Reston, VA

Morning Notes

Fire Watch In Effect — A fire weather watch is in effect today from noon to 5 p.m. The National Weather Service notes that breezy winds, low humidity and dry conditions can cause fires to spread rapidly. [Ready Fairfax]

County 9-1-1 Service Officially Restored — The county’s 9-1-1 line is running smoothly again. Most of the day on Wednesday, call capacity was limited and callers experienced longer wait times. [Fairfax County Government]

The Top Ten Percent — Ten percent of Virginians are officially fully vaccinated and more than two million doses have been administered throughout the state, according to state data. Older adults have the most vaccine doses among age groups. [Reston Patch]

Metro Dodges Service Cuts — The passage of the American Recovery Plan will help Metro avert major service cuts and layoffs. However, the direct impact of the passage of the federal relief package is still unclear. Metro’s Board of Directors chairman notes that it is not yet known how much Metro will receive. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Fairfax County should provide hazard pay to all local government workers, a union that represents more than 2,000 general county employees argues.

The county is currently considering a proposal to provide a one-time $1,500 hazard pay bonus to workers who are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19. Staff say about 4,000 employees would be eligible for the benefit.

However, SEIU Virginia 512 — the Fairfax County government employees’ union — says the bonus should be available to all workers, because they have all taken risks and been forced to adapt so the county can keep providing essential services during the pandemic.

As of yesterday (Wednesday), a petition urging Fairfax County supervisors to extend $1,500 hazard pay bonuses to all staff has been signed by nearly 1,000 workers, with more signatures expected to come, according to SEIU Senior Communications Specialist Rachel Mann.

“We’ve all been impacted by what’s going on. Whether we are doing our assigned work or not, we are still working,” SEIU Virginia 512 Executive Board President Tammie Wondong said. “…We are continuing to keep Fairfax County running. Residents are being continually served. So, that’s why everyone needs to have hazard pay.”

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors was initially scheduled to vote on the proposed plan on Tuesday (Jan. 26), but the decision was postponed after Chairman Jeff McKay asked staff to continue discussions with the union and other workers’ groups.

Under the staff plan, hazard pay would go to workers whose risk of being exposed to COVID-19 is rated “high” or “very high” by the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) risk assessment. It would also be limited to merit or career positions.

Fairfax County intends to pay for the bonuses using CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds. Federal guidelines, however, dictate that CARES Act money can only be used for hazard pay if an employee is performing duties that involve physical hardship related to COVID-19 response efforts.

In other words, localities must establish criteria for hazard pay eligibility to use CARES relief funds, Fairfax County Department of Management and Budget Director Christina Jackson told the board on Jan. 12.

The county could use its own funds to extend hazard pay to more workers, but McKay suggests employees should temper their expectations for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2022 budget.

“Based on the economic impacts of the ongoing pandemic, it will be challenging to address many of the Board’s priorities in the FY2022 [budget],” McKay said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “The budget is still early stages and we are exploring what options are available, but it is unlikely we would have the resources to increase hazard pay funding in the next budget cycle.”

SEIU Virginia 512 supports the amount of the proposed bonus, which came out of talks between workers’ groups and county staff, but the union argues restricting hazard pay to select positions and agencies ignores the risks all employees face when doing their jobs.

For instance, a sanitation worker may not typically come into direct contact with the residents whose trash they collect, but their job still requires them to regularly go out into the community.

“You don’t know who you’re passing, and you don’t know who’s infected. You just don’t know,” Wondong said. “It’s a risk that we take just coming in and out of our homes every day.”

The burden placed on workers who test positive for COVID-19 to prove they contracted the disease through their job could also potentially be a concern.

Further complicating matters, Fairfax County has been reassigning many employees to duties outside their usual purview as some departments have reduced operations and others have ramped up during the pandemic.

Wondong is a social worker for the county’s aging and older adults services division, but she is currently working in a different role for her department, one that allows her to work from home but also normally carries a higher salary than what she’s being paid.

Wondong says hazard pay would not be up for debate if Fairfax County employees had stronger collective bargaining powers to guarantee equitable compensation and working conditions.

“What we believe as a union is that all county workers deserve fairness and equity when it comes to pay and benefits. That’s what we believe,” Wondong said.

Photo via Fairfax County government/Facebook

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With social distancing protocols in place, the Herndon Town Council unanimously passed a local emergency declaration due to growing concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The declaration, which was passed Tuesday night, follows a similar move by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors last week and State Gov. Ralph North’s declaration on March 12.

The move allows the council to activate the town’s emergency management plan and seek aid as needed. Town departments, agencies, and volunteer organization can also develop a more coordinated response to handle the public health crisis.

The council also formally adopted its Emergency Management Plan, a 93-page document that outlines emergency roles, coordination responsibilities, and recovery options.

Lesa Yeatts, the town’s attorney, said that although the town used the plan since 2015, it had never been formally considered by the council.

The formal adoption of the plan on Tuesday night also makes Police Chief Maggie DeBoard the emergency management coordinator for the town.

Yeatts said the town is working “feverishly” to meet the needs of residents and ensure continuity of service.

Councilmembers thanked the town’s staff and the police department for their tireless work during the pandemic.

Vice Mayer Sheila Olem also urged town residents to practice social distancing as much as possible.

“This is really serious. Please stay away from each other as much as you can.”

Photo via Town of Herndon

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Tuesday Morning Notes

State House Votes to Abolish Lee Jackson Day — Virginia moved one step closer to abolishing the holiday that honors two Confederate generals. The bill would remove Lee Jackson Day as a state holiday and Make Election Day, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, a state holiday instead. [WAMU]

County Seeks 911 Call Takers — The county is seeking call takers for the emergency line. Applications are due by Feb. 14. [Fairfax County Government]

School Board Approves Capital Improvement Program — “The FY 2021-25 CIP addresses uneven growth throughout the division because of changes in population, new development, and net migration. It continues to include potential capacity and capital solutions to schools which are currently or projected to be over capacity.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Friday Morning Notes

Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion Opens Today — The rink will be open for the 2019-2020 season today. Information about pricing as well as daily hours is available online. [Reston Town Center]

Nominations Accepted for Volunteer Reston Service Awards — Reston Association is accepting nominations for the annual Reston Association Volunteer Service awards. Nominations are due by Feb. 28. [Reston Association]

Health and Safety Podcast Features Holiday Cooking Fire Safety Tips  The podcast includes information about grant funding for the county’s Fire and Rescue department, as well as tips on how to cook safely during the holidays. [Fairfax County Government Emergency Preparedness]

Photo via Flickr/Dario Piparo

 

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Take a Break Concert Tonight — It’s officially dance night with Radio King Orchestra at Lake Anne Plaza from 7-9 p.m. The concert is free and open for all ages. Attendees will also get the change to learn some dance moves. [Reston Community Center]

Local Students Earn College-Sponsored Merit Scholarships — Joshua Nielson of Herndon High School won a National Merit Brigham Young University Scholarship and Arabella Jariel of South Lakes High School won a National Merit Harvey Mudd Scholarship. [Fairfax County Public Schools]

New Look for Fairfax Alerts Traffic Notifications — The new format for traffic alerts allows users to look through a map to pinpoint the exact geolocation of traffic incidents. The update also standardizes how information about the location address, incident type and impact appear to users. [Fairfax County Emergency Information]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Fairfax County’s public safety agencies will begin using drones — technically called Unmanned Aircraft Systems — by early September.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday (May 21) to approve the program, which the county says will “provide an enhanced level of operational capability, safety and situational awareness.”

The county plans to purchase between six to eight devices, which cost $3,500 each. Costs are expected to be absorbed in the county’s existing budget.

The equipment will be used by the Office of Emergency Management, Fire and Rescue, Police and Sheriff in order to deliver “high-quality imagery, data and customized geospatial solutions,” according to the county.

The program will also be used to complete search and rescue, pre- and post-disaster damage assessment, crash reconstruction, and fire management.

County officials say the program will not be used to conduct random surveillance, target individuals solely based on individual characteristics or for personal business and other unauthorized uses.

The next three months will be spent setting up the program, certifying pilots and completing training. Drones will begin flying between late August and early September.

All pilots in the program must obtain a remote pilot certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Commission. A steering committee will be set up to oversee the program.

The county will also notify the public through Fairfax Alerts about missions and training flights.

The program was approved following the creation of a working group in May 2017 and a task force last year.

More information about the program is available online.

Photo by Jared Brashier

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Thursday Morning Notes

Reston Association Volunteer Service Awards Next Week — “Two individuals were named as Volunteers of the Year. Doug Britt, who has been instrumental in collecting environmental data, and Cindy Metcalf, who coordinates and leads class instruction on how to start a garden, both won the top honor.” [Reston Association]

Penzance’s Plans for 555 Herndon Parkway — The District-based developer is out with new renderings for its planned development just one tenth of a mile away from the entrance of Herndon Metro Station. [Town of Herndon Government]

Community Emergency Response Guide — The new guide offers tips on how community partners and neighbors should collaborate during an emergency.  [Fairfax County Government]

Photo by Joe Heflin

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Fairfax County wants locals to sign up for the upcoming statewide tornado drill.

The annual drill is meant to help prepare residents for tornadoes, which can strike quickly and cause extensive damage. Virginia has averaged 24 tornadoes per year over the last 10 years, according to the county.

After locals sign up to participate, the National Weather Service will send a test tornado warning over NOAA Weather Radios at 9:45 a.m. on March 19.

The test should come through a tone or message alert simulating what people would hear and see during an actual tornado. Local radio stations, TV stations and cable outlets will also participate by broadcasting the test message.

Once the drill starts, here’s what to do: move to a safe area, crouch, face down and cover your head with your hands. Some examples of safe areas include sturdy buildings, basements and storm cellars.

If you are in a car or outdoors, cover your head and neck and try to cover your body with a blanket or coat.

Here are things not to do:

  • do not outrun a tornado in a vehicle
  • do not go underneath an overpass or bridge
  • do not stay near windows, doors and outside walls

Image via Fairfax County

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Give transit a try — Fairfax County officials are encouraging residents to go car-free for a day and try an alternative to drive-alone commuting. If you take a pledge to take transit during the week, you could win a year of free transit service from a participating Virginia transit operator. [Fairfax County Government]

A special text from the president for Oct. 3 — A national alert test originally set for Thursday has been postponed to Oct. 3 due to the ongoing response to Hurricane Florence. It’s the first-ever national test of the country’s Wireless Emergency Alerts system. [Fairfax County Government]

Housing affordability meeting postponed — Tomorrow’s meeting on ways to boost housing affordability in the area has been postponed. A new date has not been scheduled yet. The meeting concerns phase two of the Communitywide Strategic Plan. [Fairfax County Government]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Residents in Fairfax County will receive an alert on their cell phones and other mobile-enabled devices tomorrow (April 5) morning.

Fairfax County is participating what a national wireless emergency alert system test, which will take place from 10 to 11 a.m..

Phones will buzz loudly and an accompanying text will read, “A test of the Fairfax County Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action required.”

Other participating jurisdictions include Loudoun County, the City of Alexandria, the City of Arlington and the City of Falls Church.

A back-up test date is set for Monday (April 9) between 10 and 11 a.m.

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An Inova Urgent Care center is coming to 1488 North Point Village Center, roughly 1.7 miles away from Reston Hospital Center.

The center, which is certified by the Urgent Care Association of America and is open everyday, is “coming soon,” will provide adult and pediatric urgent care. 

It is expected to open in June or July this year, according to Roger Raker, a spokesperson for Inova.

Inova is moving into the former location of Ravel Dance Studio, which left its home of 20 years to relocate to a larger studio at 1763 Fountain Drive.

Centers are located throughout Northern Virginia, including Vienna, Fairfax, and Chantilly.

Photos by Fatimah Waseem

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The Virginia Department of Health has designated Reston Hospital Center (1850 Town Center Parkway) as a Level II Trauma Center, a move that makes the 187-bed facility one of 19 trauma centers in the state.

The center is the first to receive the designation in Northern Virginia in over a decade, allowing emergency responders to transfer patients for immediate trauma care when treatment is most effective.

In a release by RHC, Dr. Ranjit Pallurkat, medical director of the center’s trauma services, said the designation is a critical step to enhance the level of care the center provides.

“Expanding our services into a trauma program enables us to deliver a higher level of care to injured patients, close to their homes and families,” Pallurkat said.

In a release, John Deardorff, President and CEO of RHC said the designation is a “natural progression” for the center.

“With the rapid growth in Northern Virginia, it’s our job to ensure that Reston can provide the higher levels of necessary care in a more accessible manner for our EMS partners and our patients. Every minute counts, and our ability to provide this level of care – without transfer and close to home –  would not be possible without the partnership between our skilled medical staff and hospital employees.”

According to the Virginia Department of Health, a hospital’s designation is determined by several criteria. Level II centers have an organized trauma response and must provide definitive care regardless of the severity of the injury. On call staff are expected to promptly treat the patient. In some cases, centers must transfer complex cases to Level 1 centers. Treatment facilities with a Level I designation must provide the most comprehensive care.

The center’s surgical trauma team specializes in the following surgeries: trauma, vascular, thoracic, neurological, orthopedic, hand, plastic, maxillofacial, oral and more. The center is part of the HCA Virginia Health System, which operates 14 hospitals and more than 30 outpatient centers in the state.

Other Level II Trauma Centers in Virginia include Centra Lynchburg General Hospital, Chippenham Medical Center and Winchester Medical Center.

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