(Updated at 2:35 p.m.) Fairfax County government workers must now show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing. The vast majority have chosen the former option, the county says.

The county’s policy officially took effect yesterday (Monday).

As of today (Tuesday), 12,799 employees have been fully vaccinated, meaning it has been at least two weeks since they’ve received both doses of the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to county government spokesperson Tony Castrilli.

Another 295 employees are partially vaccinated, and the county is currently reviewing 492 requests for a medical or religious exemption.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors directed staff to evaluate a possible COVID-19 vaccination requirement in July as part of the government’s return-to-office plan. The county confirmed that it would implement the mandate on Aug. 20.

The policy applies to all general county government employees. Fairfax County Public Schools has its own requirement that is expected to go in effect by the end of this month.

“Evidence shows that the COVID-19 vaccine continue to be safe and effective,” Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement. “As a County, we have to do all we can to protect our community. I’m encouraged by our high vaccination rate among county staff and pleased that we’ve put additional measures in place to help keep our employees and community safe.”

McKay added that the county will keep working to increase vaccination rates among its employees as well as the general public.

The percentage of county employees who are fully vaccinated is currently in the mid-80s, though it “fluctuates daily” due to changes in the overall workforce, Castrilli says.

In comparison, 62.8% of Fairfax Health District residents, or 740,791 people, are fully vaccinated, including 74.2% of individuals 18 and older, according to the Fairfax County Health Department, which serves the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church as well as the county.

819,482 residents — 81.8% of adults and 69.2% of the total population — have gotten at least one vaccine dose.

The Virginia Department of Health reopened its mass vaccination site at Tysons Corner Center on Friday (Oct. 8) to accommodate potential demand for booster shots and the eventual rollout of the vaccine to children under 12, which could come after Halloween.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Oct. 12, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of Oct. 12, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

In the meantime, Fairfax County has seen its COVID-19 community spread dip back down to substantial for the past two weeks, reporting 86.5 new cases per 100,000 people and a 3.3% testing positivity rate for the week of Oct. 3-9.

That reflects a recent plateau in infections after the Delta variant pushed the county’s transmission levels to high at the end of August.

However, after getting just 44 new cases last Tuesday (Oct. 5) — the fewest since July 20 — the county’s seven-day average has started to climb back up, from 132.3 cases per day over the past week on Oct. 6 to 149.7 cases today, according to VDH data.

With a total of 128 new COVID-19 cases coming in today, the Fairfax Health District has now recorded 91,120 cases, 4,337 hospitalizations, and 1,193 deaths from the pandemic.

0 Comments
An illustration of a coronavirus (via CDC/Unsplash)

With the addition of 136 cases today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District has reported a total of 90,010 COVID-19 infections since identifying its first positive case nearly 20 months ago.

Case levels in the district, which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, have stayed consistent for more than a month now after surging in August due to the spread of the especially contagious Delta variant.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, Fairfax County has seen an average of 149 new cases per day for the past week. This is the first time the weekly average has been below 150 since Aug. 19, when the county averaged 144 cases over seven days.

At the current rate, the Fairfax Health District would surpass 100,000 COVID-19 cases by the end of 2021.

4,308 district residents have been hospitalized by the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 1,181 residents have died.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over past 180 days as of Oct. 4, 2021. The Virginia Department of Health reports net new daily cases, while Fairfax County shares the total number of new cases reported. (via VDH)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of Oct. 4, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

In vaccination news, 80.7% of Virginia residents 18 and older have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to VDH’s dashboard. That is more than 5.8 million people — 68% of the Commonwealth’s total population.

72.1% of adults and 60.6% of residents overall are considered fully vaccinated, meaning it has been at least two weeks since they got the last required shot of either the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The Fairfax Health District has slightly outpaced Virginia as a whole.

The Fairfax County Health Department reports that 815,401 residents or 68.9% of the population, including 81.4% of adults, have gotten at least one vaccine dose. 736,772 residents — 73.8% of adults and 62.3% of all residents — are fully vaccinated.

Over 1.51 million doses have been administered to the district’s residents. It’s unclear how many of those are booster shots, which became widely available for older residents, people with underlying medical conditions, and other eligible groups last Tuesday (Sept. 28).

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

0 Comments
An illustration of a coronavirus (via CDC/Unsplash)

Updated at 3:20 p.m. — Booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be available for those who are eligible in Fairfax County starting tomorrow (Tuesday), the Fairfax County Health Department announced this afternoon.

Earlier: After seeing COVID-19 cases climb throughout August, Fairfax County seems to be finishing September at a plateau in the Delta variant-driven surge that has refilled hospitals in many parts of the country.

The Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, added 160 new cases today (Monday), bringing its total for the pandemic up to 88,817 cases, according to the Fairfax County Health Department.

The novel coronavirus has now contributed to 4,283 hospitalizations and 1,178 deaths, including five in the past week.

While community transmission is still considered high, the county is currently averaging 187.3 cases per day for the past seven days. That remains on par with the case rate in mid-April, right before vaccinations became available to all adults and stifled the virus until the Delta variant’s arrival, but the weekly average has only exceeded 200 cases for exactly one day — Sept. 16 — since late February.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Sept. 27, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of Sept. 27, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

The recent stabilization of COVID-19 cases coincides with preparations for the biggest shift in Fairfax County and Virginia’s vaccination campaigns since adolescents became eligible for the vaccine in May.

Backing an authorization issued by the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday (Sept. 22), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed a recommendation by its advisory committee on Friday (Sept. 24) that booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine be made available to certain populations.

The CDC’s new guidelines state that adults 65 and older, individuals 18 and older in long-term care settings, and people aged 50-64 years old with underlying medical conditions should get a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine at least six months after they received the first two required doses.

Booster shots can also go to people 18 and older who are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions or their occupation, including:

  • First responders
  • School staff
  • Public transit workers
  • Food and agriculture workers
  • Grocery store workers
  • Manufacturing workers
  • Corrections workers
  • U.S. Postal Service workers

These categories generally align with the populations who were prioritized for the initial vaccine rollout.

The CDC says the vaccine remains effective at preventing severe illness due to the coronavirus, but recent data suggests the amount of protection it provides against infection and mild illness decreases over time. Preliminary research indicates that booster shots can increase recipients’ immune response.

State vaccination coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said in a statement that Virginia welcomes the CDC’s support for booster shots, which were only available to immunocompromised people before.

“The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has been working with its vaccination partners — pharmacies, healthcare providers, hospitals and other institutions — to prepare for this rollout,” Avula said. “We are confident that we will have enough supply, and that access will be widely available.”

VDH officials confirmed last week that the state is exploring a variety of strategies for delivering booster shots, including potentially reviving the mass vaccination site at Tysons Corner Center that delivered more than 50,000 doses in the spring.

The Fairfax County Health Department said on Friday that booster doses will soon be available for those who are eligible at pharmacies, medical providers, hospitals, and county sites, but it is still “waiting on specific federal and state implementation guidance prior to offering booster doses to residents.”

The county’s Vaccine Administration Management System now allows Fairfax Health District residents to find and schedule an additional dose as well as their first and second doses.

VDH notes that its top priority continues to be getting the vaccine to people who haven’t gotten any doses yet, since data shows that unvaccinated people are significantly more likely to contract COVID-19 and develop severe illness as a result, leading to possible hospitalization and death.

As of today, 814,362 Fairfax Health District residents have gotten at least one vaccine dose. That is 68.8% of the total population, including 81.3% of people 18 and older and 83.9% of adolescents aged 12 to 17.

740,341 residents — 74.3% of adults and 62.6% of the overall population — are fully vaccinated, meaning they’ve gotten two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Virginia and Fairfax County have not yet started reporting data on how many people have received a booster shot.

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

0 Comments

More than four-fifths of adults in the Fairfax Health District have gotten at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, a hard-won milestone achieved after a summer of slowing demand and the arrival of the contagious Delta variant.

According to its vaccine data dashboard, which also includes information from the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, the Fairfax County Health Department has now administered more than 1.5 million vaccine doses since it received its first shipment on Dec. 23, 2020.

Constituting 68.6% of the total population, 811,460 Fairfax Health District residents, including 81.1% of all people 18 and older, have received at least one vaccine dose.

Interest in getting vaccinated appears to have soared in the past week, as more than 18,000 of those first dose were administered since last Monday (Sept. 13), when the county health department reported that 793,392 residents had received at least one shot. In comparison, just 1,457 first-dose recipients were added between Sept. 7 and 13.

The journey to the 80% benchmark was a two-month grind after the Fairfax Health District surpassed the 70% mark in June — more than 10 days ahead of the July 4 date that federal and state officials had targeted for getting vaccine doses to adults.

The milestone comes as the late summer surge fueled by the Delta variant appears to be leveling off, though Fairfax County’s COVID-19 community transmission levels are still considered high based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s established metrics.

With another 151 cases reported today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District has recorded a total of 87,621 novel coronavirus infections, which have resulted in 4,266 hospitalizations and 1,173 deaths.

Fairfax County is averaging 80.3 cases per day for the past week after spiking at an average of 204.6 cases over the previous seven days on Thursday (Sept. 16), which was the first time that the weekly average had climbed over 200 since it sat at 204.7 cases on Feb. 27.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Sept. 20, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of Sept. 20, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

Still, VDH data suggests the county is no longer seeing the clear, steep increase in COVID-19 cases that emerged in August. That trend of a sharp rise in cases, followed by a sudden plateau reflects the trajectory that the Delta variant has taken in other countries like India and the U.K.

However, health experts say vaccinations and mitigation measures, like mask-wearing, remain crucial to curtailing the spread of the virus, particularly with schools in session, the weather cooling, and the holiday season approaching. Read More

0 Comments
An illustration of a coronavirus (via CDC/Unsplash)

After a one-week drop back into “substantial” territory, Fairfax County is once again seeing high levels of COVID-19 transmission.

For the week of Sept. 5-11, the county saw 111 new cases per 100,000 residents, and 4.1% of tests came back positive for COVID-19 — the two metrics used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health to measure the level of community spread.

While the testing positivity rate remains low, the number of cases per 100,000 people has climbed over the 100-case threshold for high transmission.

Fairfax County has high levels of COVID-19 community transmission as of Sept. 13, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

The rise stems in part from the addition of 286 cases on Friday (Sept. 10), the most new infections that the county has seen in one day since 397 new cases were reported on Feb. 13, according to VDH data. Feb. 21 came close with 283 cases.

As a result, Fairfax County is now averaging 184.4 new cases per day for the past week, surpassing the summer high of 182.6 cases on Aug. 30. The seven-day average is still below the spring peak of 194.4 cases recorded on April 13.

With 130 more cases coming in today (Monday), 86,347 residents of the Fairfax Health District — which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church — have contracted the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. 4,250 people have been hospitalized, and 1,170 people have died, according to the Fairfax County Health Department’s dashboard.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Sept. 13, 2021 (via VDH)
All Fairfax County COVID-19 cases as of Sept. 13, 2021 (via VDH)

As the particularly contagious Delta variant keeps driving up COVID-19 cases statewide, the VDH announced last Tuesday (Sept. 7) that it has added more than 170 community testing events across the Commonwealth in response to an increase in people seeking to get tested.

That increase extends to the Fairfax Health District, which received more test results in the week of Aug. 29 than any other week since Jan. 24. Testing declined the following week of Sept. 5 leading into Labor Day weekend. Read More

0 Comments
Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand presents a proposal for virtual learning for students who must quarantine due to having COVID-19 or close contact with someone with the virus (via FCPS)

Fairfax County Public Schools could start providing livestreamed or recorded classes for students who can’t be in school buildings due to COVID-19 later this month.

Superintendent Scott Brabrand told the Fairfax County School Board on Thursday (Sept. 9) that administrators are developing a plan to let students attend their regular classes remotely when they have to quarantine, isolate, or pause in-person learning in response to testing positive for COVID-19 or being identified as a possible close contact of someone with the virus.

“We’re looking at several different options to get the important instructional content to our students, so it could be livestreaming. It could be teachers recording the lesson and posting the lesson,” FCPS Chief Academic Officer Sloan Presidio said at the meeting.

As of Thursday, FCPS has seen 555 reported cases of COVID-19 since Aug. 1, including 432 student infections. While that’s just 0.24% of the district’s 178,000-plus student population, the disruption in learning that comes with each positive case can affect entire classes or sports teams.

In addition to requiring isolation for students who test positive and quarantines for any unvaccinated close contacts, FCPS has been pausing in-school activities for students who could potentially be close contacts so the Fairfax County Public Health Department can conduct contact-tracing investigations.

“Fully vaccinated students who are identified as a close contact with someone with COVID-19 do not need to remain home as long as they do not have symptoms,” the school district says in its current health and safety guidance.

Last week, FCPS introduced a new system for electronically reporting students’ vaccination statuses in an effort to speed up the contact-tracing process.

Brabrand told the school board that FCPS is examining whether the 14-day quarantine period for unvaccinated students who come into close contact with a COVID-positive individual could be reduced to 10 or seven days.

Five of the seven COVID-19 outbreaks that have occurred in schools this academic year so far involved athletics, according to Brabrand. FCPS announced on Aug. 30 that it will require student athletes to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, effective Nov. 8.

A state law requires all public schools to provide in-person education for the 2021-2022 school year but allows for some exceptions. If a district offers online education for some students, it’s legally required to do so for all, such as students with disabilities and those with language needs, Brabrand said.

FCPS currently has a virtual program for a limited number of students with documented medical needs.

Braddock District Representative Megan McLaughlin raised concerns about the lack of a virtual learning option for elementary school students, who remain ineligible for the vaccine.

“We’ve gotten hundreds of emails from parents,” she said, pointing to Prince George’s County in Maryland. “They were offering it to 12,000 kids, and right now we only offer it to 400 kids.”

If approved, the classroom live-streaming option would be exclusively for students who aren’t able to attend school in-person for COVID-related reasons, as stated in Brabrand’s presentation and previously confirmed by FCPS officials.

FCPS officials said that, due to limited staffing, the live-streamed classes wouldn’t be interactive like last school year, when the district adopted a concurrent learning model where teachers worked with in-person and online students simultaneously. The school board largely balked at the idea of continuing that experiment into the new year.

Under the live-streaming approach, teachers could assist students through email correspondence. FCPS is reviewing whether office hours or other forms of outreach could be involved.

FCPS officials expect to present more details of their plans to the school board at a work session on Sept. 21.

0 Comments

Two weeks into a new school year that was supposed to herald the full return of in-person learning, Fairfax County Public Schools is considering adding a new, limited option for virtual instruction in an effort to minimize disruptions related to COVID-19.

Under the proposal, which will be shared in more detail during the Fairfax County School Board’s meeting tomorrow (Thursday), students who are directed to isolate, quarantine, or pause in-person learning due a COVID-19 case would be allowed to attend their classes via live video streaming, FCPS spokesperson Julie Moult confirmed to FFXnow.

“We understand that students learn best in person and that being required to quarantine is not an ideal situation,” Moult said in a statement. “We are doing our best to find solutions for those who need to be out of the classroom.”

FCPS has not reported any outbreaks to the Virginia Department of Health since the beginning of August, but it has recorded 510 COVID-19 cases, including 397 cases among students, over the past six weeks, according to the district’s dashboard for the 2021-2022 academic year.

411 of those cases have come in since classes began on Aug. 23, and there were 160 cases in the first seven days of September, even with students getting both Friday (Sept. 3) and Monday (Sept. 6) off for Labor Day weekend.

According to FCPS, a student, staff member, or visitor testing positive for COVID-19 may prompt a pause to in-person instruction, sports, and other activities for individuals identified as potential close contacts so the Fairfax County Health Department can conduct an investigation, including contact tracing.

While the department has a team specifically dedicated to school-related cases, the start of school has brought an influx of COVID-19 infections, including ones acquired outside of school. That has stressed the system and led to investigations that sometimes take several days, the FCHD said in a blog post last Thursday (Sept. 2).

The length of the investigations is part of a growing list of frustrations with this school year, from bus delays and crowded cafeterias to communication issues that have resulted in students showing up for class when they’re supposed to stay at home.

FCPS announced last week that it worked with the county health department to implement a new system where parents can electronically confirm their children’s vaccination status to speed up the contact-tracing process and enable them to return to in-person classes more quickly.

The school system also said that student athletes will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination to participate in winter and spring sports in part because the majority of pauses to in-person instruction for high school students have been triggered by exposure during athletic activities.

Just this week, Herndon High School postponed its football games against South Lakes High School that were scheduled for tomorrow and Friday (Sept. 10). Moult confirmed that the Herndon football team has been paused, necessitating the postponement.

WUSA9 reported last night that parents were notified on Aug. 30 that the entire Herndon football team had to stay home last week after a varsity player tested positive for COVID-19.

FCPS is offering some virtual instruction this year, but enrollment was strictly limited to students with a documented medical need to learn remotely. Officials told the school board on Aug. 24 that approximately 400 students were enrolled in the program, 42% of them students with disabilities.

While some families have advocated for FCPS to offer virtual learning more widely, the live classroom streaming option will only be available to students who are paused, isolating, or quarantined due to COVID-19 if it’s approved, Moult says.

“We are working with principals, teachers and teacher associations to finalize the details and should have this ready to share with families shortly,” Moult said. “We hope this will alleviate some of the concerns about potentially missing out on in-person instruction.”

0 Comments
An illustration of a coronavirus (via CDC/Unsplash)

The Delta variant-fueled rise in coronavirus cases that roiled Fairfax County during the latter half of the summer appears to have eased a little over the first week of September.

With 135 new cases reported today (Tuesday), the Fairfax Health District, including the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church has recorded a total of 85,151 COVID-19 cases, 4,262 hospitalizations, and 1,167 deaths.

The county is now averaging 158.4 new cases per day over the past week, down from the weekly average of 183.9 cases on Aug. 30 that has so far represented the summer’s peak. That is shy of the high mark for the spring, when the county averaged 195.1 cases on April 13.

Fairfax County COVID-19 cases over the past 180 days as of Sept. 7, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

That slight decline in cases has been enough to bring Fairfax County back down to a substantial level of community spread after entering the “high” category at the end of August.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Virginia Department of Health determine the level of COVID-19 community transmission within a locality based on the number of new cases per 100,000 people and the percentage of positive tests over the past week.

Fairfax County recorded 98.4 new cases per 100,000 people for the week of Aug. 29 to Sept. 4, dropping below the 100-case threshold for “high” transmission. 4.3% of administered tests came back positive for COVID-19 in that time frame.

Fairfax County COVID-19 levels of transmission as of Sept. 4, 2021 (via Virginia Department of Health)

However, Fairfax County also saw fewer people seek out a COVID-19 vaccination in the past week — perhaps a product of residents leaving town for Labor Day weekend.

According to the Fairfax County Health Department’s dashboard, 791,935 Fairfax Health District residents have received at least one vaccine dose. That constitutes 79.1% of residents 18 and older and 66.9% of the total population.

However, it’s just 4,527 more people than Aug. 30, when more than 6,000 additional people had gotten their first shot in the preceding week.

717,743 residents — 60.6% of the district’s population — are now fully vaccinated, including 72.1% of all adults.

The need to get the remaining 30% of adults vaccinated will become increasingly urgent as the weather starts to cool, pushing activities like dining and exercise back indoors.

The CDC is currently projecting Virginia to surpass 25,000 COVID-19 cases per week by the end of the month. The Commonwealth totaled 21,693 cases over the week of Sept. 1.

The Fairfax County Health Department says community members should remain vigilant in following not only COVID protocols, such as wearing a mask indoors and getting vaccinated for those who haven’t done so already, but also more general health guidelines.

“As the weather cools, and people are typically inside more often, it is even more important to adhere to commonsense health and wellness strategies such as getting enough rest, a balanced diet, and regular exercise,” the department said in a statement. “This is also the time of year when everyone should investigate getting their flu shots — either from their medical provider, pharmacy or community clinics.”

Photo via CDC/Unsplash

0 Comments
McNair Elementary School students pick up lunch on their first day of school for the 2021-2022 academic year (via FCPS)

As COVID-19 cases rise in Fairfax County Public Schools, so have concerns from parents, students, and staff, particularly when it comes to the cafeteria.

More than 205,000 students and staff in Fairfax County went back to school on Aug. 23 after 18 months of mostly remote learning. Excitement about seeing friends and having in-person classes mingled with frustration over transportation issues and pandemic-related anxieties.

After more than a week of classes, some community members have expressed increasing alarm at the sight of crowded cafeterias during lunch, jam-packed school hallways, and what they feel is a lack of oversight by FCPS administrators.

FCPS has seen a clear uptick in COVID-19 cases since classes began, according to its dashboard, which displays cases that are self-reported by students and staff and shared with the Fairfax County Health Department.

As of yesterday (Wednesday), the school system had recorded 351 new cases in August, including 266 cases involving students and 84 among staff. 252 cases have come in since schools reopened on Aug. 23.

While this remains a small percentage compared to the division’s overall population, which is the largest of any Virginia school district, the numbers still have many worried.

An online petition urging FCPS to offer a virtual option for more students has now garnered close to 5,000 signatures, almost double what it had in mid-August.

FCPS has a virtual program, but enrollment for this year was limited to students who personally have a documented medical need. Eligibility wasn’t extended to students based on health concerns in their family or household.

“FCPS believes that students learn best in-person,” an FCPS spokesperson said. “We are focused on providing a safe and positive learning experience for all students.”

Lunch time has emerged as a particular concern, since students have to remove the face masks that are otherwise required inside school buildings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention characterize mealtime at schools as a “high-risk situation.”

In particular, elementary school students are at risk.

While about 80% of middle and high school aged students in Fairfax County have gotten at least one vaccine dose, children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible. At this point, it’s not expected that vaccines will be available for those children until this winter if not early next year.

A parent of a student at Westbriar Elementary School in Vienna told FFXnow that, during the first week, she saw students “elbow-to-elbow” inside the small cafeteria, eating and talking without masks on. The school has an outdoor space with a tent, the parent says, but it isn’t being used enough.

The student said they “don’t feel safe” during lunch and snack time in school.

The parent doesn’t fault the young students, but rather, the administrators for not adequately monitoring or providing better options. Read More

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list