Reston, VA

As Thanksgiving approaches, Fairfax County reported the highest weekly average of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began earlier this year. The news comes as the county and state record peaks in the number of new cases reported and appear to confirm fears of a second wave of cases.

Even as the possibility of a vaccine becomes reality, health officials are urging residents to avoid celebrating the holiday with members outside ones’ household, if possible.

As of today (Monday), the state’s health department reported 453 new cases, second only to the highest number of new cases (493) per day that was reported on June 25. To date, the county has had 38,798 cases, 2,474 hospitalizations and 614 deaths.

Based on the current trajectory of cases, more evidence shows that cases have been growing at an exponential rate in the county over the last month.

The county’s test positivity rate is 8.3 percent, more than one percentage point higher than the statewide test positive rate, which is currently 7.2 percent. In the state, 3,242 new cases were reported today, according to state health data.

Similar surges have been detected regionally recently.

“The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Fairfax and Loudoun health districts is officially surging, according to new analysis from the University of Virginia, and the Northern Virginia region’s overall caseload is at its highest level since it peaked May 31,” InsideNova reported.

The Virginia Department of Health attributed some of today’s case counts to “a catch-up from the VDH data system being down for upgrades for a few hours this weekend.”

Hospitalizations, however, remain relatively low in the county. As of today, two new hospitalizations were reported and no new deaths were reported.

Photo 1 via Unsplash; photo 2 via Fairfax County Department of Health

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The long awaited COVID-19 vaccine is reportedly on its way.

On Nov. 9, Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech unveiled their preliminary results on a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech followed up with an announcement on Nov. 18 that the vaccine is 95% effective with a consistent efficacy across age, race and ethnicity demographics during its ongoing trials.

On Friday, the pair formally requested an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow a faster rollout of a vaccine to the American public.

Shortly after Pfizer and BioNTech’s announcement of their preliminary results, another vaccine candidate co-developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) – which is part of the National Institutes of Health – was announced. Moderna and NIAID announced a vaccine efficacy of 94.5% on Nov. 17.

Well before these announcements, though, Fairfax County health officials were preparing for distribution and accessibility of a COVID-19 vaccine once one becomes available.

“We’re working on all of the logistics of getting the vaccine out,” said Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, Director of Epidemiology and Population Health for the Fairfax County Health Department.

“We’re working on communicating with our health care partners, health care providers, (and) health care organizations so that we can not only make sure we’re able to vaccinate them, but also if they want to deliver vaccine to their patients, that we can tell them how to do so.”

Schwartz advised that plans are still being made as the county and health department learn more about the two-dose vaccine and its availability in the coming weeks or months. Though some plans will need to be finalized, Schwartz shared that a portion of the county’s plans will be to focus initially on priority groups that are most at risk for severe illness. Those groups include health care workers as well as residents and staff of nursing homes.

The method for distribution in the county will also take a variety of approaches, according to Schwartz. He detailed that the vaccine will be distributed in some cases by facility, and by the local health department. He also said that some national chain pharmacies and private providers interested in vaccinating would be a part of the distribution plans.

Those plans are contingent on the availability of a vaccine. The FDA has scheduled a meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) for Dec. 10 to discuss the EUA request from Pfizer and BioNTech, according to a press release from the FDA. Though the VRBPAC may provide its advice to the FDA, the FDA will have the final decision on the pharmaceutical companies’ EUA request.

If the EUA request is approved, Pfizer has announced plans to distribute the vaccine as soon as possible in December.

“We will continue the work already underway to make sure we can begin shipping the vaccine immediately after authorization or approval,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a video released by the company on Nov. 20.

“Based on current projections, we expect to produce globally up to 50 million doses in 2020 – and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.”

Schwartz explained that once a vaccine is approved, its distribution would be a function of the federal government, and it will decide how to allocate the vaccine to the states. The state health department would then allocate the vaccine to the local health departments or jurisdictions.

“We’re still communicating and learning how that’s going to work,” Schwartz said.

“We are in constant communication with the Virginia Department of Health and still obviously getting more information about how that’s going to occur.”

As of Nov. 23, Fairfax County reported 29,089 cases of COVID-19, with 26,841 confirmed and 2,248 listed as probable. The county’s COVID-19 case data dashboard also shows that 2,505 people have been hospitalized and 629 have died from the novel coronavirus.

Schwartz said that when a vaccine becomes available, he is confident in the county’s ability to distribute it appropriately, based on the county’s experience handling the H1N1 vaccine and years of planning and calculations.

He also stated that at this point, the “most important message is to stay informed and stay tuned.” He said that the county couldn’t share specific information until the FDA authorizes a vaccine and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice for the CDC can make recommendations for distribution practices and what the priority groups are.

Following those authorizations and recommendations, Schwartz said the county’s health department will begin communicating how much vaccine it will have, what groups it will be able to vaccinate and how to get the vaccine. Now, though, Schwartz said that the county wants to begin communicating with people about a vaccine.

“We know that many people look at this vaccine with perhaps some concern because it’s a new vaccine and because it was developed very quickly, quicker than vaccines are usually developed,” Schwartz said.

“We know from surveys that have been done nationally that many people are uncertain or skeptical about the vaccine. So, one of the things we need to do now is to communicate with people and give them information so that when the time comes, they’ll be able to make an informed decision.”

Though news of a potential vaccine coming soon has been met with a wave of acclaim and relief, Schwartz advised tempering excitement, as the vaccine has not yet arrived and will still take time to distribute to everyone.

Schwartz also said that news of a vaccine should not be looked at as a way for people to “loosen up” on public health strategies and other measures that have been put in place to mitigate the virus’ effect.

“It’s important to remind people that even with a vaccine on the horizon, we still need to be rigorous in our prevention measures, the mask wearing, social distancing, staying home when you’re sick, washing your hands,” Schwartz said.

“And that even after people start getting vaccinated, there still will not be what we call ‘herd’ or ‘community immunity’ until a large percentage of our population has gotten a vaccine. Even after a vaccine is given to some people, all of those other measures remain critically important.”

Photo via Unsplash

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Fairfax County recorded a massive jump of 400 COVID-19 cases today (Monday), up from 174 yesterday, due to a backlog in data reporting on the part of the Virginia Department of Health.

The Fairfax Health District added 1,366 cases over the past week for a seven-day average of 195.1 cases, the highest rate since the district saw an average of 197.7 cases over seven days on June 8.

Fairfax County also reported three deaths from COVID-19 over the past week, raising the county’s death toll to 625 people. The county has now reported 27,095 total cases, and 2,440 people have been hospitalized since the Fairfax Health District identified its first presumptive positive case in early March.

The Fairfax Health District currently has a total testing positivity rate of 8.3% out of 392,064 testing encounters, according to the VDH.

Because of the data reporting backlog, the 2,677 cases that the VDH reported today statewide are the most that Virginia has recorded in a single day at any point during the pandemic.

While Virginia’s COVID-19 infection rate remains one of the lowest in the U.S., the clear upward trend in cases that the state has seen over the past 90 days led Gov. Ralph Northam to tighten restrictions on social gatherings and businesses in an effort to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“While cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are,” Northam said when announcing the new measures on Nov. 13. “We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse.”

Effective as of midnight on Sunday (Nov. 15), the cap on public and private in-person gatherings has dropped from 250 people to 25. The revised executive order defines gatherings as indoor and outdoor parties, celebrations, and other social events, but the limit does not apply to educational settings.

Religious services can also have more than 25 people in attendance if they adhere to health and social distancing protocols, including having at least six feet of separation between individuals and practicing routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently-contacted surfaces.

A mask mandate requiring all individuals 10 and older to wear face coverings in indoor public settings that has been in place since May 29 has been expanded to include all individuals aged 5 and over.

Northam has also prohibited the on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol after 10 p.m. in any restaurant, bar, or other food and beverage service establishment.

Finally, violations of social distancing, mask-wearing, and cleaning guidelines by essential retail businesses, including grocery stores and pharmacies, are now punishable by the state health department as Class One misdemeanors.

Photo via Governor of Virginia/Facebook, Virginia Department of Health

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In what’s become a familiar storyline, the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb as the week of Nov. 8 saw the highest weekly average of cases since June 7.

The county also reported that 11 people died from COVID-19 on Nov. 7, the highest number of deaths reported in a single day since May 27, when 24 deaths were reported. For most of August and September, the number of deaths remained under five per day. In October, 13 deaths were reported throughout the whole month.

On Nov. 8, the county also saw the highest number of reported cases in one day. A total of 209 cases were reported in the largest single-day spike since early June, when a whopping 399 cases were reported.

But the number of hospitalized patients has not significantly increased — which suggests that individuals who contract the coronavirus do not need major or critical care.

The Fairfax Health District is averaging more than 100 new cases per day, more than any time since mid-June, according to the county. A surge is not yet apparent.

Based on the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) pandemic metrics dashboard, our community transmission level, which had been low since July, has increased to moderate. We must remain vigilant to return to low community transmission,” the county wrote in a statement today.

Case investigators have found hotspots of exposure at work sites, celebratory events and gatherings, and within households.

The county offered the following tips to avoid community transmission:

If someone in your household is ill, immediately take precautions such as wearing masks when in common areas, avoiding shared utensils, and staying 6 feet apart.  

Limit indoor social gatherings, and choose lower risk activities for holiday celebrations.  

Avoid travel as much as possible, particularly to areas of the U.S. experiencing surges of cases. For necessary travel, follow CDC’s guidance to lower risk of COVID-19.  

Photo via Unsplash

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Fairfax County teenagers are vaping less than their peers nationwide, a county survey of middle and high school students found.

15.1% of the 48,915 students who responded to the 2019-2020 Fairfax County Youth Survey reported vaping within the past 30 days, compared to 22.5% of teenagers in the U.S. overall. The survey results were released on Oct. 20.

Nicotine remains the drug most frequently used for vaping, which involves the inhalation of an aerosol through a battery-powered device, but its usage declined from 16.7% in 2018 to under 12% in 2019.

About half as many students reported using flavoring in this year’s survey (5.5%) as they did in the previous year’s (10.3%), but the use of marijuana rose from 8% in 2018 to 9% in 2019.

The number of Fairfax County teens who say they have vaped within their lifetime dropped from 28% in 2018 to 25% in 2019, according to the survey, which is given annually to Fairfax County Public Schools students in sixth, eighth, 10th, and 12th grades.

Fairfax County did not add questions about vaping to its annual youth survey until 2018, making it hard to determine whether the decline in reported vaping is a real trend, but county officials are encouraged by the results.

“The rates for vaping among Fairfax County youth went down considerably from 2018 despite the upward national trend,” Fairfax County Office of Strategy Management for Health and Human Services public information officer Shweta Adyanthaya said. “This is a promising sign that our youth are heeding the concerns regarding vaping in general.”

County officials say they remain concerned about the health effects of vaping, especially during a pandemic caused by a coronavirus that attacks people’s lungs.

Research on how COVID-19 affects people who have used e-cigarettes is limited, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linked a contaminant found in e-cigarettes to an outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injuries (EVALI) that had killed or hospitalized 2,807 people in the U.S. as of Feb. 18.

Though it is a potential benefit, the CDC says the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as an aid for helping adults quit smoking is unknown. The agency warns against vaping for youth, young adults, pregnant adults, and adults who do not currently use tobacco products.

“We know that the brains of adolescents continue to develop until about the age [of] 25 and that nicotine can have harmful effects,” Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu said. “Now, with evidence that vaping may be linked with worse outcomes of COVID-19 infection, it’s more important than ever that we offer solutions to help young people.”

FCPS Student Safety and Wellness Office coordinator Stefan Mascoll says 697 students came to the office for tobacco-related substance abuse during the 2019-20 school year, a number that might have been higher if the COVID-19 pandemic did not close schools in March.

“Young people who use e-cigarettes may be vaping even more to cope with stress and social isolation, or they may be experiencing difficult nicotine withdrawal symptoms because of limited access to e-cigarettes,” the Fairfax County Health Department says.

To combat vaping, Fairfax County and FCPS have partnered with the nonprofit Truth Initiative to promote This Is Quitting, a free program that sends supportive text messages to teens and young adults seeking to quit e-cigarettes.

Started in January 2019, This Is Quitting has more than 206,000 enrollees nationwide. People in Fairfax County can join by texting VapeFreeFFX to 88709.

James Madison High School student Sid Thakker, who won an award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2019 for a science fair project about nicotine addiction, has been assisting with the implementation of This Is Quitting in Fairfax County.

“As a senior in high school, I know students aren’t given much information on treatments if they are addicted, but the program is the perfect mix of creative treatments and advice,” Thakker said. “I am excited to see the impact it will make in FCPS.”

Image via Fairfax County

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The number of COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County continues to increase with a reported weekly average of cases hovering around the 450-mark. But the data show no signs of acceleration at this point.

In October, the county reported the highest number of weekly cases since Sept. 6, when cases peaked at 494. Since then, 459 cases were reported the week of Oct. 4 and 447 cases the week of Oct. 11. Case rates dipped significantly in June and early August when weekly averages hovered between 308 and 389 cases.

So far, the county has 23,462 confirmed cases, 2,247 hospitalizations, and 606 deaths.

There are no immediate indications of a spike in cases — which is determined when the total confirmed cases are mapped against new confirmed cases per week. In the last month, the familiar story of a slowdown in new cases no longer appears to be the case.

According to county data, in the last three weeks, the rate of new cases charted against the rate of existing cases has stabilized instead of trending downward, which indicates a slowdown in cases.

Fairfax County’s case rate — which is measured by cases per 100,000 people — remains comparable to surrounding counties and health districts. Its case rate of 2,039 cases is slightly above Arlington’s case rate of 1,921 cases. Meanwhile, Alexandria has one of the highest case rates in the area (2,635).

It’s unclear how case trajectories may change throughout the region as flu season and colder temperatures come into full swing.

County health officials are urging residents to take precautions during Halloween and planned trick-or-treating activities, which have been flagged as high-risk activities.

Image via Virginia Department of Health

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Over the past week, Fairfax County recorded its highest seven-day average for COVID-19 cases since mid-June, a potentially worrying development as the weather turns colder and forces more activities indoors.

Fairfax County’s weekly average for new COVID-19 cases hit 118 on Oct. 14, its highest since the county averaged 126 cases over seven days on June 13, according to the latest data from the Virginia Department of Health.

While the seven-day average has dipped back down in subsequent days to 85 cases on average as of Sunday (Oct. 18), Fairfax County joins the rest of Virginia in seeing an upward trend in cases in October, even if its numbers remain significantly lower than those seen in other parts of the state.

On top of reporting two new deaths, both of them on Oct. 17, Fairfax County added 598 COVID-19 cases during the week of Oct. 13-19. The Fairfax Health District has a cumulative total of 22,916 cases, 617 deaths, and 2,239 hospitalizations.

The zip code 22042, which contains West Falls Church south of Route 29, remains the most heavily affected part of the Tysons area, adding 28 cases over the past week for 1,173 cases overall and 3,497 cases per 100,000 persons in a population of 33,537 people.

Though COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County have ticked up in October compared to late September, the county has not yet seen another surge in transmissions like the one that hit this spring, which peaked with a weekly average of 303 cases on May 31.

Since that spring surge, Northern Virginia in general has been reporting lower case rates than the rest of the state, with a moving seven-day average of 238 cases as of Oct. 19 compared to 799 cases on average for all other regions.

As a whole, Virginia recorded a seven-day moving average of 1,037 on Oct. 19, and the state has added 7,258 COVID-19 cases over the past week for a statewide total of 166,828 cases. Virginia has reported 11,882 hospitalizations and 3,457 deaths.

With public health experts predicting that the COVID-19 pandemic will worsen this winter as the weather gets colder, Fairfax County officials are discouraging people from engaging in trick-or-treating, indoor costume parties, and other traditional celebrations for Halloween this year.

“In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread,” Fairfax Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu said. “For people who are more likely to experience severe illness from COVID-19, celebrating virtually or with members of your own household may be the safest way to enjoy the holiday.”

Image via CDC on Unsplash, Virginia Department of Health

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After conditions stabilized in July and early August, the sliding average of COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County is slowly on the rise.

Although the increase is best described as an uptick, the weekly average of new cases hit a count of 105 yesterday (Monday). Following a dip in July, the rolling weekly average of new cases hovered in the 90s.

In October, the health district also hit the highest number of new daily cases since June 7 when 399 cases were reported. State data show 185 new cases were reported on Oct. 8. 

Overall, there have been 22,089 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County, 2,195 hospitalizations, and 599 deaths.  After a slowdown in the rate of new cases per week in June and July, the number of weekly cases grew slightly in August and September. The weekly average for both months hovered around 424 cases. In June and July, that number hovered in the low 300s.

Herndon remains a hotspot for COVID-19 cases, with a case incidence of 3,524 cases per 100,000 people, according to county data.

Despite these numbers and the size of the jurisdictions, Fairfax County’s case rate is somewhat low compared to other jurisdictions and health districts. As of today (Tuesday), the case rate is 1,919. Alexandria’s case rate is 2,512 while Arlington’s is 1,772.

Statewide, the number of COVID019 cases is nearly 160,000, with 3,361 deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus.

County health officials continue to urge residents to get tested if symptoms develop or if exposure is possible.

Image via Virginia Department of Health, Unplash

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Thursday Morning Notes

Virginia Prepares for Possibility of Vaccine Dispersal — “The Virginia Department of Health sent a letter to health care providers informing them that the department is preparing for the potential release of a vaccine for COVID-19 as early as Nov. 1. The letter represents a “call to action” to health care providers to prepare to provide a vaccine but does not mean that a vaccine will be available in November, the department said.” [Reston Patch]

Activities in a Box Now Available — Reston Association is now offering Activities in a Box for members who are age 55 and above is available for pre-order. Each box includes different activities and a link to connect virtually for coffee or happy hour. [RA]

More Business Can Apply for Small Business Grant Program — More business sectors can now apply for the Rebuild! Va Grant Fund, a program intended to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations whose operations were disrupted by COVID-19. [Fairfax County Government]

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After several weeks in the mid 200 range, COVID-19 figures for Fairfax County swelled to over 400 new cases per week in mid-August.

While the data at the time showed cases continuing to trend downward, the window of COVID-19 diagnoses meant that the figures for the mid-August timeframe increased substantially in the following weeks. The week of Aug. 16 there were 434 new cases — the highest number of new cases per week since May.

While higher than the average, the number of new cases was still higher than the peak of 1,400 new cases the week of April 26. The weeks after August showed a substantial decline as well, to just 99 cases for the week of Aug. 30, the change to earlier weeks showed those figures could increase with time.

One of the highest densities of cases was the 22027 area code, which includes Dunn Loring and parts of Idlywood, but the zip code is small enough with a population of only 2,362 that a count of 71 confirmed cases was disproportionately high.

The other areas nearby had roughly 200 confirmed confirmed cases each except 22043, which includes Merrifield and parts of Tysons, which had 353 cases.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash, image via Fairfax County

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Fairfax County has surpassed 15,000 cases as of today (Thursday) as the trajectory of cases continues to remain stable in the county.

One of the most important measures of community transmission — charting confirmed cases by new cases per week — indicates that cases are not growing exponentially. For the last three weeks, the number of new cases has remained relatively stable.

The Virginia Department of Health reported 49 new cases today — a number that is in line with previous daily increases for the last week.

But it’s unclear how complete the data are. The number of total tests administered per week has remained stable since a reported high on the week of May 24. However, the number of positive tests remains low.

Racial disparities continue to remain prevalent in the county. The Hispanic community accounts for 60 percent of total confirmed cases where race is known, even though they comprise just 16 percent of the population.

In Northern Virginia, the number of weekly total cases reported hovers in the 500s, with slight increases reported since last month.

Overall, the state has reported 81,237 confirmed cases, 7,437 hospitalizations, and 2,054 total deaths.

The Fairfax County Health Department is encouraging residents to continue to practice social distancing and wear masks when in public. Cleaning supplies and children’s face coverings are also still needed.

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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The growth rate of COVID-19 in Fairfax County and statewide continues to fall as public health restrictions ease across Virginia.

But local and state officials are still cautioning residents to be wary of a possible second wave in the fall.

The number of positive tests has dipped significantly. In the Fairfax Health District, the positivity rate stands at 5.2 percent. In mid-May, that number inched near 27 percent of all cases.

Additionally, the daily count of cases and hospitalizations also continues to drop.  On Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 25 new deaths statewide, the largest number since May 28.

Since COVID-19 tracking began, 459 deaths and 13,705 cases have been reported in Fairfax County.

Recently, county officials stepped up testing efforts throughout the county, including targeted testing locations that are not widely publicized. A breakdown of testing sites is available online.

Gov. Ralph Northam is tentatively considering a phase three date of Friday, June 26. But a final decision has not yet been made.

Data via Fairfax County Health Department

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Fairfax County’s Hispanic community is bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Hispanic individuals comprise just under 17 percent of the total population, they account for nearly 66 percent of all confirmed cases in the county.

The rise has raised alarms about equity issues between different racial groups in the county. County health officials say that higher infection rates may be caused by the need to go to work, lack of sick leave, the inability to socially distance while on the job, and lack of unemployment insurance.

Cases have grown over the last three months in the Hispanic community, while efforts to flatten the curve in the black and white communities have been more successful, county data show.

“This risk reflects a group’s niche in society rather than a particular racial effect,” said Benjamin Schwartz, a medical epidemiologist with the Fairfax County Health Department.

Many local Hispanic residents work in jobs where the risk of transmission is especially high.

Roughly 25 percent of Hispanic men in the county work in natural resources, construction or maintenance, according to the 2018 American Community Survey. That’s compared to just five percent of blacks in the same industry.

Similarly, 45 percent of Hispanic women work in the service industry, more than double the percent of black women in the same industry, according to the survey.

Additionally, roughly 12 percent of Hispanic households are defined as overcrowded based on county metric, compared to four percent of the black community and less than one percent of the white community.

But the same racial disparity is not prevalent in other parts of the county. In Richmond, for example, blacks are being hit hard by the pandemic while poor whites are disproportionately impacted in southwestern Virginia.

On a national level, blacks account for a higher share of confirmed cases and deaths compared to the rest of the population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Roughly 20 percent of cases do not contain race and ethnicity information.

Exacerbating the Divide

At Cornerstones, a nonprofit organization based in Reston, the pandemic has exacerbated the daily struggle with housing, poverty, quality education, and living wage jobs.

Already, 33 percent of families in Cornerstones’ affordable rental housing have lost all or some of their income due to mass layoffs. Some have limited access to daycare and the internet, complicating long-distance learning, even if the school system provides a laptop for students.

Parking lots may offer free wifi access, but a car and time are needed to park there. Others turn to families and friends to watch their children, increasing the risk of exposure for all.

Public health officials are also seeking ways to improve community communication and increase testing in local hotspots, including the Town of Herndon.

In April, 385 new households came to Cornerstones’ pantry in need of food. That’s more than six times the number of new households in fiscal year 2019.

For low-income members of the immigrant community in the time of COVID, it’s never one thing. The pandemic only exacerbates their daily struggling with housing, poverty, quality education, and living-wage jobs,” said Sara Newman, division director of community change partnerships at Cornerstones.

For these residents, the financial burden of COVID-19 is “inescapable,” Newman said.

Unpaid rents are continuing to accumulate. People keep working or look for employment regardless of the viral spread so they can keep a roof over their family and food on the table.”

Photo by Morgan Von Gunten/Unplash

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Gov. Ralph Northam announced this afternoon at a press conference that the Northern Virginia area can move into phase two starting Friday (June 12).

Northam said that the COVID-19 metrics for Northern Virginia continue to improve.

“Our hospitalizations for COVID are trending downward, particularly in the last week,” Northam said, adding that hospitals are under capacity.

The rest of Virginia entered phase two last Friday (June 5).

So far, there have been 51,738 cases of coronavirus in the Commonwealth of Virginia but an expert at the press conference said this number will jump as labs are backlogged with data.

At the same press conference, Northam also released a plan to reopen public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Changes will include social distancing measures and adaptations to perform health checks, according to Northam.

Students will not be required to wear face coverings, according to the Virginia superintendent, but they will be encouraged for older students.

Image via Governor of Virginia/Facebook

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The number of COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County surpassed 10,000 today (Wednesday). But the trajectory of cases appears to be on the decline as Northern Virginia gears up for phase one of its reopening plan on Friday.

According to data released by the state’s health department, a slowdown in the number of new cases emerged this week. Public health experts determine the trajectory of COVID-19 by charting the total number of confirmed cases against new confirmed cases per week.

Additionally, the number of new cases per week has decreased. In the first two weeks of this month, the county saw a weekly case count of between 1,200 and 1,300 cases. Last week, that number dipped to around 1,000 new cases.

Still, 365 people in the county have died from the respiratory illness. On Monday, a record number of new cases — 493 — was reported. Since then, the number of new daily cases dipped to 357 yesterday (Tuesday) and 230 today.

As the state’s testing capacity has expanded, the number of positive cases has also declined slightly since the week of April 19, county data show.

Overall, 40,439 cases have been confirmed statewide, resulting in 1,281 deaths. A surge in testing partly explains the increase in the number of cases reported daily on Monday and Tuesday.

Northern Virginia continues to account for a majority of cases.

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

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