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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
While Fairfax County’s COVID-19 vaccination rate has only incrementally crept up over the last several weeks, county officials believe their campaign to get as many people vaccinated as possible still has a ways to go before it hits a ceiling.
About 75.5% of people over 18 have had at least one vaccine shot in the Fairfax Health District, which includes the county and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church. About 67% of all residents over 18 are considered fully vaccinated.
Both those numbers are above the national and state rates, but they have only gone up a couple of percentage points over the last month.
“Vaccination numbers are increasing more slowly than previously but we would not define it as ‘plateauing,'” Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, Fairfax County’s director of epidemiology and population health, told Reston Now.
Schwartz says national data suggests that about 15% of the population say they definitely do not want to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but that percentage is “likely much lower here.”
“So there still are many in the county who are open to getting vaccinated,” writes Schwartz. “The challenges are addressing people’s concerns about the vaccine and making vaccination easy for people who may be less motivated [and] for whom vaccination just isn’t a priority.“
Messaging is key, says Dr. Amira Roess, a professor of epidemiology at George Mason University, when it comes to local jurisdictions concentrating their efforts on helping those folks get vaccinated.
“75% of folks being vaccinated is really good…and higher than the national average,” Roess said. “But…we have to shift to look at which groups have lower vaccination rates…find out why they haven’t gotten vaccinated and what are their questions.”
County data shows that, in terms of age, those over 55 years old have gotten their vaccine at a higher percentage than those in their 20s and early 30s. About two thirds of adults from 25 to 34 years old have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine compared to more than 80% of those over the age of 55.
While older folks becoming eligible for the vaccine earlier due to their increased vulnerability to the virus is likely a factor in that difference, it remains a concern that younger residents are less likely to get the vaccine than the county average.
To address that gap, county officials say they are doing targeted outreach at venues like barber shops, fraternities, sororities, and hair salons as well as placing ads on Tiktok and other social platforms.
Additionally, the county enlisted MC Bugg-Z of cicada rap fame for a new hip-hop song and video about the need to get vaccinated.
Health data also indicates that Black and Latinx county residents have gotten vaccinated at lower rates than white residents.
Roess says it’s on officials to better understand the concerns that have produced racial and ethnic disparities in who has received the vaccine.
“For a lot of African-American populations, they are part of this culture, this decades-long experience of being experimented on in really unethical trials,” Roess said. “So, there’s some real legitimate concerns there because of the history.”
She also notes that many folks work all day and are only available at night.
Fairfax County officials say over 300 sites currently offer the vaccine, including pop-up clinics every day of the week at schools, libraries, and apartment complexes. The county also employs 18 “vaccine navigators,” who go out into communities, food distribution events, and places of businesses to address concerns and help people sign up to get the vaccine.
However, in recent weeks, some services that were previously offered have ended, including a free shuttle service to the Mount Vernon Square vaccine equity clinic as well as several community clinics.
In addition, the clinics are only open to 7:30 p.m. at the latest. Most close between 5 and 7 p.m.
With nearly all COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations now occurring among unvaccinated people, health officials are racing to expand vaccinations to counter the growing prevalence of variants that could spread more easily and cause more severe illness.
Of particular concern is the Delta variant, which is thought to be more contagious. As of Friday (July 9), Northern Virginia had reported 617 infections stemming from variants of concern, including 23 cases linked to the Delta variant.
Roess says the fear of the Delta variant may lead to more people getting vaccinated, but it could already be too late.
“It’s a…race between the Delta variant spreading and the vaccination rate,” Roess said. “What we might end up seeing is that by the time [more] people end up getting vaccinated, they are already exposed or infected by the Delta variant.”
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).
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.
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
With the Fourth of July now in the rearview mirror, community transmission of the novel coronavirus remains low in Fairfax County, but some indicators suggest COVID-19 levels could be on the rise again.
With the addition of four new cases today (Tuesday), the Fairfax Health District has reported exactly 100 new cases over the past week — almost as many as the entire month of June — bringing to the total for Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church to 78,204 cases.
The weekly average has ticked back up since mid-June, climbing from zero cases over the preceding week on June 19 to 13.3 cases today, as has the testing positivity rate, which went from a moving seven-day average of 0.7% on June 27 to 0.9% as of July 2, according to Virginia Department of Health data.
These trends reflect the state of the pandemic in Virginia as a whole, which saw May’s steady decline in cases level out in June and now has a weekly average of 180 cases, up from an all-time low of 129 cases on June 20.
Fairfax County’s primary metrics of a 0.9% testing positivity rate and 1.2 new daily cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days are still well within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s thresholds for a low level of community transmission, which is defined as fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate under 5%.
In addition, the severity of cases has been reduced from earlier in the pandemic. The Fairfax Health District reported one hospitalization in the past week for a total of 4,138 people and four deaths for 1,145 deaths overall.
In a blog post published on Friday (July 2), the Fairfax County Health Department attributed the continued low levels of COVID-19 transmission to its ability to identify and isolate individuals who are sick with the respiratory disease and the success of the ongoing vaccination campaign.
According to the FCHD vaccine data dashboard, 743,038 Fairfax Health District residents have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. That is 62.8% of the overall population and three out of every four adults (75.1%). 651,344 residents — 66.5% of adults and 55% of the total population — have been fully vaccinated.
“While we still have work to do and need those unvaccinated to continue to be diligent and wear masks, Fairfax County has made incredible strides in our vaccination efforts,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a newsletter on Friday, reporting that there is only one zip code in the county with a vaccination rate under 70%.
McKay announced that the county flag outside the Fairfax County Government Center has returned to full mast to reflect the end of Virginia’s COVID-19 State of Emergency at the beginning of July. The county’s state of emergency remains in place, however.
County health officials also warn that COVID-19 case levels could surge, particularly among people who have not been vaccinated, due to the spread of variants. The Delta variant first detected in India is considered the biggest current threat.
As of July 2, Northern Virginia had recorded 596 infections caused by variants of concern, including 17 cases confirmed to come from the Delta variant. That variant, which has proven especially contagious, now accounts for more than one in every five cases nationwide, according to the FCHD.
The county health department says studies suggest that the COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized in the U.S. “remain very effective against the Delta variant.”
“Vaccination remains the best tool in preventing a Delta surge,” Fairfax County Director of Epidemiology and Population Health Director Dr. Benjamin Schwartz said in a statement. “This virus can take advantage of any cracks in our defenses. For those who have not yet gotten vaccinated, I urge you to do so. Your actions will keep us on the road to recovery from the pandemic.”
Fairfax County residents can find sites offering COVID-19 vaccinations through vaccines.gov or the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS).
A June that generally provided reason for optimism comes to a close with the Fairfax Health District almost doubling its COVID-19 case total for the month over the past week.
The district, which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has added 103 new cases since June 1 for an all-time total of 78,104 cases, but 66 of those cases came in the last seven days, including four today (Monday), according to Virginia Department of Health data.
However, the district’s hospitalization total stayed flat from last Monday (June 21) at 4,137 people.
VDH data shows that two people were hospitalized by the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in the past week — one county resident and one Falls Church City resident — but both jursidictions also subtracted a case in the same time period, resulting in a net-zero increase.
Five more people died from COVID-19 in the last week, bringing the district’s overall death total up to 1,141 people.
An Associated Press analysis of national health data from May found that just 0.1% of new COVID-19 hospitalizations and 0.8% of deaths were people who had been fully vaccinated, suggesting that the mortality rate would now be almost zero if everyone eligible for vaccination got the shot.
The Fairfax County Health Department did not return Reston Now’s query about whether the county is seeing the same trend of unvaccinated people accounting for nearly all hospitalizations and deaths by publication time.
As of this morning, 1.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered to Fairfax Health District residents. 737,991 residents — 74.7% of adults and 62.4% of the total population — have gotten at least one shot, and 644,361 residents — 66% of adults and 54.4% of the total population — are fully vaccinated, according to the FCHD dashboard.
Statewide, about half (50.5%) of Virginia’s population is now fully vaccinated, including 61.4% of people 18 and older. 70.9% of adults or 58.7% of the overall population have received at least one vaccine dose.
In addition to lowering the risk of hospitalization and death, the COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for use in the U.S. can provide protection from variants of the virus that could spread more easily or cause more severe illness, according to VDH.
VDH announced last Tuesday (June 22) that it has added the Delta variant to its Varients of Concern dashboard, which tracks mutations that are considered to pose a greater risk to human health.
The Delta variant contributed to India’s devastating second wave of the pandemic and has been linked to surges elsewhere, including the United Kingdom and Australia, leading some countries to reimpose public health restrictions.
As of Friday (June 25), when the dashboard was last updated, Virginia had recorded 48 cases of the delta variant, including 15 in Northern Virginia, but VDH says the actual number of cases is likely higher since not all positive samples are tested to determine the strain of the virus.
“To protect yourself and others, get vaccinated for COVID-19,” VDH said in its news release. “Until you are fully vaccinated, continue wearing a mask correctly, stay at least six feet from others outside of your household, avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and wash your hands often…The best way to stop variant strains from developing in the first place is to stop the spread of the virus.”
Photo via CDC on Unsplash
While a large percentage of Fairfax County residents have received their COVID-19 vaccine, there are still ongoing efforts to help — and convince — those who have not yet gotten the vaccine.
Nearly three quarters — 73.7% to be exact — of all Fairfax County Health District residents over the age of 18 have had at least their first shot, which is actually above Virginia as a whole.
About 65% of residents are considered fully vaccinated, meaning at least two weeks have passed since they received their final shot.
However, those statistics do not take in account those who got their vaccine through federal sources, such as the defense and veterans’ affairs departments, notes Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay.
“We remain committed to making vaccine as easily as possible to obtain for those in our community who want it,” he wrote in a statement.
While the days of supply scarcity long gone, some people still remain reluctant or hesitant to get vaccinated for a variety of reasons.
About 7.5% of county residents answered that they were “unsure,” “probably not,” or “definitely not” going to get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a federal survey distributed in late May and early June.
To help address hesitancy, public officials and businesses have developed several incentive programs, like free baseball tickets and Krispy Kreme donuts, though Virginia is not offering cash or lottery incentives like other states.
Now that a majority of county residents are vaccinated overall, McKay says the county’s goal is to vaccinate at least 70% of adults in every neighborhood, and it has turned to a variety of methods, from a regional, multimedia awareness campaign to partnerships with local businesses and nonprofits, in its effort to hit that target.
“Community partners continue to offer up space for vaccination clinic sites, with community leaders urging the importance of getting vaccinated,” McKay said. “I have always said that we would only get through the COVID-19 pandemic together and am proud that our Fairfax County community continues to get us closer to that goal.”
For many residents, getting vaccinated is more a question of access than desire.
In recent months, the county and state health departments have set up several community vaccine centers, including one in an abandoned Lord & Taylor, and equity clinics. The county is even offering free transportation to some via the Fairfax Connector. Fairfax County Public Schools also hosted a series of vaccine clinics over several weeks.
Child care can be another barrier to access, so a number of companies are offering free child care to those getting the vaccine or recovering from it.
In total, the Fairfax County Health Department says it has held 307 vaccine equity clinics since February with an additional 23 clinics scheduled for the remainder of this month.
Mobile clinics are also still occuring and ongoing in partnership with George Mason University’s Mason and Partners mobile vaccination unit.
However, some clinics and access points are shutting down in the coming weeks as the vaccine becomes more widely available. For example, the Tysons mass vaccination site is slated to close on Saturday (June 26) and the FCPS clinics ended on June 10.
“Our outreach team and community health workers continue to work with community partners to provide vaccine education, identify potential vaccination clinic sites and help residents navigate the vaccination process,” an FCHD official wrote. “While the Tysons Community Vaccination Center is closing June 26, the Government Center remains open and will continue to offer walk-in service.”
The spokesperson also highlighted that vaccine supplies remain high and available through a number of expanding options, including private health care providers, pharmacies, and grocery stores.
Of course, getting the remaining portion of the population vaccinated isn’t only a county challenge, but a nationwide one as well.
Just today (Tuesday), U.S. officials admitted that the country is not going to hit the White House-stated goal of at least 70% of American adults having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
There were 14 new COVID-19 cases in the Fairfax Health District today (Monday), as reported by the Fairfax County Health Department.
Even a month ago, that total would’ve been on the low end for a single day, but in June, when daily case counts have been more likely to dip into negative numbers than to enter double digits, it’s an anomaly, representing the biggest influx of new cases since 22 came in on May 30.
After adding 25 new cases in the past week, including 11 cases just last Wednesday (June 16), Fairfax County is now averaging three cases over the past seven days, the highest weekly average since June 8, according to the Virginia Department of Health dashboard.
Three people died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus in the past week, and six more people have been hospitalized, bringing the respective totals up to 1,137 deaths and 4,137 hospitalizations. There have been 78,038 total cases in the Fairfax Health District since March 2020.
Even so, it has now been three weeks since Virginia lifted all capacity limitations over Memorial Day weekend, which typically brings an uptick in travel and social gatherings, and at least in Fairfax, the COVID-19 surge that followed other holidays during the pandemic has not emerged, likely due to increased vaccinations.
As of today, 725,862 Fairfax Health District residents, including people from the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That is 73.7% of adults and 61.3% of the district’s total population.
628,151 residents — 64.8% of adults and 53.1% of the population overall — are fully vaccinated, according to the county health department.
The Fairfax Health District is outpacing Virginia as a whole, which hit the 70% mark today for adults who have gotten at least one vaccine dose, making it the 16th state to meet the July 4 target set by President Joe Biden, Gov. Ralph Northam announced.
“Virginia has reached a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19,” Northam said. “Thanks to the millions of Virginians who have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated, the virus is in retreat, our economy is growing, and we are closer to putting this pandemic behind us.”
According to VDH, 4.9 million people — 57.8% of the overall population — have received at least one dose, and 4.2 million Virginians are fully vaccinated, which is 60.3% of adults and 49.3% of the state’s population.
With the demand for vaccinations slowing, Virginia has started to close its mass vaccine sites in favor of more mobile, targeted clinics. This will be the last week of operations for the community vaccination center at Tysons Corner Center, as it is scheduled to close on Saturday (June 26).
Until then, the site is accepting walk-ins from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. today, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.
Individuals 12 and older can register for an appointment there or at other Fairfax County clinics through the Vaccine Administration Management System. Other providers can be located through Vaccines.gov.
Top photo via CDC on Unsplash
The Fairfax Health District has officially surpassed the halfway mark for COVID-19 vaccinations.
According to the Fairfax County Health Department’s data dashboard, 50.9% of all Fairfax Health District residents have now received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That amounts to 602,101 residents, including 63.1% of all people 18 and older.
713,791 people living in the district, which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, have gotten at least one vaccine dose. That is 72.7% of adults and 60.3% of the total population.
The county announced on Friday (June 11) that its vaccine clinic at the Fairfax County Government Center is now accepting walk-ins from noon to 4 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, and from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
The clinic will be closed this Friday (June 18), since county employees will have the day off in observance of Juneteenth. However, it will be open on Saturday, which will mark the 156th anniversary of the day when the last enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, learned that the Civil War had ended.
Walk-in appointments are also available at the Tysons Corner Center mass vaccination site, which is now open until 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That state-run clinic will close on June 26.
The Tysons Community Vaccination Center and county health department clinics appointments can be scheduled through the Vaccine Administration Management System. People can find appointments at other locations, including grocery stores, pharmacies, and private health care providers, through vaccines.gov.
Meanwhile, the number of new COVID-19 infections coming in has slowed to the point where the Fairfax Health District actually has fewer total cases now than it did when Reston Now provided an update last Monday (June 7), according to Virginia Department of Health data.
That doesn’t mean no new cases have been reported, as six cases were recorded on Thursday (June 10).
However, 20 cases have been subtracted over the past week, including six today (Monday), which the county health department has said happens when there are duplicates or cases that actually occurred in another district.
As a result, Fairfax County is now averaging -2.9 cases per day for the past seven days.
As of today, 78,013 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the district compared to 78,034 cases a week ago. One more person has died from the disease transmitted by the novel coronavirus, and 10 more people have been hospitalized, bringing the totals up to 1,134 deaths and 4,131 hospitalizations.
Gun Discharged in Reston — According to Fairfax County police, a homeowner in the 1700 block of Torrey Pines Court reported hearing gunshots around 2:49 a.m. on Thursday (June 10). The individual found damage to a car and property, but no injuries were reported. Officers located cartridge casings nearby. [FCPD]
Teen Injured in Herndon Car Crash — A 14-year-old boy was hit by an SUV at the intersection of Centreville Road and Parcher Avenue in Herndon on Friday (June 11). The boy was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, police said. [FCPD/Twitter]
County Health Department Took on New Roles during Pandemic — The Fairfax County Health Department ceased in-person inspections of food establishments, pivoting instead to a virtual process intended “to minimize possible COVID transmission between Health Department staff and restaurant employees.” Other staff in the food safety program shifted responsibilities, such as working call centers or supporting vaccination clinics. [Fairfax County Times]
How Northern Virginia Is Spending COVID-19 Relief Funds — “Fairfax County, Virginia’s most populous jurisdiction, expects to receive $200 million of Rescue Plan funds over the next two years, officials there said. So far, $50 million of that has been dedicated to specific uses: to help the hard-hit hospitality industry and, over the longer term, to preserve and create more affordable housing in the county, officials said.” [The Washington Post]
Despite an unusually cool Memorial Day weekend, Fairfax County could be in for more routine summer compared to last year, as trends in COVID-19 cases and vaccinations suggest that the worst of the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, at least on a local level.
Three new COVID-19 cases were reported in the Fairfax Health District today (Monday), including two in Fairfax County and one from Fairfax City. However, the Virginia Department of Health subtracted two cases from Falls Church City’s total, so the Fairfax County Health Department’s dashboard shows just one new case.
FCHD spokesperson Tina Dale told Reston Now last week that data reviews sometimes lead to cases being removed because they are determined to be duplicates or to have occurred in another health district.
Even with 78 new cases coming in on Thursday (May 27), just before Memorial Day weekend, case levels are continuing to fall in Fairfax County, which is currently averaging 20.3 new cases over the past seven days. The weekly average hasn’t been this low since March 28, 2020, when it was at 19.1 cases and the pandemic’s initial spring surge was only just emerging.
The Fairfax Health District has now recorded 78,003 total cases, 4,116 hospitalizations, and 1,129 deaths.
The continued decline in cases has supported a gradual easing of public health restrictions over the past couple of months. After lifting its mask mandate for fully vaccinated individuals in most public settings earlier in May, Virginia officially ended all capacity limits and social distancing requirements this past Friday (May 28).
Because of the novel coronavirus’ incubation period, though, the true impact of those changes and the rise in travel and social gatherings over Memorial Day weekend won’t be evident for another two weeks.
Health officials have also pointed to the potential for new, more transmissible variants to emerge as a reason to remain cautious, particularly for people who haven’t gotten vaccinated yet.
“The best way to stop variants from developing in the first place is to stop the spread of the virus,” Fairfax County Director of Epidemiology and Population Health Dr. Benjamin Schwartz said in a recent blog post. “I encourage people who have not gotten vaccinated to consider making vaccination a part of their holiday plans.”
Given the availability of vaccines, the county hopes to avoid another resurgence of the virus akin to the second wave that hit last fall and over the winter, when cold weather kept people indoors and the holiday season led to an uptick in travel and gatherings.
According to the county health department’s new vaccine data dashboard, 675,696 Fairfax Health District residents — 74.7% of all adults and 57.1% of the overall population — have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, outpacing the federal goal of administering at least one dose to 70% of adults by July 4.
539,394 residents — or 59.6% of adults and 45.6% of the total population — have been fully vaccinated, meaning that at least two weeks have passed since they’ve received all needed shots. That puts the county ahead of Virginia as a whole, which has vaccinated 55.9% of adults and delivered at least one shot to 67.1% of adults.
Chart via Virginia Department of Health
Second COVID-19 Vaccine Could Be Approved for Teens — “Biotechnology company Moderna announced Tuesday that its two-shot coronavirus vaccine produced the same protective immune response in teens as it does in adults, and the firm said it plans to submit the data to U.S. regulators for review in early June. If authorized, the vaccine would become the second available for adolescents as young as 12.” [The Washington Post]
Fairfax County Updates COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard — The Fairfax County Health Department launched an updated version of its vaccine dashboard yesterday (Tuesday) with data on administered doses, how many people have gotten vaccinated, demographic breakdowns, and other information. [FCHD]
Preliminary Work Begins on W&OD Wiehle Bridge — “Preliminary work is being performed @ the Wiehle Ave intersection in Reston in preparation for the eventual bridge there. Over the next couple of weeks, Dominion Energy will be making improvements to the gravel trail so that it may be used as a detour as they relocate facilities.” [The W&OD Trail/Twitter]
Man Hit with Bottle in Castle Rock Square — Police responded to the 2200 block of Castle Rock Square in Reston around 11:49 p.m. on Monday (May 24), when a man was hit “in the upper body with a bottle by someone known to him,” the department says. The victim in the incident, which was not a stabbing as initially reported by a scanner, said that he didn’t want the case to be investigated by officers. [FCPD]
County to Hold Meeting on Proposed Bicycle Lanes — Fairfax County will hold a virtual meeting at 6:30 p.m. on June 8 to discuss striping changes that would create bicycle lanes on several roads. The Hunter Mill District proposals focus on Herndon, adding lanes on segments of McNair Farms Drive and Thomas Jefferson Drive and converting the “underutilized” outside travel lanes on Coppermine Road to buffered bike lanes. [FCDOT]
Herndon Company Recognized for Veteran Hiring — “Herndon-headquartered Serco North America earned the designation VETS Indexes 5 Star Employer as part of the 2021 VETS Indexes Employer Awards. The designation recognizes Serco’s commitment to recruiting, hiring, retaining, developing and supporting veteran employees, military spouses and others in the military community.” [Fairfax County EDA]
Photo by Marjorie Copson
(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) The spread of COVID-19 has slowed to the point where the Fairfax Health District actually subtracted cases from its overall total today (Monday).
According to the latest data from the Fairfax County Health Department, the district — which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church — has seen seven fewer cases than previously reported, suggesting an error in earlier case counts.
The Fairfax Health District actually reported 10 new COVID-19 cases today, but 17 cases that had been assigned to the district have now been removed, resulting in the negative number, according to FCHD spokesperson Tina Dale.
“Data is reviewed by the Virginia Department of Health and adjustments are made based on those reviews,” Dale told Reston Now. “With low overall numbers of new cases, we may continue to see days where ‘negative numbers’ are reported.”
Dale says cases are sometimes removed primarily because they actually occurred in another health district, or because there are duplicates.
“Duplicate cases can occur because VDH has a process where new COVID labs are automatically processed and counted as a new case, which on further review is identified as a duplicate,” she said.
Even so, COVID-19 case levels have continued to drop in the county since the seven-day average peaked for this spring at 194.4 cases on April 13, Virginia Department of Health data shows. The weekly average is now at 23.6 cases — the lowest since there were 22.3 cases per seven days on March 29, 2020.
The Fairfax Health District has recorded a total of 77,837 COVID-19 cases since the first presumptive positive case was identified on March 9, 2020. 4,105 people in the district have been hospitalized, and 1,116 people have died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The steady decline in new cases has continued even after Virginia amended its mask-wearing mandate more than a week ago to exempt people who have been fully vaccinated, a heartening sign as the state prepares to lift all capacity and social distancing requirements on Friday (May 28) in time for Memorial Day weekend.
The Commonwealth can keep requiring masks for people who aren’t fully vaccinated and in certain settings, such as schools, as long as its public health emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic remains in place. Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order is currently set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on June 30, though it could be extended or rescinded before then.
Since Northam announced that capacity limits will be lifted at the end of May, rather than in June as initially suggested, vaccinations have become more widespread, while COVID-19 cases have fallen statewide.
With 7.9 million vaccine doses administered overall, 4.5 million Virginians have received at least one dose, amounting to 53.2% of the total population and 65.7% of all residents 18 and older.
3.6 million people — or 42.5% of the total population and 53.5% of all adults — have been fully vaccinated, meaning that at least two weeks have passed since they finished their recommended shot regimen.
Fairfax County has administered 1.1 million vaccine doses. 638,091 residents — 55.6% of the total population — have gotten at least one dose, and 501,845 residents — or 43.7% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, though unlike with VDH’s statewide data, those numbers still don’t include doses delivered by the federal government.
Image via CDC on Unsplash, graphs via Virginia Department of Health
The cicadas are here, along with a new rap about the insects from local hip-hop artist MC Bugg-Z.
“Brood X-cellence” is a deep rhyming dive into the entomology, science, and emergence of Brood X, the periodical cicadas that are just now surfacing from their 17-year slumber underground.
Lines like “I have been chilling underground with my friends sippin on root juices” and “It’s a fitness thing, you’re witnessing predator satiation” will certainly have wings flapping and red eyes darting.
The song is written and performed by MC Bugg-Z, who isn’t just any old bug-loving underground hip-hop artist. He’s an entomologist and biologist who works for Fairfax County.
“I’m part of the Fairfax County Health Department’s Division of Environmental Health and, inside the Division of Environmental Health, we have the disease-carrying insects program,” Andy Lima said. “That’s my normal, real-life job.”
Lima has been writing and recording underground hip-hop since his college days in the mid-2000s with a focus on intelligent lyric writing.
“It’s more about the rhymes than the beats,” Lima said. “I love to convey the knowledge about the things I love and the world I know…by putting it into hip-hop song form.”
In Lima’s case, that’s bugs, and this isn’t his first foray into the emerging genre of insect rap.
In 2016, he released “Zika 101” about protecting oneself from disease-carrying mosquitoes. In 2018, there was “Tick-Check 1-2” about checking for ticks and avoiding Lyme Disease, followed a year later by “West Nile Story.”
While cicadas are not known to carry disease, Lima couldn’t skip the opportunity for a new song about a bug.
“Brood X-cellence” is a remix or sequel of sorts to a cicada rap he wrote back in 2004, when the brood last emerged. He was a student at Indiana University back then, and the din of the cicadas could actually be heard in the background of the recording.
“I was going to just re-release that one this year and just felt like there were things about the song that I wanted to change, new information that I wanted to include and, also, some errors,” Lima said. “I’ve learned some stuff over the past 17 years…Now, the focus is much more on the biology of it as opposed to the spectacle itself.”
When he writes songs, Lima takes a reverse-engineered approach. He thinks about how he wants to end a line and then finds a rhyme to match it.
“I don’t shy away from the scientific words because they are multi-syllables,” Lima said. “You can often find a way to rhyme them or, even, define some of these terms [in the rhyme]…like predator satiation.”
It took about two weeks to write, re-work, and record “Brood X-cellence.” The beat was provided by Kelton Williams, another Fairfax County employee who Lima met while helping with COVID-19 emergency response.
“He’s a great musician,” said Lima. “As soon as I heard [his beat], I thought ‘Oh man, this is going down.'”
The main takeaway that Lima wants folks to get from the song is that this cicada takeover is an incredibly rare and amazing occurrence.
“It’s a fleeting event, a miracle of nature,” he said. “It really only occurs in the eastern half of the United States and nowhere else in the world…It’s just so rare that the public is kind of overrun with insects.”
He hopes his bug rap educates, entertains, and allows folks to have a little fun after a difficult year.
With the temperatures warming, particularly in the evening, the cicadas are expected to come out of the ground en masse within a matter of days, looking to play their own song.
“We’re really going to see the surge that’s just beyond,” Lima said. “So, hopefully my song is well-timed.”