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NEW: Fairfax County sets date to end Covid pandemic state of emergency

The Fairfax County Government Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 11:20 a.m. on 2/8/2023) When March arrives, the COVID-19 pandemic will no longer be an officially declared emergency in Fairfax County.

After honoring individuals and organizations in the community who helped the county respond to the pandemic this weekend, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today (Tuesday) to terminate the local state of emergency declaration that has been in place since March 17, 2020.

The declaration, which activated the county’s Emergency Operations Plan and allowed increased flexibility and resources to address the public health crisis, will end on March 1.

“This is a milestone,” Chairman Jeff McKay said. “We would not be here without the work of so many people in our county. We recognized our nonprofits, our county staff, really the vigilance of our community during some really difficult times, and so, it’s great that we’re able to do this.”

Fairfax County is possibly the last locality in Northern Virginia to end its emergency declaration. Loudoun CountyPrince WilliamAlexandria, and Arlington all took that step last year.

Keeping the declaration in place gave the county “a lot of flexibility in collecting federal funds and other strategic advantages,” McKay said.

As fears of a surge in Covid cases akin to last winter’s omicron wave have dissipated, the county says that the time is right to end the declaration.

“The Declaration of Local Emergency has been an extremely valuable tool for us throughout the pandemic,” County Executive Bryan Hill said in a statement. “It gave us greater flexibility and authority to purchase supplies, find resources, move to virtual operations and meetings, support the business community, and protect the health and safety of our community. I commend our employees who have done an impressive job of reinventing how we deliver services to Fairfax County residents.”

At this point, the move won’t affect the daily lives of most community members. Since the county’s mass vaccine clinics shut down in December, there will be “no direct impact” on the health department’s approach to Covid.

The Health Department will continue to share important updates and resources concerning COVID-19 on its webpage and social media channels…Vaccines continue to be widely available throughout our community and at Health Department District Offices by appointment. Residents who are unable to access vaccines or boosters may call the Health Department Call Center at 703-267-3511 for assistance.

The end of the declaration is most notable for starting the clock on the county’s relaxed regulations for outdoor dining and other activities, such as the use of speakers during outdoor religious services, to use an example cited by Department of Planning and Development Director Tracy Strunk.

Any businesses with an emergency waiver will be allowed to continue using it until March 1, 2024 — 12 months after the declaration ends.

Strunk said county staff will present options for allowing outdoor dining in parking lots to continue on a universal basis this spring, as requested by the board at a land use policy committee meeting in October.

“I know there are a number of locations in my district where we see more outdoor dining that didn’t have it before — not necessarily right now, but certainly when the weather’s just a little bit warmer,” Mason District Supervisor Penny Gross said. “We need to make sure they all understand what happens and how some of those things will go forward.”

The county’s Covid community level is low, as of Thursday (Feb. 2). The Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, is currently averaging 119 cases and 4.6 deaths per day for the past week, according to county health department data.

There have been 265,428 Covid cases, 5,307 hospitalizations and 1,775 deaths in the district.

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