Morning Notes

Vaccine Mandate In Effect for Chamber Events — The Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce is requiring attendees of in-person events to show proof of vaccination. Fully vaccinated attendees will not be required to wear a face mask. While some exceptions may be made, attendees who are not vaccinated can provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of the event. [Reston Patch]

Polo Tennis Court Closed — The tennis court will be closed for refurbishments beginning today. Repairs are expected to take between two and three weeks. [Reston Association]

Local Elementary School Earns High Honors — Sunrise Valley Elementary School has been named the 14th best elementary school in Fairfax County, according to a national ranking. [Reston Patch]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

County to Deploy Mobile COVID-19 Testing — The county is deploying a mobile lab to provide testing in several locations beginning tomorrow. Individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms can get tested. Sites selected to boost access to testing in areas with a higher number of cases. [Fairfax County Government]

Volunteers Needed for Multicultural Festival — Reston Community Center is looking for volunteers to help set up the Set. 24 event, along with parking attendants, activity assistants, and survey takers. [Reston Association]

Fairfax County Police Chief Tap Executive Deputy — Brian Reilly, formerly of the Prince George’s County Police Department is officially Fairfax County’s executive deputy police. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Photo via vantagheill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Herndon Prepares for Metro — Town officials reflect on how they’re preparing for Metro’s arrival. The town has 38 acres of developable land north of the new Metro station. [Washington Business Journal]

Aslin Beer Co. to Expand — The brewery, which has locations in Alexandria and Herndon, is opening a 7,000-square-foot taproom in The Terminal, a large redevelopment of Pittsburg. [Washington Business Journal]

QR Codes Now Available to Verify Vaccine Status — The state’s health department has announced that QR codes are now available to verify an individual’s vaccination status. Virginia is now the fifth state in the country to adopt the QR code method. [Fairfax County Government]

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Morning Notes

TransUnion to Buy Reston-based Company — TransUnion will acquire most of Neustar Inc., an information services and technology company based in Reston. The company has agreed to sell its marketing, fraud and communications businesses for $3.1 billion in cash. But the deal excludes the its cybersecurity business. [Washington Business Journal]

Local Apartment Community Has New Owner — J Harbor Park at North Point, a 190-unit apartment community in Reston, was acquired by Jefferson Apartment Group, a multifamily developer and operator.The development is expected to undergo renovations in the coming months. [Commercial Observer]

Local Vaccine Clinic Today at Wiehle-Reston East — The county’s health department is hosting a vaccine clinic at the Wiehle-Reston Metro Station for most of the day today. Can’t make it today? Another clinic is planned for Thursday. Walk-ins and appointments are available. [Reston Association]

Deer Management Program Underway — The county’s annual deer management archery program is underway through Feb. 19. It’s part of a longstanding effort to reduce the white-tailed deer population in the county. The county notes that only approved members of the its program can hunt in designated parks. [Fairfax County Government]

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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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Coronavirus (Photo via CDC on Unsplash)

After hovering in the “substantial” category throughout August, Fairfax County is officially seeing high levels of COVID-19 spread within the community, putting it in line with almost all of Virginia.

The county went from orange to red when the Virginia Department of Health updated its dashboard this morning (Monday) for the week of Aug. 22-28. Manassas Park is now the only locality in the state not reporting high community transmission, a dot of “moderate” yellow amid a sea of crimson.

The Fairfax County Health Department attributes the continued rise in virus cases to the prevalence of the Delta variant, which spreads more easily between people than previous strains and is now the most common strain in Northern Virginia.

“We continue to do all we can to educate, vaccinate, and limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu said in a statement. “…The level of community transmission in Northern Virginia — and the rest of the Commonwealth — is now classified as “High”, emphasizing the importance of prevention wherever we live, work, play and learn. We urge everyone to continue to be vigilant about layered prevention strategies and for all those who are eligible to receive vaccination to do so.”

Fairfax County now has high levels of COVID-19 community transmission (via Virginia Department of Health)

Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s metrics, VDH determines the level of community transmission based on the total number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 persons and the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive over the last seven days.

While Fairfax County’s weekly testing positivity rate actually dropped from 6.2% during the week of Aug. 15-21 to 5.1% this past week, which would still be considered moderate transmission, the number of new cases per 100,000 people jumped from 99.2 to 109.5 over that same time frame, putting the county over the 100-case threshold for high transmission.

With one day left in the month, the Fairfax Health District has reported fewer than 100 new COVID-19 cases in a day just twice in August. Another 116 cases came in today, bringing the weekly average up to 182.6 cases — the highest mark since April 14, when the county averaged 184.3 daily new cases over the previous seven days.

The district, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church as well as Fairfax County, has now recorded a total of 83,902 COVID-19 cases over the course of the pandemic. 4,253 residents have been hospitalized with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 1,164 residents have died, including eight since last Monday (Aug. 23).

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Aug. 30, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

According to the VDH, the vast majority of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths statewide continue to occur in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people, who have contracted COVID-19 at 13.3 and 2.6 times the rate of their fully vaccinated counterparts, respectively.

The Fairfax Health District has administered a total of 1.46 million vaccine doses so far, though the federal government’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine on Aug. 23 doesn’t appear to have spurred a sudden uptick in demand.

787,408 residents — or 66.5% of the district’s total population, including 78.7% of people 18 and older — have now gotten at least one shot, according to the Fairfax County Health Department’s vaccine dashboard. 6,369 more people joined the club over the past week, roughly on par with the 6,257 people who got their first inoculation in the week before that.

712,389 residents are fully vaccinated, which amounts to 71.6% of adults and 60.2% of the overall population.

Photo via CDC on Unsplash

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(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) All high school students will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to participate in school sports, Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand announced this morning (Monday).

The requirement will apply to students who plan to get involved in Virginia High School League winter and spring sports this school year, along with activities like dance team and out-of-season workouts that require a physical, but it will take effect on Nov. 8, prior to the postseason for fall sports like football and field hockey.

An FCPS spokesperson says the Nov. 8 date was chosen, because that’s when the school system will start having indoor sports.

“As FCPS students return to our school buildings, our priority must be on our academic programming,” the spokesperson said. “Our data is showing that a significant number of our cases stem from athletics and a disproportionate number of students are having their learning impacted. Therefore, we have made the decision to mandate vaccinations for students who wish to partake in a number of close contact athletic disciplines. By taking this step, we hope to limit the number of students who are being instructed to remain out of school buildings.”

The announcement comes one week after FCPS started its 2021-2022 academic year and 10 days after the district issued a vaccination mandate for employees that’s expected to take effect in October.

As recently as last Tuesday (Aug. 24), school officials had expressed uncertainty about the legality of requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for students.

“As I understand it, that’s not something we’re able to do yet in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Brabrand said at a school board work session. “…I do think, just like the staff vaccination mandate, we need to, as this pandemic evolves, continue to go back and return to these kinds of issues that can really help make our schools safe for in-person instruction now and forever.”

Mount Vernon District School Board Representative Karen Corbett-Sanders, who served on a state task force that looked at the issue, confirmed that Virginia law requires any vaccination requirements for students come from the Virginia Department of Health, which would refer the mandate to the General Assembly.

“The legislature is not meeting again until January, but this may be an area where this board, as we look at our legislative priorities, would urge that,” Corbett-Sanders said.

However, in that same meeting, some board members raised concerns about students missing class time due to sports-related COVID-19 cases and the amount of time that health officials needed to conduct contact tracing, since there was no system in place to quickly determine who had already been vaccinated.

FCPS says vaccinations can be mandated for student athletes without state approval, because sports aren’t required activities and students don’t earn grades or credit for participating in them.

According to the FCPS case dashboard, 234 people, including 164 students and 69 staff members, have reported testing positive for COVID-19 to the school system this month as of Friday (Aug. 27).

Most cases appear to be occurring in elementary schools, but Brabrand says the majority of instances where high school students need to pause instruction have been the result of exposure during athletic activities.

“While we know this is a difficult decision for some families, it is an essential step that we must take to limit the duration of a pause, getting students back to the classroom and their activities sooner, but still safely,” Brabrand said, noting that FCPS will work with the Fairfax County Health Department to ensure students have access to the vaccine before the mandate takes effect.

Brabrand’s full message to the FCPS community can be found below: Read More

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Morning Notes

Lake Anne Plaza fountain in August (via vantagehill/Flickr)

COVID-19 Vaccine Recommended for Pregnant People — “COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for everyone 12 years and older, including those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or would like to get pregnant. The rise in COVID-19 cases, low vaccine uptake among pregnant people, and the increased risk of severe illness during pregnancy make vaccination more urgent than ever.” [Fairfax County Health Department]

Local Cycling Studio Announces Vaccine Requirement — Starting Sept. 1, New Trail Cycling in Lake Anne Plaza will require patrons to provide proof that they’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to take an indoor class. Owner Liz Camp says she’s not aware of any other businesses in the Reston and Herndon area with a similar policy but felt it’s a necessary extra step to keep people safe and healthy as cases rise. [New Trail Cycling]

Police Union Supports Eliminating Ticket-Writing Quotas — The Virginia Police Benevolent Association, which represents 750 state troopers, says it’s working with the General Assembly on a law that would prohibit law enforcement agencies from imposing quotas on officers, saying that approach is outdated and leads to more negative interactions with the public. Virginia State Police officials deny using quotas, but emails suggest troopers are evaluated in part by how many tickets they write. [WTOP]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Morning Notes

People stroll along path at Walker Nature Center (Photo by Marjorie Copson)

Herndon Police Believe Sexual Assault Suspect Had More Victims — Detectives with the Herndon Police Department believe other people may have been victimized by a man they charged with aggravated sexual battery on June 30, according to a tweet. At the time of his arrest, the victim in the case told police that Carlos Morales López, 55, gave her a massage in the 800 block of Sycamore Court when he sexually assaulted her. [Patch]

Police Investigate South Lakes Bank Robbery — Police officers were dispatched to BB&T in the South Lakes Village Shopping Center yesterday morning (Tuesday) after a man reportedly entered the bank, grabbed the manager, and demanded cash before leaving the area on foot. No injuries were reported, and detectives are continuing to investigate the incident, which is the second time the branch has been robbed this year. [FCPD]

Free COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic at Reston Station Tomorrow — Reston Station will host a second COVID-19 vaccination clinic next to Founding Farmers (1904 Reston Metro Plaza) from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday). Anyone who visits the clinic to get their first dose will receive $15 gift cards to Starbucks and Big Buns Damn Good Burgers. Second Pfizer doses will be administered on Sept. 14 and 16. [Reston Station/Twitter]

Reston Community Center Starts ESports League — Embracing a trend that is also coming to Fairfax County Public Schools, Reston Community Center is teaming up with the platform GGLeagues to launch an esports program this fall. Players will compete from home using their own consoles and can choose from a variety of games. Each league will run for six weeks starting on Oct. 4, and registration will be open until Sept. 22. [RCC]

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Coronavirus (Photo via CDC on Unsplash)

The U.S. has its first officially approved COVID-19 vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration announced this morning (Monday) that it has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for individuals 16 and older based on updated data from clinical trials that showed the vaccine is 91% effective at preventing the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

That is lower than the 95% effectiveness rate reported on Dec. 11, when the Pfizer vaccine became the first innoculation authorized for emergency use in the country, but the FDA says the vaccine meets its standards for safety, quality, and effectiveness, including against hospitalization or death due to a COVID-19 infection.

“While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated,” Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement. “Today’s milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S.”

The Pfizer vaccine also remains authorized for use by adolescents between 12 and 15 years of age. Moderna started the process to get full approval of its vaccine, which is currently authorized for adults 18 and older, on June 1, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still available for adults after a brief pause this spring.

The full approval allows Pfizer to advertise its vaccine and continue selling it after the federal public health emergency for the pandemic ends, but local and state officials hope it will also convince more people to get vaccinated, as COVID-19 cases continue to climb due to the highly infectious Delta variant.

“Today’s news is yet another reaffirmation that vaccines are safe and effective,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “Though all three COVID vaccines are approved for emergency use, the FDA’s official approval of Pfizer’s vaccine is good news for our community. We have been distributing Pfizer since day one and have plenty on hand for those who would like one. Anyone who is not vaccinated, or who was waiting for this FDA action, should go get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones against COVID-19.”

According to Virginia Department of Health data, Fairfax County reported 206 new COVID-19 cases on Friday (Aug. 20), the first time its single-day caseload surpassed 200 since April 13. With another 336 cases coming in over the weekend and 124 cases added today, including from the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, the Fairfax Health District has seen a total of 82,600 cases since the start of the pandemic.

4,227 people in the district have been hospitalized, and 1,156 people have died from the virus.

The county is now averaging 178.9 cases per day over the past seven days, a tick down from 182.9 cases yesterday (Sunday), which was the highest weekly average since April 14.

With more than 80 cases per 100,000 people reported in the last week and a testing positivity rate of 4.4% as of the week ending on Aug. 14, the county’s community transmission level remains substantial. Read More

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All Fairfax County government workers will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the county announced today (Friday).

Employees who don’t get vaccinated, including those who request an exemption for medical or religious reasons, will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing to remain employed.

The timing of when the mandate will take effect remains unclear, as the announcement says only that it will begin this fall.

“We know vaccinations save lives and that these vaccines are safe and effective,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “Throughout the pandemic we have focused on measures to keep our employees and our community safe, and this is another key piece of that effort. As one of the largest employers in Virginia, and one that has successfully and consistently stressed to our residents the importance of being vaccinated, we must practice what we preach.”

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on July 28 to direct County Executive Bryan Hill to explore the possibility of a vaccine requirement while developing an official return-to-office plan for the county government.

Fairfax County Public Schools announced this morning that it will require employees to get vaccinated, starting in October, though the new school year will begin on Monday (Aug. 23).

“We join organizations including Fairfax County Public Schools, public universities, privately held companies, and our federal and local governments, taking these measures to help protect employees and the public from this significant health threat,” Hill said in a statement. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, Fairfax County has focused on policies and procedures that support the health and well-being of our staff and the community, and we will continue to do so.”

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(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) All Fairfax County Public School employees will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing, the school system announced this morning.

The requirement will take effect “by late October,” according to the news release:

To keep our commitment to provide students with five days a week of in-person instruction this year. Vaccination is the most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and prevent severe illness. We must take every measure possible to keep our schools safe.

To give employees the peace of mind that comes with knowing their workplace is a safe place. Knowing coworkers are either vaccinated or have tested negative for COVID-19 provides confidence and comfort so we can focus on our mission- educating kids.

To reassure FCPS students and families they are learning in the safest environment possible. We can assure everyone who enters our building that our workforce is either vaccinated or is reporting to work with a negative COVID-19 test.

To lead by example. FCPS continues to promote vaccination for everyone, including our students, as soon as they are eligible. Our goal is for every eligible employee to be vaccinated. The sooner our community reaches a high vaccination rate, the sooner we begin to put the pandemic behind us.

FCPS had already established a universal masking policy for all students, staff, and visitors inside school buildings, but as recently as Wednesday, officials had said that they were not mandating vaccinations, though the option had not been definitively ruled out.

The change comes days after two unions representing FCPS employees — the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers and the Fairfax Education Association — issued statements saying that they would support a vaccine mandate.

“Our teachers and staff have gone above and beyond to keep their students safe and healthy during the pandemic. Most signed up for vaccines as soon as they were available,” Providence District School Board Member Karl Frisch said in a statement. “This was the right decision. To keep our students safe and our schools running smoothly, it is critical that everyone in our community who is eligible gets vaccinated — not only our educators and school employees. That is how we will ultimately put this pandemic behind us.”

As of 9:50 a.m. today (Friday), a majority of respondents in an informal poll conducted by Reston Now and sister site Tysons Reporter said they would support a vaccine requirement not just for staff, but also for students. However, the opposition to a mandate has grown since the results were checked last night.

Students will return to classes on Monday (Aug. 23).

“FCPS continues to encourage vaccination for everyone, including students, as soon as they are eligible,” Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a message sent out to families this morning. “This summer, Fairfax County has seen vaccination rates for our young people soar. We have some of the highest vaccination rates across the country for this age group.”

According to FCPS, 61.9% of adolescents aged 12-15 in Fairfax County are now fully vaccinated, along with 74.4% of 16 to 17-year-olds.

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Morning Notes

Reston Association Board Names Acting CEO — The Board of Directors named COO Larry Butler as the organization’s acting CEO last night (Thursday) in preparation for current head Hank Lynch’s resignation effective Sept. 3. Butler also served in the position when RA conducted its last CEO search in 2018. Lynch’s permanent successor will be chosen by a committee created by the board. [RA]

Pedestrian Deaths Worry Fairfax County — Route 1 has become a focal point of concerns about traffic safety in Fairfax County, which has recorded 10 pedestrian deaths in the past seven months. The police department launched a campaign this summer urging drivers in the Reston area to slow down, especially at two intersections around Reston Town Center. [NBC4]

Second Union Backs School Vaccine Mandate — The Fairfax Education Association, which represents Fairfax County Public School teachers and staff, joined the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers in supporting the idea of a vaccine requirement for FCPS employees. The union also supports universal masking and called on the school system to extend its Family Medical Leave Act paid sick leave policy through Dec. 31. [FEA]

Car Seat Inspection Event Tomorrow — “Safety matters! Our Traffic Safety Section is hosting a car seat inspection and install event on Saturday, August 21 at 1421 Wiehle Avenue in Reston from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. Inspections and installations are on a first come, first serve basis.” [Fairfax County Police Department/Twitter]

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An FCPS employee at an Inova COVID-19 vaccine clinic from earlier this year (Photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools)

The first day of school is less than a week away, and for many students, teachers, and parents, it’s coming with even more anxiety than usual.

For the first time since mid-March 2020, nearly all Fairfax County Public School students will attend in-person classes five days a week starting on Monday (Aug. 23).

With COVID-19 still in the air and students younger than 12 unable to get vaccinated, FCPS has an array of health protocols aimed at curbing the risk of infection, including an indoor mask requirement, outdoor classes and dining where possible, and diagnostic testing for people who display symptoms.

However, the school system is not requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employees or eligible students. Arlington Public Schools is the only Northern Virginia district to issue a vaccine requirement for staff so far, though the Alexandria City school board is expected to discuss the issue today (Thursday).

The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, the union that represents FCPS educators and non-administrative staff, said earlier this week that it would support a mandate, and FCPS says it will “continue to consider all options that keep our staff and students safe.”

While many colleges and universities have issued vaccine mandates for students, legal and political concerns make it unlikely that any K-12 schools will take a similar stance, even though they already require other immunizations.

According to Fairfax County Health Department data, 78% of adolescents aged 12-17 and 65.6% of all Fairfax Health District residents have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.

“While mandatory vaccination is a policy decision and not a policy that the health department would be in charge of making, we do really support and urge everybody to get the information they need in order to make a positive decision to get vaccinated, which is really more important than ever with the Delta variant,” FCHD Director of Epidemiology and Population Health Dr. Benjamin Schwartz said during a virtual town hall on Monday (Aug. 26).

With the COVID-19 vaccines shown to be effective at preventing serious illness, albeit slightly less so against the Delta variant, should FCPS require the shots?

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