Reston, VA

COVID-19 may have put a damper on a lot of year-end festivities, but many hallmarks of this holiday season are still going strong.

There is a certain magic in getting bundled up for ice skating or sipping mulled cider (or hot toddies) at outdoor restaurants. For something spectacular, families can enjoy holiday light shows or their neighbors’ tacky Christmas lights.

All of these and more winter activities can be done in Fairfax County through January. This year, you can justify these cold weather-friendly events to your heat-loving friends even more, since the risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower outside.

Does winter hold a certain spark for you? Are you going stir-crazy at home and need places to go? Tell us below how you are taking in this season, and drop recommendations in the comments.

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Door-to-door greeting and candy distribution is a classic staple of Halloween night, but Fairfax County and health officials warn it might be one of the worst activities to do amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranked festivities as low-risk to high-risk, allowing people to gauge what level of risk they are comfortable taking when participating in the holiday.

For those that do plan to trick or treat this year, there are several precautions the CDC recommended taking, including:

  • Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Give out treats outdoors, if possible.
  • Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take.
  • Wash hands before handling treats.
  • Wear a mask.

Photo courtesy Anne B.`

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The arrival of October usually means the beginning of a month full of fall and Halloween festivities. However, in pandemic times, the seasonal celebration might look a little bit different — trick-or-treating in particular. 

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted a list of guidelines to take when planning for fall and winter holidays, including Halloween at the end of this month. Festivities were ranked low-risk to high-risk, allowing people to gauge what level of risk they are comfortable taking when participating in the holiday. 

Some low-risk Halloween ideas include carving pumpkins with family, having a virtual costume contest or holding a trick-or-treat style scavenger hunt around your home. 

One-way trick-or-treating with pre-wrapped goodie bags was recommended by the CDC as a moderate-risk activity. Traditional trick-or-treating, however, was listed as a higher-risk activity. 

Considering recommendations regarding pandemic trick-or-treating and the likelihood of children hunting for candy, will you be handing out goodies this year? Will you be doing so traditionally, modifying the candy giveaway, or skipping the activity altogether?

Photo by NeONBRAND/Unsplash

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Labor Day is almost here — and the end of pool season.

While swimming in the pool or lounging nearby are popular summer activities, the coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on swimsuit season, unless you have a private pool or know someone who does.

Fairfax County didn’t allow public indoor and outdoor swimming pools to reopen until mid-June only for lap swimming, diving, exercise and instruction.

Then when Phase 3 guidelines went into effect on July 1, public pools could allow up to 75% occupancy with 10 feet of physical distance between users who are not from the same household. Public hot tubs, spas, saunas and spray pools are still closed though.

“This guidance applies to all community pools, including those operated by apartment and condominium complexes, recreation centers, homeowner’s associations and swim clubs,” according to Fairfax County’s website.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say they don’t have evidence that the novel coronavirus can be spread in the water.

“Plus, proper operation of public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds (such as at an apartment complex or owned by a community) and disinfection of the water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate the virus,” according to the CDC.

When we asked readers in June how they felt about using public pools, roughly 40% said they wouldn’t because of COVID-19 concerns, while 36% said they would.

With Labor Day soon marking the unofficial end to summer, we want to know if you have been to the pool. Let us know in the poll below and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by Toni Cuenca/Unsplash

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Labor Day is fast approaching. And while summer may look very different this year due to COVID-19, we’re curious to know how the pandemic will impact your plans.

The federal holiday — which was first marked in the late 19th century —  is celebrated on the first Monday in September. It aims to honor the American labor movement.

Some health officials are bracing for a spike in COVID-19 cases following Labor Day weekend, as parks and other venues become popular spots for celebrations.

For some, the weekend may mark a return to a new normal.  Fairfax County Public Schools will reopen on Sept. 8 with a virtual start. Many companies are planning to reopen offices after the weekend. Other employers are in the midst of rethinking plans for the return to work, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In Herndon and Reston, staple events like the Town of Herndon’s Labor Day Festival have been canceled. But parks are still open for cookouts, along with other community gathering spaces.

Let us know what your plans for Labor Day weekend are in the poll below.

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After delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, several new films are hitting the screens at newly-reopened movie theaters.

“Tenet,” “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Bill & Ted Face The Music” are some of the films poised to hit theaters soon.

AMC Worldgate 9 in Herndon is set to reopen Thursday (Aug. 27).

Gov. Ralph Northam forced movie theaters to close in the spring, but under Phase Three, which started July 1, movie theaters can open at 50% capacity.

Let us know in the poll and comments below if you are comfortable heading to movie theaters.

Photo by Corina Rainer/Unsplash

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“Shop local” has become a popular refrain during the pandemic as small businesses struggle with the economic fall-out and health risks from the coronavirus pandemic.

Several small businesses have permanently closed during the pandemic, but many have found ways to keep their doors from shutting. Owners have said over the last few months that affluent residents, loyal customers and community support give Reston-area businesses advantages.

Fundraisers to support businesses’ operations and employees, social media efforts by residents to promote local eateries and loans and grants from the government also aim to keep small businesses alive.

Even as businesses grapple with the pandemic, many are giving back to the community. Some local restaurants are donating meals to people facing food insecurity, while others are hosting food drives.

Let us know in the poll and comments below how much you have been spending at small businesses during the pandemic.

Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos/Unsplash

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Virginia has teamed up with Google and Apple to offer a smartphone app for COVID-19 exposure alerts, making it the first state in the U.S. to use the new technology.

COVIDWISE will notify users if they’ve been in close proximity to someone with COVID-19 by using Bluetooth Low Energy. The app is meant to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

When announcing the app yesterday, Gov. Ralph Northam said the app can help catch new cases sooner, especially since the virus can spread before infected people show symptoms.

“This is another tool we can have to protect ourselves, our families and our communities,” Northam said. “This is a way we can all work together to contain this virus.”

Once someone gets an alert, Northam encourages them to self-isolate and get tested. If the test is positive, he said that users can add that information into the app, which will then alert users that the person has recently been around.

Android and iPhone users can download the app for free.

More from Google Play about how the app works:

If someone reports to the app that they tested positive, the signals from their app will search for other app users who shared that signal. The BLE signals are date-stamped and the app estimates how close the two devices were based on signal strength. If the timeframe was at least 15 minutes and the estimated distance was within six feet, then the other user receives a notification of a possible exposure. No names! No location!

The BLE framework within COVIDWISE will run in the background, even if the exposure notification app is closed. It will not drain the device battery at a rate that would occur with other apps that use normal Bluetooth and/or are open and running constantly.

“I want to be clear, this app COVIDWISE does not — I’m going to repeat that, does not — track or store your personal information,” Northam said. “It does not track you at all. It does not rely on GPS or your personal information. While we want everyone to download it, it is voluntary.”

Let Reston Now know in the poll and comments section below if you plan to download the app.

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Earlier this week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced new regional restrictions to address a surge of COVID-19 cases in Hampton Roads.

The new restrictions, which go into effect today, lower the maximum number of people allowed at gatherings, limit late-night alcohol assumption at restaurants and cut back indoor dining for restaurants.

The eastern region’s beaches and non-compliance with public health guidelines and mandates appear to be some of the factors for why the area became a coronavirus hot spot.

While the eastern portion of the state has seen a rising number of cases, Northam noted that the percent positivity rates for Northern Virginia and the western region were below the statewide rate.

“There’s been a dramatic decrease in Northern Virginia,” Northam said, about the rate.

When asked by reporters earlier this week if he would consider domestic travel restrictions, Northam said that it’s an option he’s considering. Some states are asking travelers from “high-risk” states to self-quarantine following their arrival.

Let us know in the poll and comments section below if you think Northam’s regional effort is sufficient or if he should announce statewide restrictions.

Photo via Governor of Virginia/Facebook

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Fairfax County Public Schools has reversed course and now plans to have a fully virtual start new school returns in a few weeks.

On Tuesday, the Fairfax County School Board approved the virtual start after FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said that he was worried about staff feeling comfortable returning for instruction in the classroom.

Previously, the school system was going to give parents the option to choose between fully online learning or a hybrid model with a combination of in-person and virtual learning.

In late June, the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers and Fairfax Education Association raised concerns about teachers’ safety with in-person learning during the pandemic.

In early July, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos slammed FCPS as a “disaster” and DeVos, along with President Donald Trump, said that schools must open in the fall. Yesterday, Trump said that schools may need to delay opening as COVID-19 cases rise.

When Reston Now asked readers on Monday, July 13, which option they liked, roughly 55% said they would choose fully online learning, while 30% picked the hybrid model.

Now that the school system has switched to the fully virtual option to kick off the school year, we want to know what your thoughts are. Do you agree with the school system’s decision?

Photo courtesy Dan Dennis on Unsplash

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The deadline is nearing for families to decide how they want their kids to return to Fairfax County public schools this year.

Families have until Wednesday, July 15, to complete a form indicating whether they want their kids to take fully online classes or join a hybrid model combining in-person and online learning.

Families who pick the fully online option would have four days of synchronous learning. The hybrid model would combine two days of learning in schools with asynchronous online learning.

Superintendent Scott Brabrand has said that the school system will consider adding more in-person days — not to exceed four — depending on the demand for the hybrid model.

For families who are having trouble deciding, Brabrand encourages parents to see how their kids react to wearing a face covering for six hours — the amount of time they would need to wear it while at school.

No matter which option parents pick, students will return to the county’s public schools on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Let us know in the poll below what your preference is for students returning to school this fall.

Photo via Element5 Digital/Unsplash

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Several local fireworks and festivities for Independence Day have been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Town of Herndon has already called off its fireworks display. Fireworks are still set to take place in D.C., though.

Fairfax County has advice for using fireworks safely and determining which are illegal and legal.

Let us know in the poll below what you plan to do for the Fourth of July.

Photo by Sheri Hooley on Unsplash

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People who have missed hitting the gym for the last few months are seeing options reopen.

Fitness centers are allowed to open indoor spaces at 30% occupancy under Phase Two, which Northern Virginia entered June 12. Several studios in the Reston area started offering outdoor classes earlier this month.

Fairfax County offers indoor and outdoor public swimming only for lap swimming, diving, exercise and instruction. Public pools, including community pools, are not allowed to open for recreational use.

When Virginia enters Phase Three, Gov. Ralph Northam said that pools and gyms may open at 75% capacity. The date for when Virginia will enter that phase has not been announced yet.

Just because pools and gyms can open in limited capacities doesn’t mean that they will. Some gyms, like 24 Hour Fitness in Tysons, won’t reopen at all.

We want to know how you feel about going back to the gym during the pandemic. Let us know in the poll below.

Photo by Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash

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COVID-19 prompted restrictions on personal grooming services for two months. Now with Virginia progressing with its phased reopening plan, people can get their hair cut or nails done professionally.

Today, Fairfax County entered the second phase of the reopening plan. Personal grooming services that have reopened are still by appointment-only under the Phase Two guidelines.

Personal care services were first allowed to reopen in the county on May 29. Currently, customers and employees must wear face coverings, and the businesses are limited to 50% capacity.

Let us know in the poll below if you’ve been to a salon, barber, spa, tanning salon and/or tattoo shop since the rollback started on the COVID-19 restrictions. If you have any interesting stories about haircuts at home, let us know in the comments section.

Photo by Mostafa Meraji/Unsplash

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As Northern Virginia reopens under phase one, people are beginning to visit public places like restaurants and shops again.

While Gov. Ralph Northam and health directors in Northern Virginia say that COVID-19 trends are going in the right direction, the Centers for Disease Control and the Virginia Department of Public Health warn that there is still a risk for community transmission of the virus.

For animals, though, the CDC issued a statement saying that the likelihood of catching the disease from a pet is very low. Still, people may feel hesitant to interact with other people or pets.

Currently, county-run dog parks are closed, according to the Fairfax County Park Authority.

As COVID-19 restrictions get rolled back, Reston Now would like to know how our readers feel about bringing fido to the local dog park. Let us know in the poll below and feel free to leave a comment.

Photo by Jonathan Slater on 

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