Life Fuels, a Reston-based startup that sells smart water bottles, is shutting down after seven years of business.
In a LinkedIn post released on Sunday, founder and CEO Jonathon Perrelli said the COVID-19 pandemic had a crippling effect on the business. LifeFuels offered a smart water bottle that keeps track of the drinker’s water, mineral, and vitamin intake through an integrated app.
The company sold pods that would inject ingredients into the water. Each bottle retailed for 179. Like a Keurig coffee maker, the bottle had plastic pods with nutrients and vitamins to mimic the flavor of a sports drink.
“The world of startups is an onerous one in the best of times. The challenges that many small businesses have faced with the pandemic over the past year has been crippling and LifeFuels is no exception,” Perelli said.
Although the LifeFuels chapter has ended, Perrelli said his team is exploring alternative scenarios for its platform. But its bottles and pods are no longer available.
“The dream of LifeFuels is ending but the spirit of entrepreneurship lives on,” he wrote.
Photo via Life Fuels
With Covid-19 cases rising and cold and flu season on the horizon, schools must focus on common-sense cleaning and disinfecting practices if they want a safe return, the American Cleaning Institute says.
On Nov. 16, Fairfax County Public Schools will open in-person instruction for Early Head Start, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and special-education students receiving intensive supports and attending center-based programs, according to an update sent to parents on Oct. 23. In-person cohort learning will begin on Nov. 30 for grades 1-2 and special-education students in career centers.
In partnership with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the ACI is asking schools and families to encourage children to wash their hands with soap at school and at home. Hand hygiene is a foundational habit for slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus and seasonal illnesses like influenza, especially in schools.
“It’s so simple and so important, especially at schools, as they plan to reopen,” said Brian Sansoni, the Senior Vice President of Communication, Outreach and Membership at the American Cleaning Institute.
But among adults in the United States, hand-washing rates are down compared to the start of the pandemic, according to a recent survey by the ACI. Parents play as big a role as schools in forming hand hygiene habits, Sansoni said.
“Kids see what parents do and don’t do,” he said. “Reinforcing habits at home is really important for setting examples.”
Schools must be extra diligent in communicating to parents the importance of hand-washing habits at home. Schools must also be hyper-vigilant in restocking soap and hand-sanitizer dispensers, and providing supervision and encouraging hand-washing before eating and after restroom use.
“Where the extra care is required, hopefully there is communication between parents and school staff,” Sansoni said.
Another common-sense practice is disinfecting high-touch hot-spots daily. These zones include desks, chairs, tables, countertops, knobs, light-switches, classroom electronics, toilets, and drinking fountains.
Coincidentally, the COVID-19 pandemic hit as the ACI was planning to revamp its Healthy Schools, Healthy Peopleinitiative, Sansoni said. This year, the institute was preparing to focus more on hand hygiene and cleaning as a way of reducing absenteeism caused by seasonal illnesses.
“Once we get past this, hopefully, we don’t take our foot off the pedal when it comes to common-sense hygiene,” Sansoni said. “The cold and flu happen every year, and there are countless school days lost due to infection among students and staff.”
Pre-pandemic, the ACI spoke with school nurses across the nation and learned that nurses, at the front lines of school health, face an uphill battle with hygiene education.
Some nurses were frustrated at the lack of soap and cleaning materials, Sansoni said. In other areas, nurses needed their school districts and systems to encourage everyone to exemplify good behaviors.
“They have a tough job,” Sansoni said. “They try to emphasize this year round.”
Photo via the CDC
Like many other parts of Virginia and the U.S., Fairfax County is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases as the weather gets cooler.
The county has a rolling seven-day average of 133.9 cases as of Nov. 2, the highest since mid-June when an average of 137 cases was recorded on June 12.
After adding 937 cases over the past seven days starting on Oct. 27, including 167 new cases just on Nov. 2, Fairfax County now has a total of 24,642 COVID-19 cases and 2,317 hospitalizations.
The latest data from the Virginia Department of Health shows that the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church as well as Fairfax County, now has a total of 620 COVID-19 deaths, with 605 deaths in Fairfax County, eight in Fairfax City, and seven in Falls Church.
Fairfax County’s case rate of 2,120 cases per 100,000 people is roughly in line with those of surrounding localities, surpassing Arlington (2,012) but remaining under the City of Alexandria (2,718) despite its significantly larger population.
Virginia’s northern region as a whole saw a steady upward trend in cases throughout October, but it has become more pronounced over the past week, when the region’s seven-day moving average rose from 234.3 cases on Oct. 25 to 322.3 cases today.
While that still falls far short of the 685.3 seven-day average recorded when the pandemic was peaking in Northern Virginia at the end of May, the upward trajectory reflects an overall surge in reported COVID-19 cases throughout Virginia.
The 1,306 seven-day moving average that Virginia reported today is the highest that the state has ever seen since the novel coronavirus first emerged in the Commonwealth in March.
The regional and statewide climb in COVID-19 cases will continue to draw scrutiny as Fairfax County Public Schools plans to bring more students back into physical classrooms throughout November.
FCPS started returning small cohorts of students to in-person instruction at the beginning of October, and students in early Head Start through second grade, along with students in special education and students with intensive support needs, are all tentatively scheduled to return to school by Nov. 30.
117 employees and 26 students have reported contracting COVID-19 to principals, program managers, or administrators since early September, according to a weekly COVID-19 case dashboard compiled by FCPS.
Because the case count is based on self-reporting, FCPS notes that the data “should be interpreted with caution…and may not be aligned to future epidemiological investigations.”
Staff Photo by Jay Westcott; image via Virginia Department of Health
Fairfax County teenagers are vaping less than their peers nationwide, a county survey of middle and high school students found.
15.1% of the 48,915 students who responded to the 2019-2020 Fairfax County Youth Survey reported vaping within the past 30 days, compared to 22.5% of teenagers in the U.S. overall. The survey results were released on Oct. 20.
Nicotine remains the drug most frequently used for vaping, which involves the inhalation of an aerosol through a battery-powered device, but its usage declined from 16.7% in 2018 to under 12% in 2019.
About half as many students reported using flavoring in this year’s survey (5.5%) as they did in the previous year’s (10.3%), but the use of marijuana rose from 8% in 2018 to 9% in 2019.
The number of Fairfax County teens who say they have vaped within their lifetime dropped from 28% in 2018 to 25% in 2019, according to the survey, which is given annually to Fairfax County Public Schools students in sixth, eighth, 10th, and 12th grades.
Fairfax County did not add questions about vaping to its annual youth survey until 2018, making it hard to determine whether the decline in reported vaping is a real trend, but county officials are encouraged by the results.
“The rates for vaping among Fairfax County youth went down considerably from 2018 despite the upward national trend,” Fairfax County Office of Strategy Management for Health and Human Services public information officer Shweta Adyanthaya said. “This is a promising sign that our youth are heeding the concerns regarding vaping in general.”
County officials say they remain concerned about the health effects of vaping, especially during a pandemic caused by a coronavirus that attacks people’s lungs.
Research on how COVID-19 affects people who have used e-cigarettes is limited, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked a contaminant found in e-cigarettes to an outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injuries (EVALI) that had killed or hospitalized 2,807 people in the U.S. as of Feb. 18.
Though it is a potential benefit, the CDC says the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as an aid for helping adults quit smoking is unknown. The agency warns against vaping for youth, young adults, pregnant adults, and adults who do not currently use tobacco products.
“We know that the brains of adolescents continue to develop until about the age [of] 25 and that nicotine can have harmful effects,” Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu said. “Now, with evidence that vaping may be linked with worse outcomes of COVID-19 infection, it’s more important than ever that we offer solutions to help young people.”
FCPS Student Safety and Wellness Office coordinator Stefan Mascoll says 697 students came to the office for tobacco-related substance abuse during the 2019-20 school year, a number that might have been higher if the COVID-19 pandemic did not close schools in March.
“Young people who use e-cigarettes may be vaping even more to cope with stress and social isolation, or they may be experiencing difficult nicotine withdrawal symptoms because of limited access to e-cigarettes,” the Fairfax County Health Department says.
To combat vaping, Fairfax County and FCPS have partnered with the nonprofit Truth Initiative to promote This Is Quitting, a free program that sends supportive text messages to teens and young adults seeking to quit e-cigarettes.
Started in January 2019, This Is Quitting has more than 206,000 enrollees nationwide. People in Fairfax County can join by texting VapeFreeFFX to 88709.
James Madison High School student Sid Thakker, who won an award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2019 for a science fair project about nicotine addiction, has been assisting with the implementation of This Is Quitting in Fairfax County.
“As a senior in high school, I know students aren’t given much information on treatments if they are addicted, but the program is the perfect mix of creative treatments and advice,” Thakker said. “I am excited to see the impact it will make in FCPS.”
Image via Fairfax County
The Fairfax County Health Department and Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) have joined forces to offer a series of free flu vaccination clinics at senior centers across the county.
The clinics were originally intended to exclusively serve people 50 and older, because older people tend to be more at risk for flu-related complications. However, the county has decided to expand the criteria to allow all adults 18 and older to utilize the service.
“With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force and flu season starting, it is more important than ever that older adults get vaccinated for influenza,” NCS communications director Amanda Rogers said. “…While the initial scope of the partnership was to provide older adults a safe environment to get their annual flu vaccine, we have expanded the criteria to include all adults 18 and older for the remaining events.”
After launching on Oct. 6 at the Herndon Senior Center, four additional clinics are scheduled to take place from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m., three days per week, for the next four weeks:
- Oct. 19, 21 and 22: Lincolnia Senior Center (4710 N. Chambliss Street, Alexandria)
- Oct. 26, 28 and 29: Original Mount Vernon High School (8333 Richmond Highway, Alexandria)
- Nov. 2, 4 and 5: Little River Glen Senior Center (4001 Barker Court, Fairfax)
- Nov. 9, 10 and 12: Lewinsville Senior Center (1613 Great Falls Street, McLean)
Fairfax County is also holding flu vaccine clinics for adults and children 6 months or older at the Herndon Reston District Health Office on Oct. 24 and the Mount Vernon District Health Office on Nov. 7.
While health officials recommend that everyone 6 months or older get vaccinated for influenza annually, the need for people to get flu shots is especially urgent this year, as flu season arrives while the U.S. continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flu season typically starts in late fall and lasts throughout the winter in the U.S., hospitalizing more than 200,000 people and killing about 36,000 people every year, according to the Fairfax County Health Department.
Caused by viruses that infect the respiratory system, influenza produces symptoms similar to the ones now associated with the novel coronavirus, including fever, coughing, a sore throat, body aches, fatigue, and headaches.
“It’s very important that we take advantage of the flu vaccine to protect ourselves against the flu so we don’t overburden the healthcare system with individuals who have serious complications of the flu, because they’re already taxed right now responding to COVID-19,” Fairfax County Health Department director of health services Shauna Severo said in a video about the senior center flu vaccine clinics.
In accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for reducing the potential transmission of COVID-19, Fairfax County is requiring all clinic visitors to wear face masks, undergo temperature checks, and adhere to social distancing protocols.
Visits are by appointment only, and all individuals are screened for COVID-19 symptoms both before their appointment and on the day they arrive.
All healthcare providers and other workers staffing the clinics are also wearing masks and other personal protective equipment.
“We are taking every precaution at our clinics to create a safe environment for individuals to come get their vaccine,” Severo said.
Community members can schedule an appointment at one of Fairfax County’s flu vaccine clinics by calling 703-246-6010.
Photo via Unsplash
Reston Tech Company Announces New Hire — “Reston-based tech and network security company Electrosoft announced Wednesday it has hired Teena Lavu as vice president of civilian programs. With more than 20 years of government contracting experience, Lavu was most recently the senior director of civilian services with NTT Data Services LLC.” [Virginia Business]
Local Leaders Encourage Flu Shots — “Leaders from Northern Virginia localities came together Thursday morning to encourage residents to get the flu shot ahead of flu season in the fall and winter. Amid the potential double threat of flu season and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, leaders want to keep pressure off hospitals as well as personal protective equipment and testing resources.” [Reston Patch]
Sewing Center Volunteer Slots Open to Make Masks — “Fairfax County has collaborated with Volunteer Fairfax to designate a volunteer space to make masks for kids. The sewing center at Audrey Moore RECenter — 8100 Braddock Road, Annandale — will be open daily from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.” [Fairfax County Government]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Clinics and medical facilities are beginning to offer yearly vaccines as flu season approaches.
People who received their annual flu shot in a 2018 study were 82% less likely to be admitted to the ICU for potentially life-threatening symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.
Most people six months and older can receive a dose of the flu shot, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said, adding that people can either choose the shot or the nasal spray.
The CDC suggests that those eligible should receive their yearly flu vaccine before the end of October.
Photo via Hyttalo Souza/ Unsplash
Fairfax County officials warn that vaping may be linked to a higher rate of COVID-19-associated side effects.
Today (Monday), the county’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response shared information on the possible associations between vaping and the novel coronavirus, noting that vaping and e-cigarettes have grown in popularity among teens and young adults in the last few years.
As schools reopen virtually and in-person in the Tysons area, county officials want people who vape to know that initial research shows that vaping, which has been linked to lung damage, could be tied to more severe complications of COVID-19.
“According to the 2018-2019 Fairfax County Youth Survey, 20% of Fairfax County Public School students ages 13 to 18 vape, similar to the national average of 20.8%,” the message said.
The “significant shift” of people in their 20s or younger getting COVID-19 that Gov. Ralph Northam pointed out in late July is continuing both statewide and in Fairfax County.
As of today, data from the state health department shows that people in their 20s represent roughly 17.7% of the total COVID-19 cases in the Fairfax Health District — the third-highest age group behind people in their 30s (19.3%) and 40s (17.9%). Statewide, people in their 20s account for the highest percentage (20.1%) of all of the age groups for COVID-19 cases.
The county’s health department now plans to launch a text to quit program with the Truth Initiative aimed at kids and young adults, the county said.
The county, which noted that research on vaping and COVID-19 is limited and still ongoing, spotlighted work done by the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Stanford University School of Medicine.
“Young people who had used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days were almost five times as likely to experience COVID-19 symptoms, such as coughing, fever, tiredness and difficulty breathing as those who never smoked or vaped,” Stanford found.
While researchers in France earlier this year claimed that nicotine may prevent the virus from attaching to cells, the Centers for Disease Control says that smokers may be at an increased risk for worse COVID-19 complications than non-smokers.
As restaurants look to serve diners indoors safely during the pandemic, Silver Diner has started using a new system to keep the interiors of its restaurants sanitized.
The regional chain says that it is the first U.S. restaurant to install an air purification system that uses three technologies — ultraviolet light, bipolar ionization technology and HEPA filtration, according to a press release.
The systems were installed at all of Silver Diner’s locations by last Wednesday (Aug. 12), according to co-founder and head chef Ype Von Hengst.
“I think that in this world you’ve got to adapt and change to fit what’s needed,” Hengst said. “It’s our responsibility as restaurateurs to create a new norm.”
Already, Hengst said that both the Reston and Tysons locations have seen a substantial jump in customers who feel safe about eating inside.
Silver Diner spent roughly $500,000 on the system for the restaurants, according to Hengst, who added that the cost was worth it to protect staff and customers. The air purification system was designed by Veteran LED, a veteran-owned lighting and energy management firm.
The technology has been used before in hospitals, schools and medical care facilities but never a restaurant, according to a press release.
Depending on size, each location has a large air purifier filer that covers roughly 1,000 cubic feet of air and then smaller purifiers that support roughly 250 feet of additional cubic footage, according to Hengst.
“Germicidal UV-C lights installed throughout the HVAC system work to disinfect air and surfaces inside the system. Heavy-duty handheld UV-C light sterilizers are being used on high touch areas as part of the closing duties of the staff,” the press release said. “At night, when the restaurant is closed, the interior is bathed in germicidal UV-C light to help kill pathogens in the air and sterilize surfaces.”
Hengst said that the UV-C ceiling fixture runs for one hour each night. The restaurant claims that the system gets rid of 99.9% of the encountered pathogens.
While UV-C lights have been used as a disinfectant for decades and researchers found it can deactivate coronaviruses, the dosage, time duration and distance from the source can all impact how effective the lights are, Discover Magazine reported.
It’s unclear how effective UV treatment is against COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency cannot confirm whether it may be effective.
Additionally, Silver Diner locations are going to continue using personal protective equipment, printing menus on anti-microbial paper, requiring temperature checks, social distancing and following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Hengst.
Before the pandemic hit the NoVA area, Hengst said that he was beginning to notice a roughly 10% profit increase at both the Reston and Tysons locations, which he attributed to population growth in the areas.
Since Silver Diner installed the new technology last week, Hengst said that more and more people are requesting to sit inside, though it is too early to see if sales are increasing again.
In the months to come, Hengst said he hopes more restaurants can use the technology to “help open up the world again.”
Photos courtesy Silver Diner
Fairfax County confirmed it is still mandatory for all students enrolling in Fairfax County Public Schools to receive their required immunizations, despite the school year starting virtually.
The county’s health department is providing nine additional community childhood vaccination clinics and encouraging families to take advantage of free vaccination opportunities before the start of the school year, according to the Fairfax County Emergency Information website.
Required vaccinations protect against life-threatening illnesses such as polio, measles, whooping cough and chickenpox, according to the website. Additionally, incoming seventh-graders need a booster dose of the Tdap vaccine, and preteens need vaccines to protect against diseases such as HPV.
Only a select number of appointments will be available at community vaccination clinics to ensure safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To schedule an appointment, call 703-246-6010, TTY 711. Clinics encourage families to send a picture of their child’s vaccination records to decrease face-to-face time at the clinic.
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash
Although the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to drop, local health officials are encouraging residents to maintain social distancing as the county enters phase three of Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan tomorrow (Wednesday).
The number of COVID-19 cases has dramatically declined from a peak of around 300 cases per day to an average of 60 to 70 cases per day, according to Benjamin Schwartz, the Fairfax County Health Department’s medical epidemiologist.
“We have not seen a rebound of disease associated with our community moving into phase one and two. However, the time has been limited,” Schwartz told the county’s health committee at a meeting today, adding that cases are expected to increase as health restrictions relax.
The county is using a “box it in” suppression strategy to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Efforts include intensive contact tracing in order to isolate the spread of the virus. Hiring and training for case investigators to lead contact tracing efforts are underway.
Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the health department’s director, said that COVID-19 surges in other states following reopening should “serve as a reminder that the virus has not gone away.”
“Until we develop a vaccine, we cannot return to the way things used to be,” she said, adding that residents need to “stay the course” on social distancing, wearing facial masks, and quarantining if exposed to COVID-19.
The health department launched several community testing clinics — which were targeted for specific hotspots. Herndon, which has been identified as a hotspot, had a nine percent positive test rate. Other hotspots include the Mount Vernon District and Springfield.
“We are far from over, but I do want to at least acknowledge that we have come a long way,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay.
Schwartz noted that the overwhelming impact of COVID-19 on the local Hispanic community has lessened somewhat, although significant disproportionality remains.
The county is recruiting Hispanic community health tracers and contact tracers. The department is also working with nongovernmental and county agencies to help families and individuals in quarantine.
Photo via Fairfax County Government
GNC plans to close its location at North Point Village Center after the company files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early last week.
The vitamins and supplements retailer plans to close between 800 and 1,200 stores across the country.
A company representative told Reston Now the Reston location, which is located at 1456 North Point Drive, will likely shutter its doors within the next two weeks. An exact closing date has not yet been determined.
In a June 23 letter to its customers, the company stated that the COVID-19 pandemic “created a situation where we are unable to accomplish our refinancing and the abrupt change in the operating environment has had a negative impact on our business.”
Here’s more from the letter:
As a result, we felt the best opportunity for us to continue to improve our capital structure and address certain operational issues was to restructure through a Chapter 11 reorganization. This gives us the opportunity to improve our balance sheet while continuing to advance our business strategy, right-size our corporate store portfolio, and strengthen our brands to protect the long-term sustainability of our company.
Other Virginia locations are also closing, including the stores in Vienna, Sterling, Franklin and Charlottesville.
Photo by Laura Crielly
At the Dulles Health and Rehab Center in Herndon, the COVID-19 situation appears to have taken a turn for the better.
As of earlier this week, the nursing center announced that it is now free of COVID-19. At the center, 66 residents and 20 staff members recovered from the virus.
Recent data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shed new light on the impact of COVID-19 on long-term care facilities.
Overall, nursing homes in Northern Virginia have had 903 cases of COVID-19, according to the newly released data, which provides the first comprehensive look at individual nursing homes. Several facilities have 10 deaths each.
Long-term care facilities have been hit hard by the spread of the novel coronavirus. In late April, 11 patients died from coronavirus-related complications.
The first positive case was reported on March 28.
The 166-bed facility celebrated on Tuesday, June 16, by surprising residents with banana splits and ice cream sundaes.
Photo via Dulles Health and Rehab Center
Health Alert Kit On the Way — Households in Fairfax County and the Town of Herndon will receive a COVID-19 toolkit in the mail that includes instruction on what to do if you’re sick, what to do if you’re in contact with someone who is sick, and how to talk to close contents if you are sick. [Fairfax County Government]
Attempted Robbery at Exxon in Great Falls — A man attempted to rob the Exxon gas station on 9829 Georgetown Pike in Great Falls on April 10. Police said the man left when the clerk told him there was no money. [Fairfax County Police Department]
What’s Happening Today — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will meet electronically today beginning at 1 p.m. to discuss next year’s revised budget and other coronavirus-related items. [Fairfax County Government]
Plans for Non-essential Businesses — “As the end date approaches for the Gov. Ralph Northam’s order that closed non-essential recreation and entertainment businesses, the governor plans to extend the date. Northam has not set an end date for that extension, but an announcement is expected. Wednesday.” [Patch]
Photo by Bryan Harrell/Twitter
Fellowship Square, which operates affordable housing facilities for seniors at Lake Anne Fellowship House and Hunters Woods Fellowship House, has launched a new approach to respond to the outbreak of coronavirus. The living facilities are home to residents who are identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “high risk” due to age.
“The health and safety of our residents and staff is always our primary concern. Fellowship Square is an independent living facility and therefore relies upon the cooperation of its residents in jointly combating this dissimilar virus pandemic,” said Shelley Ducker, a spokesperson for Fellowship Square.
The company is working with its property management company, S.L. Nusbaum, to implement new cleaning procedures. All non-essential activities and programs have been canceled until further notice and bus trips are limited for medical and food supply purposes online.
As part of its “aggressive and pro-active approach,” Ducker also noted that signage at all entrances requests high-risk visitors from entering the building, including those who recently traveled overseas, took a cruise, or show symptoms of illness. sanitizer and hand wipes are also available in high traffic areas. One sign reminds staff to avoid shaking hands with residents and guests to decrease the spread of germs.
“We remain on high alert and continue to monitor news and other viable sources of information,” Ducker said.
This week, Reston Hospital Center also instituted new visitation restrictions. All visitors and patients are being directed to use specific entrances for health screenings.
“Any potential symptomatic patient who arrives can be properly masked and immediately isolated to protect our colleagues and other patients,” according to Todd McGovern, the hospital’s spokesperson. “We continue to work in partnership with the local, county and state health department and the CDC and will provide updates to our hospital and medical staff as necessary.”
Photo via Fellowship House