Fairfax County among first in DC area to build COVID-19 memorial

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Since 2020, COVID-19 has caused nearly one million deaths in the United States and in Fairfax County, Va., leaders say the collective trauma underscores the importance of a memorial dedicated to the impact of the pandemic in the county.

Since 2020, COVID-19 has caused nearly one million deaths in the United States and in Fairfax County, Va., leaders say the collective trauma underscores the importance of a memorial dedicated to the impact of the pandemic in the county.

The coronavirus pandemic has been compared to the 1918 flu pandemic which killed 675,000 Americans. There are few memorials to honor the lives that were lost.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is positioning the county as one of the first communities in Virginia, Maryland and DC to build a permanent memory of the pandemic.

The Fairfax County Park Authority recently submitted a memorandum to council, summarizing project details, including design considerations, project schedule and next steps, including the location of the memorial.

“At this point, it is very likely to be on Fairfax County Park Authority property at one of our park facilities,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “It’s important to me because the whole point is to be a place for personal reflection.”

McKay said he spoke with people who lost loved ones, businesses and homes, and the devastation to the community was significant and long-lasting. He also pointed to the mental health trauma that could manifest in the years to come.

“No matter how it affected you, directly or indirectly…we think it’s important to have a place where you can go and quietly think about these issues,” McKay said.

In addition to providing a tranquil environment, placing the COVID-19 memorial on county-owned park property also eliminates the cost of land acquisition, which McKay says would be prohibitively expensive for the project.



Over the next few months, Park Authority staff will conduct site research and analysis to identify a park property that will provide a peaceful, reflective setting that is also highly visible and easily accessible. The project schedule calls for site selection to be completed by September.

One of the biggest unknowns of the memorial is its cost. McKay said that was because there was no approved design yet.

“Frankly, I don’t want to restrict the creativity of anyone who might design this at all by adding a cost element to it at this point,” McKay said.

The Fairfax County Arts Council will be an integral part of selecting the designs, working with the community through public meetings and a panel of participating citizens, who will provide input and help evaluate the designs.

The county has a number of design considerations for the memorial: To serve as a place of community healing; to capture the bravery of frontline healthcare workers, community heroes and first responders; and to educate future generations about the magnitude of the pandemic.

“You don’t lose the number of lives that we’ve done and don’t have the kind of literal impact on as many people as we’ve had over such a long period of time, and you don’t expect generations futures understand how devastating it was and how well we got through it,” McKay said.

The county expects to have the final cost estimate, financing options and a design concept by this fall, and a final design and tender documents by spring 2023. Given factors such as supply chain disruptions, construction is expected to begin in the summer. 2023, with an inauguration in September 2023.

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