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.
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.
2022 is off to a sobering start, as COVID-19 cases continue to soar in Fairfax County.
The county is now averaging 2,132 cases per day for the past week, according to Virginia Department of Health data. That dwarfs last winter’s surge, which peaked at a seven-day average of 697 cases on Jan. 17.
The weekly average had never entered four digits until this past Christmas, when the county hit 1,008 cases. Now, the county is seeing more than twice as many infections a day, reporting a new single-day record for the pandemic of 3,111 cases on New Year’s Eve (Friday).
With another 1,416 cases coming in today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District — which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church — has recorded a total of 125,708 COVID-19 cases.
There has been a slight uptick in hospitalizations as well, with the county averaging 5.57 a day for the past week after seeing fewer than two per day as recently as Dec. 18. Still, the hospitalization rate remains below last winter, which averaged nearly 17 cases a day at the surge’s height, and its all-time high of 33 a day on May 3, 2020.
Overall, the Fairfax Health District has seen 4,300 residents hospitalized and 1,260 people die due to the novel coronavirus.
VDH still lists the delta variant as the dominant strain in Virginia, but the time lag required for genomic sequencing and reporting suggests the omicron variant is more widespread than currently apparent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, as of the week that ended Dec. 25, the newer, highly transmissible variant comprised 58.6% of all cases in the U.S.
Health officials warned last week that the current surge — the Commonwealth’s fifth of the pandemic — might not peak for several more weeks, making it “likely that its true impact on public health and the health care delivery system is yet to be fully felt.”
“The best defense against serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated,” State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said. “If you have not gotten vaccinated or boosted and are eligible, please do so now. Do it for yourself, your family, and your community, including the health care workers we depend on to be there when we truly need emergency care.”
Vaccinations appear to have leveled off in the Fairfax Health District, though facility closures during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays have likely played a role in the decline in administered doses.
According to the Fairfax County Health Department, 933,257 district residents, or 78.9% of the population, have received at least one vaccine dose. That includes 88.6% of people aged 18 and older, 93.6% of 16 to 17-year-olds, 88.9% of people aged 12-15, and 43.2% of 5 to 11-year-olds.
About 70% of the district’s population is now fully vaccinated, amounting to 828,505 residents. That includes 79.5% of adults. 327,704 residents — about 28% of the population — have gotten a booster shot or third dose.
Fairfax County saw more COVID-19 cases over this past holiday weekend than at any other point in the pandemic.
The 1,550 cases reported on Christmas Eve (Friday) represented a new single-day record, surpassing the 1,485 cases that came in on Jan. 17, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
With another 1,441 cases recorded on Christmas Day, the county is now averaging 1,124 cases a day for the past week, even after the daily total dipped to 946 cases yesterday (Sunday) and 883 cases today (Monday). Last winter, the weekly average peaked in mid-January at 697 cases.
Fairfax County Health Department spokesperson Lucy Caldwell notes that the fluctuating case numbers may be a product of data reporting backlogs due to the holidays.
“There may be a lag of 2-3 days,” she told FFXnow by email. “Often, we see that the reported case numbers are lower on Mondays or after a holiday as employees may not be working to process the information/data on Sundays or major holidays.”
The Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has seen a total of 110,416 COVID-19 cases, 4,260 hospitalizations, and 1,244 deaths, six of them occurring in the past week.
On a more hopeful note, the recent surge in infections has not been accompanied by an equivalent rise in hospitalizations and deaths, supporting ongoing research that suggests the omicron variant is extremely transmissible but less likely to lead to severe illness than its delta predecessor, especially for people who are vaccinated and boosted.
In addition, the variant has started to subside as quickly as it emerged in South Africa, where it was first identified in late November. Even if it follows the same trajectory in the U.S., though, the consequences of the current COVID-19 wave could still be devastating, with many hospitals already overwhelmed.
At Least One Dose
- Fairfax County: 82% of the population (941,383 people), including 92.3% of individuals 18 and older
- Virginia: 76.9% of the population (6.56 million people), including 88.3% of adults
- U.S.: 72.7% of the population (241 million people), including 84.9% of adults
- Fairfax: 72.8% of the population (835,706 residents), including 82.7% of adults
- Virginia: 67.4% (5.7 million people), including 77.9% of adults
- U.S.: 61.7% (204.7 million people), including 72.6% of adults
28.1% of Fairfax County residents, amounting to 322,733 people, have received a third or booster shot, including 36.2% of adults.
The novel coronavirus is spreading exponentially in Fairfax County, outpacing even last winter’s surge.
The Fairfax County Health Department reported 569 COVID-19 cases this morning (Monday) for the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, pushing the total for the pandemic up to 102,362 cases.
The district has recorded 4,229 hospitalizations and 1,238 deaths, including 10 since last Monday.
It’s only the second time since early February that the district has topped 500 new cases in a single day. The first time came on Saturday (Dec. 18), when there were 512 cases, according to Virginia Department of Health data.
Fairfax County alone is now averaging 392 cases per day for the past week — a sixfold increase since Nov. 10, when the weekly average had dropped to 58.7 cases after the late-summer, delta variant-fueled wave.
Though local health officials expressed hope last week that the area’s relatively high vaccination rates would prevent a surge of the intensity seen last winter, the current seven-day average is actually higher than it was exactly one year ago (381.3 cases), and the rise in transmission has come more rapidly, occurring over one month instead of two.
As of Friday (Dec. 17), the VDH has only confirmed two infections tied to the omicron variant, including one in Northern Virginia, but the speed with which cases have climbed in the past two weeks reflects the trajectory that the variant has taken elsewhere.
Scientists currently estimate that omicron spreads at two to three times the rate of the delta variant, which remains the dominant strain nationally. Omicron is starting to make headway, though, going from 0.4% of cases in the U.S. during the week of Dec. 4 to 2.9% of cases the week of Dec. 11.
Fortunately, early research suggests infections stemming from the omicron variant tend to be milder, and while they appear to be less effective, vaccinations still provide some protection, especially when reinforced with a booster shot.
The number of vaccine doses administered among Fairfax Health District residents has exceeded 2 million after this past weekend.
According to VDH data, 933,875 residents, or 81.4% of the population, have received at least one dose, including 91.7% of people 18 and older. 831,306 residents — 72.4% of the population — are fully vaccinated, including 82.5% of adults.
In addition, a quarter (25.7%) of district residents have gotten a third dose or booster shot, which amounts to 295,006 people. That includes 33.3% of adults.
Local health officials say vaccinations should be combined with the other mitigation measures, like masking and social distancing, that have become common practice during the pandemic.
“We cannot let our guard down and must remain vigilant in our practice of all of these measures to the best of our ability,” Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu said in a statement last week. “Everyone eligible for the vaccine or a booster should get vaccinated, social distance, wear a mask while indoors in public settings, and wash their hands frequently.”
Fairfax County’s current COVID-19 surge has now surpassed the late summer wave fueled by the delta variant’s arrival.
The county is averaging 216.7 new cases per day for the past week — the most since Feb. 19, when the weekly average was at 228.9 cases, according to Virginia Department of Health data.
While cases have been rising since early November, the weekly average has increased by 100 cases since Nov. 28, suggesting the county is starting to see the effects of Thanksgiving gatherings and other holiday activities.
Fairfax County added 338 cases on Wednesday (Dec. 8) and another 361 cases yesterday (Sunday). Prior to this week, the county had not seen more than 300 cases in one day since Feb. 13, though the number of new cases dropped to 139 today (Monday).
At this rate, the Fairfax Health District’s case total for the pandemic could reach six digits within the next week. The district, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has reported 99,541 COVID-19 cases so far, along with 4,212 hospitalizations and 1,228 deaths, two of them in the past week.
Virginia as a whole has now surpassed 1 million cases, and the Commonwealth identified its first infection by the emerging omicron variant last Thursday (Dec. 9), though it hasn’t confirmed any additional cases from that strain since.
With community transmission levels now high, the Fairfax County Health Department has urged residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine or a booster shot, for those who have already been vaccinated, before meeting with family and friends during the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
According to FCHD data, 915,160 Fairfax Health District residents — 77.3% of the population — have gotten at least one vaccine dose, including 87.3% of people 18 and older, almost 89.7% of adolescents aged 12-17, and 38.3% of 5-11 year olds.
813,245 residents, or 68.7% of the population, are fully vaccinated, including 79% of adults.
216,150 residents have received a booster or third dose, including 383 people aged 12-17. Booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine became available to 16 and 17 year olds on Friday (Dec. 10) after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded its recommendation to include that age group.
The CDC is also now recommending that individuals conduct a self-test for COVID-19 before participating in an indoor gathering with people who aren’t in their household.
After its initial batch of kits ran out within an hour of their availability, Fairfax County Public Library received an additional 30,000 rapid COVID-19 testing kits last week and reported that all branches had some in stock as of Friday afternoon.
While the Fairfax Health District has seen a decline in testing encounters over the past week, the testing positivity rate has jumped from a seven-day average of 3.4% on Nov. 23 to 5.4% as of Dec. 9.
(Updated at 6:40 p.m.) Like the rest of the country, Fairfax County continues to see increasing levels of COVID-19 transmission.
The county is now averaging about three times as many new cases per day as it was less than a month ago, with a seven-day average of 189.4 cases today (Monday), according to Virginia Department of Health data.
In comparison, the county was averaging 58.7 cases a day for the preceding week on Nov. 10. That day was the first time the weekly average dipped below 60 cases since the delta variant started becoming prevalent in late July.
Including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, the Fairfax Health District reported an additional 131 COVID-19 infections today, bringing its total for the pandemic to 97,999 cases, 4,201 hospitalizations, and 1,227 deaths.
Fairfax County is now seeing a high level of community transmission, along with every other major Northern Virginia jurisdiction. It recorded 105.7 new cases per 100,000 people and a 4.7% testing positivity rate for the week of Nov. 28 to Dec. 4.
Locally, the ongoing coronavirus surge comes without any apparent assistance from the omicron variant, which has been detected in 17 states so far, including Maryland. Virginia is monitoring the relatively new variant but has not identified any cases involving it yet.
While initial reports suggest the omicron variant may not produce severe illness like the delta variant, concerns that it might be more transmissible and less susceptible to the immunity granted by vaccines prompted the Fairfax County Health Department to strengthen its recommendation that all adults get a booster shot six months after their primary vaccinations on Thursday (Dec. 2).
“Taking measures to reduce the spread of infection, including getting a COVID-19 vaccine, is the best way to slow the emergence of new variants,” Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu said in the blog post.
So far, more than 238,000 Fairfax Health District residents have gotten a booster or third dose, including 63.5% of adults between the ages of 75 and 84, according to the FCHD vaccine data dashboard.
908,544 residents — or 76.8% of the population — have received at least one vaccine dose, including 86.8% of adults, 89.4% of adolescents aged 12-17, and 36.2% of children aged 5-11.
Representing 68% of the population, 804,239 residents are fully vaccinated, including 78.8% of people 18 and older.
Providers in the Fairfax Health District have administered over 1.9 million vaccine doses. If the current weekly average of about 7,440 doses per day holds, the district could potentially reach 2 million doses around the one-year anniversary of when the county received its first shipment last December.
Photo via CDC/Unsplash
Two days before Thanksgiving, the 29 Diner was decimated by a fire. The next day, owner John K. Wood got back to work.
“It was a total loss,” Wood told FFXnow of the damage to the iconic, 74-year-old Fairfax City eatery. “But there’s nothing to be sorry about. It’s time to celebrate what this diner means to the community. I’m going to be here every day that I can — rain, sleet, snow — to watch the rebirth of the 29 Diner.”
Firefighters got a call around 6 p.m. on Nov. 23 about an explosion in the back of the building, WJLA reported. When crews arrived, a fire had spread from a storage room where chemicals were being stored to the kitchen across the way.
“It was a chemical fire that reached about 700 degrees,” said Wood, a Robinson High School graduate who has owned the diner since 2014.
Thankfully, no one was in the building at the time, but the fire rendered the kitchen completely unusable. Wood estimates it could take six months for the kitchen to be restored so the diner can reopen.
He’s already getting significant help from the community to do just that. A GoFundMe campaign set up to help Wood rebuild and support the employees that have lost their jobs has amassed over $54,000 in just a week’s time.
“I’m on the wings of the community and I feel the love,” Wood said.
A cozy spot to get a short stack and two eggs over easy, 29 Diner is also a historic landmark. In 1992, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for being a “uniquely American form of roadside architecture.”
The pre-assembled metal, glass, and double-wide diner was considered the “Cadillac of diners,” Wood says, when it emerged in 1947. The building was manufactured in New Jersey and purchased by original owner D.T. “Bill” Glascock, who placed it along Fairfax Boulevard, which was called Lee Highway then, like Route 29 still is (for now) in Fairfax County.
Wood reveals a little-known secret about the restaurant: a 1,500 square-foot basement, the dimensions of a good-sized townhouse, runs the entire length of the diner.
29 Diner grew with the region, becoming a hub of community in Fairfax. It did go through several owners, including Fredy and Virginia Guevara, who was a server there in the 1960s. When the couple retired, Wood took over.
“You step into that diner, and it just takes you back to when you were 9 years old and you got your first milkshake,” Wood told The Washington Post when he became the owner in 2014.
Wood has been a proud steward ever since. Open 24 hours, six days a week, the diner has become a headquarters of sorts for a number of charitable endeavors, raising money for causes from feeding those in need to supporting families with cancer and veteran suicide prevention.
Not even a destructive fire can dim Wood’s perpetual optimism and commitment to giving back.
“This is going to give us a chance to remodel, in the way the Lord wanted us to have,” he said.”We are going to set up a more inclusive kitchen, [better] wheelchair access, and help disabled veterans.”
Wood is planning a number of events in the coming weeks to help raise money, including runs and a motorcycle rally.
He says a big chunk of donations will also go toward providing for his employees and their families while they wait for the diner to reopen.
Rich Berkwitz, who set up the GoFundMe campaign, appreciates everything Wood has done for the diner and community. A teacher at Mark Twain Middle School in Alexandria and an assistant wrestling coach at John Lewis High School, he says he eats at 29 Diner “pretty much every week” because “it feels like home.”
“I’m so happy that the community is backing him as much as he’s back to the community,” he said. “He’s just so giving.”
It’s unlikely that 29 Diner will reopen prior to June 2022, but Wood has faith in the future.
“It’s going to come back better than it was,” he said. “That wasn’t a fire. That was the Lord paying a visit to the 29 Diner.”
In many ways, this past Thanksgiving weekend looked much more normal than last year’s isolated celebrations.
COVID-19 vaccines enabled many people to gather again with family and friends. Black Friday shoppers returned in droves to local malls, and air travel reached a pandemic high of 2.3 million air travelers the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 24) — only for that to be topped by 2.4 million travelers yesterday (Sunday), according to the Transportation Security Administration.
However, like a crotchety relative who overstays their welcome, the coronavirus still proved difficult to ignore, as reports emerged of a new variant of concern dubbed Omicron that was first identified in South Africa last week but has since been detected in at least a dozen countries, including Canada.
While no cases have been reported in the U.S. yet, and it’s unclear exactly what kind of threat Omicron poses, news of a new, potentially more transmissible variant comes as Fairfax County grapples with already climbing infection rates.
The county’s seven-day average hit a high for November on last Thursday (Nov. 25) with 141.6 cases — the highest weekly average since there were 143.4 new cases per day on Oct. 23, just before the late-summer Delta variant surge waned.
After a slight dip over the weekend, the addition of 149 cases today (Monday) has the weekly average sitting at 119.6 cases.
The Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has recorded a total of 96,651 COVID-19 cases during the pandemic. 4,189 residents have been hospitalized, and 1,226 residents have died, with one death reported in the past week.
Citing an increased demand for testing amid the recent COVID-19 surge, the Fairfax County Health Department announced this morning that the county’s public library branches will soon serve as distribution sites for at-home test kits as part of a state-led pilot program.
Quantities are expected to be limited, but the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Card Home Test kits will be available for free at all 13 of Fairfax County Public Library’s community branches and its eight regional branches starting on Friday (Dec. 3).
The tests are conducted online through eMed. The results are reported within 15 minutes and automatically shared with the Virginia Department of Health.
“Libraries are trusted community hubs, and we are pleased to support public health initiatives like this partnership with the Virginia Department of Health,” FCPL Director Jessica Hudson said in a statement.
The Fairfax Health District averaged 3,861 testing encounters a day for the past week as of Nov. 25. The current seven-day positivity rate for all tests, including rapid antigen tests, is 4.2%.
“For people who have a hard time finding a test kit at a pharmacy or who can’t afford a kit, the new library program provides another opportunity to receive a test kit,” FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said.
COVID-19 testing is also still available from health care providers and clinics, and those who are exhibiting symptoms or have had contact with someone who tested positive can visit FCHD sites.
At the same time, vaccination rates continue to increase, with 883,825 district residents — 74.7% of the total population — having now received at least one dose. That includes 85.1% of people aged 18 and older and nearly 30% of children aged 5-11, according to the Fairfax County Health Department.
775,361 residents — 77.5% of adults and 65.5% of the population overall — are fully vaccinated.
65-74 year olds and 75-84 year olds lead the way in terms of vaccinations, with over 99% of both those age groups getting at least one vaccine dose. 51.3% of 75-84 year olds have gotten a booster shot, the highest rate of any age group, though more doses have been administered to younger residents.
Photo via CDC/Unsplash
Booster COVID-19 shots are now available to all adults in the U.S. — just in time for what promises to be a busy holiday season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded eligibility for a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to everyone 18 and older early Friday night (Nov. 19), encouraging people to get the added protection before they gather for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.
People 65 and older and those at higher risk of infection due to their job or other factors have been able to get boosters since September. The CDC’s move adds approximately 2.2 million Virginians to that pool of eligibility, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
“These vaccines are incredibly safe and effective, but no vaccine prevents 100 percent of illness,” Virginia State Vaccination Liaison Dr. Danny Avula said in a statement. “All vaccines’ effectiveness wanes over time, and the data show a tangible benefit to people when they receive a vaccine booster.”
In Fairfax County, all vaccines, including booster shots, are available by appointment at the local health department, the Tysons Community Vaccination Center, and various community sites, which can be located through vaccines.gov.
The Fairfax County Health Department notes that Pfizer and Moderna’s boosters should be administered at least six months after the main two-dose regimen, and people don’t have to get the same brand as their original vaccination.
Coupled with the recent rollout of pediatric vaccines, the push for more booster shots comes at a critical time as the weather cools, and millions of Americans plan to travel for Thanksgiving on Thursday (Nov. 25), spurring the busiest travel period of the pandemic.
While the availability of vaccinations suggest COVID-19 infections are unlikely to reach the heights seen last winter, cases have already started to rise again in Fairfax County after more than a month of decline.
“As more people spend time indoors and as people get together for the holidays, the risk of spreading COVID-19 is higher,” Fairfax County Director of Epidemiology and Population Health Dr. Ben Schwartz said. “Rates of COVID-19 infection in Fairfax County have actually increased again during the past two weeks emphasizing the importance of vaccination, booster doses, and maintaining other measures to prevent infection.”
With 115 cases added today (Monday), the county now has a weekly average of 123.4 new daily cases, just shy of the 125.1 cases it was averaging on Aug. 11 in the middle of the Delta variant surge. For comparison, though, the county had a weekly average of 273.3 cases on Nov. 22, 2020.
The level of community transmission has returned to substantial after dropping to moderate just two weeks ago, according to VDH data. The county saw 72 new cases per 100,000 people and a testing positivity rate of 3.3% for the week of Nov. 14-20.
In total, the Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has reported 95,798 COVID-19 cases, 4,385 hospitalizations, and 1,225 deaths, including six in the past week.
While COVID-19 cases are trending upwards, so too are vaccinations in the Fairfax Health District, which has seen 1.7 million doses of vaccine administered, FCHD data shows.
867,103 residents — 73.3% of the district’s population — have received at least one dose, including 84.3% of people 18 and older, 86.7% of adolescents aged 12-17, and 21.6% of children between the ages of 5 and 11.
769,721 residents, or 65% of the population, are fully vaccinated, having gotten two Pfizer or Moderna doses or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. That includes 77.1% of adults.
The popularity of booster shots generally increases with age, with more than 40,000 doses going to people in the 65-74 age group. In terms of percentages, the lead goes to people who are 75 to 84 years old, nearly 47.5% of whom have gotten a booster shot.
In addition to recommending that parents get their children vaccinated, Schwartz urged all community members “to remain vigilant and keep up health and safety measures,” such as wearing masks in public indoor spaces, washing their hands, and staying home when sick.
Photo via CDC/Unsplash