(Updated at 2:10 p.m. on 10/1/2021) All Fairfax County employees will be required to be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 tests by Monday, Oct. 11, FFXnow has learned.
County government employees who do not get vaccinated or are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 11 will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing to remain employed, including if they receive a medical or religious exemption.
While the county has started providing booster shots to eligible individuals, people are still considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after they receive the second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine.
Fairfax County announced that it will implement a vaccine requirement back in August, but no specific date was given for when the mandate would take effect beyond “this fall.”
The county announced its requirement the same day that Fairfax County Public Schools shared its own vaccine mandate for employees, which it said will take effect “late October.”
An FCPS spokesperson confirmed that the end of October remains the school system’s goal for when all employees are expected to be vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.
Back in July, the county Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to direct County Executive Bryan Hill to evaluate the possibility of a vaccine requirement for county employees.
“We know vaccinations save lives and that these vaccines are safe and effective,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay wrote in a statement back in August. “Throughout the pandemic we have focused on measures to keep our employees and our community safe, and this is another key piece of that effort. As one of the largest employers in Virginia, and one that has successfully and consistently stressed to our residents the importance of being vaccinated, we must practice what we preach.”
FFXnow has reached out to the SEIU Virginia 512, one of the unions that represent Fairfax County employees, but did not receive any comment as of publication.
The Fairfax Workers Coalition, which describes itself as “a viable alternative for workers seeking representation and a voice in Fairfax County Government,” told FFXnow that it is very supportive of the mandate.
However, the coalition is concerned about the lack of communication and education about the requirement to its workforce. “The county communicates via email and links, but our members are out in the streets working 5 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.,” says David Lyons of the Fairfax Workers Coalition. “They may not get the information.”
The county’s vaccine requirement falls in line with policies announced by other jurisdictions in the D.C. area, including Arlington County, which has had a mandate in place since the end of August, and Loudoun County, which has not set a timeline yet.
Alexandria City Mayor Justin Wilson said in August that the city anticipated implementing a vaccination requirement in the “September/October timeframe.”
D.C. announced on Sept. 20 that school and child-care workers in the city must get vaccinated with no option to produce a negative test instead. FCPS told FFXnow that it is not changing its plans to have a testing option for employees who don’t get vaccinated.
Virginia’s requirement for state government employees took effect on Sept. 1, and President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Sept. 9 requiring all federal government workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Photo via Machvee/Flickr
Fairfax County has committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050, and now, it has a plan to achieve that goal.
First proposed by the board’s Environmental Quality Advisory Council in 2018, the plan features an inventory of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions and recommendations for how to curb them so the community can realize its aspirations of carbon neutrality.
“Together, the strategies and actions are intended to power individuals and organizations within the community, to engage in, lead, and champion the emissions reduction needed to achieve county-wide carbon neutrality,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck said, reading from the board matter he issued. “Climate change is a major existential crisis already causing major impacts in Fairfax County.”
Proposals include cutting the use of fossil fuel-burning cars, installing solar panels at home, creating more through recycling and composting programs, adopting more stringent green-building policies, and being a “conscious consumer.”
Storck’s motion passed 9-0, with Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity not present during the vote.
A few moments before the vote, Herrity said he was going to abstain due to concerns over timing, lack of proper community engagement, and cost, particularly in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The economic outlook over the next few years is uncertain,” Herrity said. “Our decisions don’t operate in a vacuum. This plan will have planned and unintended impacts on the economy and taxpayers. Beyond what I’m imagining will be a very steep cost to implement this plan, it will also have a very serious impact on the affordability of homes, increasing the actual cost as well as permitting and regulatory costs.”
The rest of the board countered that the county can’t afford to wait any longer to address the already-existing threat of climate change.
“The cost of doing nothing is significant, if not life-threatening,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “And I think most responsible people who are paying attention to the subject and the science…most certainly get that.”
Storck, who helped spearhead the CECAP as chair of the board’s environmental committee, reiterated that county operations and schools only account for about 5% of Fairfax County’s carbon emissions. The remaining 95% of emissions come from the private sector and the general community.
As noted in a presentation that Storck delivered, transportation and commercial and residential energy consumption are the two largest sources of greenhouse emissions. Combined, those areas produce more than 90% of all emissions in the county.
As a result, while the county will have a leadership role, this new plan is about asking the community to take the necessary steps to curb emissions, Storck said.
“There will be no area, sector, or part of our society that won’t be impacted [by the reduction goals in this plan],” he said. “How much? That’s largely a function of how aggressively we move forward.”
As the county worked to finalize the CECAP over the summer, the United Nations released a sobering report last month that said, even if future emissions are lowered, global temperatures will continue to rise until at least the middle of the 21st century, leading to more extreme weather and other worsening climate issues.
County staff told the board’s environmental committee in July that the CECAP’s implementation was already underway, a process that includes community outreach, public education, and an exhaustive review of existing county policies to see how they line up with the now-accepted plan.
Additional plans related to the initiative’s implementation, such as how the county can build on existing programs, will be presented to the board at an environmental committee meeting in early 2022.
Photo via Sandra Parra/Unsplash