Fairfax County’s ongoing Covid surge reached new heights this week.
The county is now seeing a “medium” level of COVID-19 in the community. This is the first time that the county’s classification has changed since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adopted its current metrics for measuring the disease’s spread in February.
The CDC measures COVID-19 community levels based on the number of cases and new hospital admissions per 100,000 people as well as the percentage of staffed inpatient beds utilized by people diagnosed with Covid.
As of yesterday (Thursday), Fairfax County has recorded 210.1 cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days. If that number exceeds 200 cases, the CDC automatically classifies a community’s level as medium, regardless of the other metrics.
The county falls in the “low” thresholds for new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 residents (3.4), and the percentage of hospital beds filled by patients with Covid (1.9%).
The Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, is currently averaging 396.9 cases per day over the past week — a 90-case increase just since Monday (May 2), according to Virginia Department of Health data.
“Disease increases are likely related to the emergence of new Omicron sub-variants (BA.2, BA.2.12.1) and fewer people using mitigation measures such as masking or distancing from others,” the Fairfax County Health Department said today (Friday). “COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in Fairfax County remain low though the rate of hospitalizations has more than doubled in the past month.”
Schools see increase in COVID-19 outbreaks
According to the FCHD, the rise in cases has extended to schools with 139 classrooms reporting outbreaks this week — a jump of more than 50% from the 74 classrooms with outbreaks last week.
The department notes that those numbers include both public and private schools as well as childcare facilities. The outbreaks, which are clusters of three or more connected COVID-19 cases, have primarily occurred in elementary schools.
After seeing a dip in March, Fairfax County Public Schools students reported 1,687 COVID-19 cases in April, and there have already been 1,277 cases in May, according to the school system’s data dashboard. FCPS had 2,907 cases among students in January, which remains the all-time record.
“Our current protocols remain in place until we reach a high transmission level,” an FCPS spokesperson told FFXnow.
As noted in a newsletter earlier this week, FCPS says students’ parents and guardians are still required to fill out a daily screening questionnaire to determine whether they should be in school. Face masks are recommended, though they haven’t been required since the beginning of March.
FCPS recently updated its protocols for students who test positive for COVID-19, allowing students to return to in-person classes after five days of isolation if they are symptom-free and wear a mask.
With Mother’s Day and other spring occasions approaching, the county health department advises residents to keep COVID-19 health risks in mind and hold gatherings outside if possible.
The calendar may have turned a page, but COVID-19 cases in Fairfax County keep going up.
The Fairfax Health District, which also includes Fairfax and Falls Church cities, has added 812 cases over the past three days, according to the Virginia Department of Health, which didn’t report new cases on Saturday or Sunday (April 30-May 1).
The district is averaging 307 cases per day for the past week — nearly four times the 77.1 cases recorded on March 22, which remains the lowest weekly average of the year. The district last averaged over 300 cases on Feb. 11 (319.9 cases), as the pandemic’s winter surge was waning.
While hospitalizations are still relatively low, they have noticeably increased over the past month. Another 30 Fairfax County residents were admitted to a hospital for COVID-19 last week, a 23% increase from the previous seven days, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through Friday (April 29).
Virginia’s northern region is averaging 60 hospitalizations per day for the week, a roughly 60% increase from three weeks ago.
In addition, four more district residents have died from COVID-19 since last week, bringing the overall death toll to 1,511 people, according to Fairfax County Health Department data. The district has recorded 186,954 cases and 4,484 hospitalizations.
While the BA.2 omicron subvariant has been the predominant Covid strain during this surge, the VDH reported on Friday that another, even more transmissible omicron subvariant, dubbed BA.2.12.1, “is beginning to make inroads” nationally, particularly in New York and the northeastern part of the U.S.
In a blog post last Tuesday (April 26), the county health department again urged community members to get vaccinated if they haven’t done so already.
“There are instances where some vaccinated people get COVID illness, but the disease will be milder and they will have a reduced chance of hospitalization,” the FCHD said. “Consider wearing a mask in indoor settings, avoiding crowds and taking other precautions to keep yourself and your loved ones safer.”
More than three-quarters of Fairfax Health District residents — 76% or 898,938 people — are now considered fully vaccinated. That’s 1,312 more people than this time last week, and it includes 84.1% of all people aged 18 and older.
A total of 988,831 residents, or 83.5% of the population, has gotten at least one dose:
- 92.3% of adults
- 98.5% of 16-17 year olds
- 94.3% of 12-15 year olds
- 59.1% of 5-11 year olds
According to VDH, about 43.3% of county residents, or 498,156 people, have received a booster or third shot, including 52.8% of adults and 34.1% of adolescents aged 12-17.
Case Against Park Police Who Shot McLean Man Dropped — “Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares (R) on Friday dropped the state’s federal appeal in the manslaughter case against two U.S. Park Police officers, effectively ending any attempt at criminal prosecution of the officers who fatally shot unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar in a Fairfax County neighborhood in 2017.” [The Washington Post]
Hundreds Help Pack Ukrainian Refugee Donations — “Hundreds of volunteers gathered this weekend in Oakton to help pack approx. 1800 boxes with donations collected for displaced Ukrainians. Huge thanks to our community members for donating, these wonderful volunteers, and to Paxton Co. for generously shipping these items.” [Chairman Jeff McKay/Twitter]
Mount Vernon Fire Started by Hair Dryer — A house fire in the 3700 block of Nalls Road on Wednesday (April 20) was started accidentally by an electrical event involving a hair dryer in the basement bathroom, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says. There were reported injuries or displacements, but the fire caused an estimated $37,500 in damages. [FCFRD]
Medical Reserve Corps Volunteers Critical to Covid Response — “Since February of 2020, over 1,400 MRC members volunteered more than 65,000 hours at vaccination clinics and testing events, and assisting with outreach, isolation and quarantine efforts, logistical support, and so much more.” [Fairfax County Health Department]
Merrifield Nonprofit Gets Boost from Football Fans — “Wolf Trap Animal Rescue keeps receiving donations from the public in honor of Dwayne Haskins, the former Washington quarterback who died in an accident on a Florida highway on April 9. Haskins…selected Wolf Trap Animal Rescue as his organization to represent for the NFL’s My Cause My Cleats campaign.” [Patch]
Turner Farm Observatory Seeks “Dark Sky” Designation — “To help reverse the trend of growing light pollution, the Great Falls observatory applied to become an Urban Night Sky Place with the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA)…If approved, the observatory would become the first IDA-designated place in the Washington region.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Construction Starts on Woodley Hills Park Playground — “The Fairfax County Park Authority will begin the installation of a new playground and removal of the existing playground the week of April 25, 2022. Construction access to the site will be from Old Mount Vernon Road. It is anticipated that the playground replacement will be completed by early June 2022.” [FCPA]
Reston Library Book Sale Starts Wednesday — The Friends of the Reston Regional Library will host its biggest book sale of the year, starting with a members-only night from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday (April 27). The sale will be open to all starting at 10 a.m. Thursday through Sunday (April 28-May 2) and include 35,000 to 40,000 books. [Friends of the Reston Regional Library]
It’s Monday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 75 and low of 55. Sunrise at 6:19 am and sunset at 7:57 pm. [Weather.gov]
Fairfax County’s COVID-19 transmission level is still well below where it was this past winter, but a rise in cases that was barely perceptible a week ago has started to solidify into a more concrete trend.
The Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax and Falls Church cities, is averaging 167 cases a day for the past week. That’s the highest weekly average since Feb. 18 (169 cases) and more than twice this year’s low point of 77 cases on March 22, according to Virginia Department of Health data.
The current seven-day average is even higher — 191 cases — when looking at the Fairfax County Health Department, which doesn’t take data clean-up adjustments into account.
The uptick is driven in part by the addition of 254 cases on Saturday (April 9) — the most cases reported by the district in one day since Feb. 11, which had 311 new cases.
The omicron subvariant that drove up Covid cases in Europe last month has now become the dominant strain in the U.S. It is responsible for about two-thirds of infections in the mid-Atlantic region, which includes Virginia, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicates.
Evidence suggests the subvariant, known as BA.2, is more contagious and spreads faster than the original omicron variant, which fueled this winter’s surge, but it doesn’t appear to make people sicker, the FCHD says.
At the same time, hospitalizations and deaths due to the coronavirus continue to decline, according to the CDC, which still classifies the level of COVID-19 in the county as low.
During the pandemic, the Fairfax Health District has recorded 181,385 COVID-19 cases, 4,455 hospitalizations and 1,497 deaths among residents, including 90 new cases today (Monday).
According to the FCHD’s dashboard, 967,835 district residents — 81.8% of the population — have received at least one dose of vaccine, including:
- 90.8% of people aged 18 and older
- 96.9% of 16-17 year olds
- 92.8% of 12-15 year olds
- 53.5% of 5-11 year olds
876,264 residents, or 74%, are now fully vaccinated, including 82.8% of adults. Just in Fairfax County, 488,322 residents — 42.4% of the population — have gotten a booster or third shot, including 51.8% of adults and 33.4% of adolescents aged 12 to 17.
(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Your perception of the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Fairfax County might vary depending on which data dashboard you’re looking at.
For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifies the county’s COVID-19 community level as “low” based on the hospitalization metrics that the federal agency has used since February.
An estimated 17 Fairfax County residents were admitted into a hospital with COVID-19 over the past seven days, a 3.2% decline from the previous week, according to the CDC. That amounts to 1.5 new patients per 100,000 residents, and 1.1% of staffed inpatient beds are being used by confirmed COVID-19 patients.
However, the CDC’s community transmission dashboard, which uses the number of new cases per 100,000 people and testing positivity rate, still rates the level of spread in the county as “substantial.”
The Virginia Department of Health’s cases dashboard indicates that the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, reported 83 new cases today (Monday), putting its current seven-day average at 113.9 daily cases. Recently, the county’s dashboard stopped reporting the number of new daily cases, favoring the 7-day average number of daily cases.
The weekly average has climbed slightly over the past couple of weeks. The 77 cases averaged on March 22 had been the district’s lowest rate since July 31, 2021. The all-time highest average was 2,590 cases on Jan. 13.
The Fairfax County Health Department’s dashboard, however, says, on average, there have been 163 new cases reported per day for the past week.
An FCHD spokesperson confirmed that the discrepancy between the county and state data stems from the former tracking total new cases, while the latter has been using net new cases, which subtracts any past cases that turned out to be duplicates or actually occurred in a different locality.
Overall, the Fairfax Health District has recorded 180,216 COVID-19 cases, 4,446 hospitalizations, and 1,490 deaths during the pandemic.
While federal funding for COVID-19 testing and vaccinations has officially run out, Fairfax County will still provide those services for free to people without insurance, the county health department says.
Free testing concluded in March, and free vaccinations are set to end tomorrow (Tuesday), though Congress is negotiating a new funding deal.
“At this time, the Fairfax County Health Department (FCHD) will continue to provide vaccinations for all at no charge at county-operated clinics, including pop-up clinics, held throughout the community,” FCHD said. “The Health Department will continue to work with the state to determine the future impact on these programs.”
The federal government is still offering four free at-home tests at no charge, and the county operates mobile clinics that provide free testing. FCHD advises residents to call pharmacies and other private providers in advance to see whether they are charging for tests.
- 90.7% of people aged 18 and older
- 96.9% of 16-17 year olds
- 92.7% of 12-15 year olds
- 53.3% of 5-11 year olds
874,858 residents, or 73.8%, are fully vaccinated, including 82.5% of adults.
According to the VDH, 482,472 Fairfax County residents — 41.9% of the population — have gotten a booster or third dose, including 51.2% of adults and 32.9% of adolescents aged 12-17.
Certain residents who are aged 50 and older, have only received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or are immunocompromised are now eligible to get a second booster shot if at least four months have passed since their first booster.
Recent drug overdoses by teenagers in the Richmond Highway corridor and emergency care statistics have led Fairfax County officials to intensify their efforts to address the opioid epidemic.
Hospitals and urgent care centers in the county have seen nonfatal overdoses rise in the last three years, from 232 to 324 and 354 as of last year. Most of the opiate cases involve fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s 80-100 times more powerful than morphine, while heroin cases are declining, the county health department told FFXnow.
County Executive Bryan Hill and Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand reported in a March 15 letter that the county has seen “a concerning number” of nonfatal overdoses involving teens aged 15 to 17 in the Richmond Highway corridor.
They said the incidents have primarily involved illicit pills, likely fentanyl, but the substances weren’t verified by lab tests at the time of their writing.
“Individuals of all ages are impacted by the opioid epidemic in the Fairfax Health District, with the 18-34 age range having the highest rates of fatal and nonfatal overdoses in the Fairfax Health District in recent years,” the letter said.
In Fairfax County, opioid overdoses are the top non-natural cause of death. They were involved in the deaths of 83 people in 2019, 94 people in 2020, and 85 individuals for a nine-month period in 2021.
Last spring, the U.S. saw more than 100,000 people die from drug overdoses during a 12-month period — the highest rate ever recorded, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioids were involved in most of those deaths.
Ellen Volo, Fairfax County’s opioid task force coordinator, says there are over 30 activities underway or in development across five priority areas:
- Education, prevention, and collaboration
- Early intervention and treatment
- Enforcement and criminal justice
- Data and monitoring
- Harm reduction
Fairfax County Health Department spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said the department is collaborating with the Fairfax County Opioid and Substance Use Task Force.
Resources for prevention, treatment, and enforcement can also be found through the school system, the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, the police department, and community organizations like the nonprofit Chris Atwood Foundation.
“It is not just one effort — it is the coordinated efforts — that will make a difference,” she said by email.
Fairfax County saw a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases this past week, but the overall level of community transmission remains low.
After seeing mostly double-digit daily caseloads during the previous week, the Fairfax Health District — including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church — reported 157 new cases on Wednesday (March 23), 154 cases on Friday (March 25), and a total of 249 cases over the weekend, including 75 new cases today (Monday).
On its data dashboard, the Virginia Department of Health reported all of this weekend’s cases today, pushing the district’s rolling seven-day average up to 117 cases — the highest it’s been since March 9.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still classifies the county’s community transmission level as low based the case rate per 100,000 residents (52.55), new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 residents (1.6) and the percentage of staffed inpatient beds used by patients with confirmed COVID-19 (1.5%).
Overall, the district has recorded 179,419 total COVID-19 cases, 4,446 hospitalizations, and 1,485 deaths during the pandemic. The four most recent confirmed deaths, based on the date of death, came during the week of March 5.
The omicron variant is still responsible for majority of cases in the area, but a subvariant known as BA.2 has been gaining ground. It is behind 34.9% of infections in the mid-Atlantic region, which includes Virginia, according to the CDC.
The subvariant is more transmissible than the original omicron variant and triggered a new surge in cases across Europe this month.
However, scientists say it does not appear to cause more severe illnesses. Vaccinations remain effective at preventing severe illness and death, and the similarities between the variants means that people who were infected with omicron may have some immunity to BA.2.
As of today, 965,535 district residents, or 81.6%, have received at least one vaccine dose, including:
- 90.6% of people 18 and older
- 96.8% of 16-17 year olds
- 92.5% of 12-15 year olds
- 52.9% of 5-11 year olds
There are 873,032 fully vaccinated residents, which is 73.8% of the population, including 82.5% of adults.
In Fairfax County, 477,892 people — or 41.5% of residents — have gotten a booster or third dose, including 50.7% of adults and 32.6% of people aged 12 to 17, VDH’s data dashboard shows.
About eight months after the delta variant revived face masks, Fairfax County’s COVID-19 case rate has dropped back into double digits.
With 53 new cases today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, is now averaging 87 cases reported a day for the past week — its lowest seven-day average since Aug. 1, 2021, when it was seeing 86 cases per day.
Case levels have declined precipitously since peaking at a weekly average of 2,590 cases on Jan. 13. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still classifies community transmission levels as low based on its current hospitalization-focused metrics.
As of Friday (March 18), there had been 21 county residents newly admitted into a hospital with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. The county’s seven-day average of 1.9 per 100,000 residents represented a 35% drop from the previous week, according to CDC data.
In total, 4,440 Fairfax Health District residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 during the pandemic. There have been 178,716 cases and 1,476 deaths.
With cases continuing to fall, demand for vaccinations has slowed to the point where the Virginia and Fairfax County health departments are preparing to close two mass vaccine sites at the end of this week, citing “a diminished need” for that approach.
Since the first supplies arrived in December 2020, more than 2.2 million vaccine doses have been administered in the Fairfax Health District. 965,319 residents — 81.6% of the population — have gotten at least one dose.
According to Fairfax County Health Department data, that includes:
- 90.6% of people aged 18 and older
- 96.8% of 16-17 year olds
- 92.4% of 12-15 year olds
- 52.7% of 5-11 year olds
Fairfax County’s vaccination rates for the 5-11 and 12-17 age groups (58.4% and 94%, respectively) are among the highest in the state, the Virginia Department of Health says.
In addition, 41.2% of county residents have gotten a booster shot or third dose, including 50.2% of adults and 32.2% of youth aged 12-17.
However, the future of Virginia’s vaccination campaign could become hazier, as federal health officials warn that funding for COVID-19 response efforts, including vaccines and tests, is running out — even as a highly transmissible omicron subvariant takes hold in the U.S.
Brought about after Congress eliminated a $15 billion coronavirus aid package from its budget bill last week, the White House says the funding collapse could affect everything from the availability of antibody treatments to vaccine and testing reimbursements for uninsured individuals.
The Virginia Department of Health says it’s not clear yet how the federal funding shortfall will affect the state’s vaccination program, but testing efforts are safe for now.
“VDH’s COVID testing programs are funded through a grant that will not be impacted by the federal government’s funding challenges,” the department’s central office said in a statement.
The Virginia and Fairfax County health departments are shutting down two COVID-19 vaccination sites that have delivered thousands of shots during the pandemic.
The Tysons Community Vaccination Center will close at 4 p.m. on Friday (March 25) after administering roughly 58,000 doses since it reopened in Tysons Corner Center’s former Lord & Taylor store on Oct. 8, the Fairfax County Health Department announced today (Monday).
With the capacity for 3,000 shots a day, the mass vaccination site was organized by the Virginia Department of Health and operated by contractors AshBritt Inc. and IEM Health. It was first established in April 2021 and provided more than 50,000 doses during Phase 2 of the state’s vaccination campaign before closing in June.
A vaccination site at Springfield Town Center will also wind down operations this week. The facility will open from noon to 4 p.m. for one final weekend before closing at 4 p.m. on Sunday (March 27).
Only open on weekends, the Springfield vaccine site was less extensive than the Tysons one, but it “has been critical in helping to close the equity gap” as part of the FCHD High Risk Communities Task Force’s efforts to address disparities in access for low-income and minority individuals, the county health department says.
“Due to the highly vaccinated population, decreased demand from the community, and ample supply of vaccine widely available at doctor’s offices and pharmacies, there was a diminished need for large-scale public vaccination sites,” an FCHD spokesperson said of the decision to close the site, adding that the department “is grateful” to PREIT for its generosity.
The vaccination rates for the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church in addition to the county, are roughly in line with those for Virginia as a whole.
According to FCHD data, which is updated at 11:30 a.m. every weekday, 964,980 district residents, or 81.5%, have received at least one vaccine dose, including 90.6% of people 18 and older, as of Friday (March 18).
About 871,643 residents, or 73.6% of the population, are fully vaccinated, including 82.4% of adults.
Vaccines remain available at numerous sites throughout the county, including from pharmacies, private health care providers, and mass vaccination sites at the Fairfax County Government Center and Hyland South County Center.
“The Health Department is also continuing its outreach and collaborative work, with multiple community partners, to provide vaccinations clinics at sites across the county, including houses of worship, daycares, schools, businesses, and special events,” the FCHD spokesperson said.
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.