County to Enter Phase Three Tomorrow — As health metrics continue to stabilize, the county will move into phase three along with the rest of the state beginning tomorrow. Social gatherings of up to 250 people will be allowed. New guidelines also end the cap on the number of customers allowed inside non-essential retail stores, restaurants and bars. Face coverings are still required inside public places. [Fairfax County Government]
Trio of Business Burglaries Reported — Three businesses were burglarized over the weekend. Two were located at the 2300 block of Hunters Woods Plaza while the third was located at 11800 block of Baron Cameron Avenue. All incidents are under investigation. [Fairfax County Police Department]
State Court Upholds Face Mask Requirement — “A winery’s challenge against Gov. Ralph Northam and State Health Commissioner Norm Oliver’s face mask requirement has not succeeded in court. Fauquier County’s Philip Carter Winery and its owner filed suit earlier in June challenging executive order 63, which took effect on May 29. The executive order applies to indoor public places, including food and beverage establishments. There are exemptions for individuals eating and drinking, among other reasons.” [Reston Patch]
Feedback Sought on Title VI Program — The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is seeking feedback on its Title VI program, which aims to ensure equitable distribution of transit services. Comments on the updated policy will be accepted through July 31. [Fairfax County Government]
Last Day to Vote for Thoreau’s Ensemble — Today is the last day to vote for Thoreau’s Ensemble, which is up for an international art award. The artwork, designed by Philadelphia-based artist Ben Volta, is located at the Colts Neck Underpass. [CODAwards]
Photo by Marjorie Copson
Gov. Ralph Northam announced today that Virginia is on track to enter Phase Three next Wednesday (July 1).
“That gives us about three and a half weeks in Phase Two, where we have been able to follow the data,” Northam said, adding that he wants people to keep wearing masks and follow guidelines to avoid recent spikes on other states.
During his press conference today, Northam and state health department officials said that Virginia is seeing a decline in cases and hospitalizations.
Phase Three guidelines will:
- allow social gatherings with groups of 250 or less
- lift the restrictions on non-essential retail stores
- allow fitness centers and pools to open at 75% capacity
- reopen child care facilities
Still, things such as overnight summer camps for kids will not be allowed, Northam said. Northam said that the “safer at home” recommendation is still in place for people who are immunocompromised, and remote work is encouraged.
Other changes include public access to online data from nursing homes and long term care facilities throughout the state, according to Northam. This data includes the number of cases and number of deaths, one of Northam’s advisers said.
“Now that there are more cases in the facilities, we can release the information without compromising the confidentiality,” he said.
To track and limit the spread of COVID-19 in care facilities, Northam also announced that $56 million will be available for testing of both residents and care-takers.
Image via Facebook Live
During his press conference yesterday, Gov. Ralph Northam outlined the plans for Phase Three of easing COVID-19 restrictions in Virginia.
While Northam said that the statewide numbers “are trending in a positive direction,” the date to enter Phase Three has not been determined yet. The earliest date under consideration is next Friday, June 26, he said.
“People need and they deserve to be able to plan, so I want Virginians to see what Phase Three will generally look like,” Northam said. Northern Virginia entered Phase Two last Friday, June 12.
Here’s what Phase Three may look like, according to Northam:
- fitness centers/gyms may open at 75% capacity
- pools may open at 75% capacity with physical distancing
- childcare services may open
- social gatherings may include up to 250 people
The cap on the capacity for non-essential retail, restaurants and beverage services will be lifted, but physical distancing will still be required.
Meanwhile, entertainment venues like zoos, museums and other outdoor venues may open at 50% capacity with a maximum of 1,000 people.
Just like in Phase Two, the safer at home and teleworking recommendations will still be in place, Northam said, adding that face coverings will still be required in indoor public spaces.
“Studies increasingly show how effective face coverings can be to reduce the spread of this virus, but we all need to wear them and wear them properly,” Northam said. “This is easy to do.”
Personal grooming services and recreational sports will still need to follow physical distancing and overnight summer camps must remain closed.
“We are going to be cautious and careful and watch the data for a little while longer before we move forward,” Northam said, noting that other states have seen surges after easing COVID-19 restrictions “prematurely.”
Instead of his usual press briefings in Richmond, Gov. Ralph Northam headed to Fairfax County to address the coronavirus pandemic’s racial disparities in Virginia.
Surrounded by state and local elected officials, Northam held a bilingual press briefing at the Fairfax County Government Center today (Thursday) to talk about the disproportionate impacts of the virus on Black and Hispanic communities.
Northam said that 45% of the COVID-19 cases and 35% of the resulting hospitalizations affect the Hispanic and Latino communities, even though they account for approximately 10% of Virginia’s population.
The concern is not new. For the last several months, Fairfax County’s Hispanic population has been hit hard by COVID-19. Local officials working to address the growing racial disparity say the county needs more testing and increased outreach to vulnerable communities.
“Everyone, everyone in Virginia deserves to have access to testing and access to care,” Northam said.
Jeff McKay, the chairman of Fairfax County’s Board of Supervisors, highlighted that the county has seen more than 69,000 PCR testing encounters so far — the highest in Virginia.
The county is now shifting to community testing sites and is continuing to hire contact tracers, who “reflect the demographics of the populations they are serving,” McKay said.
McKay also pointed to other county resources, like a list of COVID-19 testing sites and the multi-lingual call center (703-222-0880) to connect residents to housing, food, financial assistance and more.
“Our board feels strongly that the disproportionality of this pandemic affects all of our residents in this county,” McKay said.
“I hope that this will help set a new tone of trust and support with our Latino communities,” Northam said about Prince William County’s decision.
Northam also addressed the current and future plans for rolling back more COVID-19 restrictions.
While Virginia’s COVID-19 data are “trending in a positive direction,” the state will not enter Phase Three this week, he said. He did, though, unveil what that phase will look like.
Phase Three includes:
- safer at home recommendation
- encourage teleworking
- face coverings required in indoor public spaces
- social gatherings may include up to 250 people
- cap on non-essential retail lifted
“Just because there are more places to go does not mean you need to go there,” Northam said. “The virus has not gone anywhere. We are adapting our lives around it, but it has not changed.”
Northam said that health officials need more time to evaluate the COVID-19 data. Next Friday, June 26, is the earliest date under consideration for Virginia to enter Phase Three, he said.
“We want to make sure that we are inclusive,” Northam said in response to why he chose to hold his press briefing in Northern Virginia instead of Richmond, adding that he met with local leaders before the press briefing.
Image via Facebook
Fairfax County government offices will be closed tomorrow (Friday) due to Juneteenth.
The move comes after Gov. Ralph Northam declared Juneteenth a state holiday earlier this week.
Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when Texas, the last of the former Confederate states, finally heard the Civil War ended and that the Emancipation Proclamation had made slaves free nearly two years earlier. It is formally considered the official commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States.
Although the state has marked Juneteenth via proclamation, the date has not been previously declared a state holiday.
“Fairfax County is moving forward and our holidays must reflect that. I am committed to our values that include a diverse, inclusive and equitable society.,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay. “I asked that the County Executive commemorate Juneteenth because that commitment requires listening to diverse voices and acknowledging the shared history of all Americans.”
All government offices will be closed. But employees who staff essential around-the-clock county operations will work as scheduled, including public safety and trash collection.
Here’s more from Northam’s statement:
“Since 1619, when representative democracy and enslaved African people arrived in Virginia within a month of each other, we have said one thing, but done another. It’s time we elevate Juneteenth not just as a celebration by and for some Virginians, but one acknowledged and commemorated by all of us. It mattered then because it marked the end of slavery in this country, and it matters now because it says to Black communities, this is not just your history–this is everyone’s shared history, and we will celebrate it together. This is a step toward the Commonwealth we want to be as we go forward.”
Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill also encouraged residents to reflect on this day and take actions to “promote the unity we embrace here in Fairfax County.”
Reston Association to Host Meetings Today — The association’s fiscal committee will meet today (Wednesday) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and its covenants committee will meet from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Both meetings will take place via Zoom and are open to RA members. [Reston Association]
New COVID-19 Case Count Dips — The number of new cases reported per day is decreasing in the Fairfax Health District. As of yesterday, 13 new cases were reported. More than 440 people have died from the respiratory illness. [Fairfax County Government]
Juneteenth May Become State Holiday — “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said Tuesday that he will support legislation to make Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery, a state holiday in Virginia. He gave executive branch state employees the day off Friday — June 19 — in recognition of the event. On that date in 1865, federal troops told enslaved people in Texas they had been freed, more than two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.” [Washington Post]
Photo via Marjorie Copson
Local public health officials are preparing for a possible spike in COVID-19 cases as Northern Virginia begins the first full-week of Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan.
As a result, Fairfax County officials are hiring up to 400 staff to support contact tracing efforts and offer increased testing in areas where tests are needed.
The county has the largest number of cases of any Virginia jurisdiction. As of today (Tuesday), the county has 11,426 confirmed cases and a little over 400 deaths, according to state data. Overall, the rate of COVID-19’s spread has slowed as the number of new weekly cases reported decreases.
At a meeting with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors today (Tuesday), Ben Schwartz, the county’s director of epidemiology and population health, said that the actual number of cases is much higher due to limited testing.
Models produced by the University of Virginia show that roughly six percent of the county’s population could have COVID-19. Some individuals may be asymptomatic.
The county also plans to encourage more people to get tested at several health sites across the county. So far, testing capacity is underutilized, according to health department director Gloria Addo-Ayensu.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn also encouraged the county’s health department to expand testing as much as possible in vulnerable communities.
Others noted that testing sites should be targeted to communities in need instead of publicizing testing events broadly. A testing clinic over the weekend in Bailey’s Crossroads was overwhelmed with requests for tests, resulting in major traffic backups.
Addo-Ayensu said the county will no longer accept state assistance that was used to set up the testing clinic. Instead, the county will focus on smaller testing clinics that reach specific areas only using a mobile clinic. She said she was unaware that Northam would announce the recent testing clinic at a press conference, resulting in a media frenzy.
The county plans to offer more hyperlocal testing in areas where it is most needed.
Overall, the course of the pandemic in the county is unclear.
Whether or not another wave occurs depends on several factors, including adherence to social distancing guidelines, the impact of summer heat and humidity on the virus, and how quickly the state reopens, Schwartz said.
Herndon was also identified as a hotspot for transmission, according to the county’s health department.
Photo via Unplash
The COVID-19 dining experience in Fairfax County will change tomorrow as more parking lots and other outdoor spaces in Fairfax County could be used for dining and exercise under certain conditions.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors will consider the plan at an emergency session at 3 p.m. today (Thursday). Typically, approvals for outdoor dining and fitness activities require a range of applications for approval. If the county approves the emergency ordinance today, businesses would automatically be able to pursue outdoor dining and exercise activities.
The county will begun easing COVID-19 restrictions businesses tomorrow (Friday). Gov. Ralph Northam’s order limits phase one to specific activities. For example, restaurants can only operate at 50 percent of their interior capacity.
Here’s more from the proposal:
With the impending expiration of Phase Zero in Northern Virginia, the County 2 needs to be prepared for Phase One. Under current County ordinances and 3 regulations, business owners would typically be required to pursue a range of 4 applications to allow outdoor dining and outdoor fitness and exercise activities. 5 In the midst of the COVID-19 emergency, the cost and time to meet such 6 requirements would compound the stress on economically challenged 7 businesses, hinder the opportunity presented by Phase One to revitalize the 8 County’s economy, and likely result in a continued de facto closure of such 9 businesses. At the same time, processing and deciding such a multitude of 10 applications on an urgent basis would be virtually impossible for the County 11 government and would consume extraordinary amounts of time and attention on 12 the part of the County’s staff and its deliberative bodies, at a time when they are 13 also strained by the emergency. These factors, separately and collectively, 14 threaten the County’s continuity in government.
Conditions for outdoor dining include, but are not limited to:
- No outdoor entertainment activities
- Outdoor area must be kept free of trash and debris
- Temporary tents must be open on all sides and less than 900 square feet in size
- All tables, chairs and other items must be removable and in good “appearance and repair”
- Adequate parking must be available for on-site users
- Parking designated for individuals with disabilities must be maintained
- The location cannot obstruct sidewalks, travel ways, fire lanes, any building entrance or exit, or interfere with street access for fire department response
The ordinance will not go into effect in the Town of Herndon until the Herndon Town Council approves the emergency ordinance.
The neighborhood immediately around the Innovation Center Metro Station in Herndon could look drastically different once the Silver Line extension begins running.
Origami Capital Partners LLC and Timberline Real Estate Partners have a major redevelopment plan in the works for the Center for Innovative Technology campus, a 26-acre property in Herndon.
The companies bought the campus — which was once under consideration for Amazon’s second headquarters — for $47 million. Gov. Ralph Northam made the announcement earlier this month.
Currently, the property, which is near the Innovation Center Metro Station, includes a seven-story tower and three-story building, including the CIT, a publicly-funded corporation.
Origami is planning an “Innovation Station” that would include five residential buildings, a hotel, an entertainment facility and retail, in addition to existing office space.
Renderings submitted to the state describe the new district as a “mixed-use hub” with “bucolic urbanism” and a “connected lifestyle,” according to an application received by Reston Now.
Plans also include a central green park, a technology hub, a retail village, and a grand food hall.
Fairfax County announced today (Wednesday) that it will start rolling back some COVID-19 restrictions on Friday (May 29).
The announcement follows Gov. Ralph Northam saying yesterday (Tuesday) that Northern Virginia localities are ready to join the rest of the state with the first reopening phase.
“The Forward Virginia plan provides guidelines that all businesses must follow in the first phase but eases previous restrictions on restaurants, fitness facilities, barbers and beauty salons, other retail businesses and houses of worship,” according to the county.
Here’s what will happen in Fairfax County starts reopening on Friday:
- movie theaters, concert halls, bowling alleys, indoor entertainment will stay closed
- social gatherings of more than 10 people will still be prohibited
- “safer at home” recommendation will still be in place
- restaurants may reopen at 50% of indoor capacity with tables spaced 6 feet apart
- restaurants’ bars will remain closed
- restaurants must use disposable menus and require servers to wear face coverings
- gyms, recreation centers, sports centers and pools may open outside
- indoor pools and spas and outdoor basketball and racquetball courts will stay closed
- salons and barbers can open at 50% capacity and require appointments
- retailers may reopen at 50% capacity and employees must wear face coverings
- houses or worship may hold services at 50% capacity, face coverings encouraged
“[The public health directors] have noted the regional attainment of four of the critical metrics and assessed the need for continued focus on expanding our contact tracing capacity and developing sustainable supplies of PPE,” the letter said.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County surpassed 10,000 today (Wednesday). But the trajectory of cases appears to be on the decline as Northern Virginia gears up for phase one of its reopening plan on Friday.
According to data released by the state’s health department, a slowdown in the number of new cases emerged this week. Public health experts determine the trajectory of COVID-19 by charting the total number of confirmed cases against new confirmed cases per week.
Additionally, the number of new cases per week has decreased. In the first two weeks of this month, the county saw a weekly case count of between 1,200 and 1,300 cases. Last week, that number dipped to around 1,000 new cases.
Still, 365 people in the county have died from the respiratory illness. On Monday, a record number of new cases — 493 — was reported. Since then, the number of new daily cases dipped to 357 yesterday (Tuesday) and 230 today.
As the state’s testing capacity has expanded, the number of positive cases has also declined slightly since the week of April 19, county data show.
Overall, 40,439 cases have been confirmed statewide, resulting in 1,281 deaths. A surge in testing partly explains the increase in the number of cases reported daily on Monday and Tuesday.
Northern Virginia continues to account for a majority of cases.
Photo via CDC/Unsplash
At a time when other industries are cutting back, Microsoft Corp. will invest $64 million to establish a new research and development hub in Reston Town Center.
The move will create 1,500 new jobs as the software giant occupies 400,000 square feet in Two Freedom Square (11955 Freedom Drive) in Reston Town Center. The company will retain 153,000 square feet of space it currently occupies at 12012 Sunset Hills Road.
Terrell Cox, Microsoft’s general manager said the company’s expansion in Reston will allow the company to “deliver even more solutions from a region known for its innovation and passion for technology.”
“One of Microsoft’s core principles is actively listening to our customers, so we can build and improve our technology based on their feedback. Being close to our customer base is extremely important to our ongoing collaborations,” Cox said.
Here’s how local and state elected officials responded to the news:
“Virginia, like the rest of the nation, is facing unprecedented job loss due to COVID-19, so this announcement couldn’t come at a better time,” said Governor Northam. “Microsoft Corp. and Virginia share a strong history, and we are proud that this major operation in Fairfax County will add to the company’s significant job count across our Commonwealth. Virginia is a leader in the information technology industry, and Microsoft’s continued investment here is a testament to our top-ranked business climate, infrastructure, and world-class workforce.”
Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill thanked Microsoft for its vote of confidence in Fairfax County and noted that he and Jeff McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, have made diversification of the local economy a priority.
“We are very excited about Microsoft’s expansion in Fairfax County,” Hill said. “This investment further strengthens our reputation as a business-friendly community and showcases our ability to attract the country’s top companies, even in these turbulent times. Chairman McKay, the Board of Supervisors and I are thrilled with this news, as we continue to work to diversify our economy.”
“Microsoft can choose from any number of technology hubs for its operations, and we are so pleased that the company chose to expand its operations in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia,” said Victor Hoskins, President and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. “Because of our wealth of technology talent and the tech ecosystem here, this area is a great match for the company’s talent needs as well as its business goals.”
“Reston is proud to welcome Microsoft’s expansion in our Town Center,” said Senator Janet Howell. “Microsoft Corp. has been an important corporate citizen for many years. The decision to grow here is yet more proof that our region is a major technology hub.”
“I am thrilled that Microsoft has chosen to locate this significant operation and create 1,500 new jobs in Fairfax County,” said Delegate Kenneth Plum. “The Commonwealth and the County have a longstanding relationship with Microsoft, and this operation will only strengthen it. We look forward to welcoming the software development and R&D regional hub to the Reston Town Center.”
Microsoft will be eligible for a $22.5 million grant from the state once it completes the project. Some of that money will be used to fund partnerships with local colleges and universities to “develop the tech talent pipeline for cloud computing and related degrees to support its local expansion,” according to the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.
The company has been in Reston since 2002. The initiative is expected to go live in summer 2021.
Big news for Reston! https://t.co/bBcAcuHeFp
— Supervisor Walter Alcorn (@WalterAlcornFFX) May 27, 2020
Photo via Google Maps
Confusion Over Governor’s Mask Order — “At a briefing this afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam emphasized that Virginia’s new indoor mask requirements weren’t intended to be criminally enforced. But the text of the order (released ~3 hours later) defines a violation as Class 1 misdemeanor.” [Virginia Mercury]
Police Arrest Naked Man in Parking Lot — Local police have arrested an Ashburn man who was running through a parking lot on the 2400 block of Centreville Road on May 22. Carlos Ashe, 35, was arrested and charged with indecent exposure and drunk in public. [Fairfax County Police Department]
County Staff Conduct Virtual Inspections — The Health Department’s Division of Environmental Health has been conducting virtual inspections for restaurant owners who are applying for permits for newly built or renovated establishments. [Fairfax County Government]
Foundation Pitches Funding to FCPS — “Ferrovial has contributed $67,500 to the Access for All Fund to support students in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Created by the Foundation in response to the pandemic and school closings, the Access for All fund is supporting Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) by assisting local food banks with food distribution to FCPS families, providing grocery gift cards to homeless and unaccompanied youth, delivering school supply kits, and providing technology access for distance learning.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
This weekend made for tempting conditions to break from safer-at-home guidelines in Northern Virginia and throughout the state.
Beach-goers packed Virginia Beach over Memorial Day Weekend while others turned to local parks to grill and gather while social distancing.
In the area, we spotted groups of more than 10 playing on local soccer fields. In some cases at Lake Anne Plaza, folks gathered with not much social distancing at mind.
With Gov. Ralph Northam expected to announce reopening plans for Northern Virginia later today, we’d love to know how you spent Memorial Day weekend in these unprecedented times.
Virginia has sold off the Center for Innovative Technology office building in Herndon, Gov. Ralph Northam announced today.
The 149,000-square-foot office building that’s located on a 26-acre parcel near the Washington Dulles International Airport and the future Innovation Center Metro Station was sold for $47.4 million to Origami Capital Partners and Timberline Real Estate Partners.
The sale will help fund the Virginia Innovation Partnership Authority, a new entity for “innovation ad new technology-based economic development,” according to a release. Funds will be allocated directly to the Virginia Research Investment Fund.
The building housed the nonprofit Center for Innovative Technology, Northern Virginia Technology Council and other private technology firms.
Here’s more from the release:
“This event represents a significant milestone toward the goal of delivering to Northern Virginia a development that will entice and excite major corporate tenants,” said Jeff Young, Managing Partner of Origami. “We know companies will embrace the project and resolve to focus on delivering a development to the residents of Northern Virginia they will celebrate. We look forward to our ongoing partnership with the commonwealth, Loudoun and Fairfax counties.”
The General Assembly declared the property surplus in 2016 and directed DGS, which manages Virginia’s real estate portfolio, to dispose of it. DGS and its contracted real estate broker, Divaris Real Estate, marketed the property and received 13 proposals from 12 offerors in its initial solicitation. In October 2019, a Call for Best and Final Offers resulted in 12 proposals from 10 potential purchasers. DGS began discussions with the chosen purchaser in November.
“The sale of this property in an area of Virginia where property development continues at a robust pace provided the Commonwealth an opportunity to receive the most favorable outcome from an open competitive sale process,” said DGS Director Joe Damico. “DGS worked collaboratively with many stakeholders, including the localities where the property resides, the Office of the Attorney General, building tenants, and the new owners to complete the successful surplus property sale that will further the Commonwealth’s economic development goals.”
Photo via Facebook/CIT