More than 40 percent of Fairfax County’s population can now receive the COVID-19 vaccine following Gov. Ralph Northam’s expansion of eligibility requirements.
Now, people age 65 and above and people between the ages of 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions to a disability can register to receive the vaccine as part of phase 1b. Prior to Northam’s announcement yesterday, these groups were part of the next phase of the vaccine’s administration.
But county officials it may take months to get through phase 1b, which prioritizes people age 75 and above and essential frontline workers like school staff, police, and grocery store workers.
“The availability to schedule appointments will depend on the supply of vaccine available,” the county wrote in a statement yesterday. “The vaccine supply in the U.S. is still very limited and is expected to increase gradually over the next months.“
Although it may take weeks before vaccines are formally administered, the Fairfax County Health Department will begin registering individuals in the newly-eligible group on Jan. 18.
Northam expects all Virginians to be vaccinated by the middle of the summer.
“This means about half of Virginia is now eligible to receive the vaccine. That’s a major logistical effort, and it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.
So far, the state has received 943,000 doses of the vaccine and administered roughly 242,000 doses. On average, the state is administering 12,000 doses daily — far from the governor’s long-term goal of 50,000 doses. Overall, the state is receiving 110,000 doses of the vaccine per week.
Northam is also encouraging schools to reopen, noting that six months of data from schools around the state suggests that school can reopen if appropriate safety protocols are in place. The newly-released guidance creates a five-step program to guide decision making on reopening.
The county plans to launch an online form to register for the vaccine today via its vaccine webpage. Residents should be able to schedule a time themselves based on eligibility, availability of appointments, and vaccine interview, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.
The health department previously launched a pre-screening form on Monday to allow people to pre-register for the vaccine. Residents can also call the county’s vaccine hotline at 703-324-7404 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. and on weekends between 9;30 a.m. and 5 p.m. The department will contact individuals who complete the pre-screening form depending on vaccine supply and appointment availability.
Demand for the vaccine flooded the county’s call lines on Monday, prompting local elected officials to encourage the county to improve its communications strategy.
Meanwhile, Walgreens is offering rapid antigen testing across select locations in the state. The new partnership with the Virginia Department of Health, which was announced yesterday, allows adults and children age three and above to receive a test. Walgreen’s testing site is located in Centreville at 13926 Lee Highway.
At a virtual town hall on Wednesday night (Jan 6), Fairfax County Health Department Director Gloria Addo-Ayensu answered a number of questions about COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
Most of the inquiries revolved around the timeline of the different phases and when certain groupings of people will be eligible to get the vaccine.
Right now, the county – like other neighboring localities – remains in phase 1a of distribution, meaning that frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities are the only ones currently eligible. This covers about 75,000 county residents in total.
In total, so far, Addo-Ayensu says that about half of those eligible in the county have been vaccinated so far.
Vaccinations are being done by the health department, Reston Hospital Center, INOVA hospitals, and at the long-term care facilities in partnership with CVS and Walgreen pharmacies.
But there have been challenges already in getting the vaccine.
For those not affiliated with a hospital, getting a vaccine requires making an appointment with the county by calling the health department. But residents have described being on hold for hours.
“We have a call system that’s been completely overwhelmed, people weren’t just getting through,” said Addo-Ayensu. “That’s just very unfortunate… We really do apologize for that inconvenience.”
She said that the county is working to fix this and starting on Monday (Jan 11), there’ll be an online system in place where folks can go to start the process of booking an appointment.
These complications are not unique to Fairfax County.
At a press conference on Wednesday (Jan 6), Virginia Governor Ralph Northam acknowledged that the state could be going faster in administering vaccines.
It’s unclear at this moment when, says Addo-Ayensu, when the county will move to phase 1b, which includes residents over the age of 75 and frontline essential workers.
“I don’t have an exact date of 1b, but I can say it’s going to happen very soon,” said Addo-Ayensu. “We haven’t gotten the green light to start vaccinating phase 1b just yet.”
When that does happen, though, it will be a very large effort.
More than 1.2 million Virginia residents are theoretically eligible for the vaccine in phase 1b, Addo-Ayensu said. Fairfax County is about 1/7th the population of the commonwealth, so quick math shows that about 171, 500 county residents could be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in phase 1b.
Then, there’s 1c which includes residents over 65, those with high-risk medical conditions, and remaining essential workers.
As for a timeline, it all depends on vaccine supply – which is being filtered down from the federal government to the state to the county.
“If we have sufficient vaccine… we could be going through 1a and 1b [in] March. And in spring, looking to do 1c and moving into the summer, doing the general public.”
Another important note is that, at this point, children are not being vaccinated due to the lack of data and studies.
Overall, Addo-Ayensu admits it’s going to be a challenge to provide all 1.17 million Fairfax County residents a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible.
“That’s quite a heavy lift,” she said.
COVID-19 Means Big Growth for Reston Company — “A virtual care startup working to help doctors manage telehealth is raising its first funding round to build up its team and expand its reach, after breaking out of stealth mode and into an explosive growth year fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.” [Washington Business Journal]
Northam: ‘Virginia Will Be There’ — In a recent press release, Northam says, “I continue to pray for the safety of every member of the House and Senate, all the staff, the journalists, everyone who works in the Capitol. And I commend the Virginia National Guard and Virginia State Police for quickly stepping up in this time of great need. Let me be clear: Virginia will be there for as long as it takes to protect our nation’s capital and ensure the peaceful transfer of power.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]
Reston Firm Sells Off Division — Reston-based civil engineering and surveying firm Wiles Mensch Corp. announced Tuesday that it has sold off its federal projects division, which now operates as an independent. [Virginia Business]
State Considers Speeding Up Vaccinations — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced new actions to support the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution program and accelerate the pace of vaccinations across Virginia.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]
Photo by vantagehill/Flickr
New COVID-19 Measures Go Into Effect on Monday — Gov. Ralph Northam’s latest executive orders calls on all residents to stay home from midnight to 5 a.m., imposes a universal mask requirement, and lowers the limit on social gatherings to 10 people. [Fairfax County Government]
Leidos to Buy Company for $215 Million — “Leidos Holdings Inc. (NYSE: LDOS) jumped back into the mergers and acquisition market late Thursday, acquiring 1901 Group in a $215 million cash on hand deal. The deal would shift the Reston-based managed information technology services and cloud solutions provider into Leidos’ defense business segment.” [Washington Business Journal]
Performance Comes to Reston Community Center with No Audience — “The Ravel Dance Studio will take the stage at the Reston Community CenterStage December 12th without an audience. They will be filming their Nutcracker Ballet and although the production will not be open to the public the school and their students are thrilled to be able to keep this holiday tradition alive.” [Reston Patch]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Reston Woman Brightens Sister’s Holiday Season — “Carolina Oneill’s sister, Jess, was furloughed due to the coronavirus pandemic back in March. Although Jess was receiving unemployment insurance, it was cut off in October.” [Reston Patch]
A Peek Inside Made in Fairfax Manufacturers — “The Made in Fairfax Directory provides an opportunity for residents and supporters to connect directly with Fairfax County makers. Please note that listing in this directory is not an endorsement of businesses or products, and is provided for informational purposes only.” [Fairfax County Government]
Northam Expected to Announce New COVID-19 Restrictions — “Virginia’s Governor is expected to announce tighter COVID-19 restrictions following a record-setting day for new coronavirus cases. Gov. Ralph Northam hasn’t detailed yet what the restrictions will be but says ‘mitigation measures will be nuanced and in-line with our targeted, data-driven response.'” [NBC4]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Reston Historic Trust & Museum has received a $10,000 state grant to help boost local tourism efforts. The grant, which requires a local match of state funds, was awarded through the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Recovery Marketing Leverage program, which has awarded nearly $2 million in matching grant funds to dozens of local tourism initiatives.
Here’s from the RHT on the grant award:
Reston Historic Trust & Museum will use the VTC Recovery Marketing Leverage grant funds to promote the Reston Museum and Reston as a day trip destination through advertising throughout the Washington DC Metro Area. Reston Historic Trust & Museum will be partnering with Reston Association and Public Art Reston to create a tour packet that will be handed out at the museum to include brochures, local event calendar, trail and art maps, and much more so visitors can learn about Reston’s unique history as a forward thinking planned community and enjoy all the wonderful amenities and activities that Reston offers.
Gov. Ralph Northam said that it is critical for the state to invest in the local tourism industry.
“These funds give localities and businesses access to critical marketing resources that will help bring more travelers to our Commonwealth, increase visitor spending, and grow demand for Virginia products.”
Fairfax County Public Schools has decided to delay bringing more students back into in-person learning due to rising COVID-19 cases — a decision made after previously stating they would prepare to bring back 6,800 students on Nov. 17.
A Return To School Town Hall will be taking place on Thursday, Nov. 19 to discuss the decision and next steps. The town hall will take place virtually on the FCPS website from 6-7 p.m. Participants can submit questions to [email protected] or call in to 1-800-231-6359.
The Fairfax Education Association, alongside other Northern Virginia education associations, has urged Gov. Ralph Northam to fully return to virtual learning. The association also wrote a letter to FCPS on Nov. 12 demanding virtual learning.
Do you believe trying to maintain the current hybrid learning is the right decision? Or do you believe FCPS should return to a virtual model? Was delaying the return of students the wrong call?
Photo via the FCPS website
Reston Company Charges Up — “Reston, Virginia-based Electrify America said it has more than 500 electric vehicle charging stations now open across the U.S., with a total of more than 2,200 individual fast chargers. Electrify America began building its nationwide network of EV charging stations in 2018 to address the range anxiety many EV drivers experience when venturing too far from work or home.” [WTOP]
Northam Says Rising COVID-19 Cases Are ‘Concerning’ — “Northam said there were 1,435 new cases of the novel coronavirus detected Monday, continuing a daily trend upward that’s been going on for weeks. He added that the test positivity rate, which had been down below 5% a few weeks ago, was up to 6.2% — a key indicator of how reliable the other numbers are.” [WTOP]
Clearview ES Adds Winter Coat Drive to Giving Program — “Clearview Elementary and the Clearview PTA are teaming up once again to bring joy to the school’s community as part of its annual Joy of Giving Program. The school will distribute winter coats, hats, gloves, gift cards, and Thanksgiving food baskets to Clearview families in need.” [Reston Patch]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
The Virginia High School League is currently working with the governor’s office to potentially get a waiver that would let public school students compete in sports starting on Dec. 7, even if the state remains in Phase 3 of its reopening plan.
Signs point to Virginia public schools “likely” getting permission to proceed with a truncated winter sports season, Fairfax County Public Schools student activities and athletics director Bill Curran said in a virtual town hall on student athletics hosted by Hunter Mill District School Board representative Melanie Meren on Wednesday (Oct. 28).
“VHSL has worked very closely with the Virginia Department of Health and governor’s office with regard to opening back up and what guidance and changes would need to be made so we can have high school sports on Dec. 7,” Curran said.
Virginia has been in the third phase of Gov. Ralph Northam’s Forward Virginia plan for guiding the Commonwealth through the COVID-19 pandemic since July 1.
Under Phase 3, both indoor and outdoor recreational sports are limited to 250 people, including players, staff, and spectators. Those individuals are also expected to maintain 10 feet of physical distance “where practicable.”
As it is now written, Phase 3 “basically does not allow for high school sports” beyond optional workouts for individual teams, Curran says.
As the nonprofit that serves as Virginia’s governing body for student athletics and activities, the VHSL has spent the past several months developing guidelines that it hopes would enable high school sports to resume this winter with Phase 3 restrictions in place.
After voting on July 27 to delay all sports and activities until mid-December, the VHSL executive committee unanimously agreed on Sept. 17 to adopt a condensed schedule with winter, fall, and spring sports.
The proposed “Championships + 1” Condensed Interscholastic Plan would generally unfold as follows:
- Dec. 7-Feb. 20: winter sports, including basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swim and dive, wrestling
- Feb. 4-May 1: fall sports, including football, volleyball, golf, field hockey, cross country, and competitive cheerleading
- Apr. 12-June 26: spring sports, including baseball, softball, tennis, lacrosse, soccer, and track and field
“I know how important it is for kids to be active,” Meren said. “Sports can be a gateway to scholarships, academics, and careers.”
Moreover, there are potential equity concerns when public schools are abstaining from athletic competitions, but private youth and club sports have continued to operate. Curran says those leagues obtained waivers to proceed, while the VHSL has opted for a more cautious approach.
If high school sports do return this winter, FCPS is currently operating under the assumption that there will not be any spectators, at least initially, though a plan to live-stream competitions is in the works, according to Curran.
Curran says that students and staff have been consistently following health protocols during the limited workouts that FCPS has been conducting since June, and there have been no reports of COVID-19 spread between athletes so far.
However, limited resources mean that FCPS will not be able to test athletes on a daily basis like professional and even college sports have been doing, and while a single COVID-19 case might just affect one player or team, a serious outbreak could jeopardize entire seasons.
Staffing shortages could also present a challenge, with only 70 percent of officiators expected to be available for the upcoming basketball season, according to Westfield High School student activities director Terri Towle, one of two FCPS workers on the VHSL executive committee.
Even if VHSL gets approval to go ahead with its planned schedule, the ultimate decision about whether to engage in sports will lie with individual students, parents, and school divisions.
Towle says that two jurisdictions in Virginia have already notified VHSL that their schools will not participate in winter sports.
“There are going to be certain things out of our control depending on how things go across the county, across the state, across the country,” Towle said. “We’re working toward the goal of as many student athletes playing as possible.”
Photo via Fairfax County Park Authority
With more than two months remaining in 2020, I can already say that it has been an amazing year in Virginia’s history. When the events of 2020 in the Commonwealth are reviewed in the future by historians in the context of the state’s history, the conclusion is going to be that Virginia underwent a consequential and transformative period equal to or superior to any other period of its history. For a state that is so rich with history I realize that might seem like an overstatement, but I believe my conclusion is fully supported by the facts.
I am not talking about surviving the COVID-19 pandemic or enduring what is likely to be called the absolute worst presidency in the history of the country, as important as both these situations are. I am talking about what went on with the Virginia General Assembly and its future impact on the state.
The year opened with a regular General Assembly session with many new faces from the 2019 elections. Never has there been a House of Delegates that was younger with more racial and sexual diversity. A Jewish woman took over the reins of power in the House of Delegates. More women and Blacks became committee chairs than ever before. And there was a determination to deal with unresolved issues that had plagued the state for decades and in some instances for centuries. The Governor was clearly on board to lead such a session.
Gun safety measures that had been talked about for years even as gun violence and mass murders had increased were enacted and signed by the Governor. Some had suggested for years that terrible things would happen if all gun transfers required a universal background check, but that system is now in place as a result of a bill I introduced that passed and was signed by the Governor. The more than 22,000 gun advocates most of whom were armed that assembled around the Capitol did not deter the Assembly from doing what it knew had to be done.
Non-discrimination legislation passed with the Virginia Values Act being one of the most comprehensive in the nation. Voting laws were changed to make voting easier and more accessible as voters are now learning as they cast their votes in this election. Many Jim Crow-era laws were repealed.
The special session called to deal with budgetary and other issues related to the pandemic built on the successes of the regular session with a pivot to criminal justice and policing reform. Civilian review boards have been empowered to investigate police-related complaints. Chokeholds were essentially eliminated as were rubber bullets and military-type equipment in local policing. Traffic stops for minor offenses–a big part of racial profiling–are now banned. Jury sentencing has been eliminated in what some are describing the most significant criminal justice reform. And there is even more that I will detail in future reviews.
Benjamin Franklin was asked at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention what kind of government we have. He responded, “A republic, if we can keep it.” In Virginia, we can say that we now have one of the most progressive governments in the country. To keep it, however, will require future vigilance and work. Many of the advances I celebrate here will become the stuff of future political campaigns where bigotry and fear will be used to try to turn the state back.
Until the early 1970s the Virginia General Assembly met every other year in the even-numbered years. For the very conservative state that it was, every other year was deemed adequate to limit the power of government. With all the changes that had occurred in the world with wars, growing and competitive economies among nations and states, and increased expectations from the citizenry particularly for more educational programs, Virginians approved a Constitutional amendment in 1971 that added a “short” session in the odd-numbered years, so called because it is 45 days in contrast to the regular session that is 60 days. In the 1980s another Constitutional amendment added a “reconvened” session each year after the regular session to deal with the governor’s amendments to legislation. This happened because the state became more competitive between the major political parties, and the party controlling the General Assembly could no longer be counted as controlling the governorship as well.
In any year, the governor has the constitutional power as does the General Assembly to call a “special” session to deal with unique needs. Although the regular “long” session held this year along with its reconvened session were considered among the most productive ever there was general agreement among political leadership and the active community at large that a special session would be needed. As the Commonwealth faced the devastation of an international pandemic, a crashing economy as great as the Great Depression, and social unrest that demanded that issues overlooked or delayed for decades had to be faced, a Special Session was called by the Governor.
In his proclamation of July 17, 2020 calling the General Assembly into Special Session, Governor Ralph Northam stated its objectives as being “for the purpose of adopting a budget based on the revised revenue forecast and consideration of legislation related to the emergency of COVID-19 and criminal and social justice reforms.” Never has a Special Session of the past had such broad intent with any one of the purposes being more than adequate to have the legislature’s attention.
The session is special also in that the General Assembly for the first time in its history is meeting virtually. The Senate has some social-distanced meetings at the Science Museum, but as a House member I meet almost daily in virtual meetings of committees on which I serve and every several days with the entire 100-member House. I have a single-purpose secure electronic device that permits me to cast my votes electronically.
The Special Session must grapple with a $2.7 billion shortfall in revenue as a result of the tanking of the economy. The Governor’s proposals that leave more than a billion dollars in a “rainy-day” fund require close scrutiny.
Finally, the most important “special” feature of this session is that issues related to fairness and safety in voting and police and criminal justice reform are being addressed. In a future column I will enumerate these special bills as they are passed by the House and Senate and signed by the Governor. I am proud to represent my constituents in such an historic and special Special Session!
A temporary statewide moratorium on eviction proceedings will remain in effect from this week through Sept. 7, according to a Virginia Supreme Court Order.
The move comes amid an ongoing Congressional stalemate over the next economic relief package.
In a statement on Monday (Aug. 10) Gov. Ralph Northam said the decision is necessary to ensure all Virginians maintain “safe, stable housing” as the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic continues. He hopes to work with the Commonwealth’s General Assembly this month to craft more permanent legislative protections for homeowners and tenants.
So far, the state has pumped $50 million via the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) specifically for households facing eviction or foreclosure due to the pandemic. A number of county-based resources to navigate the issue are also available online.
The end of the federal moratorium on evictions, which expired last month, and the lapsing of the $600 weekly boost to unemployment benefits, has left many renters in peril.
Roughly 27 percent of adults in the country missed their rent or mortgage payment in July, according to a nationwide survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. Roughly 34 percent of renters said they were unsure how they would make their August payments.
Given this economic backdrop, do you think Northam should further extend the temporary ban on eviction proceedings? Let us know in the comments below. Also, we’d love to hear from readers on their experiences with paying rent, mortgages, and interactions with landlords.
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
A Halt on Evictions in Virginia — Gov. Ralph Northam has granted a temporary statewide eviction moratorium through Sept. 7. Northam requested this moratorium in a letter to Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Lemons on July 24. [Commonwealth of Virginia]
Goodbye to K-9 Jake — The K9 for the Herndon Police Department crossed the rainbow bridge last week. He served the residents of Herndon from 2010 until his retirement in 2016. [Herndon Police Department]
New Portal for Community Partners — “A new partner portal has been launched for local community leaders and organizations with shareable information about COVID-19 safety curated according to health messages. Users can grab-and-go with text and video content, visuals, flyers and other materials.”[Fairfax County Government]
Photo by Marjorie Copson
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.
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.