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With Covid transmission now ‘low,’ Fairfax County drops mask mandate

A sign indicating that a face mask should be worn (via Waldemar Brandt/Unsplash)

For the first time since early August, face masks are no longer required for staff or visitors inside most Fairfax County facilities.

County Executive Bryan Hill shared the news in an email to all local government workers yesterday (Sunday) after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention introduced new metrics for measuring community COVID-19 transmission levels on Friday (Feb. 25).

Transmission in Fairfax County was considered substantial under the previous metrics, which focused on the number of new cases per 100,000 people and the testing positivity rate over the past seven days.

The CDC is now measuring the disease’s spread based on:

  • The total number of new patients per 100,000 people admitted into hospitals for COVID-19 over the past seven days
  • The seven-day average percentage of staffed inpatient beds filled by Covid patients

If a community sees more than 200 cases per 100,000 people in a week, its transmission level can’t be considered low.

Based on new federal metrics, Fairfax County is now considered to have a “low” level of community COVID-19 transmission (via CDC)

Over the past seven days, Fairfax County has recorded a 79.8 case rate, 3.4 patients per 100,000 people have been admitted with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, and 4.1% of inpatient beds are occupied by people with Covid, according to CDC data. All three data points now put the county within the threshold for “low” community transmission.

“Per the new metrics, masks will now be optional for employees and visitors in county facilities, except for those where health or medical services are provided,” Hill said in his message to county workers.

Masks will also become optional in schools tomorrow (Tuesday), Fairfax County Public Schools announced yesterday. The school system planned to make masks optional for students only to comply with state law, but the CDC’s revised metrics allowed it to ease its requirement for adults as well.

Hill said the county is also examining the implications of the new CDC guidance on other Covid-related employee and contractor mandates, along with changes that the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry is making to its workplace standards, expected to take effect in mid-March.

Citing a “safe work environment for all” as his priority, Hill noted that the county will still support anyone who chooses to continue wearing a mask and strongly encourages everyone who is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination and booster shot.

“Federal and state guidelines are conflicting,” he said. “However I believe we have done a marvelous job as we have made numerous changes during the past 24 months to reduce the transmission of Covid.”

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days, as of Feb. 28, 2022 (via VDH)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of Feb. 28, 2022 (via VDH)

The Fairfax Health District, which also includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, reported 132 new COVID-19 cases today (Monday), bringing its total for the pandemic up to 176,531 cases. The disease caused by the coronavirus has hospitalized 4,375 residents and killed 1,429 people.

The county is averaging 123 cases over the past seven days, its lowest weekly average since Nov. 30, when it had the exact same case rate.

According to the Fairfax County Health Department’s dashboard, 962,558 Fairfax Health District residents, or 81.3%, have received at least one vaccine dose, including:

  • 90.5% of people 18 and older
  • 96.5% of 16-17 year olds
  • 92.1% of 12-15 year olds
  • 51.7% of 5-11 year olds

869,347 residents, or 73.5% of the population, are fully vaccinated, including 82.3% of adults. The Virginia Department of Health reports that 40.4% of the county has gotten a third or booster dose.

Photo via Waldemar Brandt/Unsplash

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