Reston, VA

Inova Health Systems has cancelled all appointments for people looking to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Starting today (Tuesday), the nonprofit healthcare provider will cease administering first doses of the Pfizer-BioTech vaccine for the foreseeable future due to a change to the Virginia Department of Health’s distribution process that has “severely diminished” supplies for Inova.

According to Inova, vaccine doses are now being sent directly to local health districts, which are responsible for allocating supplies.

“We understand and share the frustration that this news brings to our patients,” Inova said. “When we receive more supply inventory, we will first prioritize patients who had an appointment scheduled and then focus on opening further appointments up to eligible groups.”

Anyone whose appointment has been canceled will be contacted by Inova to reschedule once the needed supplies are available.

People who have already received a first dose and need a second one will be prioritized, and their appointments have not been affected, Inova says.

Inova says it has administered more than 70,000 vaccine doses to healthcare workers and select groups in phase 1b of Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, including patients aged 75 and older, emergency first responders, public safety personnel, and school employees.

Fairfax County Public Schools formed a partnership with Inova that enabled about 40,000 teachers and staff to start receiving the vaccine on Jan. 16. FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said then that all workers who wanted the vaccine should be able to get the two required doses through Inova’s clinics, which were expected to last three weeks.

“This is very disappointing news but we will continue to work with our partners from Inova and the Fairfax County Health Dept to secure vaccine for our staff as soon as we can,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a statement. “We must keep the faith.”

The changes in vaccine distribution methods will also reduce the already insufficient supply available to the Fairfax County Health Department, according to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay.

McKay explained the changes in a newsletter released last night:

The Virginia Department of Health has announced that they will only receive 105,000 vaccine doses per week from the federal government. For context, last week the Fairfax County Health Department alone received over 22,000 doses from VDH for the 168,000 residents eligible for a vaccine. This is in part due to two changes at the federal and state levels, not the County level. At the federal level, there is a nationwide shortage of COVID-19 vaccine. At the state level, unfortunately they have decided to change distribution to per capita, as opposed to the amounts County’s and hospital’s have ordered.

McKay says the county will prioritize the more than 50,000 people 75 and older who had registered to get vaccinated before Virginia expanded eligibility for phase 1b. Public safety personnel and people living in correctional facilities and homeless shelters will continue to get the vaccine through special clinics.

“It is profoundly unfortunate that despite all of our efforts at the local level that we must again ask for patience, which is frustrating for all of us,” McKay said. “I hate to have to share this news, but I also want to be transparent about the situation we are in.”

Photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools

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The seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County continues a steep decline this week, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.

Today’s average was 366 cases compared to roughly 681 cases during the prior week of Jan. 18 and 535 cases on Jan. 11. But it is important to note that the number of new cases per day continues to be higher than the first peak of the outbreak over the summer.

For example, VDH reported 689 cases today, well about the peak of 434 over the summer on May 28. The highest number of new cases per day — 1,485 — was reported on Jan. 17.

Similarly, hospitalizations in the county are also on the decline after peaking in early May. The weekly average of hospitalizations has hovered at numbers less than 20 for the last few months, according to VDH data. Today, VDH reported seven hospitalizations and a rolling average of eight.

Statewide, the daily case average took a downturn as well after three days of record-high cases.

Roughly 40 percent of the county’s total population about the age of 16 is eligible to receive the vaccine. So far, 57,702 people have received the first dose of the vaccine and 6,141 people have been fully vaccinated. Statewide, 416,200 people have received the first dose and 58,779 are fully vaccinated.

County officials have noted that while many people are eligible for the vaccine, a limited dose of vaccines is currently available.

In a Jan. 21 letter to Gov. Ralph Northam, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay urged the state to increase the county’s vaccine supply.

The county has more than 100,000 residents registered through the health department’s vaccinations system.

“We average about 10,000 doses a week, which does not meet the demand nor the expectation of the 100,000 people we now have in the queue,” McKay wrote.

People can register online or by calling the county’s vaccine hotline at 703-324-7404.

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Seniors living in two of Fellowship Square’s housing communities have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The first dose of the vaccine was distributed on Jan. 18 at Lake Anne Fellowship House in Reston. Another dose was administered at Lake Ridge Fellowship House in Woodbridge on Jan. 19. The vaccine will be provided for residents at Hunters Woods Fellowship House in Reston in February.

The move falls in line with the Virginia Department of Health’s Phase 1b for distribution of the vaccine: “Vaccinate Frontline Essential Workers, People Aged 65 years and Older, People Living in Correctional Facilities, Homeless Shelters and Migrant Labor Camps, and People aged 16 through 64 years with a High Risk Medical Condition or Disability that Increases Their Risk of Severe Illness from COVID-19.”

The vaccine was administered door to door through a mobile health collaboration with local CVS and Walgreens pharmacies. The mobile units will return to administer the second dose of the vaccine.

“While we will continue to keep safety precautions in place, we now at least can offer our residents the additional level of health, safety and security that being vaccinated against COVID-19 brings,” Christy Zeitz, CEO of Fellowship Square, said in a press release.

“There is a lot of excitement among our residents and staff – they have been looking forward to this day for many months.”

Fellowship Square houses more than 700 seniors between its three housing communities. The organization is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit with a reported average resident age of 78.

The nonprofit says it has combatted COVID-19 in its residences with proactive safety and sanitation efforts. It has also provided regular educational updates in more than nine languages that are spoken throughout its communities.

Fellowship Square has also organized a “Check In and Chat” effort for volunteers to call residents to check on their well-being and offer companionship. The organization also has volunteer opportunities through “Fellowship Fresh” to deliver food donations to residents’ doors.

Photos courtesy Fellowship Square

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About 40% of Fairfax County residents 16 and older are now eligible to register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment after Virginia expanded phase 1b to include anyone 65 and older as well as people with medical conditions or a disability that puts them at high risk of severe illness if they contract the disease.

Eligible populations now include:

  • Healthcare workers and long-term care facility employees
  • People age 65 and older
  • People who are 16-64 years old and have high-risk medical conditions
  • Essential frontline workers, including school staff, corrections and homeless shelter workers, grocery store workers, and police, fire, and hazmat first responders

However, the Fairfax County Health Department’s registration system has been plagued by technical issues and struggled to keep up with the high demand for the vaccines. In addition, limited supplies mean that even people who are able to register might have to wait weeks to secure an appointment.

While the process has been less than ideal so far, Fairfax County has administered more than 45,000 vaccine doses, and 4,620 residents have been fully vaccinated, as of Jan. 20, according to Virginia Department of Health data.

Have you been able to successfully register for the COVID-19 vaccine yet? Have you tried to register but been frustrated by the county’s system? If you’re not eligible yet, are you planning to get vaccinated once you are?

Photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools

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The first day of pre-screening and vaccine registration for Fairfax County residents between the ages of 65 and 74 and those with high-risk medical conditions began with a bumpy start after the county’s system went down for most of the morning on Monday.

Now, as the system returns to normal and vaccine registration resumes, county officials are urging residents to remain patient. Instead of contacting the county through the health department’s vaccine hotline, officials encourage residents to complete an online pre-screening form and appointment questionnaire instead of calling the county’s hotline.

Still, some residents — including frontline healthcare workers who received the first dose of the vaccine in December — say they’re still receiving uncertain answers about when to schedule their second dose.

A local healthcare worker told Reston Now that she and several others she knows have had trouble receiving any information from the health department on when the second dose will take be administered. All residents receive a vaccination card and are required to receive a second dose of the two-course vaccine roughly four weeks after the first dose.

But some say they haven’t received any information on when the second dose will be available.

“I have called the department hundreds of times to attempt to schedule the second required vaccine,” a healthcare worker told Reston Now. ‘A week ago, I literally called 50 times and was unable to get through to speak to someone.”

When residents were able to get someone on the line, the information provided was scant, the source told Reston Now.

“A system that is already overloaded is becoming even more overwhelmed.”

Tina Dale, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Health Department, told Reston Now that residents do not need to call the health department to schedule the second dose of the vaccine. The health department will provide residents with a link to schedule their next appointment by email.

The earliest the second dose can be administered by the health department is late this week.

But it may be weeks before registered residents receive information from the health department to register an appointment.

Within the first few hours of pre-registration opening on Saturday, the county received more than 33,000 new registrations. Gov. Ralph Northam recently expanded the number of eligible Virginians who can register for the vaccine.

Now, more than 40 percent of the county’s total population is eligible to register for a vaccine. The Fairfax County Public Schools System began vaccinating employees on Jan. 16. Vaccinations for FCPS are offered through the Inova Center for Personalized Health in Fairfax.

Once all residents are pre-screening through the online form or by phone, they will be contacted by the health department for scheduling. The county has also launched a webpage with commonly asked questions about the vaccine.

“There is a very limited supply of vaccine from the Virginia Department of Health and the county is constantly working to get more,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn in a statement. “This process will take months, not days.”

Technical difficulties with the county’s IT vendor prompted delays on Saturday morning. The county’s phone lines were once again overwhelmed with an influx of calls.

Alcorn said that while he understands the issues were unforeseen, challenges so far are “still not acceptable.”

“We need to do better.”

Photo via FCPS

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More than 40 percent of Fairfax County’s population can now receive the COVID-19 vaccine following Gov. Ralph Northam’s expansion of eligibility requirements.

Now, people age 65 and above and people between the ages of 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions to a disability can register to receive the vaccine as part of phase 1b. Prior to Northam’s announcement yesterday, these groups were part of the next phase of the vaccine’s administration.

But county officials it may take months to get through phase 1b, which prioritizes people age 75 and above and essential frontline workers like school staff, police, and grocery store workers.

The availability to schedule appointments will depend on the supply of vaccine available,the county wrote in a statement yesterday. The vaccine supply in the U.S. is still very limited and is expected to increase gradually over the next months.

Although it may take weeks before vaccines are formally administered, the Fairfax County Health Department will begin registering individuals in the newly-eligible group on Jan. 18.

Northam expects all Virginians to be vaccinated by the middle of the summer.

“This means about half of Virginia is now eligible to receive the vaccine. That’s a major logistical effort, and it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.

So far, the state has received 943,000 doses of the vaccine and administered roughly 242,000 doses. On average, the state is administering 12,000 doses daily — far from the governor’s long-term goal of 50,000 doses. Overall, the state is receiving 110,000 doses of the vaccine per week.

Northam is also encouraging schools to reopen, noting that six months of data from schools around the state suggests that school can reopen if appropriate safety protocols are in place. The newly-released guidance creates a five-step program to guide decision making on reopening.

The county plans to launch an online form to register for the vaccine today via its vaccine webpage. Residents should be able to schedule a time themselves based on eligibility, availability of appointments, and vaccine interview, according to Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

The health department previously launched a pre-screening form on Monday to allow people to pre-register for the vaccine. Residents can also call the county’s vaccine hotline at 703-324-7404 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. and on weekends between 9;30 a.m. and 5 p.m. The department will contact individuals who complete the pre-screening form depending on vaccine supply and appointment availability.

Demand for the vaccine flooded the county’s call lines on Monday, prompting local elected officials to encourage the county to improve its communications strategy.

Meanwhile, Walgreens is offering rapid antigen testing across select locations in the state. The new partnership with the Virginia Department of Health, which was announced yesterday, allows adults and children age three and above to receive a test. Walgreen’s testing site is located in Centreville at 13926 Lee Highway.

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Thursday Morning Notes


Airbnb Cancels Area Reservations — “Airbnb says it is cancelling bookings for next week in the D.C. area, in response to threats of violence during the Inauguration week.” [ARLnow]

FCPS Announces Vaccine Schedule — “The COVID-19 vaccine will be administered to FCPS staff via Inova Health System, in partnership with the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD), starting this Saturday, January 16, 2021. All FCPS employees will have access to the COVID-19 vaccine as a part of the Virginia Department of Health 1b group of other essential workers.” [FCPS]

Lane Closures Planned on Dulles Toll Road — “Beginning on or about Thursday, Jan. 14,  at 10 p.m. to Friday, Jan. 15, at 5 a.m., Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project (DCMP) crews will be performing pedestrian bridge utility work along the eastbound Dulles Toll Road (DTR) requiring the full closure of three left lanes beginning at mile marker 1.6 on the west end of Innovation Station and continuing to mile marker 5.0 on the east end of Reston Station.” [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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Following a flood of demand yesterday, Fairfax County plans to launch a new online vaccine registration system as early as tomorrow that will allow residents to schedule an appointment according to the county’s Information Technology Department.

On Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the Fairfax Health District is one of several districts in the state to jumpstart the next phase of vaccinations — phase 1b. The first priority group in this phase is adults age 75 and older, followed by priority groups like police and grocery store workers.

The new system, which is currently under development, follows a pre-registration tool that was launched by the county on Monday after overwhelming demand for scheduling jammed county phone lines and flooded the overall system. The pre-registration form, which is currently open, includes pre-screening questions and was launched earlier than originally anticipated in order to shift demand from the county’s phone line to the online system. Pre-registered residents will likely be contacted via email by the county to complete the registration process.

At an IT committee meeting today, some members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors were dismayed by the initial rollout of the registration system and phone line. Overall, the county received nearly 1.2 million calls on its vaccine hotline yesterday. Within the first hour that the phone line went up, the system was jammed.

Jeff McKay, the board’s chairman, said that he was concerned the board did not receive information about the issues facing the county until around 6 p.m. yesterday.

“I know it is disappointing that we weren’t better prepared for this,” McKay said. “I will say that we need to be a lot quicker.”

He also noted that residents should be aware that phase 1b is not a first-come, first-serve system. Frontline essential workers will be vaccinated in a pre-determined order, with police, fire and hazmat workers on the top of the list.

The county is testing out the new system today in cooperation with the Fairfax County Health Department, according to Gregory Scott, director of the county’s Department of Information Technology.

His office also plans to implement a virtual system with automated chatbots and work with external vendors to help manage call volume. The county also routed some calls to a voice message that said to call back later due to busy phone lines.

“Everybody was in this predicament yesterday morning,” Scott said.

Staff noted that additional manpower may be needed to manage call volume and respond to registration forms to sort out missing or conflicting information.

For example, more than 286,000 voicemails were left on the county’s vaccination line yesterday alone. So far, the county hopes to automate as much of the registration process — including administration of the vaccine’s second dose — as much as possible.

Residents will likely receive an email about registering for the second dose, according to the county’s health department.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn, who chairs the IT committee, also encouraged the county to ensure the registration form is friendly for seniors. The first version of the preregistration form sent yesterday made providing a cell phone a required field, for example.

The new registration form is expected to be available as early as tomorrow, pending final testing and revisions.

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With nearly 2.1 million Virginians now eligible to receive vaccines, Fairfax County is experiencing challenges handling the overwhelming demand to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations.

The county received more than 10,000 calls in the first ten minutes the call system went live.

An online vaccine registration system that was supposed to be operational this morning is still not available, prompting Fairfax County residents to turn to a hotline for support. The number experienced such high demand that phone calls were being dropped.

“Our vaccine call center is experiencing a high call volume today and we are asking residents to be patient,” Fairfax County Health Department spokesperson Tina Dale said.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said just before noon that the phone line had been reset and is now back online.

The county health department’s online pre-screening form for confirming eligibility for the vaccine is now also available. The department will call or email those who are eligible to set up an appointment “within a few days,” according to its website.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn says he understands concerns associated with the process for receiving a vaccination.

‘I share every’s frustration with this situation and appreciate the enthusiasm this shows by so many to get the vaccine as soon as possible,’ Alcorn wrote in a statement.

Alcorn, who chairs the board’s information technology committee, added that the county’s vaccine registration system will be the first agenda item for the committee meeting scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday).

Fairfax County is among several health districts in the state to begin phase 1b of vaccinations, which includes frontline essential workers, people age 75 and above, people in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and migrant labor camps.

The state’s definition of frontline essential workers includes police, fire, teachers, food and agriculture, manufacturing, public transit, mail carriers, and other employees.

Adults above the age of 75 —  who will be vaccinated first as part of phase 1b —  can register by calling 703-324-7404. An online registration form was also launched this afternoon.

The Virginia Department of Health has also developed an online tool that people can use to find out when they will be eligible to get vaccinated.

Staff Photo by Jay Westcott

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At a virtual town hall on Wednesday night (Jan 6), Fairfax County Health Department Director Gloria Addo-Ayensu answered a number of questions about COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

Most of the inquiries revolved around the timeline of the different phases and when certain groupings of people will be eligible to get the vaccine.

Right now, the county – like other neighboring localities – remains in phase 1a of distribution, meaning that frontline healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities are the only ones currently eligible. This covers about 75,000 county residents in total.

In total, so far, Addo-Ayensu says that about half of those eligible in the county have been vaccinated so far.

Vaccinations are being done by the health department, Reston Hospital Center, INOVA hospitals, and at the long-term care facilities in partnership with CVS and Walgreen pharmacies.

But there have been challenges already in getting the vaccine.

For those not affiliated with a hospital, getting a vaccine requires making an appointment with the county by calling the health department. But residents have described being on hold for hours.

“We have a call system that’s been completely overwhelmed, people weren’t just getting through,” said Addo-Ayensu. “That’s just very unfortunate… We really do apologize for that inconvenience.”

She said that the county is working to fix this and starting on Monday (Jan 11), there’ll be an online system in place where folks can go to start the process of booking an appointment.

These complications are not unique to Fairfax County.

At a press conference on Wednesday (Jan 6), Virginia Governor Ralph Northam acknowledged that the state could be going faster in administering vaccines.

It’s unclear at this moment when, says Addo-Ayensu, when the county will move to phase 1b, which includes residents over the age of 75 and frontline essential workers.

“I don’t have an exact date of 1b, but I can say it’s going to happen very soon,” said Addo-Ayensu. “We haven’t gotten the green light to start vaccinating phase 1b just yet.”

When that does happen, though, it will be a very large effort.

More than 1.2 million Virginia residents are theoretically eligible for the vaccine in phase 1b, Addo-Ayensu said. Fairfax County is about 1/7th the population of the commonwealth, so quick math shows that about 171, 500 county residents could be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in phase 1b.

Then, there’s 1c which includes residents over 65, those with high-risk medical conditions, and remaining essential workers.

As for a timeline, it all depends on vaccine supply – which is being filtered down from the federal government to the state to the county.

“If we have sufficient vaccine… we could be going through 1a and 1b [in] March. And in spring, looking to do 1c and moving into the summer, doing the general public.”

Another important note is that, at this point, children are not being vaccinated due to the lack of data and studies.

Overall, Addo-Ayensu admits it’s going to be a challenge to provide all 1.17 million Fairfax County residents a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible.

“That’s quite a heavy lift,” she said.

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