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

Pulpit divers at Lake Anne Plaza (Photo via vantagehill/Flickr)

Sweetgreen Temporarily Closed in Reston Town Center — Sweetgreen has temporarily closed its location at 1824 Library Street because of water damage. The company expects to reopen its doors soon, but no word yet on exactly when that might happen. [Sweetgreen]

Reston Multicultural Festival Returns Later This Month — After a pause last year due to the pandemic, the Reston Multicultural Festival is back this year on Sept. 25. Organized by Reston Community Center, the festival will include arts and crafts, entertainment, food, a global market and family activities. [RCC]

State Issues Notice About Measles Cases in Northern Virginia — Five people were diagnosed with measles in the area, prompting the Virginia Department of Health to issue an alert about possible exposure. The individuals recently traveled from Afghanistan. Most U.S. residents receive measles vaccinations during childhood. [Virginia Department of Health]

Reston Company Announces Merger — Reston-based education technology giant Blackboard is merging with a Florida-based software company called Anthology. The terms of the deal were not publicly disclosed. [Technical.ly]

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Masks (via Mika Baumeister/Unsplash)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

via Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

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Coronavirus (Photo via CDC on Unsplash)

While case numbers are still much lower than any other point in the pandemic, Fairfax County has started to see a definite uptick in COVID-19 transmission over the past couple of weeks compared to earlier in the summer.

A month ago, the rate of incoming cases had slowed to the point that the county’s weekly average dipped into negative numbers, but after reporting double digits six out of the past seven days, including 16 new cases today (Monday), the county is now averaging 16.7 cases a day for the week.

The Fairfax Health District, which also encompasses the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has recorded a total of 78,318 COVID-19 cases. 4,145 residents have been hospitalized by the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 1,147 people have died, including two people since last Tuesday (July 6).

New Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over past 90 days as of July 12, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
All new Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of July 12, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health

However, a new dashboard launched by the Virginia Department of Health on Friday (July 9) suggests that COVID-19 is now spreading almost exclusively within the state’s unvaccinated population.

According to the dashboard, which will be updated every Friday, 99.6% of the 290,770 cases reported in the Commonwealth so far this year have involved people who were not fully vaccinated. That trend is even more pronounced in Northern Virginia, where 99.8% of the 69,315 cases recorded since Jan. 1 are among people without the protection of a vaccine.

In comparison, there have been just 173 breakthrough cases in Northern Virginia among fully vaccinated people, representing 0.004% of that population.

In addition, 99.6% of the region’s COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths this year have been people who weren’t fully vaccinated. There have been six reported hospitalizations of individuals who were vaccinated and two breakthrough deaths.

Northern Virginia COVID-19 cases by vaccination status from Jan. 1 to July 9, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

Health officials say the data illustrates the overwhelming effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines that are available in the U.S.

“I applaud those who have chosen to protect themselves and the community by getting vaccinated, and we appreciate the work of all who are helping to vaccinate Virginians,” State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said in a press release last week. “I continue to encourage everyone who is able to get vaccinated to do so.”

Vaccination rates, however, have flattened out as COVID-19 case numbers have fallen and public health restrictions have lifted, pushing officials to adopt a more targeted approach to get the vaccine to people who have not received it yet, either due to hesitancy or a lack of access.

According to the Fairfax County Health Department’s dashboard, 750,982 Fairfax Health District residents — 75.5% of adults and 63.5% of the overall population — have gotten at least one vaccine dose. 658,221 residents — 67.3% of adults and 55.6% of the overall population — are now fully vaccinated.

Virginia has administered more than 9.1 million doses. 59.3% of the state’s population, including 71.1% of people 18 and older, have received at least one dose, and 51.7% of residents, including 62.8% of adults, are fully vaccinated.

Top photo via CDC on Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by robinreston, graph via Virginia Department of Health

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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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More than one-fifth of Virginia’s population has now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Virginia Department of Health’s vaccine dashboard indicates that 1.8 million residents — or 21.3% of the state’s population — have now received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

That puts the Commonwealth in line with the U.S. as a whole, which has fully vaccinated 21.9% of its population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Virginia is slightly ahead of the country overall when it comes to first-dose vaccinations. According to the VDH, 3.1 million people — or 36.6% of the state’s population — have gotten at least one vaccine dose, compared to 35.9% of the total U.S. population.

Fairfax County, however, seems to be a beat behind the overall state. 223,113 residents have been fully vaccinated, which is about 19% of the county’s total population of 1.1 million people. 402,129 residents have received at least one dose.

Still, the county has been delivering vaccinations at a steadier pace in recent weeks as the availability of supplies has increased.

In the initial weeks of the vaccine rollout, residents had to wait more than a month between when they signed up to get the vaccine and when they could actually schedule an appointment. That gap between registration and scheduling is now closer to a week, based on the Fairfax County Health Department’s dashboard, which says that the department is currently making appointments for people who registered on April 5.

The county received 65,710 first and second vaccine doses from the state during the week of April 5-11. There are just under 32,000 people on the health department’s waitlist, about 8% of the 418,023 people who have registered so far.

With Fairfax County aiming to join the rest of the state in opening registration for all adults on April 18, the faster pace of vaccinations has been countered by a rise in COVID-19 cases and concerns about variants that are believed to spread more quickly than the original virus.

With 196 new cases reported today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District has now recorded 74,259 total COVID-19 cases, 3,859 hospitalizations, and 1,080 deaths.

The county’s weekly average went up from 150.1 cases over the past seven days on April 5 to 181.4 cases today, and has been generally trending upward since hitting a low for 2021 of 133.6 cases on March 15.

According to CDC data, as of today, Virginia has reported 349 cases of the B.1.1.7. variant that orginated in the United Kingdom and has been associated with an increased risk of severe illness or death. There have also been 37 reported cases involving the B.1.351 variant, which was first detected in South Africa.

There is no evidence yet that the B.1.351 varient causes increased risks of severe illlness or death, but there is a “moderate reduction” in the immune protection offered by a vaccination or natural infection, according to the VDH.

The CDC estimates that the U.K. variant now constitutes about 11.5% of all COVID-19 cases in Virginia, though surveillance efforts to track the variants’ spread have been slow to ramp up.

Image via Virginia Department of Health

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The number of COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County has remained relatively stable, mimicking case rates first reported in May of last year.

The stabilization of cases comes as Fairfax County picks up the pace of vaccinations. As of today, the county reported 119 new cases — a number that has remained relatively constant over the last week. Last May, daily case rates hovered in the 100s, similar to case rates that have occurred this month.

The county has said it can meet a deadline of May 1 for expanding eligibility for vaccine appointments to all adults, but officials remains noncommittal on whether or not every Fairfax County resident will receive a vaccine by May 31.

But the push for more vaccines continues. In a March 19 letter to Gov. Ralph Northam, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission urged the state health department to provide more vaccines.

With additional doses allocated to our health districts immediately, we can put that capacity to work to quickly assist the Commonwealth in achieving its vaccination and equity goals, the commission wrote.

So far, the county is making appointments for people who registered on Feb. 18. Still, 28 percent of the total people registered in the county still remain on a waiting list. That’s nearly 98,000 people of the 354,889 people registered.

In the county, 132,307 people are fully vaccinated and 248,323 people have received one dose. The county recently began administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one dose.

The county has also begun community vaccine clinics — which are not widely publicized — in order to target vulnerable populations.

Statewide, the number of vaccinations has picked up. More than two million Virginians have received their first dose and 1.1 million people are fully vaccinated.

The county also recently expanded eligibility criteria for vaccinations to include workers in manufacturing, grocery stores, and the food and agriculture industry.

As the pace of vaccinations picks up, the Centers for Disease Control has updated its policies on social distancing. Although the CDC still recommends universal masking, students should maintain a distance of at least three feet instead of six feet in classroom settings.

Photo via Fairfax County Health Department

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(Update 3/19/21, 9:20 a.m.) Every Fairfax County resident should be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by May 1, a county official says, reiterating Biden’s call last week.

“We fully expect to meet the President’s deadline to open eligibility to every Fairfax County resident by May 1,” County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay wrote in a statement to Reston Now. “Since the beginning, we have had the capacity to vaccinate tens of thousands of people a day, however our vaccine supply didn’t match that. Now that supply is ramping up, we will double down on our priority of getting shots in arms as quickly as possible.”

This also comes on the heels of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam writing on Facebook that May is “an ambitious target,” but an achievable one.

As noted in yesterday’s (March 17) announcement from the county opening eligibility for additional groups, the plan is to move into Phase 1c by mid-April before moving to Phase 2 (general population) on May 1.

Phase 1c includes other essential workers like those in energy, water and waste removal, housing and construction, and food service.

Virginia’s Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula provided an even more optimistic timeline in an interview a week ago, saying that everyone who wants the vaccine should be able to get their first dose by May 31.

“We really think we will easily meet that May 1 marker and potentially even outpace it by a couple of weeks,” he said. “We’ll move into that open eligibility before the end of April and everybody who wants a vaccine should be able to be vaccinated by the end of May, at least with the first dose.”

The county is, at this point, non-committal about that that projected timeline and if it’s achievable that everyone in the county who wants a vaccine, can get at least a first dose by May 31.

“We have no way to project that far out,” Fairfax County Board Supervisor Jeff McKay wrote in a statement to Reston Now. “But we’re certainly pushing for more doses, making tremendous progress, and working to meet to President’s charge to make everyone eligible by May 1.”

This week, the county is planning on getting 43,000 vaccine doses from the state which is a jump from last week’s 31,500 doses.

The pace of vaccinations is quickening in the county with private providers and retail pharmacies recently being added to the list of those doing vaccinations. Also, a mass vaccination clinic is expected to open by the end of the month.

Additionally, doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should arrive to the county by the end of the month, furthering increasing supply.

In total, the county has received 290,853 doses from the Commonwealth and has administered the first  dose to 270,213 people. That’s approximately 23.5% of the county’s population.

This story was updated to clarify those eligible in Phase 1c as well as a statement from Fairfax County Board Supervisor Jeff McKay. 

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More than 115,000 Fairfax County residents have now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the latest state dataindicates.

The Virginia Department of Health reported today (Monday) that Fairfax County has administered a total of 312,706 vaccine doses to 203,015 people, 115,506 of whom have gotten both required doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The county surpassed the milestone of 100,000 completed vaccinations over the past week, as officials anticipate the availability of supply to continue increasing. The Fairfax County Health Department received 31,590 doses of vaccine from the state between March 8 and 14, a sizable uptick from the 19,220 doses that came in the week before.

Even as vaccinations pick up, county leaders and health officials urge the community to remain vigilant and keep adhering to COVID-19 health protocols.

With another 115 cases reported today, the Fairfax Health District has recorded 69,628 COVID-19 cases, 3,653 hospitalizations, and 1,057 deaths. The seven-day average currently sits at 134 new cases per day, though the rate has been trending steadily downward since peaking at nearly 700 cases on Jan. 17.

“The path forward isn’t simple,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in his most recent newsletter on Friday (March 12). “We still see about 140 new cases a day and I urge you to continue to wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands. What’s next won’t be easy, but there is a way forward.”

The hope promised by an accelerating vaccination effort was dampened this weekend as Virginia’s COVID-19 death toll exceeded 10,000 fatalities on Sunday (March 14), which was also the one-year anniversary of the state’s first recorded death caused by the novel coronavirus.

To mark the occasion, Gov. Ralph Northam ordered all Virginia flags to be lowered to half-mast from sunrise to sunset yesterday. As a tribute to the pandemic’s victims, the governor’s mansion in Richmond is being illuminated in amber light until March 21 — the day Fairfax County reported its first COVID-19 death.

At the same time, Northam has set ambitious targets for the Commonwealth’s vaccination campaign, pledging to not only meet President Joe Biden’s goal of opening eligibility to all adults by May 1, but also, “to celebrate independence from this virus on July 4.”

“We can do this in Virginia if we all continue following public health guidelines and get vaccinated,” Northam said. “This is how we will come together, face down this dark period, and emerge stronger than ever.”

Images via CDC on Unsplash, Virginia Department of Health

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A year ago yesterday, Virginia’s first COVID-19 case was reported in Fort Belvoir when a U.S. Marine tested positive for the virus.

Since then, the Fairfax Health District has recorded 68,680 COVID-19 cases. The death toll now sits at 1,036 people, and 3,617 people have been hospitalized due to the novel coronavirus.

Still, in a hopeful trend, the COVID-19 case rate in Fairfax County has continued to fall after peaking on Jan. 17. Just today, the county reported 127 new cases today — a substantial dip from the all-time high of new cases — 1,485 in a single day — in January.

The weekly case average of reported cases has fallen to the lowest levels since Nov. 8 last year, when the weekly case average was 153. As of today, the weekly case average rested at 159.6.

The decrease comes as the Fairfax County Department of Health picks up its vaccination pace. After several weeks of scheduling for people who pre-registered on Jan. 18, the county has begun scheduling appointments for people who registered on Jan. 19.

Last week, the county vaccinated 21,791 people, a pace that is has remained relatively stable since vaccinations began earlier this year.

Still, 108,883 people — 37 percent of the total number of people registered — remain on the county’s waitlist. Overall, the county has received 193,742 doses from the Virginia Department of Health and administered or distributed 193,878 doses. 93,560 people in Fairfax County have been fully vaccinated, according to VDH data.

The county has currently only deployed the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Local health officials are evaluating how many Johnson & Johnson doses it will receive, how doses will be allocated in clinics, and how much will be allocated to the county’s health partners. Last week, the state’s health department announced that it expects to receive 69,000 doses on a weekly basis.

Image via Unsplash 

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The Fairfax County Health Department has completed sending out vaccine appointment invitations to 42,000 eligible residents who signed up on Jan. 18 and are now hopeful they’ll be able set up appointments at a faster clip.

“Now that we have got thru [Jan. 18 registrations], we anticipate that we will move more quickly through the other dates,” Tina Dale, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Health Department, writes Reston Now. “In addition, we are working with more vaccination partners, so this, too, will assist us in moving through our registration list faster.”

If residents registered on Jan. 18 or before and have not received an invite, Dale says they should check their spam folder. If there’s no email with the subject line “Schedule Appointment,” residents should call the COVID-19 Vaccine hotline at 703-324-7404 and a call taker should be able to assist.

The county’s dashboard now says they are currently making appointments for those who registered on Jan. 19.

Six weeks ago, the county first allowed residents who qualified for Phase 1b to register for COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Phase 1b includes residents 65 years old and over and those 16 to 64 with underlying medical conditions.

COVID-19 vaccine rollout based on VDH guidance (Graphic Provided by Fairfax County Health Department)

On that first day when vaccine appointments opened to those in Phase 1b, Jan. 18, more than 42,000 eligible signed up and registered – far exceeding another other day.

In fact, as the dashboard shows, the 42,000 registrations on Jan. 18 alone were approximately the same number of combined registrations over the next four days.

The county acknowledged that sending everyone an invitation to schedule a vaccine appointment who signed up on Jan. 18 would take “several weeks.”

Nearly 94,000 residents remain on the waitlist, which means they are awaiting an invitation to schedule an appointment.

The county says they don’t have an estimated timeline for when those remaining 94,000 people will be sent an invitation to sign up for a vaccine appointment or when the county will move to sign up those in Phase 1c for appointments.

However, the Virginia Department of Health expects the vaccine supply to increase over the next two months, says Dale, and the Commonwealth has said they expect to get through all of those who are eligible and want the vaccine in Phase 1b by mid to late April.

Essentially, demand still far outweighs supply – a continued issue since the vaccine first started being distributed in December.

Overall, about 176,700 residents have been vaccinated in Fairfax County, which represents just over 15% of the total population in the county.

That’s comparable to Virginia and the country as a whole, which has vaccinated about 16% and 15% (respectively) of the population according to the Washington Post.

Additionally, on Friday, the county acknowledged that there issues with about 2,800 registrations “not being correctly captured in the system due to technical errors.”

Dale says that these registrations have been corrected and were a result of a combination of issues, including both “user error and system error.”

Since then, the county has added new features to the registration to reduce the possibility of user error, like providing two fields for email addresses and limiting the number of characters for phone number and zip code.

The county is also asking people to review the spelling of their names and email addresses as well as ensure their date of birth is accurate to make sure there are no errors.

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Following statewide trends, the number of daily COVID-19 cases continues to dip in Fairfax County.

As of Feb. 22, the number of new cases stood at 113 with a rolling weekly average of 193 cases — the lowest number of daily reported cases this year.

The number of new cases has continued to fall since cases peaked with an all-time high of 1,485 on Jan. 17, according to data released by the Virginia Department of Health.

So far, 134,359 people have been vaccinated by Fairfax County, a number that includes first and second doses, according to the county’s data dashboard.

The county’s health department is currently scheduling appointments for people who registered on Monday, Jan. 18. A little over 96,900 people remain on the county’s waitlist.

While county officials have touted progress with the vaccination system, the jurisdiction’s decision to opt-out of the state’s new COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration caused confusion late last week.

Since then, the county’s health department has addressed common concerns and questions in a recent blog post. The county is still encouraging residents to use the county’s online form to register for vaccines.

Across the state, 1.1 million have received at least one dose and 481,297 people have been fully vaccinated.

Image via VDH

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(Update 2:05 p.m.) Fairfax County opted out of Virginia’s new COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration system, but the decision seems to be causing confusion among some county residents.

The Virginia Department of Health tells Reston Now, the day after the launch (Wednesday), 542 calls from Fairfax County zip codes to the statewide COVID information line asking questions about vaccines were rerouted back to Fairfax County’s call center.

When asked about this, the Fairfax County Health Department admits that they understand the confusion.

“We understand that it could still be confusing that there are two systems,” wrote Jeremy Lasich, spokesperson for the Fairfax County Health Department. “We are happy that we have a strong partnership with VDH and that their call center is appropriately routing questions about Fairfax County back to our local call center.”

As recently as Wednesday, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay told Reston Now that forgoing the Virginia appointment system to continue with the county-only system would help out in this regard.

“I am glad we can maintain our system that residents are familiar with to cut down on confusion,” he said.

Reston Now has reached out to the Chairman’s office with this new information but has yet to hear back as of publication.

Fairfax County is the only jurisdiction to opt-out of Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccine pre- registration system.

The county maintains that they are “consistently” communicating the need to register through their system through their website, blog, social media, and other avenues.

This includes translating COVID-related materials into Spanish and sharing information via text messages from the Health Department’s outreach team.

VDH has also added language to their website directing Fairfax County residents back to the appropriate portal.

If Fairfax County residents do end up registering through the state system, the information does end up eventually going back to the county. But those residents will be added to the end of the waitlist, notes the county.

If residents register in both the state and county systems, the first registration will be honored and the second one will be removed.

Over the last several weeks, the vaccine rollout across Fairfax County, the Commonwealth, and the region has continued to be plagued with technical issues, equity concerns, and challenges.

The county is currently in “Phase 1b”, meaning they are offering vaccine registration for all residents age 65 years or older and those between 16 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions.

This is in addition to those in previous groups, including health care personnel, childcare workers, and K-12 teachers or staff members living or working in the county.

Check your eligibility status here and to register, visit the county’s vaccine registration page. Fairfax County residents can also call 703-324-7404 for more information.

According to the county’s new data dashboard, those who registered on January 18 – the first day it was open to those in Phase 1b – are now being scheduled for appointments.

More than 42,000 people signed up that day. That’s nearly four times as many people that signed up on Jan. 11, the next busiest day for registrations, the county health department says.

The county expects it will take “several weeks” for all those that registered on Jan. 18 to get a scheduled appointment.

It may appear as if progress isn’t being made when the appointment date on the dashboard isn’t changing, Lasich writes, but the health department is moving through registrations.

“We continue to ask for your patience,” the county spokesperson writes. “We promise you will get an appointment if you are on our list.”

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COVID-19 case rates in Fairfax County have leveled off over the past week after appearing to trend downward since mid-January, when a record 1,485 cases were reported in a single day.

As of today, the county’s seven-day average is at 312.4 cases and has been hovering between 290 and 337 cases since Feb. 4. While the anticipated post-winter holiday surge seems to have tapered off, case levels are still higher than the pandemic’s initial spring peak, when the highest recorded seven-day average was 303 cases on May 31.

With 194 new cases today, the Fairfax Health District has now reported 64,950 COVID-19 cases, 3,482 hospitalizations, and 849 deaths, according to data from the Fairfax County Health Department.

Today also marked the launch of Virginia’s new statewide COVID-19 vaccine registration system, though Fairfax County is not participating for the time being.

Based on a registration data dashboard that went live on Feb. 12, Fairfax County has made slow but discernible progress in its efforts to vaccinate older adults, some groups of essential workers, and other eligible populations.

The Fairfax County Health Department has whittled its waitlist of people who have registered but haven’t been given an appointment yet down to 105,268 people, as of 10 a.m. The list had around 180,000 registrants as recently as last Thursday (Feb. 11). In total, 229,185 people have registered with the county to get the COVID-19 vaccine so far.

The health department is currently making appointments for more than 42,000 people who registered on Jan. 18, which saw particularly high demand since it was the day when the county expanded eligibility for the vaccine to people between the ages of 65 and 74 as well as people with high-risk medical conditions.

People who have registered for an appointment through the county health department can now see where they are in the queue with a registration status checker, though the rollout of that tool was not without its challenges.

Fairfax County has delivered 110,098 of the 114,923 vaccine doses that it has gotten from the Virginia Department of Health so far. About 68% of those doses were adminstered by the county health department, while the remaining 31% were distributed to other providers, like Inova.

According to the VDH, 48,404 people in Fairfax County have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19, and 163,200 total doses have been administered in the county. That number includes residents and staff at long-term care facilities that have been getting the vaccine through the federal government rather than the local health department.

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