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County to honor health workers and others who helped Covid response at ceremony tomorrow

A health worker attends to a kid at the Fairfax County Government Center’s mass COVID-19 vaccine clinic (courtesy Fairfax County Health Department)

As work gets underway to memorialize those killed by COVID-19, the Fairfax County Health Department wants to ensure the individuals and organizations who helped it navigate the pandemic will have at least one moment in the spotlight.

The department will host a recognition ceremony tomorrow (Saturday) for its many partners in the local pandemic response, from hospital workers and nonprofit volunteers to residences and businesses that supported public awareness campaigns.

“We are honoring individuals and organizations who supported the COVID-19 vaccination effort from the mass vaccination clinics to hosting vaccine equity clinics,” Sharon Arndt, the event’s lead organizer, said. “Public health is what we do together as a society to create the conditions in which everyone can be healthy. Thank you to all who served a role in support of public health.”

For Arndt, the ceremony will close out a 25-year career working for Fairfax County. The director of FCHD’s community health development division is retiring after next week, according to a department spokesperson, who praised her dedication to her public health work and the county.

Over 1,000 community members and groups will be recognized at the ceremony, which will take place at the Fairfax County Government Center in three separate sessions. In addition to hosting vaccine clinics, their contributions ranged from providing basic resources like food to sharing information with non-English-speaking residents.

The proceedings will start at 10 a.m. with Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay delivering remarks. Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik is scheduled to speak at 11:30 a.m., followed by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust at 1 p.m.

Each session will also feature musical and dance performances by local artists.

“These organizations played key roles during the worst health crisis of our lives and we couldn’t have done it without them,” McKay said. “This is true not just during COVID-19 but at all times. They allow the County to leverage our resources and reach the most people possible with life-saving services.”

The ceremony will precede a potential end to the county’s ongoing state of emergency for the pandemic.

The agenda for the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday (Feb. 7) includes an item requesting that the board vote on whether to terminate its local emergency declaration, which has been in place since March 17, 2020. If the measure is approved, the declaration will end March 1.

The county previously said a vote could come last September, but that didn’t happen, as officials were still evaluating the possible implications of ending the declaration, which gave the county more resources and flexibility to address Covid.

Most other Northern Virginia localities have already let their emergency declarations expire, and President Joe Biden is expected to end the national emergencies on May 11.

Though it may soon no longer be labeled an official “emergency,” Covid hasn’t vanished.

The Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, is averaging 140 new cases and three deaths per day for the past week, as of yesterday (Thursday). Hospitals are admitting 9.4 Covid patients for every 100,000 county residents — just within the threshold for a “low” community level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over the past three years, the district has reported 264,878 cases, 5,301 hospitalizations and 1,763 deaths. Nationwide, over 1.1 million people have died from Covid.

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