monday, Aug. 9, all employees and visitors — regardless of vaccination status — will be required to wear a mask while inside all Fairfax County facilities to help stop the spread of COVID-19…The rise in COVID-19 cases has resulted in the Fairfax Health District moving from moderate to substantial community transmission. This is due to the on-going spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.” [Fairfax County Health Department]
Former FCPS Student Gets Olympic Gold — The U.S. finished first in the men’s 4×400 meter relay at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Saturday (Aug. 7), besting the Netherlands and Botswana. Former South County High School student Trevor Stewart helped Team USA reach the finals by leading the qualifying round on Friday (Aug. 6). He was not in the final heat but will still bring home a gold medal. [Olympics]
General Assembly Reaches Deal on COVID-19 Relief Spending — Virginia’s Senate and House will vote today (Monday) on a deal that negotiators reached late Friday for how to spend $4.3 billion in American Rescue Plan funds. Changes from Gov. Ralph Northam’s original plan include the addition of one-time bonuses to sheriff’s deputies, a boost to Medicaid rates for workers who serve individuals with disabilities, and a requirement that the Department of Motor Vehicles reopen for walk-in services that had been halted during the pandemic. [The Washington Post]
NoVA Science Center Eyes 2022 Groundbreaking — The Fairfax-based Children’s Science Center hopes to break ground next year on its long-planned Northern Virginia Science Center in Loudoun County. The project has expanded from its original design, necessitating a relocation to a site that will accommodate an “expansion wing with a dome theater for large-format films and potentially even a planetarium contemplated for a future phase.” [Washington Business Journal]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
What to Know About the Delta Variant — The Fairfax County Health Department issued a blog post yesterday (Thursday) answering common questions about the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus. The department says evidence suggests fully vaccinated people can spread the variant to others, and a small number have gotten sick, but the COVID-19 vaccines remain overwhelmingly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. [FCHD]
Metro Police Chief to Retire — Metro Transit Police Chief Ron Pavlik Jr. will retire on Sept. 1, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said in an internal memo sent to employees yesterday. Assistant Chief Michael Anzallo will serve as interim police chief for the transit agency, which has faced recent scrutiny over its use of force and reported failure to investigate thousands of crimes, including armed robberies and sexual assaults. [DCist]
Volunteer Fairfax Seeks PPE Donations — The nonprofit Volunteer Fairfax hopes to collect 65,000 cloth masks, particularly children-sized ones, as well as face shields, cleaning supplies, and other equipment to support the community response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Donations can be dropped off at Fairfax County police stations, and the group accepts monetary donations online. [Patch]
New Exhibit Opens at Reston Art Gallery and Studios — The show “At Water’s Edge” by painter Sandra Dovberg is now open for public viewing through August on weekends at Reston Art Gallery and Studios (11400 Washington Plaza West) by the lakeside “ART” sign at historic Lake Anne Plaza. Highlighted by jellyfish wall hangings, the exhibit focuses on the meeting of land and water and joins work on display from seven other artists in the cooperative. [RAGS]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Fairfax County officials support the recent reinstatement of the federal eviction mortarium and plan to continue providing rental assistance to those in need.
Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — at the behest of President Biden — renewed the ban on evictions through Oct. 3 in areas that have “substantial” or “high” community transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Fairfax County currently has “substantial” transmission, according to the CDC’s COVID data tracker.
County officials have expressed their support for the eviction mortarium, despite some debate over its legality.
“We are glad that the eviction moratorium has been extended, which will continue to provide peace of mind for families across the country,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Jeff McKay wrote in a statement.
Early this year, the county received $34 million for emergency rental assistance from a COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress late last year.
This allowed the county to launch a new Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program in early June aimed at helping not only residents, but landlords as well. Since the program launched, McKay says the county has distributed more than $8 million to 997 households through the ERA.
“In Fairfax County, we’re not dragging our feet,” McKay said. “We know our residents need assistance now, and we’re continuing to build upon our existing human services programs to meet the vastly increased need within our community.”
Help is still needed, though. Even with the federal eviction mortarium in place for most of the last 18 months, 668 writs of eviction and 1,562 unlawful detainers have been issued to county residents since July 2020, according to an Eviction Data Dashboard created by county staff.
Overall, the data shows that the threat of eviction is higher in areas hit harder by COVID-19.
According to the dashboard, the zip codes with the highest number of writs of eviction are 22102, which covers west McLean and parts of Tysons, and 22306 in Alexandria, covering the Groveton neighborhood and parts of the Lee District.
Late last year, Fairfax County created an eviction prevention task force to coordinate a countywide approach to helping keep people in their homes.
Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services Deputy Director Sarah Allen said in a statement that outreach to the county’s most vulnerable communities is ongoing:
Outreach efforts are underway, particularly to support our most vulnerable communities. Fairfax County agencies partner with numerous providers and are available at community events including vaccine equity clinics, health fairs and back-to-school events to ensure that residents are informed of the assistance and services available to them. We are also partnering with non-profit organizations, houses of worship and other faith-based organizations to reach communities in need.
Allen also notes that tenant and landlord checklists and a guide to the eligibility requirements for rent assistance are available in multiple languages, including Arabic, Amharic, Chinese, Farsi, Korean, Spanish, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
There’s another potentially complicating factor.
The eviction moratorium initially expired on July 31 and was extended on August 3. The CDC order says any eviction completed between August 1 and August 3 is not subjected to the order since it does not operate retroactively, meaning evictions completed during Aug. 1-3 are potentially valid.
However, Allen says the county does not know of any completed evictions during that three-day period.
“We are not aware of any evictions during that gap in time as there is still a court process required to evict,” writes Allen. “County staff is working closely with non-profit legal assistance organizations such as Legal Services of Northern Virginia for support and guidance around the eviction process.”
Mother Amalis Hernandez visited a COVID-19 vaccine clinic yesterday (Wednesday) with her family to get her 13-year-old daughter vaccinated after the teen spent all of last year studying remotely.
The clinic ran from 2 to 7 p.m. at Herndon Elementary School to provide Pfizer shots to visitors. It’s part of a push to get the final 25% of Fairfax County residents ages 12 to 17 to begin their vaccinations.
“It’s more of being protected,” Hernandez said, noting that the vaccine will reduce her daughter’s risks as she goes into ninth grade.
This was the latest in a series of COVID-19 vaccination clinics that Fairfax County Public Schools and the Fairfax County Health Department have hosted over the summer as the school system gears up for five full days of in-person learning starting Aug. 23.
Tigist Semu visited the Herndon Elementary clinic with her three kids, who are going into the third, seventh, and eighth grades. In the spring, her oldest noted that shots were available, but they decided to wait until their out-of-state family’s experience with the vaccinations reassured them.
Student Diego Rauda, who is going into the 11th grade, also got a dose and said the shot felt like any other.
By 3:30 to 4 p.m., nearly 40 people had gotten shots at the clinic, according to Fairfax County public health nurse Kofo Williams.
FCPS is also preparing a public-private partnership to vaccinate as many as some 83,000 students under the age of 12 once a vaccine is authorized for that age group, according to school officials.
Trials are currently underway, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not issued any emergency use authorizations yet that would allow young children to get vaccinated.
“When the age drops from 12, we want to be right there to make it simple and easy for parents, with permission, to let their young kids come and get vaccinated,” said FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand, who stopped by the Herndon Elementary clinic.
Brabrand told Reston Now that the district will work with a company to deliver the shots in schools during and after the school day. FCPS declined to identify the company that will be involved in the effort.
Brabrand said the vaccine will be available for families that want it, and they are working to determine whether a parent will need to be present.
“We finished up last school year giving almost 5,000 kids their first dose,” Brabrand said. “We want to continue the solution to this pandemic to make sure all schools return in this country five days in person.”
FCPS is also requiring everyone to wear masks, even if they’re vaccinated, to counteract the delta variant and reassure staff and families of a safe return as 99.5% of students come back to school buildings, Brabrand said.