Gov. Ralph Northam today announced the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccine roll out, and teachers are moving up in the line.
Whether K-12 teachers would be eligible for the vaccine had been a frequent question of Loudoun leaders in recent days as school administrators wrestle to resume in-person learning in the face of increasing coronavirus cases.
As of this morning, 4,646 Loudouners had received their first vaccination shot, according to figures reported by the state Health Department. Northam reported today that 14,000 vaccinations are being administered per day across the commonwealth.
The rollout of the vaccines was the key focus of the Board of Supervisors during Tuesday night’s update briefing from Health Director Dr. David Goodfriend.
“This will be a happier year,” Goodfriend told supervisors, while cautioning that there are still tough times ahead.
“This is the weather the COVID virus likes,” he said, adding that it will take a while for the vaccine to take hold in the community. “We’re getting close to the finish line.”
As predicted, the region is seeing an increase in cases following the holidays, a trend that is expected to continue over the next few weeks.
Although there has been an increase in COVID-related hospitalizations in Loudoun—now about 50 people undergoing treatment—Goodfriend said hospital capacity in the region remains adequate.
However, the increasing positivity rate of COVID-19 PCR tests, he said, was “alarming.” On Wednesday, the seven-day average positivity rate exceeded 17% for the first time since early May.
“It is out there. Wherever you go, there is probably someone with COVID there,” Goodfriend said.
Ultimately, it will be warmer weather and widespread vaccinations that will bring the pandemic under control.
Goodfriend said the vaccine rollout was going well. After a cautious start to firm up safe protocols, his office is ramping up to 500 shots per day. Those are in addition to vaccinations being provided by the region’s hospital systems, Inova and HCA. As more vaccines become available, the shots are expected to be available in neighborhood pharmacies and doctor’s offices as well.
“Right now, we’ve received all the vaccine we’ve asked for,” Goodfriend said.
Currently, state policies require the shots to be given to healthcare workers and residents at the highest risk in skilled nursing facilities. As that rollout is expanded, vaccine shortages or delays are expected.
A key question from supervisors was how the pool of vaccination candidates will be expanded and, specifically, whether teachers could be moved to the next-in-line group. Goodfriend said that information should be coming down from the state this week.
Northam announced it Wednesday.
In his public briefing today, Northam said authorities are working to increase the pace of vaccinations to 25,000 per day in the short term and then to 50,000 per day with the goal to complete vaccinations by summer. Using the current vaccines, which require two shot spaced weeks apart, 17 million shots will be needed to vaccinate all Virginians.
Those getting the vaccine now, healthcare workers and nursing home residents, dubbed group 1A, total about 500,000 people.
Today, Northam announced that group 1B will include first responders; child care workers and K-12 teachers; essential workers in manufacturing, food and grocery, and transit; postal employees; and residents age 75 and older. Teachers make up the largest segment—285,000 of the 1.2 million in that group.
Next in line will be group 1C, which includes essential workers in construction, transportation, food services, and utilities, and residents age 65 and older with high-risk medial conditions.
While the focus is on completing the 1A shots, localities may be able to offer vaccines to 1B members in situations where that would be the most efficient use of the limited supply. Northam stressed that he didn’t want the vials sitting in freezers and urged all localities to ensure that the vaccines get into arms.
For Loudoun residents, Goodfriend said the best way they can keep up with developments in the pandemic—including when it is their turn for a shot—is to sign up with the county government to receive COVID-19 alerts. That can be done by texting LCCOVID19 to 888777. Full detailed information can be viewed on the county’s coronavirus portal here.