After more than three years, COVID-19 will officially cease to be a federal public health emergency in the U.S. tomorrow (Thursday), bringing an end to the days of free testing and vaccinations.
The Fairfax County Health Department will still provide free services by appointment to people who don’t have insurance or otherwise can’t pay, but private insurance companies and health providers will be allowed to start billing patients, the department explained in a May 5 announcement.
Since they’re considered “preventative care,” vaccines will largely be covered by private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid without a co-pay. But coverage for both at-home and lab tests will depend on individual insurers, and people without insurance will be charged for vaccinations, according to the health department.
The FCHD will end its COVID-19 call center on May 19, so appointments for its free clinics can be made after that date by calling 703-246-7100.
Other options for uninsured individuals include organizations like food banks, homeless services providers and federally qualified health centers that can offer free testing through July 2024, thanks to federal grant programs.
“We encourage anyone who becomes ill with symptoms of COVID or who comes into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID to continue testing to prevent the further spread of illness,” the health department said.
Federal officials declared COVID-19 a national emergency on Jan. 31, 2020, 11 days after the first case in the U.S. was confirmed. The declaration’s end reflects a shift to treating the disease as endemic, meaning it remains present but not at a level that significantly disrupts most people’s daily lives.
FCHD Deputy Director for Medical Services Dr. Parham Jaberi said in a statement to FFXnow:
The end of the emergency does not signal that COVID is over, but we do feel that it no longer impacts our lives in the way it did over the past three years. The “emergency” enabled resources to quickly address our needs for a coordinated response to help our communities get vaccinated, tested and take necessary actions to limit the spread of the virus. While COVID remains a serious illness for some populations in our community such as older adults, very young children, or those with chronic health conditions, it is less of an overall threat to society.
The Fairfax Health District is now averaging 30 new cases per day for the past week — fewer than at any point in the pandemic other than the summer of 2021, according to local and state data. As a result, the impact of a price tag on people’s willingness to get tested and vaccinated “may be limited,” the FCHD says. Read More
The Fairfax Health District saw an uptick in COVID-19 cases in Thanksgiving’s wake, a reminder that the coronavirus hasn’t disappeared even if the face masks and other health protocols aimed at limiting its spread mostly have.
The district, which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, is averaging 238 cases per day for the past week, as of yesterday, according to Virginia Department of Health data.
Cases remain far below previous winters or even the surge seen in late May fueled by omicron subvariants, but there has been an increase since Nov. 19 after a plateau through most of the fall. This is the first time the weekly average has exceeded 200 cases since Sept. 15.
In addition, the district is averaging 1.7 deaths per day from Covid. During the pandemic, it has reported 251,405 cases, 5,149 hospitalizations and 1,702 deaths.
Citing “low demand,” the Fairfax County Health Department confirmed Friday (Dec. 2) that the startup Curative will stop operating in the county after Thursday, Dec. 15, as first reported by DCist. The partnership launched in July, bringing Curative’s vans with no-cost PCR tests to six locations in the community.
With rapid at-home testing more widely available now, albeit not necessarily for free, residents can find Covid testing options using VDH’s online search tool, calling health care providers directly or contacting the Fairfax County Call Center at 703-324-7404.
“Call takers will discuss their individual situation and what options may work best for them, which could include an appointment at one of the Health Department’s District Offices,” an FCHD spokesperson said. “We also continue to work on establishing additional options for distribution of rapid COVID-19 tests with our community partners. Many testing options are available in the community and the Health Department remains committed to helping residents find an option that works for them.”
According to its website, the county health department offers testing for individuals who have Covid symptoms, lack access to testing options in the community, are identified as close contacts, or have returned from traveling outside the country.
The county will also close its vaccine clinics at the South County Government Center on Wednesday, Dec. 14 and the Fairfax County Government Center on Saturday, Dec. 17. The operating hours for both sites have been reduced since early November. Read More
Curative is set to shut down all of its public COVID-19 testing sites in the D.C. region, including Fairfax County, by the end of the year.
All six Covid public testing sites run by Curative in collaboration with Fairfax County are expected to cease operations sometime next month, a Fairfax County Health Department spokesperson confirmed to FFXnow.
While the county didn’t confirm a specific date, DCist reported earlier this week that all of Curative’s testing sites will be closed by Dec. 15.
Per the county health department, the reason for the closure is a lack of demand.
“The County health department has closely collaborated with Curative over the past several months,” FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell wrote FFXnow in an email. “There has been a decline in demand for testing in recent months, perhaps since home tests are widely available and convenient for people to use at home, as well as ample supplies available at pharmacies and retail locations.”
An additional site was added in Annadale on Hummer Road, but that one closed earlier this week due to “low utilization and ongoing maintenance issues with the van used for this specific route,” Caldwell said.
Other neighboring localities had partnered with the California-based contractor dating back to early 2021. At times, there were long lines at the Arlington sites, particularly during the holiday season.
Over the last year, the county has gradually seen a number of covid testing sites close. The mass Covid testing site at the Fairfax County Government Center was closed in February, only a month after its launch.
The county’s mass vaccine clinics have also been winding down and are scheduled to close in mid-December.
Additionally, Fairfax County Public Schools will offer diagnostic testing to all teachers, staff, and students from Nov. 28 to 30 from 5-8 p.m. at five locations. Registration is required, and testing is intended for those who have Covid symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has Covid.
For the moment, no additional county testing sites are scheduled to launch, but any changes will be posted on the health department website.
Put in your final requests for free at-home COVID-19 tests now, because once Labor Day weekend arrives, that will no longer be an option.
The federal government’s offer of free, at-home test kits to all households will be put on hold Friday (Sept. 2) after Congress failed to renew funding for the program, which launched in January during the pandemic’s biggest surge so far.
According to CNN, the government’s remaining stockpile will be reserved for distribution later this year, as cases typically climb as the weather cools, contributing to a severe shortage of testing supplies last winter.
The federal program has gone through three rounds so far, allowing up to 16 test kits per household. The Postal Service had distributed approximately 350 million kits to over 70 million households nationwide and overseas as of mid-May, the White House said at the time.
Since at-home tests aren’t reported, it’s unclear how much of an impact the program’s suspension will have in Fairfax County, but PCR tests have declined since late May. The Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, is averaging 1,067 testing encounters per day compared to over 6,200 at the peak of demand on Jan. 12, according to Virginia Department of Health data.
As of last Thursday (Aug. 25), 18.3% of PCR tests have come back positive in the past week, down from 22.8% in early August.
The Fairfax County Health Department notes that there will still be options for obtaining both at-home and PCR tests. Private insurers are required to reimburse up to eight at-home tests bought from retail stores or online per month, though that won’t help those without health insurance.
“Vaccination and testing — and staying home when ill — remain important strategies to keeping Fairfax County healthy and minimizing the spread of COVID-19,” the county health department said by email.
More than two years into the pandemic, Fairfax County is settling into a more stable approach to COVID-19 testing.
The Fairfax County Health Department will now support free testing at six established sites through a new partnership with the contractor Curative. The mobile lab launched today (Tuesday) in Centreville and Bailey’s Crossroads and will rotate between two sites per day throughout each week.
“This is basically an expansion of our mobile test offerings,” FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said by email.
With demand fluctuating over the course of the pandemic, Virginia has shifted between mass testing and smaller, mobile sites. Fairfax County introduced a mobile laboratory after the delta variant arrived last fall.
The county had been deploying its mobile lab to a variety of locations, but there were only two regularly used sites, according to Caldwell.
Curative’s vans will follow a fixed schedule, with all clinics running from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.:
Tuesdays and Fridays
- Centreville Library: 14200 St. Germain Drive, Centreville
- Bailey’s Community Center: 5920 Summers Lane, Falls Church
Wednesdays and Saturdays
- Richard Byrd library: 7250 Commerce St., Springfield
- Groveton Baptist Church: 6511 Richmond Highway, Alexandria
Thursdays and Sundays
- New Grand Mart: 6255 Little River Turnpike, Alexandria
- James Lee Community Center: 2855 Annandale Road, Falls Church
No registration or appointment is necessary, and Curative doesn’t require users to present identification, according to a flyer. It also promises no out-of-pocket costs for the PCR tests, whose results are supposed be returned within one to two days.
The county health department recommends that people get tested for COVID-19 if they experience symptoms, have come in close contact with someone who tested positive, and before and after traveling.
As of June 30, the Fairfax Health District’s Covid testing positivity rate had jumped to 20% — its highest point since Jan. 22 — while the weekly average number of encounters has dropped to 1,652 per day.
The FCHD also provides testing at its district offices and the Joseph Willard Health Center. Additional PCR testing options can be found through the Virginia Department of Health, and rapid, at-home test kits are available at pharmacies and other retailers.
The federal government is also now delivering up to 16 free at-home tests per household.
(Updated on 5/16/2022) Hospitalizations for COVID-19 remain low in Fairfax County, but they have started to climb in recent weeks as the latest surge in the disease continues.
An estimated 52 new residents were admitted to a hospital with COVID-19 last week through Friday (May 6), a 54.2% increase from the previous seven days, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The county has seen 4.6 new admissions per 100,000 people in the past seven days, and 1.8% of staffed, inpatient hospital beds are currently being used by Covid patients. Both of those numbers fall well within the threshold for a “low” level of COVID-19, but with the county reporting over 200 new cases per 100,000 residents, the CDC increased its community level to “medium” on Thursday (May 5).
The Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, added 300 cases today (Monday), bringing its seven-day average up to 450.7 cases — the highest it has been since Feb. 6 (456 cases), according to the Virginia Department of Health.
The district has recorded 190,109 COVID-19 cases, 4,493 hospitalizations, and 1,512 deaths so far in the pandemic. The most recent confirmed death came on April 16.
Attributing the current surge of coronavirus cases to the spread of highly contagious omicron subvariants, Fairfax County Health Department officials said in a blog post on Friday that testing and vaccinations have become especially critical as mask-wearing, social distancing, and other mitigation measures have largely fallen by the wayside.
“We all want COVID-19 to be over; but unfortunately, we are not seeing that,” Fairfax County Director of Epidemiology and Population Health Dr. Benjamin Schwartz said in a statement. “Even if you think your symptoms may be due to allergies, getting tested is important to make sure it’s not really COVID-19.”
Averaging 2,464 encounters as of May 5, the Fairfax Health District’s testing positivity rate has quadrupled over the past month, climbing from 3.8% on April 4 to 13.7%. The last time the positivity rate hit that mark was Jan. 30, though more than 4,500 people were getting tested at that time.
More than 900,000 district residents — 900,815 people, to be exact — have gotten fully vaccinated. That constitutes 76.1% of the population, including 84.2% of people 18 and older.
There are 990,491 residents, or 83.7%, who have received at least one vaccine dose, including:
- 92.4% of adults
- 98.6% of 16-17 year olds
- 94.4% of 12-15 year olds
- 59.3% of 5-11 year olds
According to the county health department, a total of 487,809 residents have gotten a booster or third shot, ranging from 30.2% of adolescents aged 12-15 to 80.7% of people aged 75-84.
Fairfax County Public Schools is winding down its COVID-19 testing services for students and staff.
The school system announced in a newsletter last night (Wednesday) that, next Friday (April 22), it will discontinue the optional weekly screening testing and diagnostic drive-thru testing sites introduced last year as part of its efforts to support in-person learning during the pandemic.
FCPS cited Fairfax County’s month-long “low” community level classification and over 70% vaccination rate to explain the decision, though cases have recently started to tick back up after more than two months of declines.
The screening testing has been available at all schools since early November. It’s intended to identify COVID-19 cases among students and staff who are asymptomatic and haven’t experienced a known or reported exposure to the coronavirus.
FCPS launched a drive-thru diagnostic testing site at the Gatehouse Administration Center in Merrifield on Dec. 30, right as the omicron variant was surging and students were preparing to return from winter break.
The diagnostic testing is for people who are experiencing Covid symptoms or came into close contact with someone who has tested positive. FCPS currently has a second drive-thru testing site at the Sideburn Center outside McLean High School.
For students who need a COVID-19 test, Fairfax County still has options through the county and state health departments as well as pharmacies, private health care providers, and other locations in the community.
FCPS says students with symptoms can also get an at-home test kit from their school health room, and the test-to-stay program being piloted with the Virginia Department of Health will continue for all cases at seven schools and at all schools in the event of an outbreak.
“While we are encouraged by the continued decline in COVID-19 cases in our community, we are also committed to keeping our schools safe for all to learn and work in person,” FCPS said. “Please continue to do your part to maintain a healthy learning environment by using layered prevention strategies including hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, monitoring for illness, and staying home when sick.”
There have been 6,133 COVID-19 cases reported among FCPS students, staff, and visitors this year, but numbers have dropped drastically over the past few months, from 3,586 cases in January to 81 cases so far in April.
Photo via Jernej Furman/Flickr
The COVID-19 testing site at the Fairfax County Government Center has closed less than a month after its launch.
The Virginia Department of Health shut down the Community Testing Center yesterday (Wednesday) as part of a statewide shift away from mass test sites in favor of a mobile “CTC+” initiative focused on communities with accessibility barriers.
“As the community response has decreased at the large-tent, fixed testing sites, the Virginia Department of Health is transitioning to a flexible response where the testing van can be moved and located in areas with low access to testing,” VDH COVID-19 Testing Co-Lead Suzie Trotter said by email.
The Fairfax County CTC opened on Jan. 15 in response to the omicron variant’s arrival in December, which pushed local Covid caseloads to record heights and triggered soaring demand for testing that strained limited supplies.
Trotter says the number of tests conducted at VDH’s nine CTCs “dropped off significantly over the past week,” as the latest surge in the pandemic has started to recede. The supply shortage has also eased with an increased availability of testing kits through pharmacies and other retail sites, along with the launch of a federal program that mails free at-home kits.
The Fairfax CTC conducted tests for 4,394 people over its 19 days of operations, according to Trotter, who says the closure date was determined far enough in advance to cut off appointments.
“VDH has a role to continue to support the safety net and support testing to those that either have difficulty getting to a test site or have low access to testing in their community,” Trotter said. “Mobile vans will allow access to testing in areas that have never had the opportunity to have testing nearby.”
Set to begin operations on Tuesday (Feb. 15), the CTC+ initiative consists of vans that will travel to different locations with no-cost PCR diagnostic tests based on community need, as requested by local health departments.
There will be just one van to serve the entire Northern Virginia region, but Trotter says it will “maintain a weekly presence” in the Fairfax Health District, though an official schedule has not been determined yet.
The Fairfax County Health Department will evaluate a variety of factors when choosing testing sites, such as case levels and positivity rates, the availability of existing testing resources, and accessibility, spokesperson Lucy Caldwell told FFXnow.
“This resource joins other FCHD testing resources that will continue to target communities most in need of testing,” Caldwell said by email.
Other testing options include health care providers, retail pharmacies, and FCHD clinics. The county has also restarted its mobile laboratory, which tests people with symptoms and is next scheduled to appear at the Safeway at Engleside Plaza in Mount Vernon.
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.