Reston, VA

(Updated at 11:40 a.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.

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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Fairfax County officials say they plan to follow the state government’s lead on how to handle the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated mask guidelines, which now state that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask outdoors or indoors in most settings.

The CDC announced the revised guidelines yesterday afternoon (Thursday) in a move intended to highlight the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We will continue to follow the masking guidance put out by the state and follow the data,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “While there are still times that a mask may be necessary, the vaccine works. This is a strong incentive to get vaccinated if you have yet to do so. It is crucial and effective in protecting your family, friends, and community.”

Virginia officials are currently reviewing the new guidance and expect to issue updates to Virginia’s mask requirements soon, according to Alena Yarmosky, the press secretary for Gov. Ralph Northam’s office.

“Virginia will continue to follow CDC guidelines, as we have throughout this pandemic. We are reviewing this guidance and expect to have more updates soon,” Yarmosky said in a statement. “Ultimately this reinforces the importance of getting vaccinated. Vaccines are our pathway out of this pandemic, and they are how we can all get back to doing what we love.”

The change comes almost exactly one year after the Commonwealth first instituted a mask mandate in an effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

There are caveats to the significant loosening of mask-wearing guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals, defined by the CDC as people who have gone at least two weeks since their last needed dose.

Fully vaccinated individuals must still cover their face and maintain social distancing when going into doctors’ offices, hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and congregate settings, such as prisons or homeless shelters. Masks are also still required on public transportation and in transportation hubs like airports.

Nonetheless, the move reflects the progress that the U.S. has made in finally getting COVID-19 under control.

With cases declining locally and statewide, and more of the population getting vaccinated, Virginia already loosened its mask guidelines in April, and several capacity restrictions are set to ease tomorrow (Saturday). Northam plans to lift all limits on June 15 if case rates continue to fall.

The new mask guidance was announced within 24 hours of the CDC — along with Virginia and Fairfax County — expanding eligibility for the Pfizer vaccine to adolescents between the ages of 12 to 15.

“With the expansion of eligibility to everyone 12 and older, more Virginians can get vaccinated than ever before,” Yarmosky said. “If you haven’t already, now is the time to get your shot.”

Clinical trials for vaccinating kids under the age of 12 remain ongoing as well.

Photo via Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

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(Updated 11:20 a.m.) Fairfax County residents aged 12 to 15 years old can get the Pfizer vaccine starting today.

Last night (May 12), the Virginia Department of Health announced that adolescents in this age range are eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine after federal officials approved the change earlier in the day.

This morning, the county health department announced on its blog that this expansion of eligibility will include those in the Fairfax Health District, which encompasses the county and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church).

Appointments can be made for this age range by calling 703-324-7404 or by going online to the CDC’s Vaccine Administration Management System, which is being used to manage county health department clinics and a clinic at George Mason University.

The Tysons Community Vaccination Center at the former Lord & Taylor store in Tysons Corner Center will begin vaccinating 12 to 15 years old starting tomorrow (Friday). The clinic will accept walk-ins, though appointments are highly encouraged.

A parent, guardian, or another adult must accompany anyone under the age of 18 to their appointment or walk-in vaccination at all health department-run sites.

Retail pharmacies are also now offering the Pfizer vaccine to this age group, a county health department spokesperson confirms to Reston Now. Residents can search vaccines.gov, which was previously known as VaccineFinder, to see where doses may be available.

The county also suggests that families contact their physician about availability.

In addition, the health department is working with school systems in the Fairfax Health District to coordinate “strategies” to ensure vaccine access to all students.

“The Health Department is working with the school administrations of Fairfax County Public Schools and Fairfax-Falls Church Public Schools on strategies to ensure equity in access to vaccination for under-resourced students,” the blog post says. “Parents are encouraged to monitor their email and school announcements for information and updates.”

In a joint statement this morning from FCPS and the health department, it’s noted more information about this should be provided later this month.

In terms of supply, the county anticipates being able to meet demand immediately.

“There remains a large supply of vaccine in our community with numerous vaccine providers unlike in months past,” a county health department spokesperson told Reston Now. “We anticipate a rush, but there are numerous appointment slots to choose from so we don’t expect a lag in terms of meeting demand.”

Based on census data, the county estimates there are nearly 63,000 residents in this age range in the Fairfax Health District.

The administration, side effects, and how long it takes to be fully vaccinated is the same for adolescents as it is for adults. The Pfizer vaccine is given in two doses separated by 21 days, and side effects include pain or redness in the shot location, fatigue, fever, and muscle aches.

Adolescents are also considered fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving the second dose.

Clinical trials for vaccinating kids under the age of 12 remain ongoing.

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Fairfax County has surpassed the halfway mark for COVID-19 vaccinations, as reported cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus continue to decline.

According to Virginia Department of Health data, 51% of Fairfax County’s population — or 585,447 residents — have now gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. That puts the county in line with neighboring jurisdictions in Northern Virginia, including Loudoun (50.4%) and Arlington (51.2%).

After previously trailing by a hair, the county now has now inched past Virginia as a whole in terms of fully vaccinated residents. 35.4% of the county’s population — or 406,383 people — have received all required shots, compared to 35.1% of the state overall.

Virginia has administered at least one dose to more than 4 million people, or 47.1% of its population. 3 million residents have been fully vaccinated.

With more people getting vaccinated, Fairfax County’s COVID-19 caseload continues to shrink.

While the number of new cases ticked back up to 126 cases on Friday (May 7), the Fairfax Health District reported just 22 cases today (Monday), the fewest since 21 cases came in on Sept. 28.

The county is now averaging 63.4 cases over the past seven days, bringing the case rate down to a level not seen since Aug. 1, when the weekly average was at 60.6 cases after hovering in the 50s and 60s throughout July.

The Fairfax Health District has now recorded a total of 77,422 COVID-19 cases, 4,053 hospitalizations, and 1,104 deaths.

While demand for the COVID-19 vaccine has started to ebb, Virginia’s push to achieve herd immunity could get a boost if federal officials approve the vaccine for adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 this week as anticipated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is scheduled to meet on Wednesday (May 12) to discuss recommending that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine be approved for 12 to 15-year-olds, according to the Fairfax County Health Department.

Pfizer reported on March 31 that its vaccine has shown a 100% efficacy rate and “robust antibody responses” in a clinical trial with 2,260 participants between 12 and 15 years old, none of whom contracted COVID-19 after getting vaccinated.

The company says it expects to get authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for the expanded use of its vaccine, which is currently approved for people 16 and older, sometime this week.

The Fairfax County Health Department says vaccine will be ready so that parents and guardians can start making appointments as soon as the federal approval comes in.

“The state and local health departments will let everyone know when the vaccine is approved for use among 12-15-year-olds and our appointment scheduling systems will update accordingly,” the FCHD said in a blog post.

Chart via Virginia Department of Health

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Morning Notes

One Life Fitness Workers Put Out Sauna Fire — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue units responded to a “small fire” in the One Life Fitness Reston sauna room yesterday, but maintenance workers put out the blaze before firefighters arrived. An employee told Reston Now that the fire just caused some damage to the wood. It was the first day the sauna had been turned on in more than a year. [Patch]

CVS Allows Walk-in Vaccine Appointments — CVS Health is now offering COVID-19 vaccinations to walk-in appointments and same-day scheduling at all stores in Virginia, joining Giant, which started allowing walk-ins at its pharmacies on Monday (May 3). There are five CVS stores in Reston and three in Herndon. [Patch]

D.C. Judge Vacates National Eviction Moratorium — A D.C. judge ruled that the CDC lacks the authority to institute a nationwide moratorium on housing evictions, but even if the ruling ultimately stands, experts say it likely won’t have an immediate impact on D.C. area tenants. Virginia has a patchwork of protections but no statewide ban.” [DCist]

Air and Space Museum Reopens in Chantilly — Yesterday, the Udvar-Hazy Center became the first Smithsonian museum to open since last fall, when the institution largely shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. New additions include a display commemorating the late Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins and an X-Wing Starfighter from the most recent “Star Wars” movie. [WTOP]

South Lakes Girls’ Basketball Celebrates Recent Success — “#WCW In the past 2 seasons, your Seahawks went a combined 22-1 in Liberty District competition, & won back to back championships for the 1st time since 1985-1986.” [South Lakes Girls Basketball/Twitter]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Giant pharmacies are now offering walk-in COVID-19 vaccine appointments on Monday and Tuesday mornings at all 25 of their locations in Fairfax County.

Giant Foods announced yesterday (May 3) that all of its pharmacies across the D.C. region are allowing for walk-in vaccine appointments from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays. This includes 25 locations in the county, a Giant spokesperson confirms to Reston Now.

Walk-ins are available for those looking to receive either their first or second dose. For people receiving a first dose, pharmacists will help schedule an appointment for the second dose.

There’s a limited supply available for walk-ins at this time, and appointments are still required for those looking to receive the vaccine at 9 a.m. or later.

Vaccines are being provided at no cost, but Giant is asking residents to bring their health insurance card and driver’s license to their appointment.

Patients will not be denied access to the vaccine if no health insurance is provided, Giant confirms.

Residents can check what vaccine is being offered at specific pharmacies before walking in or making an appointment.

Currently, everyone 16 years and older is eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been approved for adults 18 years and older.

Giant pharmacies that were previously offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are once again doing so, a spokesperson tells Reston Now.

This comes after Fairfax County and Virginia paused the use of the vaccine in mid-April for over a week to review reports of a few patients developing very rare blood clots after receiving the vaccine.

The pause was lifted on April 23 after both the FDA and CDC expressed confidence that the vaccine was safe and effective.

“Upon review of available data, the FDA and CDC both agreed that the known and potential benefits of the Janssen vaccine outweigh the risks in individuals 18 years of age and older,” Giant says on its vaccine information webpage.

The Fairfax County Health Department told Reston Now last week that they are aware the pause may make some hesitant about taking the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but the county still gets inquiries from who residents prefer it, since it requires just one dose and provides immunity more quickly than the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

A glance at the list of what specific Giant pharmacies in the county are offering reveals that more are providing the Pfizer vaccine than the other vaccines. Johnson & Johnson is being offered at the second most pharmacies, with Moderna being offered at the fewest number of locations.

Photo via Giant Food

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May is only three days old, but the month is already looking good for Fairfax County on the pandemic front.

The Fairfax Health District, which also includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, reported 53 new COVID-19 cases today (Monday) — the fewest since just 33 cases came in on Oct. 7. That brings the county’s seven-day average down to 82.4 new cases, which is the lowest since the weekly average stood at exactly 82 cases on Oct. 21.

However, where the Oct. 21 number was merely a brief dip in what would escalate into the area’s winter surge, this new low for 2021 is part of a decline in new cases that has lasted since April 13, when Fairfax County recorded 231 new cases and averaged 194.4 cases over the past week.

In fact, since dipping from 105.9 cases on April 28 to 98.9 cases on April 29, the county’s weekly average has stayed below 100 cases for almost a full week.

The Fairfax Health District has reported a total of 76,968 cases, 4,022 hospitalizations, and 1,101 deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The downward trend in COVID-19 cases comes as Fairfax County nears a key milestone in its vaccination campaign: almost half of the county’s residents have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the Virginia Department of Health dashboard, which does not include some federally administered doses, 550,553 Fairfax County residents — 48% of the county’s total population — have gotten at least one dose. That is a higher rate than the state as a whole, which has delivered at least one dose to 3.8 million people, or 45.1% of its population.

At the same time, Fairfax County remains a tick behind Virginia overall when it comes to residents being fully vaccinated. 31.3% of the county’s population — or 359,677 residents — is now fully vaccinated, compared to 32% of the state.

Whether Fairfax County can reach that 50% mark for first-dose vaccinations this week remains to be seen.

After finally obtaining enough doses last week to vaccinate everyone who wants the vaccine, the county health department received fewer supplies from Virginia in its most recent shipments. 43,480 first and second doses came in during the week of April 26 to May 2, compared to 67,590 doses for the preceding week of April 19-25.

While Virginia lifted its pause on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on April 23, the Fairfax County Health Department had not yet ordered any additional batches of the one-shot vaccine as of April 30, because the county still had a small supply that it was using for its homebound and long-term care programs, according to FCHD spokesperson Tina Dale.

“We would place orders for J&J vaccine when community providers we redistribute to require more vaccine and to replenish our stock as needed,” Dale said.

FCHD Assistant Public Health Emergency Management Coordinator Colin Brody told Reston Now that the J&J vaccine has been reintroduced in the county primarily through local pharmacies, which get their supplies directly from the federal government through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

The county says it is aware that some people may be reluctant to get the J&J vaccine after its use was temporarily suspended due to reports of a few recipients developing a rare disorder involving blood clots.

“However the data reviewed by scientists at CDC and FDA indicated that J&J is a safe vaccine to use,” Brody said in an emailed statement. “We continue to receive inquiries from residents about where they can go to receive the J&J vaccine, especially because it is a single-dose option that provides immunity within 2 weeks of the first and only dose, as compared to 5 to 6 weeks with Moderna and Pfizer.”

Images via CDC on Unsplash, Virginia Department of Health

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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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Morning Notes

Wind Advisory in Effect — The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Advisory for the D.C. area, including Fairfax County, starting at noon today (Friday). In effect until 2 a.m. Saturday, the alert says to expect northwest winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour with gusts up to 55 miles per hour. Gusts could blow around unsecured objects and bring down tree limbs, potentially leading to power outages. [NWS]

More Witnesses Come Forward in Sexual Battery Case — Additional victims and witnesses have contacted Herndon police about massage therapist Zachary Nelson Guzman-Orellana, 39, of Leesburg, who was arrested on April 21 on a charge of aggravated sexual battery. Police encourage any other victims or people with further information to call 703-435-6846. [Herndon Police Department/Twitter]

Rush Hour Toll Increase on Dulles Greenway Barred — Virginia’s State Corporation Commission approved a 25-cent increase for non-peak hour tolls on the Dulles Greenway but ruled that peak tolls can’t be raised now due to uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic. State legislators recently passed a law requiring the Virginia Department of Transportation to approve future toll increases on the privately operated road. [WTOP]

About 160,000 Virginians Miss Second Vaccine Dose — Virginia Department of Health data indicates that nearly 10% of Virginians who received a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines didn’t return for their second one in the recommended time frame. Scheduling challenges and anxieties about side effects that tend to be heavier with the second dose could be factors. [Virginia Mercury]

Reston Engineering Firm to Go Public — “Reston engineering firm Bowman Consulting Group Ltd. is planning to go public, and recently priced its shares for an initial public offering that could raise up to $49.5 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

Conservatory Ballet Founder Dies — “It is with great sadness that the Conservatory Ballet of Reston announces that Founder and former Director Julia Cziller Redick passed away on April 18, 2021. Mrs. Redick founded The Conservatory Ballet in Reston in 1972 and remained as Director of the school for close to 50 years.” [Conservatory Ballet Foundation/IssueWire]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Fairfax County now has enough supply to vaccinate whoever wants to be vaccinated, the county health department announced yesterday (April 28).

This comes only a week after the county said there wasn’t enough vaccine to meet the new demand from eligibility expanding into with the move to Phase 2. Several days after that, vaccine appointments on Vaccine Finder still remained hard to come by due to the short supply.

But that has now changed, thanks to an increase in supplies at the state and federal levels, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay told Reston Now.

Plus, he says, there are now more providers giving vaccines including grocery stores and pharmacies as well as private practices.

A look at Vaccine Finder reveals that grocery stores and pharmacies across the region have more open appointments than they did last week. The Target on Sunset Hills Road in Reston and CVS on Lee Highway in Fairfax, for example, have openings as soon as tomorrow (April 30).

Last week, Fairfax County retail pharmacies received 42,070 vaccine doses as part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership. The county was allocated 30,552 doses from the partnership this week, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“However, since pharmacies shift inventory among themselves, the actual number could be different,” the VDH spokesperson told Reston Now.

There’s also a state-run mass vaccination clinic in the county, which opened last week at the former Lord & Taylor in Tysons Corner Center and is now offering walk-in appointments.

“The Tysons Community Vaccination Center has a very large capacity — 3,000 people per day,” McKay said. “Paired with other sites throughout the county, it has certainly increased the capacity to vaccinate more people.”

As of yesterday afternoon (Wednesday), the clinic had administered 11,761 vaccinations since it opened eight days ago. That number was expected to top 12,000 by the end of the day, McKay said.

When visiting the facility around 4 p.m. yesterday, First Lady Pamela Northam noted that about half of Virginians have now received at least one vaccine dose. More than 6 million doses have now been delivered in the state, and close to 30% of residents are fully vaccinated.

The Fairfax County Health Department also continues to operate vaccine clinics at the Fairfax County Government Center and George Mason University. Appointments for those sites can be booked through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS).

With supply and appointments becoming more available, including a potential resumption of the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the pause was lifted last Friday, it’s possible that the county could meet the May 31 deadline set last month by both state and federal officials of delivering at least one dose of the vaccine to everyone who wants one.

However, McKay again didn’t fully commit to that target date.

“It is certainly our goal to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible,” he told Reston Now.

In some places across the country, vaccine supply is so far exceeding demand that mass vaccination sites are closing and localities are actually declining more vaccines.

According to McKay, that is not the case in Fairfax County, but supply has at last met demand.

“For many months, our demand was greater than supply,” he said. “Supply is now available at the level required to vaccinate anyone 16+ in Fairfax. That said, now is the time to get vaccinated.”

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Fairfax County is now reporting its lowest seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases since late October.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, the county currently has a weekly average of 115.3 new cases after the Fairfax Health District reported 74 COVID-19 cases today (Monday), including one case in the City of Falls Church.

The last time the county had a weekly average of 115.3 cases was Oct. 30, when the pandemic’s winter surge was just starting to set in.

After ticking up in early April, Fairfax County’s COVID-19 case rate has been on a steady decline since hitting 194.4 cases on average over seven days on April 13.

The Fairfax Health District’s testing positivity rate has also been falling in recent days, dipping below 5% on April 20 for the first time since it was at 4.9% on Oct. 26. The district’s seven-day moving average for positive PCR tests was 4.5% as of April 22, the latest date with data reported from the state.

The Fairfax County Health Department acknowledged that there is a discrepancy between the VDH data and the county’s reported case numbers for the Fairfax Health District. The county dashboard says that there were just 59 new cases today.

“Our data team is investigating,” FCHD spokesperson Tina Dale told Reston Now.

The Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Falls Church and Fairfax as well as the county, has recorded 76,376 total COVID-19 cases, 3,940 hospitalizations, and 1,095 deaths over the course of the pandemic, according to VDH data.

In addition to seeing signs that community transmission of the novel coronavirus has been diminishing, Fairfax County learned late last week that providers will once again be allowed to administer Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine, whose use was halted nationwide on April 13 in response to reports of a few recipients developing rare blood clots.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday (April 23) that the pause should be lifted, saying that the J&J vaccine’s benefits as an effective and generally safe tool for preventing COVID-19 outweigh its known and potential risks.

Virginia State Vaccination Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said that providers in the state are now free to resume administering the J&J vaccine, effective immediately.

“This extra scrutiny should instill confidence in the system that is in place to guarantee COVID-19 vaccine safety,” Avula said in a statement. “As with any vaccine, we encourage individuals to educate themselves on any potential side effects and to weigh that against the possibility of hospitalization or death from COVID-19.”

The Fairfax County Health Department says it will follow the federal and state guidance and resume offering the J&J vaccine at its vaccination sites, but it’s unclear when doses become available again.

“We will not receive the J&J vaccine this week since orders for vaccine are made the week prior,” Dale said. “I will not know the status on subsequent weeks until our vaccination team has a chance to meet.”

According to its vaccine dashboard, the county received 67,590 first and second vaccine doses from VDH for the week of April 19-25, an increase of more than 10,000 doses from the previous week. Because the county and its partners have primarily been utilizing the Pfizer vaccine, the J&J vaccine pause had a limited impact on vaccine availability and appointments.

Fairfax County providers have now administered more than 811,000 vaccine doses. 512,645 residents have received at least one dose, and 318,705 residents have been fully vaccinated — roughly 27.7% of the county’s total population.

That puts the county’s vaccination rate slightly behind Virginia as a whole, which has fully vaccinated 2.4 million residents, or 28.7% of its population. 3.6 million people — 42.9% of the population – have gotten at least one dose, and the Commonwealth has administered 5.9 million vaccine doses overall.

Images via CDC on Unsplash, Virginia Department of Health

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Morning Notes

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Pause Lifted — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration determined Friday (April 23) that the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine should resume. Its use was halted on April 13 due to reports of rare blood clots in 15 cases out of the 8 million people who have received the vaccine. [Patch]

Smithsonian Museums to Start Reopening in May — “After a second wave of closures in the fall, the Smithsonian announced today [April 23] that the National Zoo, National Portrait Gallery, and five more Smithsonian museums will go through a staggered reopening starting May 5.” [Washingtonian]

Herndon Elementary Begins Search for New Principal — Fairfax County Public Schools Region 1 Superintendent Douglas Tysons informed Herndon Elementary School staff and families that the school is starting the process of selecting a new principal. An advisory panel with three staff and three parent representatives will conduct an interview on May 14. The deadline to apply to serve on the panel is close of business tomorrow (April 27). [FCPS]

Glade Pool Resurfacing Expected to Finish Today — Crews are resurfacing the slide at Reston Association’s Glade Pool, in addition to updating the lighting outside of the pool and tennis courts. The resurfacing is a “relatively quick” project that RA anticipated being complete by Monday, ensuring that the slide will be ready for the summer. [RA/Twitter]

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It’s closing on a week since Fairfax County shifted the scheduling and managing of vaccine appointments to Vaccine Finder.

Officials said that the change would give residents more flexibility and choice, but vaccine appointments remain hard to come by in the county, despite the CDC-managed site saying that the vaccine is “in stock” at a number of retail pharmacies in the county.

The county health department published a blog post earlier today (Thursday) that aims to answer a number of questions it has received about obtaining appointments through Vaccine Finder.

According to the post, when vaccines are listed as “in stock,” it means the provider reported vaccines were available at that location within the last 72 hours. However, it does not necessarily mean that there are available appointments.

When following the prompts on Vaccine Finder to check appointment availability, the site takes you to the individual retail pharmacy’s scheduler.

As of 3 p.m. today, CVS, Safeway, and Costco had no available appointments within a 25-mile radius of Fairfax County. Harris Teeter and Giant similarly came up empty, though their systems check only within a 20 and 10-mile radius, respectively.

The county’s blog post says this lack of available appointments is because the “vaccine supply did not increase to meet the demand that the expanded eligibility created.”

In an email to Reston Now, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay notes that there are “over 900,000 people over the age of 18 in the Fairfax Health District and as of Sunday, for those who weren’t already, [they] are all now eligible to be vaccinated.”

Retail pharmacies are primarily receiving their supply from the federal government through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership, but both Virginia and county officials told Reston Now that they’re assisting with allocating doses to pharmacies to “maximize footprint, capacity, and accessibility.”

State health officials said that 42,070 vaccine doses were allocated to Fairfax County retail pharmacies this week as part of the federal partnership.

Virginia’s retail pharmacies received 210,180 doses overall, meaning that Fairfax County’s allocation makes up 20% of that total. About 13.5% of Virginia’s population lives in Fairfax County.

The Commonwealth did not yet have allocation information for next week.

Beyond retail pharmacies, the county also notes that they’re providing vaccines to about 50 healthcare providers to “enable residents to get vaccinated through their primary care doctor or somewhere closer to home.”

In addition, there’s the state-run Community Vaccination Center at Tysons, which just opened yesterday (April 20) and is now listed on Vaccine Finder, as well as a clinic at the Fairfax County Government Center that is listed in the CDC’s Vaccine Administration Management System.

A new call center system at 703-324-7404 was implemented last week to assist residents with scheduling appointments, but wait times for callers could be long.

McKay declined again to commit Fairfax County to meeting President Joe Biden and Gov. Ralph Northam’s deadline of delivering at least one dose of vaccine to everyone who wants one by May 31.

“While we understand that is the Governor’s deadline and we will work hard to meet that, it will always be dependent on the amount of vaccine delivered to Fairfax,” McKay wrote. “We have high demand and the ability to vaccinate thousands a day and I look forward to continuing to get shots in arms quickly and efficiently.”

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Morning Notes

Fairfax County Clears COVID-19 Vaccine Waitlist — The Fairfax County Health Department’s vaccine waitlist is now at zero, according to its data dashboard. That means everyone who registered before the county entered Phase 2 on April 18 has now been invited to schedule an appointment. The department registered a total of 435,981 people. [FCHD]

Northam Raises Capacity Limits for School Performances — “Northam said the spectator cap for school performances, including musicals, is increasing to a maximum of 100 attendees for indoor venues — a substantial boost from the previous limit of 50. Outdoor venues will be allowed to welcome up to 500 people.” [WTOP]

Herndon Police Make Arrest in Two-Year-Old Robbery Attempt — A 20-year-old Herndon man has been charged with multiple counts of robbery, assault by mob, and gang participation, among other charges, for an incident that took place on June 18, 2019. According to police, two people had tried to grab a man’s cell phone while he was going for a walk but ran when the robbery attempt proved unsuccessful. [Herndon PD]

Herndon Contractor Buoyed by Space Rover Work — “By spring, coming off a successful mission to help NASA land the Perseverance on Mars and having acquired two big-name companies — a section of Northrup Grumman and Perspecta — Peraton will soon employ 24,000 people and bring in $7 billion in revenue.” [Inside NoVA]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

New Fairfax County Registrar Sworn In — Scott O. Konopasek was officially sworn in as Fairfax County’s new general registrar by Clerk of the Court John T. Frey yesterday (Monday). Konopasek was appointed by the Electoral Board in March 11 and replaces Gary Scott, who retired after working for the county’s elections office for 24 years. [Fairfax County Office of Elections/Twitter]

Pedestrian and Bicycle Fatalities High Despite Pandemic — “Despite the reduction in vehicle traffic, early data from 2020 indicate the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed in traffic incidents remained steady across the [D.C.] region — accounting for 29 percent of all traffic fatalities, the Metropolitan Council of Governments said in a news release.” [Inside NoVA]

Governor Tours Tysons Mass Vaccine Site — “Today, I toured @TysonsCorner Vaccination Center w/ @GovernorVA, @RepDonBeyer, @DelegateKeam, @JeffreyCMcKay, & @SupvPalchik to see the set up for tomorrow’s opening. From machines that connect folks to a translator in real-time to 3k appointments for tomorrow. The site is ready.” [Senator Mark Warner/Twitter]

Herndon Satellite Company Expands Capacity — “BlackSky, a leading provider of real-time geospatial intelligence and global monitoring services that recently announced a planned business combination with Osprey Technology Acquisition Corp. (NYSE: SFTW), today shared that its BlackSky 7 satellite completed the commissioning process and entered full commercial operations within two weeks of launch.” [Black Sky]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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