HERNDON, Va. — Officials in Fairfax County continue to urge people to get vaccinated as the level of COVID-19 community transmission reached "substantial" per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay made the recommendation for everyone in the county to wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status as the Delta variant continues to spread.
"While this is a frustrating turn in events for everyone, we have the ability to make this better," McKay said in a statement to the community. "The data suggests that a majority of cases are from those who are not vaccinated."
A substantial category means the county has seen 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 people or an 8 to 10 percent positivity rate. Other Northern Virginia counties with the same rate include Prince William County, Loudoun County and Arlington County.
Stafford County, Fauquier County and Spotsylvania County have been categorized as "high" by the CDC.
More than 690,000 people in Fairfax County have been fully vaccinated, including 70% of adults 18 and older, according to the Fairfax Health District.
The number of people in the hospital and deaths related to COVID-19 remains low, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.
"If you want schools to reopen and give our kids (many are not yet eligible to be vaccinated) a fighting chance at protection, you will need to get vaccinated for them," McKay added. "Please, I urge that you schedule your vaccine appointment now."
With the start of the school year in less than three weeks, Fairfax County Public Schools partnered with the Fairfax County Health Department to hold COVID-19 vaccination clinics for children 12 years and older.
The first clinic started at Herndon Elementary School Wednesday between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. An appointment was not required for students.
Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand visited the school to help encourage more students to get vaccinated. He said about 74% of students 12 to 17 years old have received one dose since the last school year.
The district is working on partnerships to hold more than 40 COVID-19 vaccination clinics for all children this Fall.
"I hope we're going to be one of the first communities in the country to really achieve herd immunity," Brabrand added. "We want to reassure parents not only to have the mitigation strategies in place like masking, sanitation and ventilation, but a chance for their kids to also have the vaccination. We want to make it easy and safe."
"I'm getting vaccinated because I just don't want to get sick," 13-year-old Tristan Callahan said right before he received the shot. "I don't know if we'll finish the school year with masks so hopefully by the end of the year, if I'm vaccinated, I can go to school without a mask."
"We don't want to get sick and we don't want other people getting sick," 12-year-old Josue Santos Melgar said while waiting in line with his older sister.
Fairfax County joined other school districts in Northern Virginia to issue a universal mask policy regardless of vaccination status. More than 95% of the student population are expected to return to classrooms.
"I just wish everybody else would just hurry up and get vaccinated so we can move on with our lives," David Walrod, Fairfax County Schools teacher of 12 years, told WUSA9. "Having been vaccinated, I look forward to where I don't have to wear a mask in school anymore. I'm glad I'm going to be able to walk through the biggest secondary school in the state of Virginia and I'm going to be able to see the halls crowded and hear a sense of energy."
Walrod is worried about the potential power struggle with the mask mandate as many parents are still opposed to get their children wearing a mask at school.
"We have fairly vocal parents saying they don't kids wearing masks," Walrod added. "I'm afraid of kids hearing that message from their parents and deciding they don't want to wear masks."
Upcoming vaccination clinics for children:
- Thursday, August 5, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Justice High School Justice High School, 3301 Peace Valley ln., Falls Church, VA 22044
- Friday, August 6, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Liberty Middle School, 6801 Union Mill Rd., Clifton, VA 20124
To make an appointment for your child, visit the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS).
Neighboring Prince William County also held a back-to-school vaccine clinic on Wednesday at Manassas Mall.