Morning Notes

Northam Advocates for Vaccine Requirements — Gov. Ralph Northam urged business leaders to follow the public sector in setting COVID-19 vaccination mandates at a Capital Region Business Forum in D.C. yesterday (Thursday). His comments came hours before President Joe Biden announced that all businesses with more than 100 workers must require the vaccine, among other new rules. [Inside NoVA]

Feds Use Reston Company’s Data Against Facebook — The Federal Trade Commission revealed user data on Wednesday (Sept. 8) that officials said supports their antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, which argues that the social media company has a monopoly. The FTC cited data from Reston-based market research firm Comscore that it says Facebook uses to prepare materials for CEO Mark Zuckerberg. [Bloomberg]

Tephra Sculpture Celebration Kicks off Art Festival — The Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival starts today (Friday) with a long-awaited celebration of artist Sue Wrbican’s surrealist-inspired Buoyant Force sculpture in Reston Town Square Park. Now in its 30th year, the festival will continue through the weekend with live performances and more than 200 artists present to share and sell their work. [Tephra ICA]

Smithsonian Creates Archive of 9/11 Memories — “The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is gathering written and recorded memories of 9/11 for the 20th anniversary of the attacks. You can submit your written memories, photos, or a video to the Smithsonian’s ‘9-11: An Evolving Legacy’ website. You can also read what has been submitted so far.” [DCist]

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Morning Notes

As seen from Leesburg Pike, waters rose at Colvin Run after an early morning storm on Sept. 1, 2021 (photo by Ed Schudel/Twitter)

Virginia’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate Now in Effect — “A mandate that most of Virginia’s state workers will have to be vaccinated or agree to regular COVID-19 testing is taking effect. Gov. Ralph Northam’s order kicks in Wednesday and will apply to more than 120,000 executive branch employees.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

Reston Police Community Meeting Tonight — “Join the @FairfaxCountyPD Reston District Station for a Community Information Forum on Thursday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m. The virtual meeting will cover statistics, trends, cases from the previous month, and discuss upcoming events.” [Supervisor Walter Alcorn/Twitter]

Lake Anne Elementary Postpones Back-to-School Night — “Many families have asked for a virtual Back to School Night because people are hesitant to be around large crowds. In response to that request, we will be changing our Back to School Night to a virtual format on Tuesday, September 14, 2021…More details will follow in next week’s News You Choose.” [FCPS]

Park Authority to Honor Frying Pan Volunteers — The Fairfax County Park Authority Board will give Ronnie Billodeaux, Ed Robichaud, and Steve Williams the 2021 Harold L. Strickland Partnership and Collaboration Award, which recognizes teamwork in bringing state-of-the-art facilities to parks. The three volunteer wagon ride drivers worked over the winter to repair and expand picnic facilities at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon. [FCPA]

Photo by Ed Schudel/Twitter

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Fairfax County Public Schools’ first electric school bus (courtesy Dominion Energy)

Fairfax County Public Schools will soon add another 10 electric school buses to its fleet, thanks to a new $2.65 million state grant.

19 school districts, including FCPS, will collectively receive more than $10 million in the latest round of allocations from Virginia’s Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust — enough to replace 83 diesel school buses with electric and propane-fueled vehicles, Gov. Ralph Northam announced last Wednesday (Aug. 19).

“Virginia’s investments in electrifying the school bus fleets is an important and critical part of our comprehensive approach to reducing pollution,” Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor said in the news release. “Collectively, the replacement of these school buses is calculated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10,000 tons per year, and will save one million gallons of diesel fuel, equivalent to removing 2,000 cars from the road.”

Administered by Department of Environmental Quality, the Volkswagen trust comes from Virginia’s $93.6 million share of the $2.7 billion settlement that the automobile manufacturer agreed to in 2016 after violating the Clean Air Act by cheating vehicle emissions tests.

Virginia announced the first round of funding from the trust on May 7, awarding over $9.4 million to help local governments purchase electric vehicles for their fleets. Fairfax County got more than $4 million for shuttle buses, waste and recycling trucks, and a truck for its public library system.

FCPS currently has eight electric buses that were placed in service this past May. The first bus arrived in January as part of a pilot program developed by Dominion Energy, which rolled out 50 buses across the state with plans to replace all diesel school buses with electric ones by 2030.

However, the future of Fairfax County’s transition to electric school buses has become a little hazier after the Virginia House of Delegates rejected an expansion of Dominion’s program that would’ve added 1,000 more electric school buses, a sign of legislators’ growing wariness of the utility company’s influence.

During its spring special session, the General Assembly voted to create an Electric Vehicle Grant Fund to help with the costs of adding electric school buses. Northam signed the bill into law, but the program has no funding yet.

Dominion confirmed that the newly awarded DEQ grants are unrelated to its program, which covered the difference in cost of an electric bus versus a diesel one as well as the cost and installation of charging stations.

“Children deserve clean transportation to school and we’re excited to see Virginia moving that way,” Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox said. “The goal with our innovative program was to accelerate the adoption of electric school buses, so we’re thrilled to see more of these clean-running buses with zero emissions rolling out across Virginia.”

The utility says it is still offering to install charging stations for school districts for free in exchange for the ability to return stored energy back into the electric grid when the buses are idle and the chance to buy the bus batteries after the vehicles pass their life span.

“We will be involved if schools systems chose so,” Fox said in an email.

FCPS says its transportation department “continues to evaluate” its existing electric buses and work with vendor Thomas Built Buses to make adjustments.

While shifting to electric buses is expected to reduce operational and maintenance costs in the long run, the district’s transition is currently limited by the availability of funding and charging infrastructure, which affects where the buses can be assigned.

“As more funding opportunities become available, as the technology is refined for school division needs, and as charging infrastructure becomes readily available, FCPS plans to transition its fleet of 1,625 buses to electric,” FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult said by email.

The 10 new buses funded by the DEQ grant are scheduled to arrive in March 2022.

“Operation and maintenance of the electric buses are being monitored and evaluated for efficiency of operation and cost savings,” Moult said.

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Morning Notes

A bicycle and swing seat by Lake Anne (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Metro Changes Coming Next Month — A host of service changes, including more rail and bus service, longer hours, free bus transfers, and a flat $2, one-way train fare on weekends, will take effect starting on Sept. 5. Approved by Metro’s board of governors in June, the alterations are intended to lure riders back as students return to school and more white-collar workers return to offices. [WTOP]

Virginia Prepares to Welcome Afghan Refugees — Gov. Ralph Northam said on Twitter yesterday that he is coordinating with the federal government to accept “thousands more” Afghan citizens and their families at Fort Lee. 8,650 refugees from Afghanistan have settled in Virginia over the past six years. [DCist]

NoVA Fine Arts Festival Roster Revealed — The Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival has unveiled a lineup of more than 200 artists who will compete in 10 categories from Sept. 10-12 at Reston Town Center. After last year’s cancellation, this year’s festival will have several health precautions in place, including hand sanitation stations, vaccination requirements for volunteers, and encouragement of social distancing and face mask-wearing in artist booths. [Tephra ICA]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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AAPI Historical Marker Contest (courtesy Makayla Puzio)

Local students are responsible for two new state historical highway markers that Virginia will install in recognition of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) history.

Earlier this summer, students from across the Commonwealth submitted ideas for new historical markers as part of a contest celebrating AAPI Heritage month. Gov. Ralph Northam announced five winners on Aug. 3, including two that were submitted by students from the Fairfax County area.

Students from Hunters Woods Elementary in Reston nominated W.W. Yen for a marker. He was the first international student to earn a bachelor’s degree at the University of Virginia and went on to become an important leader in Chinese government. The school now has a dorm and scholarship named after him.

Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School students in Falls Church proposed highlighting their city’s Vietnamese immigrant community, which grew after the Fall of Saigon in 1975. During the subsequent surge in immigration to the U.S., many of the people who came to the D.C. area settled in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood and, later, Falls Church.

Today, the D.C. area is home to the third-largest Vietnamese community in the country, and the Eden Center is among the largest Vietnamese shopping centers.

The other new historical highway markers highlight Japanese American football player Arthur Azo Matsu, former Korean foreign minister Kim Kyusik, and Filipinos who served in the U.S. Navy.

“Throughout history, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have made significant contributions to our Commonwealth and our country, but too often their stories remain untold,” Northam wrote in the press release. “As we continue working to tell a more comprehensive and inclusive Virginia story, I am grateful for the efforts of Virginia students and educators in helping elevate the voices of prominent AAPI Virginians with these five new historical markers.”

Now a rising fifth-grader at Hunters Woods Elementary, Benjamin Roxbury was in fourth grade when he and a few other students nominated Yen for the historical marker contest.

He hopes when people read it, they discover that learning is universal.

“Families may come from different parts of the world, but school brings us together,” Benjamin said. “I like that we get to learn from different people.”

Makayla Puzio, who taught him last year, says school officials told her about the contest and she thought it would be a good hands-on, project-based assignment to help students learn about state history and how to conduct research.

Other figures suggested by students in Puzio’s fourth-grade class included local author Helen Wan and peace activist Marii Kyogoku Hasegawa. But the nomination from Benjamin’s group ultimately stood out to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, which chose the new markers.

“They were really excited,” Puzio said of the students’ reaction to their selection. “It makes them feel proud of the work that they did. I don’t know if they really thought that was going to happen.”

For Griffin and Oliver Hardi, the Henderson Middle School students behind the Eden Center marker, the opportunity to honor the local Vietnamese community and tell their stories resonated on a personal level.

“Our mom is an immigrant too, so it’s great to see Asian-American history recognized,” Griffin said by email. “And the food at the Eden Center is great!”

Puzio says this experience could become a point of pride for these students for the rest of their lives.

“One of these students could be touring UVA and remember this person and historical marker,” said Puzio. “And be like ‘hey, in fourth grade, I did this. I’m the reason that this marker is here!”

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Morning Notes

Tiger swallowtail butterfly at Lake Fairfax Park (photo by Marjorie Copson)

Virginia Requires Masks in Schools — Gov. Ralph Northam issued a public health order yesterday (Thursday) requiring universal mask-wearing in all K-12 schools in response to concerns about the COVID-19 Delta variant. Fairfax County Public Schools announced a mandate on July 28 that had some exemptions for fully vaccinated individuals, but the district updated its policy on Wednesday (Aug. 11) to require masks indoors for everyone. [The Washington Post]

Fairfax County Opens for Vaccine Site Requests — “Businesses and community event organizers can now request to host a vaccination team to provide COVID-19 vaccines or education/outreach services so that people can learn more about the vaccines. Requests will be reviewed and matched with an outreach or nursing team from the Fairfax County Health Department.” [FCHD]

Route 7 Traffic Changes Coming Next WeekUtterback Store Road in Great Falls will be closed from 9:30 a.m. on Monday (Aug. 16) to 2 p.m. on Friday (Aug. 20) while crews remake the intersection for the Route 7 Corridor Improvements Project. Construction, which will continue until 2024, will also require westbound Route 7 lane shifts from Reston Parkway to Reston Avenue on Aug. 17 and between Utterback Store and Springvale roads on Aug. 19. [VDOT]

Senate Infrastructure Bill Boosts D.C. Area — Metro would receive $150 million annually for capital improvements over the next eight years from the $1 trillion infrastructure funding bill that the Senate approved 69-30 on Tuesday (Aug. 10). The bill allocates more than $8 billion to Virginia for highway and bridge repairs, public transit support, and expansions of the state’s broadband and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. [DCist]

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Masks (via Mika Baumeister/Unsplash)

(Updated at 4 p.m.) Virginia recommends that even vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors in certain circumstances, but with different locations experiencing different levels of COVID-19 transmission, the state has stopped short of issuing a mandate.

While some states revised their mask rules shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement on Tuesday (July 27), Virginia had not indicated how it will approach mask-wearing amid rising COVID-19 case levels, with officials saying only that they were reviewing the new guidance.

Gov. Ralph Northam issued the first official statement on the issue via social media on Thursday (July 29), writing that “all Virginians should consider wearing a mask in public indoor settings where there is increased risk of COVD-19  transmission, as the new CDC guidance recommends.”

“This is not a requirement, but a recommendation,” he said.

These situations include masking indoors at K-12 schools and in areas of the Commonwealth that have “substantial” community transmission of the virus.

Northam noted in further tweets that there has been a dramatic rise in COVID cases in Virginia over the last month due to the delta variant and that “over 98%” of hospitalizations and deaths are residents who are unvaccinated.

When asked why the state is recommending but not requiring indoor mask-wearing, a Virginia Department of Health spokesperson told Reston Now the department “doesn’t have anything to add at this moment” beyond Northam’s statement.

When explaining the decision to revise its guidelines, the CDC cited new scientific evidence showing that vaccinated people infected with the delta variant could potentially spread the virus to others. While the available vaccines effectively protect against severe illness and hospitalizations, the findings concerned officials enough to prompt a reversal of sorts after mask requirements were eased in May.

“This new science is worrisome and unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said.

With case numbers climbing locally, as they have elsewhere around the country, Fairfax County has moved to put new rules in place in the hopes of slowing the virus’ spread without jeopardizing plans to reopen workplaces and schools.

Fairfax County Public Schools announced yesterday (Wednesday) that it will require universal masking in school buildings regardless of an individual’s vaccination status, and the Board of Supervisors approved a motion on Tuesday (July 27) to evaluate whether to implement a vaccine mandate for 12,000 county employees.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement that he supports a shift back to wearing masks indoors for places with high COVID-19 transmission and around people who are unable to get vaccinated:

With the delta variant surging in unvaccinated communities, I support masking in areas with more people vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 who aren’t able to be vaccinated (such as schools) and areas with a high risk of transmission. In Fairfax County we will continue to follow state guidelines on masking and sharing the effectiveness of masking to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Currently, 76% of Fairfax Health District residents over the age of 18 have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 69.4% are fully vaccinated, according to the Fairfax County Health Department’s vaccine dashboard.

While that’s above Virginia and national rates, those numbers have barely budged over the last several weeks as the county looks for ways to get more residents immunized.

Health experts and public officials continue to reiterate that vaccines are the best tools in the fight against the pandemic.

“The vaccine is the strongest tool we have to fight this pandemic,” McKay wrote. “For the sake of our economic recovery, sending students back to school, and returning to normal, we need even more people to get vaccinated. If you aren’t vaccinated, go to vaccine.gov to get scheduled, there are appointments available near you!”

In terms of transmission rates, Fairfax County is currently doing better than many other Virginia counties. But in all areas, case rates are ticking up.

While the CDC’s COVID tracker shows that a large swath of the Commonwealth has “substantial community transmission,” Fairfax County currently has “moderate” transmission like Arlington County. A number of nearby localities like the City of Alexandria, Stafford, and Spotsylvania counties have “substantial” or even “high” transmission.

D.C., which has substantial spread, announced today that it will require everyone 2 and older to wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status starting Saturday (July 31).

via Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Herndon Fire Causes $6K in Damages — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue units responded to a passerby’s report of a building fire in the 2400 block of Centreville Road around 7:22 a.m. yesterday (Monday). Investigators determined that the fire, which was seen on a countertop, was caused by an electrical event involving a power strip. There were no reported injuries, but the damage was estimated to be $6,000. [Patch]

Police Seek Assistance in Finding Great Falls Burglary Suspects — The Fairfax County Police Department’s Reston Station is seeking to identify two men who reportedly caused more than $20,000 in damage to a house in the 800 block of Hortense Place in Great Falls on June 12. Detectives have not yet determined if the incident is related to incidents involving damage to two homes in the same block on July 12. [Patch]

Virginia to Use COVID-19 Relief Funds for School Ventilation — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wants to allocate $250 million of the state’s federal coronavirus relief money to projects that will improve air quality in public schools. In a statement Monday, the Democratic governor said the state funding would be matched with another $250 million in local funds for an investment that would allow for the completion of nearly all Virginia school divisions’ currently planned projects.” [Associated Press/WTOP]

Reston Hospital Completes First Spinal Implant Using AI and Augmented Reality — “Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR), top surgeons at Virginia Spine Institute deliver personalized spinal implants to a 17 year old patient. Spine Surgeons Dr. Ehsan Jazini and Dr. Christopher Good performed the procedure at Reston Hospital on Monday, July 26, 2021.” [Virginia Spine Institute]

Reminder: Weigh In On Future of Reston Parking — “Help us determine the future of parking in Tysons and Reston. We want to hear from residents, commuters, employees and patrons about how you use parking in these areas. Take our managed parking survey, open now through July 31.” [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Reston Town Center West (via Sam Moon Sami/Facebook)

Virginia Expected to Lift Mask Requirement in Schools — Virginia is reviewing updated federal guidance saying that in-person learning should be prioritized even if not all mitigation strategies can be adopted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says masks should still be worn indoors by anyone not fully vaccinated, especially when social distancing isn’t possible. [Richmond Times-Dispatch/Danville Register & Bee]

Fairfax County Police Investigate Herndon Stabbing — A dispute between “three juvenile acquaintances” on July 3 in the 2000 block of Huston Place resulted in one of the individuals stabbing another in the upper body. The victim was taken to a hopsital for injuries that were not life-threatening. [FCPD]

New County Public Works Director Begins Job — Starting today (Monday), the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services has a new director, as Christopher Herrington succeeds Randy Bartlett, who retired in June. Herrington’s past experience includes serving as senior environmental policy officer for the City of Austin in Texas. [Fairfax County Government]

Herndon Police Chief Appointed to State Board — Herndon Chief of Police Maggie DeBoard has been appointed to Virginia’s Forensic Science Board, one of several new appointments announced by Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday (July 9). The Department of Forensic Science provides laboratory services to law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, medical examiners, and other agencies that conduct criminal investigations. [Office of the Governor]

Photo via Sam Moon Sami/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Family on Lake Anne paddleboat (via vantagehill/Flickr)

Virginia State of Emergency Ends Tonight — The public health emergency that Virginia has had in place since March 2020 due to COVID-19 is set to expire at 11:59 p.m. today (Wednesday). Gov. Ralph Northam’s office has said the order will not be renewed, but ambiguities about mask-wearing could be addressed in a General Assembly special session scheduled for Aug. 2. [WTOP]

Northam Signs Voting Access Legislation — Virginia’s governor formally signed several bills on Monday (June 28) intended to make it easier for people to vote. Changes include allowing localities to open polling places on Sundays during early voting, requiring localities to provide drop-off locations for absentee ballots, and enabling first-time voters to register for an absentee ballot by mail. [WTOP]

Public Input Sought on Regional Housing Plan — Fairfax County is participating in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ effort to develop a Regional Housing Equity Plan to identify and address racial disparities in housing. COG will host three workshops in July to discuss the history of race and housing and get community perspectives on the issue. [Fairfax County Housing and Community Development]

Sorrento Leasing Tours Delayed — The 306-unit apartment building at 1925 Roland Clarke Place in Reston will not open for leasing tours on July 1 as previously expected. Sorrento Senior Business Manager Curtis Schaeffer tells Reston Now that the date has been pushed back, likely to mid-to-late July, as some work still needs to be done, including the installation of furniture, before the leasing team moves into the building. [Sorrento]

via vantagehill/Flickr

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(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) Masks are coming off in Virginia, as COVID-19 case levels continue to fall and vaccinations become more widespread.

As of midnight on Saturday (May 15), people who have been fully vaccinated — meaning that at least two weeks have passed since they got all necessary vaccine doses — are no longer required to wear face masks indoors, except inside health care facilities, on public transit, or in congregate settings such as homeless shelters.

“This has been a long road, our community has worked hard to slow the spread of COVID-19 and it has paid off,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “Our case numbers have been steadily dropping while our vaccination rates continue to increase.”

Gov. Ralph Northam updated the Commonwealth’s mask mandate on Friday (May 14) to align with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which cited the vaccines’ proven effectiveness at protecting people from COVID-19 and becoming seriously ill if they do get infected by the novel coronavirus.

Northam also announced last week that Virginia will lift all remaining capacity and distancing rules on May 28, rather than June 15 as previously planned.

“Virginians have been working hard, and we are seeing the results in our strong vaccine numbers and dramatically lowered case counts,” Northam said. “That’s why we can safely move up the timeline for lifting mitigation measures in Virginia. I strongly urge any Virginian who is not yet vaccinated to do so — the vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19.”

COVID-19 cases have continued to decline in Fairfax County since the county was averaging 194.4 new cases over the past seven days on April 13.

The Fairfax Health District, which also includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, reported just 16 new cases today, bringing its total for the pandemic to 77,666 cases. 4,091 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, and 1,108 people have died from the disease.

Fairfax County is now averaging 34.3 new cases per day for the past week — the lowest seven-day average since it was at 30.3 cases on April 1, 2020, when cases just started coming in. The district’s current seven-day testing positivity rate of 2% is the lowest that it has ever been.

The promising downward trends in COVID-19 cases and testing have been complemented by an ongoing vaccination campaign that opened up to 12 to 15-year-old adolescents last Thursday (May 13).

With no vaccine approved yet for younger children and most older students still not vaccinated, Virginia is still requiring masks to be worn in schools in accordance with the CDC’s recommendations.

Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson Lucy Caldwell told Reston Now on Saturday that the school system will communicate information to families, staff, and the rest of the community this week.

McKay says Fairfax County anticipates that children as young as 2 will become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine later this year.

“Our goal is to reach at least 70% vaccination rates for all adults residing in Fairfax and we are making great progress in reaching that goal,” McKay said. “While there will still be challenges ahead and while we still have work to do to get people vaccinated, we feel good about the data.”

Northam stated on Friday that over 63% of Virginia’s adult population has now received at least one dose of vaccine, and he remains confident that that number will reach 70% by July 4, the target set by President Joe Biden.

McKay’s office says Fairfax County is also “committed” to reaching the 70% goal by July 4, stating that opportunities for people to get vaccinated are now “widely available throughout our community” and that supplies are at levels to meet demand.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, Fairfax County has administered more than 1 million doses so far. 602,926 residents — 52.5% of the population — have gotten at least one dose, and 454,263 residents — 39.6% of the population — have been fully vaccinated.

The Fairfax County Health Department received 58,500 doses from the state during the week of May 10-16.

Photo by robinreston, graph via Virginia Department of Health

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Morning Notes

Virginia Declares State of Emergency Over Gas Supplies — Gov. Ralph Northam gave the state and local governments increased flexibility and funding yesterday (Tuesday) after a ransomware attack disrupted the Colonial Pipeline, which provides 45% of the East Coast’s gasoline supply. 7.5% of the state’s 3,880 gas stations reported running out of fuel, a shortage primarily attributed to panic buying. [WTOP]

ABC Stores Will Resume Pre-Pandemic Hours on Friday — “After more than a year of reduced operating hours in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) stores will return to pre-pandemic operating hours on May 14, 2021. All stores will open by 10 a.m. every day, apart from some stores which regularly open later on Sundays…Closing times vary by store.” [Virginia ABC]

Herndon Robbery Suspect Still Unidentified — An armed robbery of a business in the 1000 block of Elden Street on Thursday (May 6) is still under investigation. Police say “an unknown subject” entered the business shortly before 10 a.m., displayed a weapon, and demanded money. The business and amount of money taken have not been disclosed. [Herndon Police Department]

Fairfax County Warns About “Phone Spoofing” Scam — Multiple Fairfax County residents have reported receiving calls from 703-324-1000 saying that their data has been compromised and they need to set up fraud protection. While the number appears to be from the MyFairfax online portal, it is a scam, and the county says people should not call any secondary number or give out their personal or county information. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Gov. Ralph Northam, right, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), center left, at the Tysons Community Vaccination Center on April 19 (Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Virginians who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are officially free to go outside and visit fully vaccinated friends without wearing a face mask.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced yesterday (Thursday) that he has amended the state’s public health rules to conform with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that loosens mask-wearing and social distancing protocols for people who are fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks have passed since they received their last required vaccine dose.

Released on April 27, the CDC’s new recommendations state that fully vaccinated people face “minimal risk” of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 when engaged in outdoor activities such as exercising or eating outside. They also likely face little risk from small, private indoor gatherings and visits to public indoor spaces with other fully vaccinated people.

The CDC emphasizes that masks should still be worn indoors when unvaccinated people are present, especially if they are at increased risk of severe illness from the novel coronavirus, and in crowded outdoor settings like concerts or sporting events where maintaining social distancing is difficult.

“The CDC’s recommendations underscore what we have said all along — vaccinations are the way we will put this pandemic behind us and get back to normal life,” Northam said. “Our increasing vaccination rate and decreasing number of new COVID-19 cases has made it possible to ease mitigation measures in a thoughtful and measured manner. I encourage all Virginians who have not yet received the vaccine to make an appointment today.”

Touted as another incentive for people to get vaccinated, the new CDC guidelines came out amid news reports that COVID-19 vaccine demand has slowed in some parts of the country to the point where state and local governments are declining shipments.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay told Tysons Reporter yesterday that that has not been the case in the county, which has only just gotten enough supplies to meet demand.

As of April 29, 529,402 Fairfax County residents — or 46.1% of the total population — had received at least one vaccine dose, and 334,568 residents — 29.2% of the population — had been fully vaccinated, according to Virginia Department of Health data, which does not include some doses administered by the federal government.

Statewide, more than 3.7 million Virginians — 57% of the adult population — have now gotten at least one dose, and 2.5 million Virginians are fully vaccinated, or 39% of the adult population, according to Northam.

Fairfax County officials say they will support the new guidelines in Northam’s amended executive order.

“We will continue to follow the guidance put out by the state and follow the data, just as we always have,” McKay said in a statement. “I know everyone is looking forward to seeing their loved ones again without fear of spreading COVID. Getting vaccinated will be necessary to do so however, so I recommend that everyone make an appointment as soon as possible.”

With high school football games nearing an end and spring sports like baseball starting up, Northam also announced yesterday that he has accelerated plans to ease capacity limits on outdoor recreational sports, which are now permitted up to 1,000 spectators, effective immediately.

That change was previously scheduled to take effect on May 15, when restrictions on social gatherings, entertainment venues, and alcohol sales at restaurants will be loosened.

Northam says he anticipates removing all capacity limits in mid-June “as long as the Commonwealth’s health metrics remain stable and vaccination progress continues.”

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(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Virginia will further loosen restrictions on social gatherings and some businesses on May 15, Gov. Ralph Northam announced yesterday afternoon (April 22).

“Vaccination numbers are up, and our COVID-19 case numbers are substantially lower than they were earlier this year,” Northam said in a video message. “So, we have been able to begin easing some mitigation measures.”

Changes include increasing capacity for both outdoor and indoor entertainment venues to 50%, though indoor venues will be capped at 1,000 people. Both outdoor and indoor venues were previously limited to 30% capacity.

Per the executive order, the entertainment venue category includes concert venues, performance art venues, movie theaters, museums, bowling alleys, escape rooms, zoos, and trampoline parks.

In addition, indoor recreational sporting events will be allowed more spectators with an increase of up to 50% capacity or 250 people, whichever is less. Outdoor recreational sporting events can go up to 50% capacity or 1,000 people.

Public and private social gatherings will be able to host up to 100 people if they’re indoors or 250 people if they’re outdoors. Masks must still be worn, and six feet of social distancing must still be maintained.

Restaurants will be able to sell alcohol after midnight again. Northam also amended Virginia’s guidance earlier this week to let restaurants resume bar service, effective immediately, provided the patrons are six feet apart.

Late-night and 24-hour restaurants will no longer have to close their dining room between midnight and 5 a.m., either. Self-service buffets will also be allowed to reopen.

“I’m optimistic that we will be able to take more steps in June,” Northam said. “We are working to significantly ramp up vaccinations even further and aim to reduce capacity limits in June, hopefully all the way.”

The governor also took the time to announce that children 12 and over could potentially be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as this summer.

“Research is moving forward and it’s looking like vaccinations may be available for children age 12 and over as soon as this summer,” Northam said. “That will make it easier and safer for when school starts up again in the fall.”

Along with the rest of Virginia, Fairfax County moved to Phase 2 on Sunday (April 18), making all adults 16 and over eligible for a vaccine, but getting an appointment continues to be a challenge, particularly at local pharmacies. Some readers have told Reston Now that they have had luck finding slots at the new Tysons mass vaccination site, which is now listed as an option in Vaccine Finder.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisor Chairman Jeff McKay says the latest easing of public health restrictions reflects the encouraging trends that the county has been seeing, with COVID-19 cases declining and vaccinations on the rise.

As of today (Friday), the county is currently averaging 141.6 new cases over the past week, which is down from the spring 2021 high of 194.4 cases on April 13. 484,617 residents have received at least one vaccine dose, and 297,704 residents have been fully vaccinated, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“Our population in Fairfax County is very eager to be vaccinated and have acted with care this last year,” McKay said in a statement. “Of course, we will keep an eye on the data as we move forward, we know we aren’t out of the woods yet. We need everyone to be smart, but generally everything is moving in the right direction.”

Northam has set May 31 as the target date for all adults who want a vaccine to be able to get one, but Fairfax County officials have not committed to that yet.

Even with the easing of restrictions, Northam reiterated that some mitigation strategies still need to continue.

“We all need to wear masks, keep social distancing, and we all need to keep encouraging each other to get a shot,” he said.

Photo via Governor Ralph Northam/YouTube

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Morning Notes

Northam Signs Bill Legalizing Marijuana Possession — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday signed a bill legalizing simple possession of marijuana beginning this summer, making it the first Southern state to do so…The bill, signed a day after April 20 — marijuana’s unofficial holiday — allows anyone in the state 21 or older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana beginning July 1.” [CNN/WTOP]

Fairfax County Judge Orders Former D.C. Firefighter’s Release — “A former D.C. firefighter will be released from a Virginia prison this week after a Fairfax County judge Tuesday vacated his 2019 conviction on drug and gun charges, which were based on falsehoods told by a former Fairfax County police officer now under state and FBI investigation.” [The Washington Post]

Reston Banking Company Plans to Go Public — John Marshall Bancorp, Inc., the parent company of John Marshall Bank, announced yesterday (Wednesday) that “it intends to become a publicly-traded company, including potentially listing its shares on the Nasdaq or NYSE stock exchange. The Company anticipates becoming a publicly-traded company within the next twelve to fifteen months.” [Business Wire]

Fairfax County Tax Relief Workshop Today — “Join our virtual tax relief workshop: April 22, 10:30 a.m. to noon. Learn how to apply for real estate or car tax relief if you’re a senior or person with disabilities.” [Fairfax County Government/Twitter]

Leidos Lands Customs and Border Patrol Contract — “Reston-based Fortune 500 company Leidos Holdings Inc. announced Tuesday it has been awarded a $480 million contract by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to provide multi-energy portal (MEP) systems for nonintrusive inspections of commercial vehicles at land and sea ports of entry.” [Virginia Business]

Last Chance to Join Frying Pan Farm Photo Contest — “TOMORROW (April 22) is the last day to submit pictures for our photo contest! Pics can be from 1/1/2019-now, taken at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, VA. Proceeds from the contest will help support the farm.” [Friends of Frying Pan/Twitter]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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