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Headed to a potluck or party where additional dishes are welcome? Bring something healthy to help you and others age and eat well.

This biweekly column is sponsored by The Mather in Tysons, Virginia, a forward-thinking Life Plan Community for those 62 and better.

While we’re all likely enjoying more time at restaurants, outdoor gatherings, wedding receptions and birthday parties, we may suddenly gain some extra pounds with all of these added festivities!

This can be particularly true for those age 60 and better, who may gain weight more quickly due to natural changes in metabolism and hormones. Of course, you can try to burn off those extra calories with exercise — but it’s also good to practice moderation in the first place.

Here are some tips to help party-goers of all ages avoid the gain and still have fun:

  • If you’re an evening exerciser, try moving your workouts to the mornings, that way get-togethers don’t interrupt your exercise routine.
  • Don’t go to a party hungry! You’ll have more will power if you eat a healthy, filling snack before you leave. Try an apple with peanut butter, or Greek yogurt mixed with fruit.
  • If you’re heading to a potluck or party where additional dishes are welcome, bring something healthy, like a veggies and dip platter. That way you’ll have at least one nutritious choice.
  • When you arrive at an event, discreetly scope out the food options before you start nibbling. Choose the healthiest options and decide which treats you must have — then skip the rest.
  • Have a piece of sugarless gum or a mint ready for when you’ve eaten all you think you should.
  • Throw your own party where you can control what’s served. Include healthy options for drinks as well as dining.
  • When drinking, stick with wine, sparkling wine, or beer. You’ll avoid high-calorie mixers in many cocktails — including soda water, tonic, and juices.
  • Alternate each alcoholic beverage with a glass of still or sparkling water. This will help keep you hydrated and sober, and save calories for the goodies at the buffet!
  • Be aware of how many calories (and how much alcohol) is in your glass. Depending on the generosity of your bartender, your glass of wine may hold more than a standard serving (5 ounces).

The Mather, projected to open in Tysons, VA, in 2024 for those 62 and better, is a Life Plan Community where residents will have countless culinary options at their fingertips through modern, high-end kitchens in apartment homes and multiple restaurants onsite.

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A new dining option is coming together at Tysons Corner Center.

The fast-casual chain Mezeh Mediterranean Grill plans to open a 3,134-square-foot restaurant with outdoor seating at the mall later this year, the company confirmed to FFXnow.

“Tysons Corner has always been on our roadmap, we just never knew when,” Mezeh Marketing Director Patrick Mika said by email. “Fortunately for Mezeh, a space has opened up and we are excited to join the restaurant ranks in Tysons!”

Tysons Corner Center’s map indicates that Mezeh will be located next to Bloomingdale’s, replacing the Le Pain Quotidien that closed in 2020. Fairfax County processed an interior demolition permit for the restaurant on May 19, but it hasn’t been issued yet, according to county records.

While there’s no clear completion date yet, Mika says the business hopes to open its newest location before the winter holidays.

Based in Annapolis, Mezeh has more than 30 locations across Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York with its first D.C. site on the way. Its Fairfax County restaurants are in Fair Oaks Mall, Springfield Town Center, the Old Keene Mill Shopping Center, and Reston’s RTC West development.

Similar to Cava Grill, which lost a trademark lawsuit against Mezeh in 2017, the business serves “create your own” bowls, flat bread wraps and pita pockets with an emphasis on freshness that Mika says differentiates it from other Mediterranean eateries.

“We prep every item that goes on our line that day, and you will not find any additives or preservatives in our food to help extend the shelf life of the product,” Mika said. “Working in small batches help us control both the freshness on the line and the waste that comes at the end of the day.”

According to Mika, the company’s founding partners — CEO Saleh Mohamadi, Steve Walker and Tai Chiao — have all lived in Northern Virginia for more than 40 years and are excited about the “great exposure having a shop” in Tysons Corner Center could bring.

According to the mall’s website, other businesses in the works include Chopathi Indian Kitchen, which was announced last year, as well as a Day & Night Cereal Bar.

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A kid gets their first COVID-19 vaccine shot at the Fairfax County Government Center’s clinic (courtesy Fairfax County Health Department)

(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) The Fairfax County Government Center’s COVID-19 vaccine site has reached capacity for the day, as families across Northern Virginia rush to get their youngest kids inoculated.

The Fairfax County Health Department announced just before noon that it’s no longer accepting new appointments at the government center today (Wednesday), citing the high demand.

The county was among just a handful of places in Northern Virginia to make the newly authorized vaccines for kids under 5 available as soon as yesterday (Tuesday), according to FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell.

Neighboring Arlington County, for example, only made them available today and is requiring scheduled appointments.

“We are delighted with the demand we’ve seen so far,” Caldwell told FFXnow, noting that the government center has been “very popular” over the past two days. “Our county health department staff have planned for this for months.”

With the health department’s current staffing levels, the government center has the capacity to administer 500 to 600 shots per day.

The county is also offering both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for young kids at its South County Government Center clinic (8350 Richmond Highway). Walk-ins at both sites are welcome, but FCHD warns that it is seeing long wait times for walk-in service.

In general, COVID-19 vaccine appointments can be scheduled through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccine Administration Management System, but federal staff have run into some issues with updating the system to reflect the latest expansion of eligibility, according to FCHD.

“We are waiting for those updates to be made and have been told they will be in place this evening,” Caldwell said.

The Food and Drug Administration and CDC gave their support to Moderna and Pfizer’s Covid vaccines for kids as young as 6 months of age last week, opening eligibility for vaccination up to nearly 69,000 more Fairfax Health District residents.

The Moderna vaccine is for kids up to 6 years old and requires two doses spaced four to eight weeks apart. Pfizer’s three-dose regimen is targeted toward kids up to 5 years old.

While the shots are also being delivered to pediatric offices, private medical providers, and some retail pharmacies, Caldwell says the county health department clinics have seen many people who got put on their pediatrician’s waitlist “but tell us they do not want to wait.”

Anecdotally, the government center has also gotten visitors from across Northern Virginia, not just the Fairfax Health District, which covers the county and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.

“They are telling us that they are eager and ready to vaccinate their little ones now and they’ve been waiting long enough,” Caldwell said.

According to FCHD data updated at 10:30 a.m., 996,500 Fairfax Health District residents, or 84.2% of the population, have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, including 92.9% of adults.

While the dashboard doesn’t yet include data for kids under 5, the county health department says its two sites delivered shots to 338 children between 6 months and 5 years of age yesterday. The clinics also administered primary or booster doses to 99 adults.

“Today, as of 2:45, we have done 323 children between 6 months and 5 years already,” Caldwell told FFXnow, noting that an additional 80 adults received primary series and booster shots.

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Workers for the federal contractor that runs call centers for Medicaid, Medicare, and other services took their fight for better wages, benefits and work conditions to the streets of Tysons last week, garnering some honks of support from passing drivers.

Over two dozen Maximus employees marched from Tysons Galleria to the company’s new corporate headquarters at 1600 Tysons Blvd on Friday (June 17) to deliver a petition calling for livable wages and affordable health care.

Garnering 11,853 signatures, the petition also expresses support for workers at call centers in Mississippi and Louisiana who organized strikes this spring as part of an ongoing campaign to unionize with the Communications Workers of America.

“A lot of these folks are just asking for living wages,” said Christian Ohuabunwa, who helps process disability benefits for veterans at a call center in Houston, Texas. “We’re asking for affordable health care benefits, that you don’t have to decide between eating and sending your kid to the hospital. We’re asking that they truly listen to us and try and make some changes.”

Previously based at Reston Station, Maximus employs 37,000 people and commands $4.25 billion in revenue, according to its website. In early May, the contractor reported $1.18 billion in revenue for the second quarter of fiscal year 2022, a 22.7% increase over the previous year.

Maximus told investors that growth in its federal services segment was driven by “expected contributions” from recent acquisitions, including a $1.4 billion deal for Veteran Evaluation Services Inc. (VES) that closed in June 2021.

Ohuabunwa started working for VES in 2018 and says he “felt a sense of camaraderie” in the company, which he notes was veteran-owned.

That changed when Maximus took over. On top of paying a $6,000 deductible under the company’s health care plan, Ohuabunwa says his frustrations include a lack of communication between leaders and employees and the elimination of incentives to process questionnaires that determine whether a veteran qualifies for benefits faster.

“Now that Maximus has taken over, there’s now a backlog of cases,” he told FFXnow. “Prior to this, we did not have that, because people were enthusiastic about what they did, so work got done. Now, there’s no encouragement for you to go that extra step.”

Maximus says it continues “to look for ways to improve health benefit coverage and affordability,” noting that the deductible for its free individual coverage plan dropped from $4,500 to $2,500 in April. Read More

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A Fairfax Connector bus leaves the Dunn Loring Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fairfax Connector is set to start its electric bus pilot program by the end of the year.

The county-run bus service plans to introduce eight electric buses by December, according to a presentation to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ transportation committee last week.

Phase one of the pilot program will run out of the West Ox bus division, which serves routes in the western and central portion of the county. Initially, electric buses will be tested on four routes. Phase two is expected to begin in 2023 and will include four additional buses on routes in the southern portion of the county.

No exact timetable was given for how long the pilot program is anticipated to last, but it will likely follow other neighboring localities and run about two years.

Planned routes for the Fairfax Connector electric bus pilot (via Fairfax County)

The hope is to transition the entire Fairfax Connector fleet to 100% zero emission buses by 2035. This deadline is based on the county’s established goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040.

Staff identified several challenges that they will closely monitor, including ensuring there’s no reduction in service as a result of the transition. Several supervisors noted during the meeting that slower service, a reduction of routes, or constant maintenance taking buses offline could lead to fewer riders.

There are also technology limits to consider and whether the electrical grid will meet the energy requirements needed for large bus fleets.

According to the county’s Chief of Transit Dwayne Pelfrey, two thirds of current Fairfax Connector routes exceed the battery capability of electric buses. Coupled with potential issues with cold weather and hills, like Alexandria experienced late last year, electric buses may not completely meet the needs of the Fairfax Connector just yet.

That, in turn, could push potential riders back to single-occupancy vehicles, negating the emission reductions that many hope electric buses will provide.

Pelfrey also noted that obtaining buses has been increasingly difficult between supply chain issues and manufacturers not being ready to “pivot” to producing electric vehicles.

The used bus market is difficult to navigate as well, though the county did purchase 10 used buses out of North Carolina that will be transitioning to electric and 12 hybrid buses from WMATA.

A rendering of what a Fairfax Connector electric bus might look like (via Fairfax County)

Considering the county’s goals and the current price of gasoline, though, staff and board members believe the issues are worth navigating. While capital and infrastructure costs may be higher for electric buses, fuel and maintenance costs would be significantly lower over a 12-year period, according to a graph presented by staff.

The county is also exploring using hydrogen as fuel, but that technology remains expensive and more costly than electricity.

The county has already started creating infrastructure in preparation for the pilot to begin in about six months. Electric chargers arrived in April and are currently being installed, a process expected to be completed within the month.

“We are just doing simply plug-in chargers,” Pelfrey said. “When we transition full garages…we will have to do something much, much more complicated from a construction and power standpoint.”

The county’s electric buses are expected to start being manufactured late next month, received by October, and put on the road by December.

Fairfax Connector is the largest bus system in Virginia with a fleet of more than 300 buses providing nearly 18,000 rides a day.

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Morning Notes

Relaxing in Penny Lane Park at the Mosaic District (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

County Police and Fire Training Exercise Today — “#FCFRD is conducting a joint training exercise with Fairfax County Police Department at Fairfax County Government Government Center on Wednesday, June 22, between 9 a.m. -3 p.m. There will be a large fire and police presence in the area during this time. #FCPD Helicopter Fairfax 1 will land/take off during the exercise.” [FCFRD/Facebook]

Rep. Beyer Wins Democratic Primary — Rep. Don Beyer’s bid for reelection remains alive after he won the Democratic nomination for the 8th Congressional District yesterday (Tuesday). Per the Office of Elections, Fairfax County’s turnout reached an estimated 2.5%, as of 3:30 p.m., not including early and absentee voters. [WTOP, Twitter]

Health Aide Under Investigation for Stealing Student Meds — Fairfax County police are investigating a health aide who allegedly took student medications and replaced them with allergy medicine while employed at Greenbriar East Elementary School. The Fairfax County Health Department worker has been placed on administrative leave and could be terminated. [FOX5]

New FCPS Cell Phone Policy Approved — “The policy taking effect in the 2022-2023 school year says students in kindergarten through eighth grade must silence cell phones and put them away for the entire school day. Students in grades nine to 12 must only silence and put away cell phones during classes.” [Patch]

Reduced Charges Possible for Former Freedom Hill ES Workers — “A former teacher and teacher’s aide in Fairfax County, Virginia, accused of abusing non-verbal disabled children entered plea agreements on [June 13] that would result in reduced charges and no jail time.” [NBC4]

Alexandria Man Charged in Springfield Shooting — A 24-year-old Alexandria man got into an argument with the acquaintance in the 2600 block of Redcoat Drive on Sunday (June 19) night around 11 p.m. inside an apartment before police say he shot the person in the upper body and fled. Fairfax County police told FFXnow the victim was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Officers located the suspect, who they identified of Antwan Pratt, and arrested him nearby, charging him with aggravated malicious wounding and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Kingstowne House Fire Started by Rags — Two people were displaced on Friday (June 17) by a house fire in the 7800 block of Kincardine Court that caused approximately $90,000 in damages. Investigators determined the blaze started in a first-floor laundry/utility room due to “the improper disposal of rags used for staining wood.” [FCFRD]

Retired Police Dog Dies — “We’re saddened to announce the passing of retired K9 Comak on Saturday. Comak served the Fairfax County community as a patrol dog from 2010 until he retired in 2019. Upon completion of his service, Comak was a beloved member of his handler’s family.” [FCPD/Facebook]

Shared-Use Path Proposed in Centreville — “The Virginia Department of Transportation will hold a virtual design public hearing Monday, June 27 on plans to build a shared-use path along Compton Road (Route 658) to improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety, accessibility and connectivity to the Cub Run Trail system…The project also includes widening the Compton Road bridge over Cub Run to accommodate the new shared-use path.” [VDOT]

McLean HS Runner Wins State Title — “By finishing first in the girls 1,600-meter race in 4:54.92, McLean High School distance runner Thais Rolly was the lone local winner from schools in the Sun Gazette’s coverage area at the recent Virginia High School League’s Class 6 girls and boys outdoor state championship meets.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]

It’s Wednesday — Rain in the evening and overnight. High of 85 and low of 70. Sunrise at 5:45 am and sunset at 8:39 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Slated for demolition, Vienna’s former Outback Steakhouse will be replaced by Chase Bank (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Vienna’s former Outback Steakhouse will soon be demolished — and yes, it’s getting supplanted by a bank.

With Chase Bank taking over the site, a chain-link fence has been erected around the now-vacant, standalone building in the Maple Avenue Shopping Center, where the restaurant had operated for 25 years before closing in August 2020.

Fairfax County processed a demolition permit for 315 Maple Avenue West in March, and a permit to disconnect the property’s water and sanitary utilities was issued on June 10, according to county records.

Construction on the new Chase Bank will start “in the next few weeks” in anticipation of a December opening for the branch, a company spokesperson told FFXnow last week.

While this will be Chase’s first location in the town, it will have plenty of company along Maple Avenue, joining branches from Wells Fargo, TD Bank, Bank of America, Freedom Bank of Virginia, Northwest Federal Credit Union, Apple Federal Credit Union, Truist, United Bank, and Burke & Herbert.

There’s even a PNC Bank in Maple Avenue Shopping Center, but Chase Bank doesn’t seem concerned about oversaturating the market.

“Although there may be other banks in the shopping center, there is only one Chase,” Angie Royster, Chase’s Northern Virginia market director, said. “At Chase, we are committed to being the bank for all, serving our community, supporting small businesses, and helping our clients with all of their financial needs through a team of experts.”

Royster says the site is ideal for both Chase and its customers, because the area is heavily trafficked and has “easy accessibility to other necessary establishments such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants.”

The bank will be 3,300 square feet in size and feature a drive-through ATM facility that will provide service 24 hours a day, though the main building will be open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays, according to a Town of Vienna staff report.

Since the new building will only be about half the size of the 6,400-square-foot Outback Steakhouse, the lot has the space for a drive-through.

“We strive to make banking easy, giving clients options to bank where and how they like,” Royster said. “Not all of our branches have the real estate to accommodate a drive-through ATM, so we are excited to have it at our Vienna location.”

The Vienna Board of Zoning Appeals granted Chase Bank a conditional use permit for the drive-through facility on Dec. 15 — despite a lack of support from the Vienna Planning Commission, which voted 5-1 on Aug. 25, 2021 against recommending approval.

Commissioners primarily took issue with the facility’s proposed location, which was parallel to Maple Avenue and just 15 feet away from the street’s sidewalk. The drive-through was later repositioned to be perpendicular to Maple and moved approximately 117 feet from the sidewalk.

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Fairfax County nurse holds a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Roughly 18 months after COVID-19 vaccines first rolled out to Fairfax County, toddlers and infants can finally get in on the action.

As of noon today (Tuesday), vaccines from both Moderna and Pfizer are available for kids under 5 at the Fairfax County Government Center (12000 Government Center Parkway) and South County Hyland Center (8350 Richmond Highway), no appointment necessary, the Fairfax County Health Department announced.

The long-awaited vaccines were authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on Friday (June 17) and got the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s support a day later.

The recommendation expanded eligibility for vaccination to about 68,984 kids in the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, the county health department told FFXnow last week.

“This is an important milestone in the pandemic as it is the first time that everyone in our community, ages 6 months and older, is eligible to be protected with life-saving vaccines,” Fairfax County Health Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu said in a statement. “Vaccinating babies, toddlers and young children will provide protection from the most severe outcomes of COVID-19.”

The new pediatric vaccines are administered in smaller doses than those given to adults.

Targeted at kids under 5, the Pfizer vaccine is about a tenth of an adult dose and requires three shots, with the second coming three to eight weeks after the first one and a two-month gap before the third shot. The Moderna vaccine is for kids under 6, about a quarter the size of an adult dose, and only needs two shots delivered four to eight weeks apart.

In addition to the county health department sites, the vaccines may be available from private pediatricians and medical providers as well as retail pharmacies, though state law prohibits the latter from administering shots to people younger than 3.

Fairfax Health District COVID-19 cases over the past 26 weeks, as of June 21, 2022 (via VDH)

Vaccine Finder doesn’t list any sites in Northern Virginia with the new vaccines, but Walgreens announced on Saturday (June 18) that it will have vaccines for kids 3 and older at select locations around the country. The company encourages parents and guardians to make appointments in advance.

CVS says the Pfizer vaccine is available for kids 18 months and older at all of its more than 1,100 Minute Clinic locations in the U.S. Read More

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Supporting autistic adults

Holding hands

We are a nonprofit devoted to assisting independent autistic adults with various forms of support. With the benefit of donations and corporate sponsors, we are offering socialization training to a select group of ASD adults.

Guidance Resources for Independent People — GRIP is certified by UCLA to provide this special socialization education (PEERS). ASD adults frequently struggle with social deficits such as; social isolation, cultivating friendships, communication, work related interaction, romance, and over-dependence on caregivers.

We are here to help!

If you or someone you know would benefit from this training, please contact us using the post form!

Based on the your response, we will determine the amount of interest, number of selected candidates, an appropriate location venue, dates, times and options for virtual participation. GRIP also offers private training to those who find that more facilitating.

Explore www.GRIP.charity for more information.

Please visit our YouTube channel to watch and listen to our amazing videos. Take a moment and experience the first autism song.

GRIP is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit incorporated in Virginia. Email support@GRIP.charity or call 703-375-9930. 

The existing Georgetown Pike Bridge over I-495 (via Google Maps)

Construction on the I-495 Express Lanes expansion in McLean is about to get a little more intense.

Work to demolish the existing Georgetown Pike Bridge over I-495 — also known as the Capital Beltway — will begin this week, potentially even today (Tuesday), the Virginia Department of Transportation announced Friday (June 17).

Contracted for the 495 NEXT project to extend the Beltway’s toll lanes from Tysons to the George Washington Memorial Parkway, workers will start by demolishing the median in the center of the Georgetown Pike bridge and installing a temporary traffic barrier on the westbound shoulder, according to the news release.

“Temporary traffic signals will be installed to enable the removal of the existing signals,” VDOT said. “East- and westbound traffic on Georgetown Pike will then be shifted south on the existing bridge.”

The changes are necessary for crews to take down the northern part of the bridge, a process expected to start in mid-July and take approximately three weeks to complete, depending on the weather and other factors.

The Georgetown Pike bridge’s center median will be demolished, prompting changes to the lane configuration (via VDOT)

Here is more from VDOT on what to expect:

Specialized equipment will be used to demolish the bridge, including excavators fitted with hammers, saws and hydraulic jaws. While every effort will be made to control noise, some demolition is unavoidably noisy and must be performed during nighttime hours when Beltway traffic below the bridge is lightest and necessary lane closures can occur.

Overnight triple- and double-lane closures on the Beltway and periodic stoppages of all lanes for brief intervals will be necessary to ensure the work is performed safely. Virginia State Police will implement periodic shutdowns of all lanes for up to 30 minutes. Traffic will be cleared before subsequent shutdowns take place.

Periodic lane closures will occur throughout construction during midday and overnight hours.

“Travelers approaching the Georgetown Pike Bridge should use caution, pay attention to roadway signs approaching and in the work zone, and anticipate delays and plan their trips accordingly,” VDOT said.

The bridge will be replaced by a longer, six-lane-wide span to accommodate the Beltway, which is getting two new lanes in each direction. The revamped bridge will also have a six-foot-wide sidewalk and a trail link to Scotts Run Nature Preserve, according to updated plans shared earlier this month.

VDOT has spent months slowly ramping up work on 495 NEXT, starting preliminary activities late last year before breaking ground in March. Construction in the corridor began in earnest at the beginning of June with the permanent closure of the interstate’s northbound left-shoulder lane between Old Dominion Drive and the GW Parkway.

While VDOT says the project will provide much-needed congestion relief, it has faced resistance from some residents and elected officials, most recently over plans to task Maryland with some construction work tying the new toll lanes into the new American Legion Bridge that it’s supposed to build.

Maryland transportation officials released a final environmental study for proposed express lanes on their side of the Beltway on Friday, reporting that changes to the design will reduce the project’s anticipated impact on land, streams, and trees.

Photo via Google Maps

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