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.

Exactly 300 kits each will be available tomorrow (Wednesday) at the county’s Reston, George Mason, Chantilly, and Sherwood regional branches, FCPL announced this morning (Tuesday).

Because of the limited availability, each household will only be allowed to take up to four kits.

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.

Shipments had stalled over the winter holidays due to government closures and supply-chain issues that have made rapid tests hard to obtain nationwide.

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.

0 Comments
Library shelves (via Fairfax County Public Library)

(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) Fairfax County Public Library will close on Sundays and Mondays starting this coming Sunday (Jan. 16) through April 1 to deal with a staffing shortage.

Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said on Twitter this morning (Monday) that the changes were prompted by staffing issues due to the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases and recruitment challenges.

FCPL confirmed that all of its branches will be closed on Sundays and Mondays for the near-future in a news release:

  • Regional libraries: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays
  • Community libraries: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. on Tuesdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays
  • Access Services branch located at the Fairfax County Government Center will maintain its usual hours from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays

Libraries will remain open for regular hours Tuesdays through Saturdays.

“The current surge in COVID-19 cases and a high number of vacancies necessitated this change in hours,” FCPL spokesperson Erin Julius confirmed to FFXnow.

Fairfax County is currently averaging 2,168 cases per day, more than at any other point in the pandemic. That’s three times the peak case rate seen last winter, when the library system was still limited to online and curbside pickup services.

0 Comments
2022 written in fireworks (via Moritz Knöringer/Unsplash)

With New Year’s Day arriving this Saturday, many Fairfax County government facilities and services will be taking tomorrow (Friday) off.

Here is a breakdown of the county’s schedule for the New Year’s holiday:

County Government Offices

  • Most offices will be closed throughout the day on New Year’s Eve.

Fairfax County Public Schools

  • Schools remain closed for the winter break. Classes are scheduled to resume on Monday (Jan. 3).
  • The Gatehouse Administrative Center is hosting a drive-through diagnostic testing site from noon to 4 p.m. today (Thursday) and tomorrow. Students should be registered online in advance.

Fairfax County Public Library

  • All branches will be closed on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Courts

County Parks and Recreation Centers

Community and Senior Centers

  • All Neighborhood and Community Services facilities will be closed from Friday through Sunday (Jan. 2).
  • The Cathy Hudgins Community Center at Southgate has modified hours today, closing at 5 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.
  • The Pimmit Hills Senior Center is already closed until Jan. 3, and as of Tuesday (Dec. 28), the South County senior and teen centers have been closed until further notice “due to COVID-19 conditions,” according to the website.
  • The McLean and Reston community centers are both closed for New Year’s Eve and Day.

Trash and Recycling

Transportation

  • Fairfax Connector will follow a Saturday service schedule tomorrow and Saturday. See the website for details about what routes will be available.
  • FASTRAN shuttles will not operate on New Year’s Eve or Day.
  • For New Year’s Eve, Metrorail will start service two hours later than a standard weekday, operating from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. On New Year’s Day, trains will run from 7 a.m. to midnight.
  • Metrobus will use a Sunday schedule for New Year’s Eve before following its typical Saturday schedule on New Year’s Day.

Photo via Moritz Knöringer/Unsplash

0 Comments

Fairfax County Public Library is all out of COVID-19 rapid tests once again.

The library system has received 34,652 test kits since Dec. 1 as part of the Virginia Department of Health’s free testing kit pilot program, but as of 10:30 a.m. today (Tuesday), they have all been distributed.

“We are distributing these tests as part of a partnership with the Virginia Department of Health, which sends us the tests,” FCPL Director Jessica Hudson said. “We know VDH is working hard to distribute tests throughout the state, including to other libraries participating in this pilot program.”

Interest in the take-home test kits has been high since they were introduced in 21 of the county’s public library branches on Dec. 3, when supplies were gone within an hour of their availability.

While FCPL has received thousands of additional kits since then, community members will have to turn to other sources if they want to get tested during the holidays, since it’s unclear when the next shipment will arrive.

“We do hope to get in tests soon after the Christmas holiday but don’t have a firm delivery scheduled yet,” Hudson said.

Fairfax County residents aren’t alone in making a run for COVID-19 tests amid rapidly rising cases, fueled by the more transmissible delta and omicron variants. Arlington County Public Library announced this morning that it was also out of kits and doesn’t anticipate its next shipment coming until next year.

In an emailed statement, VDH attributed the gap in shipments to a combination of increased demand for testing, national supply chain issues, and the upcoming holidays:

Kit availability at a given location is subject to supply. VDH does not guarantee that all participating libraries will always have supply available. Additionally, demand spiked last week, over previous weeks. That along with the holiday and supply chain issues on a national level have impacted supplies. VDH continues to supply test kits to participating libraries; deliveries may be impacted by holiday closures or other factors.

FCPL will be closed this Friday and Saturday (Dec. 24-25) as well as New Year’s Eve and Day.

Pharmacies and COVID-19 testing sites across the country have reported overwhelming demand in recent days, with supplies slow to ramp up after manufacturers decreased production earlier this year. President Joe Biden is expected to announce a federal program today that will mail 500 million free at-home kits next year.

In the Fairfax Health District, testing encounters have climbed from a seven-day moving average of 3,620 on Nov. 28 to 6,075 as of Dec. 17, according to VDH data. Over that same time period, the rate of positive tests has increased from 4.6% to 7.4%.

While the Fairfax County Health Department primarily encourages testing for people who have COVID-19 symptoms or have encountered someone with symptoms or a positive diagnosis, there are a number of available testing sites, including some that provide free or low-cost options and accept individuals who don’t have insurance.

0 Comments
Fairfax County Public Library branches that serve low-income neighborhoods, including Reston Regional Library, tend to have more cards blocked due to fines

Fairfax County Public Libraries will no longer charge fines for most overdue materials, joining other jurisdictions in the D.C. area in an effort to maintain equity.

The FCPL Board of Trustees unanimously approved the policy in a meeting on Wednesday (Dec. 8). The new system, which begins on Jan. 1, would also reset fines that have already been incurred.

Board of Trustees Chair Fran Millhouser said the policy change is intended to encourage all individuals to take advantage of the library system.

“The FCPL Board of Trustees has approved eliminating fines on most materials and joins surrounding jurisdictions in removing this significant barrier to equitable access to information and library services,” said Millhouser.

The move comes after the board discussed the issue with the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in mid-October. An FCPL analysis showed that overdue fines affect young people and individuals in low-income areas.

Blocked cards — cards that are not allowed to check out materials due to fines exceeding $15 — were more prevalent in the following areas:

  • Reston Regional Library
  • City of Fairfax Regional Library
  • George Mason Regional Library
  • Kingstowne Library
  • Sherwood Regional Library

Before the pandemic, 17% of all cardholders had blocked cards. Blocked youth cards accounted for 23% of the total youth cardholder population. A link was found between low-income communities and blocked cards.

Library systems across the country, including in neighboring Alexandria City, Loudoun County, and Prince William County, have adopted fine-free models — a move that has resulted in a surge of returned materials.

Fines will still apply to materials in special collections like interlibrary loan materials, Chromebooks and mobile hotspots.

At the Thursday meeting, board trustee Liz Walker encouraged the library system to further identify what items were still not fine-free. 

But Millhouser noted that a prescriptive approach was not appropriate because the library offers many resources.

“It’s good to leave it open as the library just becomes so diversified… we’re not just a library anymore.”

0 Comments
A rapid COVID-19 at-home testing kit (via Jernej Furman/Flickr)

Fairfax County Public Library offered at-home COVID-19 test kits to the community for the first time this morning (Friday). An hour later, they were all gone.

The county announced on Monday (Nov. 29) that it would join a pilot program that the Virginia Department of Health launched last month to distribute free COVID-19 tests through participating public libraries.

FCPL received 2,300 BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Card Home Test that were made available at its 13 open community branches and eight regional libraries when they opened at 10 a.m. today.

All of the kits were distributed within the first hour, according to FCPL spokesperson Erin Julius, who says demand was high at all branches.

“The high demand for these test kits this morning indicates a continued need for accessible COVID-19 testing kits in Fairfax County, and FCPL is pleased to help distribute them,” FCPL Director Jessica Hudson said. “Libraries are trusted community hubs and we are glad to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community by making testing kits more accessible. We will continue to distribute tests as more are made available to us.”

Julius said the state is sending more test kits that will arrive next week, but she advises residents to call their local branch to ensure their availability before visiting. The library system also asks that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms request a kit using its contactless curbside pickup service.

VDH says the number of test kits distributed to participating localities depends on the size of each library system and feedback about how much interest they expect in the program, along with the general availability of supplies.

“The uptake varies,” VDH spokesperson Cheryl Rodriguez said. “However, some library systems are reporting that distribution has been brisk.”

According to VDH data, COVID-19 testing has been trending upwards in the Fairfax Health District since early November, with a spike seen in the days leading up to Thanksgiving (Nov. 25).

Fairfax County joined the state’s library test kits pilot slightly later than the other participating localities, but the move comes amid rising COVID-19 cases and renewed anxiety over the new omicron variant, which was confirmed in the U.S. for the first time on Wednesday (Dec. 1).

The Fairfax County Health Department said there has been increased demand for testing throughout Virginia recently, and offering free test kits at libraries gives people an alternative when retail supplies have been low.

Rapid COVID-19 tests have been in short supply since this summer after declining testing rates led manufacturers to decrease production. As infections surged again due to the delta variant, the federal government committed over $560 million to help boost the country’s supply.

“During the late summer months and early fall, many states across the country experienced limited access to rapid testing kits, due in part to slower production,” Rodriguez said. “However, production is increasing and more rapid tests should become available.”

Photo via Jernej Furman/Flickr

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list