Fairfax County’s COVID-19 inoculation efforts are about to get a major boost in the form of a new mass vaccination site that’s expected to open by the end of March.

The county is collaborating with the City of Alexandria and Inova Health Systems to convert Alexandria’s Victory Center(5001 Eisenhower Avenue) into a mass vaccination center that could accommodate thousands of people looking to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

At a press conference yesterday (Tuesday), Inova President and CEO Dr. Stephen Jones said that, depending on the availability of supplies, the planned facility could enable the healthcare system to dispense 6,000 vaccine doses per day, doubling its current rate of roughly 3,000 doses a day.

“I feel a responsibility to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” Jones said.

Once it opens, the vaccination center will serve residents of Alexandria and Fairfax County. Eligible individuals must pre-register to get in line for an appointment either through the Fairfax County Health Department or, for non-county residents, the state registration system.

According to its website, Inova is currently assisting Fairfax County with eligible adults between the ages of 65 and 74, but it has also served essential workers, including Fairfax County Public Schools teachers.

While the pace of vaccinations continues to be limited by supply availability, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says the addition of the Victory Center as a vaccination site will ensure the county and Inova can keep up as more vaccines start to come in.

According to the county’s vaccine data dashboard, Fairfax County’s latest shipment from the Virginia Department of Health included 19,220 doses for the week of March 1-7, a step up from the 13,000 doses that the county was typically getting just a few weeks ago.

As of 5:30 p.m. yesterday, there were more than 106,000 people on the FCHD waitlist. 298,332 people have registered to get a COVID-19 vaccine through the county health department, which has allocated 217,476 doses either by administering them itself or distributing them to partners like Inova.

“We were told by the [state] to expect a major increase in doses in the coming weeks,” McKay said. “We want to have the infrastructure to take care of those doses. We can’t control the dosage, but what is in our control is capacity.”

Inova chose the Victory Center in Alexandria for its mass vaccine clinic because of the building’s size and proximity to local transit facilities, including the Van Dorn Street Metro station.

The accessibility of the COVID-19 vaccine has been a top concern for Fairfax County in recent weeks, as health officials say the populations most affected by the pandemic have faced more challenges in getting vaccinated, often due to vaccine hesitancy or limited access to transportation, internet, and other services.

The county has been working to expand its partnerships with other localities, healthcare providers, and community organizations to reach different communities, though the process has not been entirely conflict-free.

McKay encourages everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine to take advantage of any chance to do so.

“This is an act of necessary charity,” McKay said. “It’s not about us, but about every person we interact with, like grocery store workers, transit workers, your children and their teachers…This gives us a convenient opportunity to do the right thing.”

Vernon Miles contributed to this report.

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Updated at 5:30 p.m. — Inova Health Systems does not conduct credit checks when people looking to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment create an account on its MyChart patient portal, a spokesperson told Tysons Reporter, Reston Now’s affiliate site.

The spokesperson clarified that Inova does an identity verfication check to ensure that patient information is accurate since the healthcare system is working off of the Fairfax County Health Department’s registration queue.

Inova also says that people have the option to upload a photo of their health insurance card, but it is not required to create a MyChart account.

“There’s nothing more important to us than vaccinating as many people as possible, but we need to make sure we’re doing so in a safe, reliable, and secure way,” Inova Chief Communications Officer Tracey Schroeder said, noting that Inova has administered a total of over 186,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots.

Inova says MyChart gives it a way to confirm patient identities and report data on COVID-19 vaccinations to the Virginia Department of Health as required by the state.

Earlier: While Fairfax County has smoothed out many of the issues that plagued the early rollout of its COVID-19 vaccine registration system, frustrations have now emerged around a key partner in the county’s vaccination efforts: the Inova Health System.

Eligible Fairfax County residents can get in line for a vaccine appointment with Inova by pre-registering through the county’s health department, but to actually schedule the appointment, the healthcare system requires that individuals create an account for its MyChart patient portal, a process that county leaders say is overly demanding in the type of information people are expected to provide.

During a health and human services committee meeting on Tuesday (Mar. 2), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors urged county staff to work with Inova to address concerns about its scheduling process, which Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said seems to be “a bit more intrusive in their questions.”

“If you go through the county, it’s a beautiful process at this point. If you go through Inova, it is very troubling,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said. “Some people are refusing to go through that process, and that just puts it back on our health department to try to figure out what to do with those people, so something needs to be done.”

To create a MyChart account, users must undergo a credit check and upload a photo of their health insurance card, which could be challenging for people who don’t have a smartphone or are inexperienced with using that technology. (Correction: Inova says that it conducts a patient identity check, not a credit check, and that the option to upload a photo of a health insurance card is not mandatory)

The sign-up form also asks for the last four digits of the applicant’s social security number, though an astrisked note clarifies that it is not required.

According to Inova, this information is requested to verify patients’ identities, and it has no impact on a person’s insurance or credit score.

“MyChart provides for a more reliable registration system and a more consistent patient/user experience,” Inova said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “Use of MyChart helps us to better manage appointments, vaccine supply, and to provide more accurate data to the Health Department. It also enables same day scheduling — which the health department’s system does not — so if there are cancellations, someone can fill that vacant slot.”

Inova says it has been modifying the registration and scheduling process based on user feedback.

“Maintaining a positive patient experience is important to us,” Inova said. “We’ve been listening to feedback and making changes to streamline the registration process while also balancing the imperative to verify patient identify and protect personal medical information.”

The Fairfax County Health Department confirmed that it is working with Inova to resolve these concerns.

Inova is currently assisting the county in vaccinating residents between the ages of 65 and 74. The healthcare system has also hosted clinics for eligible essential workers, including public school teachers and staff, and emergency first responders.

The county health department has emphasized that people should not let questions about health insurance deter them from getting vaccinated, stating that the COVID-19 vaccines are free but some providers will ask for the information in order to collect administrative fees from the insurance company.

Fairfax County leaders fear that confusion and privacy concerns stemming from the registration and scheduling process could make administering the COVID-19 vaccine more difficult.

“We are already hearing from people that proof of medical insurance or proof of residency or citizenship are being required,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said at Tuesday’s committee meeting. “Frankly, my opinion is we shouldn’t be partnering with folks who have to do that deep of a probe or else we’re building even more hesitancy problems in the future.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Monday Morning Notes

Local Podcast Explores ‘Gray Love’ — Reston resident Laura stasis is returning with the second season her podcast for people over the age of 50. The podcast is called Dating While Gray. [Reston Patch]

True Food Kitchen On Track for April Opening — The business is still on track for an April opening in Reston Town Center. It will be located at 11901 Democracy Drive. [The Burn]

Delayed Opening for Inova Vaccine Clinic — Because of yesterday’s wintry mix, Inova’s vaccination center is planning for a delayed opening today. All canceled appointments will be honored. [Inova]

School Board Approves Capital Improvement Program — The Fairfax County School Board approved the capital improvement program for FY2022-2026. The program includes partial funding for the Silver Line Elementary School. [FCPS]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Inova Health Systems has cancelled all appointments for people looking to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Starting today (Tuesday), the nonprofit healthcare provider will cease administering first doses of the Pfizer-BioTech vaccine for the foreseeable future due to a change to the Virginia Department of Health’s distribution process that has “severely diminished” supplies for Inova.

According to Inova, vaccine doses are now being sent directly to local health districts, which are responsible for allocating supplies.

“We understand and share the frustration that this news brings to our patients,” Inova said. “When we receive more supply inventory, we will first prioritize patients who had an appointment scheduled and then focus on opening further appointments up to eligible groups.”

Anyone whose appointment has been canceled will be contacted by Inova to reschedule once the needed supplies are available.

People who have already received a first dose and need a second one will be prioritized, and their appointments have not been affected, Inova says.

Inova says it has administered more than 70,000 vaccine doses to healthcare workers and select groups in phase 1b of Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, including patients aged 75 and older, emergency first responders, public safety personnel, and school employees.

Fairfax County Public Schools formed a partnership with Inova that enabled about 40,000 teachers and staff to start receiving the vaccine on Jan. 16. FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said then that all workers who wanted the vaccine should be able to get the two required doses through Inova’s clinics, which were expected to last three weeks.

“This is very disappointing news but we will continue to work with our partners from Inova and the Fairfax County Health Dept to secure vaccine for our staff as soon as we can,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a statement. “We must keep the faith.”

The changes in vaccine distribution methods will also reduce the already insufficient supply available to the Fairfax County Health Department, according to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay.

McKay explained the changes in a newsletter released last night:

The Virginia Department of Health has announced that they will only receive 105,000 vaccine doses per week from the federal government. For context, last week the Fairfax County Health Department alone received over 22,000 doses from VDH for the 168,000 residents eligible for a vaccine. This is in part due to two changes at the federal and state levels, not the County level. At the federal level, there is a nationwide shortage of COVID-19 vaccine. At the state level, unfortunately they have decided to change distribution to per capita, as opposed to the amounts County’s and hospital’s have ordered.

McKay says the county will prioritize the more than 50,000 people 75 and older who had registered to get vaccinated before Virginia expanded eligibility for phase 1b. Public safety personnel and people living in correctional facilities and homeless shelters will continue to get the vaccine through special clinics.

“It is profoundly unfortunate that despite all of our efforts at the local level that we must again ask for patience, which is frustrating for all of us,” McKay said. “I hate to have to share this news, but I also want to be transparent about the situation we are in.”

Photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools

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Inova Health System will open a new cancer screening and prevention center on its Center for Personalized Health campus in Merrifield, thanks to a $20 million donation from Reston couple Paul and Linda Saville.

Paul Saville is the president and CEO of the Reston-based home construction company NVR, Inc.

Announced on Nov. 10, the new 24,000 square-foot cancer screening center will be an expansion of the Inova Schar Cancer Institute, which opened in May 2019 and bears the name of NVR founder and Chairman Dwight Schar and his wife Martha after they donated $50 million to build it, according to the Washington Business Journal.

“We’ve all been impacted by cancer, and many of us know someone who has died from cancer due to a late diagnosis,” Paul Saville said. “We hope that many more people will have access to early detection and treatment and avoid serious disease.”

Inova says the new center made possible by the Savilles’ donation will be the first of its kind in Northern Virginia, which currently lacks a “comprehensive, multidisciplinary, organized cancer screening and prevention program.”

Expected to open in fall 2021, the center will provide screenings to detect breast, lung, prostate, bladder, pancreatic, colorectal, head and neck, skin, cervical, uterine, ovarian, and other cancers.

Preventative resources for patients who may be at high risk of developing cancer will include genetic testing, opportunities for clinical trials, and education on nutrition and exercise.

“The Savilles’ commitment to help us create a state-of-the-art early detection and prevention center is bringing us a giant step closer to becoming the leading cancer institute in our region,” Inova Health System President and CEO J. Stephen Jones said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently list cancer as the second most frequent cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease, but that appears to be based on data from 2018.

According to Inova, cancer surpassed cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death in America this year.

“By providing members of our community accessible, multidisciplinary screening and prevention services in a ‘one-stop-shop’ approach, we hope to cure more cancers by catching them early,” Schar Cancer Institute President John Deeken said. “And through programs such as smoking cessation, as well as dietary and exercise interventions, we hope to prevent more and more cancers in the years ahead.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Citizens Meet to Discuss Campus Commons Plan — Local residents gathered last night to discuss TF Cornerstone’s plan to build three new buildings at the southeast corner of Wiehle Avenue and Sunrise Valley Drive. [Reston 2020]

Donate Blood at Reston Town Center Today — INOVA’s bloodmobile will be at RTC’s pavilion from 1 to 6 p.m. today. Appointments can be scheduled online or by calling 1-866-256-6372. [Reston Town Center]

A Close Look at Algae — Reston Association’s watershed manager William Peterson dives into how algae can be hazardous and unhealthy for the ecosystem, as well as how RA tries to maintain its lakes and local watershed. [Reston Today]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Lifeguard Shortage Prompts Pool Schedule Change — RA changed the schedule of its pools over the weekend due to an unexpected shortage of lifeguards. The organization is actively hiring lifeguards for this year’s season. A job fair is set for Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at a local pool. [Reston Association]

The Washington Post Releases Endorsements for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors — The paper endorsed Walter Alcorn for the seat of Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, calling him a “formidable land-use expert.” [The Washington Post]

INOVA Blood Drive is Today — Stop by the bloodmobile truck next to the pavilion at Reston Town Center to date blood between 1 and 6 p.m. today. Registration is available online and on site. [Reston Town Center]

Explore Reston Association’s Home Inspection Process — Dive into the exterior inspection process that is required by RA before selling your home. [Reston Today]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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An Inova urgent care center is now open at 1488 North Point Village Center.

The newest Reston location is open seven days a week and offers pediatric emergency services. On-site exam rooms and x-ray and real-time interpretations by experts with the Association of Alexandria Radiologists are also offered.

The center takes up the former location of Ravel Dance Studio, which left its home of 20 years to relocate to a larger studio at 1763 Fountain Drive.

Other services include treatment for minor illness and injury, lab tests, sports physicals, and flu shots.

The center’s first day of business was on Monday (August 13).

An Inova emergency room center, which focuses primarily on emergency room services through a partnership with Inova Fairfax Hospital, is located just 1.2 miles away at 11901 Baron Cameron Avenue.

Photo by Fatimah Waseem

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Trey Taylor (center) is the new South Lakes High School football coachSouth Lakes High School football coach Trey Taylor was named the Washington Redskins Foundation’s High School Coach of the Week last week — and that was before SLHS earned another victory to improve to 8-0.

The award is given out each week by the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and Inova Sports Medicine.

The Seahawks earned their biggest victory of the season Oct. 14 with an upset over then-No. 8 Madison. South Lakes then climbed 10 spots in the Washington Post poll. The Seahawks are the No. 8 team now. The team beat Langely 42-14 on Friday.

“Coach Taylor does a great job of helping each of his players recognize their full potential,” Linda Jones, SLHS Director Student Activities, said in a release. “He encourages his players to focus on academics first and to always do the right thing.”

The Redskins and Inova highlight some of Taylor’s accomplishments on and off the field since arriving at SLHS in 2014.

Coach Taylor has used community outreach as an opportunity to advocate team building amongst his student-athletes. Coach Taylor and his players are active in the “Readers Are Leaders” program with Terreset Elementary School and assist with the Reston Youth Association’s football camps and clinics.  Players also help South Lakes custodial staff move school furniture before the start of every school year.

All South Lakes football coaches are Heads Up Football certified and emphasize the importance of proper tackling techniques to players. Taylor encourages his players to seek out the assistance of the Athletic Training staff when necessary. Additionally, he holds clinics for youth football coaches on proper techniques.

The High School Coach of the Week program is an NFL-wide initiative designed to recognize area high school football coaches who continuously demonstrate hard work and dedication to their football programs, the health and safety of their players, and who make a difference in their communities.

The Redskins Charitable Foundation has convened a panel of local high school football media experts to provide nominations of deserving high school coaches for consideration and selection.

Each coach chosen throughout the high school football season will receive a $2,000 donation from the Redskins Charitable Foundation to their football program and a framed certificate signed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden, Redskins President Bruce Allen and General Manager Scot McCloughan, as well as other giveaway items from the Redskins Charitable Foundation and Inova Sports Medicine.

Coach Trey Taylor at SLHS football practice/file photo

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