Fairfax County has now seen close to a month of plummeting COVID-19 case rates.
With 267 new cases reported today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, is averaging 448 cases per day for the past week, a steep decline from the seven-day average of 2,590 cases recorded when the omicron variant-fueled surge peaked on Jan. 13.
The current seven-day average is the lowest that the district has seen since Dec. 20, when it was at 403 cases, according to Virginia Department of Health data.
The level of community transmission is still considered high, though, with the county seeing 293 new cases per 100,000 people and a 8.5% testing positivity rate for the week of Jan. 30 through Feb. 5.
In total, 172,751 district residents have contracted the coronavirus during the pandemic. Covid has put 4,424 people in the hospital, and killed 1,333 people, including 52 deaths reported since last week.
The majority of those deaths likely occurred in January due to the time it takes for deaths to be reported and the cause confirmed. VDH said on Friday (Feb. 4) that it was just starting to receive an influx of death certificates related to the omicron surge.
“Certified death certificates continue to be reported, so VDH will continue to receive new death certificates for the deaths that occurred in January 2022 and those that will occur subsequently over the next few weeks and months ahead until the Omicron surge dissipates,” the department explained.
VDH added in the news release that “the best defense against COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death remains vaccination.”
As of Jan. 17-29, the Covid infection rate in Virginia was 4.7 times higher for people who aren’t unvaccinated compared to those who have gotten at least two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
According to the Fairfax County Health Department, 90% of all Fairfax Health District residents 18 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, as of today.
At least one dose has been administered to 954,019 residents overall, or 80.6% of the population, including:
- 95.5% of 16-17 year olds
- 91% of 12-15 year olds
- 48.9% of 5-11 year olds
The district has 845,140 fully vaccinated residents — 71.4% of the population, including 80.2% of adults.
Photo via CDC/Unsplash
Fairfax County Public Schools will continue requiring face masks after notching a victory in its lawsuit against Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order prohibiting school mask mandates.
Arlington County Circuit Court Judge Louise DiMatteo granted a temporary injunction today (Friday) to Fairfax County and the six other school boards suing Youngkin, allowing them to enforce their mask requirements until a permanent ruling is made.
“This temporary order takes immediate action to protect the health and wellbeing of all students and staff and reaffirms the constitutional right of Virginia’s local school boards to enact policy at the local level,” FCPS said in a statement.
The school boards argued in a hearing on Wednesday (Feb. 2) that Youngkin’s optional mask order violates Virginia’s Constitution as well as Senate Bill 1303, which required schools to provide in-person learning while following federal COVID-19 health guidelines “to the maximum extent practicable.”
In her opinion, DiMatteo makes clear that the temporary injunction was granted based not on the benefits of universal versus optional masking, but on whether Youngkin had the authority to issue his executive order.
“The single issue before the Court is whether the Governor, via his emergency powers, can override the decision of local school boards delegated to them under SB 1303,” the judge wrote. “On this pivotal point, the Court concludes that the Governor cannot.”
As local school and health officials stated in a virtual town hall earlier this week, FCPS reiterated in a message to families that requiring mask-wearing inside schools remains necessary to limit Covid’s spread so students can keep learning in person:
Dear FCPS Staff and Families,
Just a short time ago, a judge in Arlington Circuit Court agreed to a temporary injunction requested by FCPS and six other Northern Virginia school districts, that takes immediate action to protect the health of our community and also reaffirms the constitutional right in the Commonwealth of Virginia of school boards to make policy decisions for their districts.
A final hearing will be held at a future date. In the meantime, Fairfax County Public Schools will continue our mask requirement for all students, staff, and visitors, a regulation that is overwhelmingly supported by our staff and families. Read our statement on today’s decision.
Universal mask wearing has been a critical safety measure throughout the pandemic, especially during this most recent surge. We are committed to providing all students safe and in-person instruction. We believe that in order to do so, masks and our other layered prevention strategies must remain in place for now. As a reminder, all students are required to wear a face covering while indoors on school property or during FCPS-provided transportation, unless they have an exemption.
We are working with health experts to determine a safe and effective plan to scale back when it is appropriate to do so. FCPS will continue, as it has since this pandemic began, to prioritize the health and safety of all students and staff.
Some of you will be relieved by today’s decision and others will be frustrated. We understand. We ask everyone to treat each other with kindness, respect school procedures, and work together to safely move forward.
Fairfax County Public Schools
A date for the court hearing on a possible permanent injunction has not been set yet.
The Fairfax County Health Department will stop investigating every COVID-19 case to identify close contacts who may have been exposed to the disease.
County staff will instead focus their contact-tracing efforts on outbreaks and cases in high-risk settings, such as long-term care and healthcare facilities, the department announced today (Wednesday).
The move away from investigations of individual cases extends to schools and childcare facilities. Starting at 5 p.m. Friday (Feb. 4), the FCHD will only investigate outbreaks, defined by the Virginia Department of Health as three or more linked cases.
While health department staff will continue assisting with preventative measures, they will no longer investigate and provide guidance for every individual who tests positive for Covid.
“School Divisions and Private schools may choose to continue contact tracing close contacts, but this is no longer encouraged by recent VDH guidance due to the reasons cited above,” Dr. Robin Wallin, FCHD’s school health division director, said in an emailed statement. “VDH has developed a flowchart for parents to access as well to help them determine if they or their child should isolate or quarantine.
The county has released a toolkit with guidance on what people should do when they test positive. The health department also has a call center at 703-267-3511 that’s available to anyone with questions.
The changes reflect a shift in approach at the state level after VDH announced on Jan. 25 that it will start prioritizing outbreaks in long-term care and other congregate settings, as well as healthcare facilities and other high-risk settings.
Though Covid transmission in Fairfax County has declined over the past couple of weeks, health officials say the omicron variant spreads too quickly for it to still be feasible and effective to investigate every single case.
The county added 624 new cases today and is averaging 620 cases per day for the past week.
The FCHD reiterated that the best way to prevent Covid’s spread for everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated and boosted, in addition to following health protocols, such as wearing a well-fitting face mask and maintaining six feet of social distancing.
The omicron wave continues to subside in Fairfax County, which is now seeing only a third as many COVID-19 cases as it was half a month ago.
The county is averaging 753 new cases a day for the past week, compared to 2,520 cases at the current surge’s height on Jan. 13. The caseload is still above last winter’s peak of 697 cases on Jan. 17, 2021, but at this rate, it could drop below that level within a week.
The Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, reported 321 new cases today (Monday) — the fewest in a single day since Dec. 16, when the new variant was just starting to emerge in Virginia.
Even with cases plummeting, the pandemic’s danger has not passed. The county recorded nine more Covid-related deaths in the past week, bringing its death toll for January up to 20 people.
Death counts tend to lag behind cases, sometimes by weeks, due the amount of time it takes for death certificates to be filed and reported.
The district has reported a total of 169,612 COVID-19 cases, 4,416 hospitalizations, and 1,280 deaths during the pandemic.
While community transmission is still high, the Fairfax Health District has seen the pace of vaccinations flatten over the past couple of weeks, suggesting that demand in the area is nearing its ceiling.
At least one dose has been administered to 951,265 residents, or 80.4% of the population, including:
- 89.8% of people 18 and older
- 95.2% of residents aged 16 and 17
- 90.7% of 12-15 year olds
- 48.1% of 5-11 year olds
According to the Fairfax County Health Department, 842,180 residents are fully vaccinated, which amounts to 71.2% of the overall population and includes 80.1% of adults.
With a second week of consistently declining cases, Fairfax County’s current, omicron variant-fueled Covid wave has receded closer to the levels seen last winter.
The Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, reported 607 new cases today (Monday). With 845 cases added yesterday (Sunday), it’s the first time since Dec. 20 and 21 that there have been fewer than 1,000 new cases on consecutive days.
The county is now averaging 1,150 cases per day for the past week — less than half the weekly average of 2,520 cases recorded on Jan. 13, when the pandemic’s latest surge appears to have peaked.
Last winter, the seven-day average peaked at 697 cases on Jan. 17, 2021.
The omicron surge’s decline can also be seen in the district’s testing positivity rate, which has dropped from 34.1% on Jan. 10 to 23.1%, as of last Thursday (Jan. 20). The seven-day average for hospitalizations has gone from 5.7 on Jan. 15 to 3.1 today, when four new hospitalizations were reported.
In total, the Fairfax Health District has recorded 164,209 COVID-19 cases, 4,400 hospitalizations, and 1,272 deaths, five of them in the past week.
According to Fairfax County Health Department data, 840,040 residents overall — or 71% of the population — are fully vaccinated against Covid, including 80% of residents 18 and older.
The 949,105 residents, or 82% of the population, who have gotten at least one vaccine dose include:
- 89.7% of adults
- 94.9% of 16 to 17 year olds
- 90.4% of 12-15 year olds
- 47.6% of 5-11 year olds
In addition, 34.9% of Fairfax County residents, including 43.5% of adults, have gotten a booster shot or third dose, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
(Updated at 5:25 p.m.) Fairfax County Public Schools and six other school divisions, most of them in Northern Virginia, have sued to stop Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s order that makes face masks optional in schools.
As first reported by The Washington Post, the lawsuit was filed in Arlington Circuit Court this morning (Monday), asking the court for an injunction to stop Youngkin’s order from being enforced.
FCPS was joined by the school boards of Alexandria City, Arlington County, City of Richmond, Falls Church City, Hampton City, and Prince William County.
Collectively representing more than 350,000 students, the jurisdictions have all promised to continue requiring masks for students and staff, defying the executive order that Youngkin issued on Jan. 15, his first day in office, and was set to take effect today.
“The question for this Court is whether, by executive order, a governor can override both the Constitution of Virginia and a law enacted by the General Assembly,” the complaint says. “The School Boards respectfully submit that the answer to this question is no.”
In a joint statement, the suing school divisions say they’re seeking to defend “the right of school boards to enact policy at the local level, including policies that protect the health and well-being of all students and staff”:
This legal action centers on fundamental questions about the framework of public education in Virginia, as set out in the Virginia Constitution and by the General Assembly. At issue is whether locally elected school boards have the exclusive authority and responsibility conferred upon them by Article VIII, § 7 of the Constitution of Virginia over supervision of the public schools in their respective communities, or whether an executive order can unilaterally override that constitutional authority.
Also at issue is whether a governor can, through executive order, without legislative action by the Virginia General Assembly, reverse a lawfully-adopted statute. In this case, Senate Bill 1303, adopted with the goal of returning students to safe in-person instruction five days a week in March 2021 and still legally in effect, provides that local school boards should follow The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health and safety requirements.
Without today’s action, school boards are placed in a legally untenable position — faced with an executive order that is in conflict with the constitution and state law. Today’s action is not politically motivated. These seven school divisions would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the governor to ensure the safety and welfare of all students.
This lawsuit is not brought out of choice, but out of necessity.
With COVID-19 transmission rates high, our hospitals at crisis level, and the continued recommendation of health experts to retain universal mask-wearing for the time being, this is simply not the time to remove this critical component of layered health and safety mitigation strategies. School divisions need to continue to preserve their authority to protect and serve all our students, including our most vulnerable, who need these mitigation measures perhaps more than anyone to be able to continue to access in-person instruction.
FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand reaffirmed the division’s commitment to maintaining a mask requirement due to the spread of COVID-19 in a message to the community on Friday (Jan. 21), citing state law and a regulation that made masks part of the dress code, as of Aug. 20.
“We are working towards a day when we can begin to roll back these safety measures, including universal masking,” Brabrand said. “But for right now, we must continue to protect and serve all our students, including our most vulnerable. More than anything else, these mitigation measures allow them to safely remain in our schools.”
The peak of this winter’s omicron variant surge might be in the rearview mirror for Fairfax County.
After hitting an all-time high of 2,520 cases on Thursday (Jan. 13), the county’s COVID-19 caseload has dropped sharply over the past few days to a current weekly average of 1,919 new cases per day, according to Virginia Department of Health data.
That remains well above previous surges in the pandemic, since the county had never averaged more than 1,000 cases until this past Christmas. It’s also unclear whether Sunday’s snowstorm and yesterday’s government facility closures for Martin Luther King Jr. Day affected testing and reporting.
However, the Fairfax Health District’s testing positivity rate has declined from a seven-day rolling average of 34.1% on Jan. 10 to 29.9% as of Friday (Jan. 14), even with the number of tests reported increasing over that time frame.
With 1,595 cases added today (Monday), the district, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has recorded a total of 157,537 Covid cases, 4,379 hospitalizations, and 1,267 deaths during the pandemic.
Signs started to emerge last week that coronavirus infections may be peaking in the D.C. area and other East Coast cities where the omicron variant first surged in the U.S. The rapid rise and decline in cases echoes what other countries have seen from the variant, though health experts warn that relaxing precautions too soon could lead to another uptick.
Notably, the drop in cases hasn’t translated into a drop in hospitalizations. In Fairfax County, the rate of hospitalizations related to Covid has stayed relatively stable over the past month, with the seven-day average hovering around five to six cases since the beginning of the year.
Virginia hospitals are reporting a weekly average of 3,871 Covid patients — more than at any other point in the pandemic. The majority of those patients are unvaccinated people, who are being hospitalized at 4.2 times the rate of their fully vaccinated counterparts.
After increasing with their expansion to younger children and the introduction of booster shots in the fall, the pace of vaccinations has slowed in the Fairfax Health District since the winter holidays, the Fairfax County Health Department’s vaccine dashboard indicates.
The 945,418 district residents who have gotten at least one dose constitute 79.9% of the total population, including 89.4% of people 18 and older. The percentage of adults is actually slightly behind Virginia as a whole (89.8%).
In the Fairfax Health District, 837,068 residents — 70.7% of the population and 79.9% of adults — are fully vaccinated, meaning they’ve received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
According to the VDH, 392,916 Fairfax County residents have gotten a booster shot or third dose. That amounts to 34.2% of the population, including 42.8% of adults.
A new COVID-19 testing site is coming to Fairfax County, potentially easing up the current scramble for tests amid a surge in cases locally and statewide.
The Virginia Department of Health will open a community testing center tomorrow (Saturday) at the Fairfax County Government Center. The site will be set up in large tent in parking lot B, which is in the southwest corner of the complex.
With the capacity to administer 500 tests a day, the site will operate Saturdays through Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. by appointment only. Appointments will become available online one day before testing officially begins.
Here’s more from the county on how appointments will be administered:
Anyone who makes an appointment but cannot keep it or finds testing elsewhere is asked to cancel their CTC appointment so that the slot will be free for someone else.
CTC test results will be automatically sent via text or email message to individuals being tested, based on the information provided in the appointment system. PCR test results are usually available within a few days and are very effective in detecting an active COVID-19 infection, even if a person is asymptomatic (not showing signs of illness).
Testing is recommended for individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms or have been instructed to test following a COVID-19 exposure. A PCR test should not be done by those seeking to return to work or school after completing isolation for a COVID-19 infection as PCR tests may remain positive even after an individual is no longer infectious.
While appointments are required, all visitors are asked to be patient as there might be wait times. Please dress warmly as part of the line may extend outside. This is not a drive-in event so attendees will need to park and enter the tent.
The county continues to set daily records for new cases. Residents report that testing remains elusive throughout the county.
Fairfax County Public Library has received a new shipment of rapid COVID-19 testing kits, but supplies are extremely limited, even compared to previous rounds of distribution.
Because of the limited availability, each household will only be allowed to take up to four kits.
FYI #Fairfax: a limited supply of COVID-19 test kits will be available at Reston, George Mason, Chantilly & Sherwood regional libraries when they open Wed. at 10 a.m. Only 300 tests available at each so only 4 per household while supplies last. More info: https://t.co/fmCINLMzDl pic.twitter.com/ekg6F331iy
— Fairfax Library (@fairfaxlibrary) January 11, 2022
This is the first testing kit shipment of the year for Fairfax County as part of the Virginia Department of Health’s ongoing Supporting Testing Access through Community Collaboration pilot program.
FCPL has now gotten 35,862 kits since it joined the program on Dec. 1.
FCPL doesn’t have a timeline right now for its next shipment, advising community members to check its website and call their local branch for up-to-date information on testing availability.
“All we can do is make requests, and VDH fulfills them as they are able,” spokesperson Erin Julius said. “At this time we don’t know when the next will arrive or how many test kits it will contain.”
Demand for Covid testing remains high in Fairfax County, which is currently averaging 2,275 new cases a day. Details about a state-run community testing center coming to the county are expected to be announced this week.
Fairfax County has a new single-day record for COVID-19 infections.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, the county reported 3,463 new cases on Saturday (Jan. 8), surpassing the previous daily record of 3,111 cases set on Dec. 31. Before Dec. 22, the county had only seen more than 1,000 cases in a day once — on Jan. 17, 2021.
Now, with an additional 1,938 cases coming in today (Monday), the county is averaging 2,168 cases a day for the past week. That is the highest weekly average of the pandemic, even after cases dipped during the middle of last week, when a snowstorm closed some testing and vaccination sites.
In total, the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has recorded 141,395 cases, 4,338 hospitalizations, and 1,260 deaths due to the disease caused by the coronavirus.
While hospitalizations remain relatively low in Fairfax County, which is currently averaging 4.7 a day, Virginia as a whole reported an all-time, single-day high on Friday (Jan. 7), prompting Gov. Ralph Northam to declare a state of emergency today to increase bed and staffing capacities.
Inova Health Systems, which serves Northern Virginia, admitted 94 patients with Covid last week after averaging fewer than 10 a week between April and Christmas last year, according to Northam, who emphasized that the majority of people being hospitalized with the disease have not been vaccinated.
“Vaccines work, plain and simple,” the governor said. “To protect yourself, to stay out of a hospital, get vaccinated.”
According to FCHD data, 938,926 Fairfax Health District residents have gotten at least one vaccine dose, amounting to 79.3% of the population. That includes 89% of adults, 94% of 16 and 17-year-olds, 89.3% of people aged 12-15, and 44.7% of children aged 5-11.
As of today, 832,236 residents — 70.3% of the population — are fully vaccinated, including 79.7% of adults. According to the VDH, 32.3% of Fairfax County residents have received a booster or third dose, including 40.8% of adults.
Demand for Covid testing has soared in the wake of the omicron variant’s arrival. The district’s seven-day moving average has jumped from 2,481 daily encounters on Nov. 28 to 5,292 encounters as of Jan. 6, when nearly a third of tests — 32.8% — came back positive.
With many testing sites booked days, even weeks in advance, Gov. Ralph Northam announced last week that VDH will open nine community testing centers across the state in coming weeks, including one in Fairfax County.
According to the announcement, the facility will be at or near the mass vaccination site that has been operating out of the former Lord & Taylor store at Tysons Corner Center since October, but the county health department said on Friday (Jan. 7) that it couldn’t confirm the exact location yet, since the contracts were still being finalized.
The county did confirm that the testing site will provide drive-thru PCR testing services and require appointments, with the capacity to administer about 500 tests a day, five days a week.
“PCR test results are usually available within a few days and are very effective in detecting an active COVID-19 infection, even if asymptomatic,” FCHD spokesperson Tina Dale said by email.
More details about the facility, including the location, opening date, and how to make an appointment, are expected to be announced early this week.
For now, Fairfax County has a range of testing options at local pharmacies, health care providers, and other community sites. Inova and the county health department also offer testing for people who are symptomatic, though the county hasn’t shared dates for its mobile lab yet.