Case Surge Prompts Changes to Contact Investigation Process — Case investigators will prioritize contact tracing and investigation for high-risk scenarios, including children who are in school, people infected through an outbreak and people who live and work in settings like group homes or long-term care facilities. The effort is part of an attempt to use staff and resources effectively. [Fairfax County Government]
Reston Student Amps Up Volunteering — Aaron Letteri, a Reston resident who studies at the Lab School of Washington, has been volunteering in many different capacities. His latest effort includes collecting coats for Cornerstones. [Fairfax County Times]
Fire at Townhouse in Reston Under Investigation — Local fire crews are investigating the source of a fire on the porch of a town house on the 3200 block of Autumn Hill Court in Reston. The fire started yesterday evening. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department]
Vaccine Clinics Closed Today — Vaccination clinics at the Fairfax County and South County government centers will be closed through Dec. 276. [Fairfax County Government]
Fairfax County Sees Record Tax Haul — Fairfax County saw a record tax haul in 2021. The assessed value of taxable property in the county rose by roughly $10 billion between fiscal years 2020 and 2021. [Washington Business Journal]
Booster Shots Encouraged — The Fairfax County Health Department is encouraging residents to get their booster shots, particularly as the Omicron variant emerges. [Fairfax County Government]
County Considers Big Pay Increases — The county is considering giving county and school staff big pay raises to make up for staff lost last year due to the pandemic. [Sun Gazette]
Tennis Courts to Close in Reston Next Week — Beginning Monday, tennis courts at Glade and North Hills will be closed for the season. The courts are expected to reopen in early April. Hard courts remain open year-round. [Reston Association]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Fairfax County Schools Face Lawsuit in Connection with Sexual Assault Cases — A discrimination lawsuit against Fairfax County Public Schools is reportedly moving forward. A federal appeals court granted the appeal in connection with a sexual assault that reportedly happened at Carson Middle School in Herndon. [Inside NOVA]
Outreach Underway for Incorrect Dosing — The Fairfax County Health Department and the Virginia Department of Health have contacted families of children who mistakenly received the adult dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The incorrect doses were administered by KC Pharmacy in Lorton. [Fairfax County Government]
A Look at Halley Rise — Northern Virginia Magazine takes a look at Halley Rise, a $1.4 billion project next to the Reston Town Center Metro Station. Leasing has begun at the residential part of the development — The Edmund — and the target audience seems to be single 30-somethings. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Photo by Marjorie Copson
Boosters Available in Fairfax County — Fairfax County’s health department and other providers have begun offering boosters for eligible adult groups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting boosters for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. [Reston Patch]
Reston Farmers Market Going Strong — So far, the Reston Farmers Market has had a successful year. The popular market is scheduled to run through Dec. 4. This year, a general sense of normalcy has returned to the market. [Reston Patch]
Last Week for Pumpkin Carving Contest — It’s the last week to submit an entry for Reston Association’s Great Pumpkin Carving contest. Registration is required. [RA]
Glade Clay Tennis Courts Closed — The courts are closed due to standing water. Our Reston tennis team will revaluate the courts today at 5 p.m. [RA]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Strangulations Spike in Fairfax County — Even though the number of domestic violence cases has dipped in Fairfax County, the police department has reported an increase in the number of strangulations. It is possible that the number of domestic violence cases — which decreased by roughly 190 cases per year since 2019 — is underreported. [WTOP]
Man Arrested for Brandishing Firearm — A 45-year-old man from Fairfax was arrested after police believe he displayed a handgun and threatened someone near the 12000 block of Greywing Square on Oct. 4. The man was charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, brandishing a firearm and removing a serial number of a firearm. No injuries were reported. [Fairfax County Police Department]
New Literacy Program within Communities of Color — The Fairfax County Health Department has launched a new initiative to improve literacy among local African American, African and Hispanic communities. The program is intended to improve health outcomes by helping individuals find, understand, and use health information. [Fairfax County Government]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Reston Company Helps Dump Data — A Reston-based data privacy and governance software provider company called ActiveNav wants to help companies dump extra data. The company created a new tool that helps others analyze what data is toxic or vulnerable. [Technical.ly]
Proposed Plea Deal in Alleged Child Rapist Case Rejected — A Fairfax County judge rejected a proposed plea deal between prosecutors and a man accused of repeatedly raping a girl — a rare step that cast some doubt on evidence presented by the Herndon Police Department’s investigators. The three-year sentence was perceived as too lenient. [The Washington Post]
County Health Department Waits for Guidance on Booster Shots — The county’s health department is waiting on federal and state partners to determine when to begin offering booster shots to residents who have already received the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19. [Fairfax County Government]
Multiple Vehicles Broken Into in Town of Herndon — On Saturday, someone broke into at least eleven vehicles and took items. All vehicles were unlocked. [Herndon Police Department]
County Executive and Health Director Honored by Park Board — The Fairfax County Park Authority Board honored Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill and the health department’s director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu with the Chairman’s Choice Awards. [Fairfax County Government]
Statewide Showcase of Bands Comes to Herndon HS — Herndon High School will host the kick-off of the annual marching band competition season at a special event n Saturday. Over 25 bands from the region will perform throughout the day. [The Pride of Herndon]
Reston Resident to Lead County Park Authority — Jai Cole, a Restonian, has been named the executive director of the Fairfax County Park Authority. Cole has more than two decades of leadership experience with recreation and park agencies. [Fairfax County Government]
Finland-based Company Choses Reston for North America Headquarters — Cloudpermit, a software company, has selected Reston as its North American headquarters. The company’s CEO says that Virginia was the right choice because of the “the highest concentration of tech talent in the U.S.” [PR Newswire]
Health Department to Improve COVID-19 Contact Interviews — The county’s health department is working on improving how to expedite contact with students who have been exposed to COVID-19 but haven’t been notified by health department staff. [Fairfax County Government]
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.”
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).
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
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.”
— Governor Ralph Northam (@GovernorVA) August 23, 2021
— Supervisor Walter Alcorn (@WalterAlcornFFX) August 23, 2021
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
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]
(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Fairfax County residents are itching to understand the culprit behind weird skin reactions, possibly linked to bug bites, that have been reported throughout the D.C. region this summer.
As first reported by Reston Now’s sister site ARLnow, people in Northern Virginia and beyond are finding itchy red marks on their skin that are not quite mosquito bites and may be linked to oak leaf itch mites, an arachnid that’s nearly invisible to the naked eye.
Dr. Amir Bajoghli, a dermatologist who sees patients in McLean and Woodbridge in his Skin & Laser Dermatology offices, says he has seen an increase in the number of patients with this kind of issue, often involving raised red bumps or tiny blisters. The bumps can look like acne and be intensely itchy, similar to poison ivy.
“Because of all the cicadas we had, [the mites] were basically feasting on the eggs,” Bajoghli said, noting the mites can fall from the trees and be carried by wind. “Patients have even been telling me it’s worse than their experience with poison ivy.”
Oak leaf itch mites might cause red welts and affect people not only outdoors, but also indoors, potentially entering through window screens.
They typically feed on the larvae of small flies that form on leaves in oak trees. But local health officials suggest this year’s cicada emergence may be a factor, giving oak leaf itch mites another source of food from the cicada eggs laid in trees.
Still, Fairfax County health officials stressed that there’s no confirmation that the oak leaf itch mite is the cause of the bites, saying “it’s only a suspected cause at this time.”
“Although we are not certain what may be causing these bites, one of the suspected causes is the microscopic Oak Leaf Itch Mite,” Joshua Smith, the environmental health supervisor of the Fairfax County Health Department’s Disease Carrying Insect Program, said in a statement. “This mite has been presumptively associated with itchy bites in other regions of the U.S.”
States from Illinois to Texas have observed apparent outbreaks of the mite throughout recent decades.
“Most puzzling was the lack of any insect being seen or felt during the act of biting,” a research paper on a 2004 outbreak in Kansas noted.
Bajoghli, the dermatologist, recommends hydrocortisone as a starting point for treatment, which people can obtain without a prescription.
If that’s insufficient, doctors and dermatologists can provide prescription-strength remedies. He said over-the-counter antihistamines are also somewhat helpful.
“People can best protect themselves by limiting their time from under infested trees and by immediately removing and laundering clothing and then showering,” Penn State Extension researcher Steve Jacobs wrote in a patient-focused guide.
Whether the skin reactions involve that mite or something else, the Fairfax County Health Department has several recommendations for steps people can take to prevent problems with mosquitoes, ticks, and other pests:
- Use repellents. Products registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have active ingredients that include DEET, IR3535, picaridin, and more.
- Wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts outdoors.
- Shower after outdoor activities, washing away crawling ticks as well as doing a tick check.
- Launder clothes worn for outdoor activities. Ten minutes in the dryer on high heat will kill ticks on clothing.
- Avoid scratching bites. A cold compress or other products may help relieve itchiness.
People with questions and concerns are encouraged to talk with their health care provider.
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.
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