Morning Notes

Working at Lake Anne Plaza (Photo via vantagehill/Flickr)

Senior Movie Day Returns — Reston Association’s senior movie day returns to Bow Tie Cinema in Reston Town Center today. Doors open at 9:15 a.m. and the movie — Queen Bees — begins at 10 a.m. The event began in 1994 and was paused roughly 18 months ago due to the pandemic. [Reston Today]

Police Chief Issues Alert After Overdoses — The Fairfax County Police Department’s police chief alerted the community yesterday after six people overdosed in one morning in Falls Church. All six adults ranged from 23 to 35 years of age. [Fairfax County Police Department]

County Community Transmission Still High — COVID-19 transmission in the county is still high, although more than 62 percent of the county’s population is fully vaccinated. The county’s health department offered an update to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this week. [Fairfax County Government]

An Update on Early Voting — So far, more than 2,600 people have voted in person so far during the first three days of early voting. Three voting sites are open during weekdays in the county. [Fairfax County Government]

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Morning Notes

Vaccine Mandate In Effect for Chamber Events — The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce is requiring attendees of in-person events to show proof of vaccination. Fully vaccinated attendees will not be required to wear a face mask. While some exceptions may be made, attendees who are not vaccinated can provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of the event. [Reston Patch]

Polo Tennis Court Closed — The tennis court will be closed for refurbishments beginning today. Repairs are expected to take between two and three weeks. [Reston Association]

Local Elementary School Earns High Honors — Sunrise Valley Elementary School has been named the 14th best elementary school in Fairfax County, according to a national ranking. [Reston Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

TransUnion to Buy Reston-based Company — TransUnion will acquire most of Neustar Inc., an information services and technology company based in Reston. The company has agreed to sell its marketing, fraud and communications businesses for $3.1 billion in cash. But the deal excludes the its cybersecurity business. [Washington Business Journal]

Local Apartment Community Has New Owner — J Harbor Park at North Point, a 190-unit apartment community in Reston, was acquired by Jefferson Apartment Group, a multifamily developer and operator.The development is expected to undergo renovations in the coming months. [Commercial Observer]

Local Vaccine Clinic Today at Wiehle-Reston East — The county’s health department is hosting a vaccine clinic at the Wiehle-Reston Metro Station for most of the day today. Can’t make it today? Another clinic is planned for Thursday. Walk-ins and appointments are available. [Reston Association]

Deer Management Program Underway — The county’s annual deer management archery program is underway through Feb. 19. It’s part of a longstanding effort to reduce the white-tailed deer population in the county. The county notes that only approved members of the its program can hunt in designated parks. [Fairfax County Government]

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Fairfax County school board (Via FCPS)

Fairfax County Public Schools will provide additional compensation for select staff members, particularly bus drivers and special education teachers, and bolster its mental health services, thanks to a new round of federal COVID-19 relief.

The ESSER III (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) spending plan approved by the Fairfax County School Board on Thursday (Aug. 26) devotes $188.6 million to various expenses tied to keeping schools open and safe during the ongoing pandemic.

The funds will last for three years and came from the American Rescue Plan Act that Congress passed in March.

“We believe our ESSER 3 plan addresses key areas to support schools as they return to in-person instruction from the pandemic as well as increase our focus on serving students and staff in our school division with an equity lens,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a statement for the board’s meeting last week.

The school board approved the measure almost unanimously. Braddock District Representative Megan McLaughlin abstained, restating concerns that the spending plan doesn’t contain the level of detail she wanted to ensure adequate oversight.

The multi-year funding covers:

  • Nearly $55 million for academic intervention
  • $46 million to pay special education teachers more for increased workloads connected with the pandemic and individualized education plans
  • $23 million for social and emotional learning needs of students
  • Nearly $14 million for after-school programming and transportation
  • $10 million for cafeteria, classroom, and outdoor monitors
  • $9 million for cybersecurity
  • $3 million to increase bus drivers’ starting pay from $19.58 per hour to $22.91

The academic and social and emotional learning categories encompass everything from tutoring support for before and after school programs to mental health materials, technical education, and transportation to school programs on Saturdays.

“Each school will receive funding allocations as well as stipends for academics and wellness,” FCPS said in a news release on Friday (Aug. 27). “The academic and wellness allocations are to be used to directly support students. The amount each school receives is based on its project enrollment and need.”

For academic and wellness-related items, which make up 82% of the allocations, elementary schools are expected to receive about $50,000 to $189,000, middle schools will get $69,000 to $298,000, and high schools can count on around $105,000 to $368,000.

Schools will get similar amounts to address social and emotional learning needs, resulting in about $37 per student.

The plan was designed to give schools flexibility in how they spend their money, while also establishing checks and balances for approving and overseeing the money, according to FCPS.

“All schools will create a plan that outlines how they will use their ESSER III funding to support students’ academics and wellness, and they will post information about their plan on the school website,” FCPS said.

The plan also calls on FCPS to fast track the addition of 10 positions for its English Language Learner programs, which already include 887 positions, 98% of which are teachers, Brabrand noted.

According to the state, $124 million was available as of April 30 for Fairfax County, and the remaining third will become available after FCPS submits a plan to the state due on Wednesday (Sept. 1).

The Commonwealth required school districts to post their plans for using the money within 90 days of receiving the funds. Districts were also required to gather public input, which FCPS did with a hearing on June 7.

The ESSER plan is separate from the year-end budget review that the school board approved during the same meeting on Thursday, which included one-time bonuses for FCPS staff.

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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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Morning Notes

Construction continues on redevelopment of the Lake Anne Fellowship House (via vantagehill/Flickr)

NoVA Child Dies From COVID-19 — “Today, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that a child in the Northern Region with COVID-19 has died. VDH will disclose no further information about the child to protect privacy and out of respect for the patient’s family. This is the first reported death of a child in the Northern Region with COVID-19 in Virginia.” [VDH]

Fairfax County Task Force Returns From Haiti — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department responders who deployed to Haiti as part of the Virginia Task Force One Urban Search and Rescue team came home on Wednesday (Aug. 25). The 65-member task force landed at Dulles International Airport after 11 days of supporting the disaster response to the Aug. 14 earthquake that devastated the island nation. [WTOP]

Charges Anticipated in Herndon Stabbing — As of 5:45 p.m. yesterday (Thursday), the suspect in a stabbing that occured that morning in the 1000 block of Elden Street in Herndon had not yet been apprehended, but a police department spokesperson said they “do not believe he poses an immediate danger to our community.” Charges are expected to be filed in the case today (Friday). [Patch]

FCPS Sees Decline in Test Participation — “Fairfax County and Virginia schools as a whole saw declining participation in the spring 2021 Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. At Fairfax County Public Schools, participation rates fell by an average 20 percent in reading, mathematics, and science. Around 50,000 tests were refused this year, compared to over 500 in 2018-19.” [Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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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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Coronavirus (Photo via CDC on Unsplash)

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.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Aug. 16, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

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

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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.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Aug. 9, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

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.

Fairfax County now requires face masks in county facilities, and they will be mandatory for students, staff, and visitors in school buildings when the new academic year begins later this month.

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Woman wearing face mask with hands on head (via Engin Akyurt/Unsplash)

Fairfax County has reached “substantial” community transmission of COVID-19, and as a result, health officials are now recommending that everyone wear a face masks in public indoor settings, regardless of their vaccination status.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had rated the spread of the coronavirus in Fairfax County as “moderate” as recently as Monday (Aug. 2), but that changed when the federal agency updated its COVID-19 data tracker yesterday afternoon (Tuesday).

The shift in categorization brings the county in line with every other jurisdiction in Northern Virginia. The CDC calculates the level of community transmission based on the total number of new cases per 100,000 persons and the testing positivity rate over the last seven days.

A CDC map showing levels of community COVID-19 transmission in Virginia by county (via CDC)

The Fairfax County Health Department and Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay noted in separate statements that the new mask recommendation is in line with current CDC and Virginia Department of Health guidance.

“We will continue to follow the data and spread messaging about the effectiveness of mask wearing, particularly around populations like children who are unable to be vaccinated,” McKay said. “As I have said many times before, the most important thing anyone can do is to get vaccinated if you are eligible.”

Fairfax County has seen an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases since mid-June, when the county was seeing so few cases that its weekly average dipped into negative numbers.

In comparison, the Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, reported 124 new cases yesterday, matching the single-day high for this summer previously set on Sunday (Aug. 1). The seven-day average is now 92.8 cases and could eventually return to the triple digits for the first time since April 28, according to Virginia Department of Health data.

The county is averaging 8.1 new cases per 100,000 people over the past week, and the current seven-day testing positivity rate was 4.7% as of July 30, the highest it has been since April 30.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Aug. 3, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

The Fairfax County Health Department has attributed the virus’ resurgence to the spread of the delta variant, which the CDC says is especially transmissible.

Data suggesting that the delta variant can be spread by people who have been vaccinated led the CDC to amend its health guidance for fully vaccinated people on July 27 to recommend that everyone wear a mask indoors in areas with substantial or high spread.

Fairfax County’s announcement about wearing masks echoes advice from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who said on Thursday (July 29) that people should consider wearing a mask when in public, indoor settings where there is increased risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Like Northam, the county frames its guidance as a recommendation, rather than a requirement. VDH has not yet officially updated its guidelines in response to the CDC’s revisions.

The county health department says wearing a mask indoors is “an important approach to prevent further spread of COVID-19” but emphasizes that it should be combined with other measures, including social distancing, getting tested when symptomatic, and most importantly, getting vaccinated if eligible.

“Despite some breakthrough cases, vaccination remains the most important approach to prevent COVID-19 and particularly to prevent more severe infection,” the FCHD said in its blog post.

As of 11 a.m. yesterday, 761,471 Fairfax Health District residents — 76.5% of adults and 64.3% of the total population — have gotten at least one vaccine dose. 689,700 residents — 69.8% of adults and 58.3% of the total population — have been fully vaccinated.

As of July 30, 99.5% of COVID-19 cases, 98.7% of hospitalizations, and 98% of deaths in Northern Virginia since Jan. 21 have involved people who were not fully vaccinated, according to the state health department.

The Fairfax Health District has recorded 79,735 COVID-19 cases, 4,186 hospitalizations, and 1,152 deaths.

Photo via Engin Akyurt/Unsplash

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Coronavirus (via CDC on Unsplash)

COVID-19 cases are still on the upswing, but for the first time in 16 months, the Fairfax Health District did not lose a single person in the past week to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The last reported death occurred on July 23, according to the Virginia Department of Health. A total of 1,152 people in the district, which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, have died from COVID-19 since the first case was identified in early March 2020.

However, 14 more people have been hospitalized by the virus since last Monday (July 26), bringing the total up to 4,185 people, and 616 additional COVID-19 cases have come in, including 112 cases on Saturday (July 31) and 124 cases yesterday (Sunday). The last time Fairfax County reported single-day caseloads in the triple digits on consecutive days was on April 22 and 23.

With 81 new cases today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District has recorded a total of 79,640 COVID-19 cases, and the weekly average has climbed to 86.7 cases, its highest point since the district was averaging 88.3 new cases for the past seven days on May 1.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 90 days as of Aug. 2, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
Fairfax County COVID-19 deaths as of Aug. 2, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

Unlike the rest of Northern Virginia, Fairfax County still has just a moderate level of community transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which calculates community spread based on the total number of new cases per 100,000 persons and testing positivity rates over the last seven days.

Over the past week, the level of community transmission has been raised to “substantial” in all of Fairfax County’s neighboring jurisdictions, including Loudoun, Prince William, and Arlington counties and the City of Alexandria, suggesting Fairfax might not be far behind.

While the increasing prevalence of the delta variant has brought up case levels over the past month, Fairfax County’s relatively high vaccination rates mean infections have been less severe and less likely to lead to hospitalization and death compared to previous surges in the pandemic.

The CDC shared data last week indicating that even fully vaccinated individuals can spread COVID-19 if they’re infected by the delta variant, prompting a revision to its guidance recommending that people wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status in areas with substantial or high community transmission.

However, studies also suggest that the available vaccines remain highly effective against the delta variant, and even the Provincetown, Massachusetts, outbreak that formed the basis of the CDC’s report saw mostly mild cases with only seven hospitalizations and no deaths.

Since the beginning of this year, Northern Virginia has reported 235 breakthrough cases, where a fully vaccinated person contracts COVID-19, with 15 hospitalizations and six deaths. In comparison, there have been 53,326 cases, 1,332 hospitalizations, and 510 deaths among unvaccinated individuals.

According to the Fairfax County Health Department, 760,458 Fairfax Health District residents have now gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. That is 76.4% of people 18 and older and 64.3% of the district’s total population.

688,992 residents — 69.7% of adults and 58.2% of the total population — are fully vaccinated.

With vaccine demand continuing to level out, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is exploring the possibility of requiring all county government employees to be vaccinated. Some prominent local employers, including Google and Inova Health System, have already established vaccine mandates.

Vaccinations are still available at a variety of sites throughout the county, including at Herndon Elementary School from 2-7 p.m. on Wednesday (Aug. 4). Appointments can be scheduled through the CDC’s Vaccine Administration Management System or directly with a provider through vaccines.gov.

Photo via CDC on Unsplash

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Coronavirus (via CDC on Unsplash)

Fairfax County’s COVID-19 case levels remain well below the worst days of the pandemic, but their rapid rise over the past month is enough to set off alarm bells, threatening to bring a summer heralded as a return to normalcy to a more sobering end.

The Fairfax Health District, which encompasses the county and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has added 457 new cases since this time last week, including 64 cases just today (Monday) and 84 cases on Friday (July 23) — the biggest single-day influx since 127 cases were reported on May 7. The district has now reported a total of 79,024 cases.

10 more people in the Fairfax Health District were hospitalized by the novel coronavirus over the past week, and one person died, bringing the respective totals up to 4,171 hospitalizations and 1,152 deaths.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, Fairfax County’s current seven-day average of 65.3 new cases is the highest it has been since May 9, when it was 67.7 cases. In comparison, the weekly average was hovering around zero as recently as June 20.

In addition, the district’s testing positivity rate has jumped from 0.8% on July 3 to 2.4% as of July 22.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 90 days as of July 26, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of July 26, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

The increased transmission of COVID-19 over the past month has been attributed to the growing presence of the delta variant — the most contagious version of the virus yet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 83.2% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. now stem from the delta variant. While the Fairfax Health District has officially recorded just 20 delta cases, the CDC predicts that variant has made up an increasing share of cases in the mid-Atlantic region, from 45.3% during the two weeks ending on July 3 to 69.4% by July 17.

With more cases occurring overall, Virginia has seen more breakthrough infections over the past couple of weeks. On July 9, when VDH started reporting this data, 0.004% of fully vaccinated people had contracted COVID-19 in 2021. As of July 23, when the dashboard was last updated, there have 1,377 breakthrough cases in the state — 0.032% of fully vaccinated individuals.

However, unvaccinated individuals still make up 99.54% of COVID-19 cases and nearly all hospitalizations and deaths. 7,757 unvaccinated people have been hospitalized this year, compared to 114 people who were fully vaccinated, and 3,846 of the 3,884 people who have died were not fully vaccinated.

While some parts of the country have reinstated mask mandates in response to rising cases, Virginia has kept its focus on getting people vaccinated even as demand has slowed. The Commonwealth let its public health order requiring masks in schools expire yesterday (Sunday), instead leaving mask rules up to local school districts.

The Fairfax Health District has adminstered 1.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, delivering at least one shot to 752,842 residents, including 75.8% of people 18 and older. 63.6% of the district’s population has gotten at least one dose, outpacing Virginia as a whole, which has given at least one dose to just under 60% of the population.

683,428 Fairfax Health District residents are now fully vaccinated, which amounts to 69.2% of adults and 57.7% of the total population, according to the Fairfax County Health Department’s dashboard.

Fairfax Health District COVID-19 vaccinations by age group as of July 26, 2021 (via Fairfax County Health Department)

Interestingly, young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 are lagging behind in vaccinations. 67.3% of them have received at least one dose, whereas every other age group, including 12 to 17-year-olds, has a vaccination rate of at least 70%.

Photo via CDC on Unsplash

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Coronavirus (via CDC on Unsplash)

If there were any doubts that the novel coronavirus is experiencing a resurgence in Fairfax County, the past week put those to rest.

With an additional 39 cases reported today (Monday), the county is now averaging 36.6 COVID-19 cases per day for the past week — the highest since May 15, when the seven-day average was 37.4 cases, according to Virginia Department of Health data.

The 48 cases recorded last Thursday (July 15) were the most in a single day since May 27, but the 78 cases that came in that day were an anomaly, whereas this appears to be part of a gradual increase in transmission after a month-long lull in June.

The Fairfax Health District, which also includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has now reported 78,567 COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic. 4,161 people have been hospitalized, and four more people have died from the virus since last Monday (July 12), bringing the death toll up to 1,151 people.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 90 days as of July 19, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of July 19, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

Fairfax County is hardly alone in seeing a rise in COVID-19 levels.

Virginia as a whole has gone from a weekly average of 129 cases on June 20 — its lowest since the initial days of the pandemic in March 2020 — to a weekly average of 376 cases today. Nationwide, community transmission remains substantial, particularly across the South, lower Midwest, and Mountain West, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, director of Epidemiology and Population Health with the Fairfax County Health Department, says the more infectious delta variant “is likely a major contributor” to the county’s recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

As of Friday (July 16), the Fairfax Health District has confirmed 13 infections stemming from the delta variant, which hasn’t become as prevalent in Virginia as it is elsewhere in the U.S. In some areas around the country, that variant accounts for more than 70% of new cases.

However, infectious disease experts with Virginia Commonwealth University say “it’s not a matter of if but when” the delta variant will become widespread here.

“The key messages are, we can’t let down our guard, and everyone who isn’t vaccinated should be vaccinated as soon as possible,” Drs. Gonzalo Bearman and Michael Stevens said in a VCU Health news release.

As with the rest of the country, COVID-19 appears to now be mostly spreading in Fairfax County among people who have not been vaccinated. According to the VDH’s dashboard, which is updated every Friday, 99% of the cases, hospitalizations, and deaths recorded in Northern Virginia since Jan. 1, 2021 have involved people who were not fully vaccinated.

“While we can’t predict future case numbers, we do know that the delta variant increases the risk of infection for people who are not vaccinated,” Schwartz said in a statement. “Vaccination is the most important step someone can take to not only reduce their chance of being infected with the delta variant but also protect others in their family and community.”

While demand has started to level out in recent weeks, the Fairfax Health District has administered 1.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 759,473 residents, including 76.2% of all adults. 64.2% of the district’s overall population has received at least one dose.

664,007 residents are now fully vaccinated, which amounts to 67.7% of adults and 56.1% of the total population.

“While we have done well — vaccinating about 3 of every 4 adults in the county — we need to do even better vaccinating people 12 years and older if we are to stop the increase in infections,” Schwartz said.

He encourages people who remain hesitant about getting vaccinated to consult their health care provider or the Fairfax County Health Department, which has a call center at 703-324-7404, to discuss their concerns.

“People for whom getting vaccinated just hasn’t been a priority should be aware of the increase in infections as added motivation to get protected,” Schwartz said. “With over 300 sites in Fairfax County providing vaccinations, many accepting walk-ins, vaccination never has been easier.”

Photo via CDC on Unsplash

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The Fairfax County seal adorned on the Fairfax County Government Center (via Machvee/Flickr)

Fairfax County will conduct a “comprehensive review” of the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At today’s (July 13) Board of Supervisors meeting, Chairman Jeff McKay proposed as a board matter to have County Executive Bryan Hill review how county agencies responded to the challenges of the pandemic, how operations were affected, and how operational changes impacted the community.

The review will take place in two parts. The board directed staff to deliver a report with conclusions, recommendations, and areas of improvement in February 2022, and a follow-up is anticipated since the pandemic is still ongoing.

The motion passed unanimously.

“We did an amazing job [dealing with the pandemic],” McKay said, but he acknowledged that a review is needed since “there’s much to be learned about the county’s response and how we can improve upon that for the future.”

McKay also noted that a review is already essentially under way, but this formalizes the process and sets a deadline on it.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn agreed with the effort and asked the county executive not to pull any punches.

“I ask the county executive not to shy away from identifying challenges…[particularly] those in the labor market that were attributed to the pandemic and what happened after,” Alcorn said.

As noted in McKay’s comments, more than 75% of Fairfax Health District residents 18 years or older have received at least one vaccine shot. That’s above both national and state averages.

However, the county continues to face some challenges in convincing those who are still hesitant to get vaccinated.

When it comes to addressing COVID-19’s economic impact, the county has provided assistance with rent, food, and other basic needs to more than 10,000 households and helped get permanent housing for 400 individuals who were experiencing homelessness when the pandemic began, according to McKay’s board matter.

The county has also distributed more than $52 million in small business relief funding through the RISE program and is offering $25 million in their PIVOT program.

While half of the RISE grants went to minority-owned businesses, those particular businesses still suffered “acutely” during the pandemic. What’s more, the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce recently called out the county for their belief that they were neglected in the development of some of the grant programs.

McKay said that getting a comprehensive report on Fairfax County’s COVID-19 response will help the county government “ensure we maintain the level of service and functionality our community expects” in any future large-scale crisis or emergency.

via Machvee/Flickr

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Coronavirus (Photo via CDC on Unsplash)

While case numbers are still much lower than any other point in the pandemic, Fairfax County has started to see a definite uptick in COVID-19 transmission over the past couple of weeks compared to earlier in the summer.

A month ago, the rate of incoming cases had slowed to the point that the county’s weekly average dipped into negative numbers, but after reporting double digits six out of the past seven days, including 16 new cases today (Monday), the county is now averaging 16.7 cases a day for the week.

The Fairfax Health District, which also encompasses the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has recorded a total of 78,318 COVID-19 cases. 4,145 residents have been hospitalized by the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 1,147 people have died, including two people since last Tuesday (July 6).

New Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over past 90 days as of July 12, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
All new Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of July 12, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health

However, a new dashboard launched by the Virginia Department of Health on Friday (July 9) suggests that COVID-19 is now spreading almost exclusively within the state’s unvaccinated population.

According to the dashboard, which will be updated every Friday, 99.6% of the 290,770 cases reported in the Commonwealth so far this year have involved people who were not fully vaccinated. That trend is even more pronounced in Northern Virginia, where 99.8% of the 69,315 cases recorded since Jan. 1 are among people without the protection of a vaccine.

In comparison, there have been just 173 breakthrough cases in Northern Virginia among fully vaccinated people, representing 0.004% of that population.

In addition, 99.6% of the region’s COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths this year have been people who weren’t fully vaccinated. There have been six reported hospitalizations of individuals who were vaccinated and two breakthrough deaths.

Northern Virginia COVID-19 cases by vaccination status from Jan. 1 to July 9, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

Health officials say the data illustrates the overwhelming effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines that are available in the U.S.

“I applaud those who have chosen to protect themselves and the community by getting vaccinated, and we appreciate the work of all who are helping to vaccinate Virginians,” State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said in a press release last week. “I continue to encourage everyone who is able to get vaccinated to do so.”

Vaccination rates, however, have flattened out as COVID-19 case numbers have fallen and public health restrictions have lifted, pushing officials to adopt a more targeted approach to get the vaccine to people who have not received it yet, either due to hesitancy or a lack of access.

According to the Fairfax County Health Department’s dashboard, 750,982 Fairfax Health District residents — 75.5% of adults and 63.5% of the overall population — have gotten at least one vaccine dose. 658,221 residents — 67.3% of adults and 55.6% of the overall population — are now fully vaccinated.

Virginia has administered more than 9.1 million doses. 59.3% of the state’s population, including 71.1% of people 18 and older, have received at least one dose, and 51.7% of residents, including 62.8% of adults, are fully vaccinated.

Top photo via CDC on Unsplash

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