Health and Medicine
President Joe Biden threw down another gauntlet today – declaring that 90 percent of all US adults should be eligible for a COVID vaccine shot by April 19. So how is that challenge looking in the NRV? Before the “general population” group for those 16 and older can be reached by April 19 there is Phase 1c- and New River Valley Health District director Dr. Noelle Bissell had this good news today – Phase 1C in the NRV has arrived. But the New River Health District did not get the supply of one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine they had expected this week she adds.
The leader of Virginia’s vaccination program says the state is already looking beyond mass clinics and to a time when COVID vaccines will be primarily delivered like most flu shots — by your health care provider or at pharmacies. The emphasis so far has been on vaccinating as many people as possible as quickly as possible — and that’s why the state’s effort to this point has been directed toward mass clinics. But once just about everyone who wants a shot gets one, that emphasis will shift largely to doctors and nurses you already know, largely to convince the “vaccine-hesitant” to get a shot. WFIR’s Evan Jones has the story:
Virginia’s vaccination program is taking it to the streets and into churches in efforts to reach many people considered most at risk to COVID-19. State health officials say there are inner city communities in particular with significant populations who cannot easily access the signups, or have a great mistrust of the vaccines, or both. So officials have set up community outreach programs in many of those areas. Black and Latino communities have been among the hardest hit statewide by the pandemic. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:
As with just about everything else the pandemic has made it challenging at times to collect enough donated blood. The Red Cross has gotten creative – like current promotions where those who donate blood, plasma or platelets can win thousand-dollar gift cards or a trip to the Indianapolis 500. Hear the complete conversation from our live interview this morning below. Jonathan McNamara(pictured) is a spokesman for the American Red Cross in Virginia.
NEWS RELEASE: (RICHMOND, VA) – The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) today announced the first cases of the SARS-CoV-2 variants B.1.427 and B.1.429 in samples that were collected between December 2020 and February 2021 from Virginia residents. The B.1.427 and B.1.429 variants, which first emerged in California in the summer of 2020, are associated with increased person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that infections with these variants cause more severe disease. These two variants were only recently added to CDC’s Variant of Concern list.
The Department of General Services Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services (DCLS) confirmed the cases using next-generation sequencing analysis, which provides a genetic blueprint of the virus that causes COVID-19. With the identification of these new variant cases, Virginia now has identified a total of 14 cases of the B.1.427 variant, nine cases of the B.1.429 variant, 26 cases of the B.1.351 variant (first identified in South Africa) and 127 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant (first identified in the United Kingdom). With the combined state and national surveillance efforts, it is likely that additional cases with SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern will be identified.
Viruses change all the time, and VDH expects to see new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as disease spreads. As our public health officials closely monitor the emergence of these SARS-CoV-2 variants in our Commonwealth, it is critical that all Virginians comply now with mitigation measures. Public health recommendations for stopping the spread of COVID-19 will work for all COVID-19 variants. This means wearing masks correctly, staying at least six feet from others, avoiding crowds, washing hands often, getting vaccinated for COVID-19 when it is your turn, and staying home if you are infected with COVID-19 or if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
About 30 members of the Virginia Army National Guard are at the Berglund Center today, focused on the logistics of getting people in and out of the mass COVID vaccination clinic going on there, while the Virginia Department of Health puts shots in arms. Dr. Cynthia Morrow with the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts also noted that Medical Reserve Corps volunteers were on hand to help out as well. There’s another mass clinic at the Berglund Center tomorrow. The Virginia Army National Guard has been helping out in the local district with testing and vaccinations since January.
The leader of Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccination program says the state is constantly shifting its allocation strategies as some regions move more quickly to later phases than others. This comes as political leaders in northern Virginia say hundreds of thousands of people there are awaiting their vaccines as other parts of the state already to move on to later phases. Doctor Danny Avula is Virginia’s Vaccine Coordinator, and he says they’ve had to constantly tweak allocations beyond just population numbers. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:
The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the region continues its steady decline from mid-January. Health systems based in Roanoke, Lynchburg and Southside Virginia collectively report 116 such patients this week, compared to 350 ten weeks ago. But the number of patients under intensive care or on ventilators did rise in the last week. The reason or reasons behind that discrepancy is or are not clear.
MARCH 24 NEWS RELEASE: Here are updated numbers for the Near Southwest Region (which includes Carilion, Centra, LewisGale, Sovah, and Salem VA facilities) as of today:
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients: 116
ICU patients: 32
Ventilator patients: 17
Hospitalized PUIs (patients under investigation awaiting results): 0
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients: 137
ICU patients: 25
Ventilator patients: 15
Hospitalized PUIs (patients under investigation awaiting results): 7
Here are updated numbers for the Near Southwest Region (which includes Carilion, Centra, LewisGale, Sovah, and Salem VA facilities) as of today:
Hospitalized COVID-19 patients: 450
ICU patients: 96
Ventilator patients: 55
Hospitalized PUIs (patients under investigation awaiting results): 30
Governor Northam says he is ready to “slowly ease” COVID-related restrictions as of April 1st – a week from tomorrow. But he will continue to have smaller size limits on high school sports than for college and professional contests, and band and cheerleader members will remain counted as among the spectators. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones.
Under Governor Northam’s latest executive order, spectator numbers at high school sports events will be permitted up to 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors, as long as they remain under 30% of permitted capacity.
Governor Northam says he is ready to “slowly ease” COVID-related restrictions as of April 1st. They include:
Social gatherings will be permitted up to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.
Entertainment venues will be permitted to operate up to 30% capacity with a limit of up to 500 people indoors — and no limits outdoors within that 30%.
Recreational sports events will be permitted to admit up to 100 spectators indoors and 500 outdoors — but also with that 30% cap.
Graduation and commencement ceremonies face similar 30% capacity limits, up to 500 people indoors and 5,000 outdoors.
Northam did not change current restrictions impacting restaurants and bars.
The governor says the easing of restrictions is direct result of a sharp drop in statewide cases:
Northam says he is also encouraged by declining numbers of COVID-19 patients in hospitalized and on ventilators.
NEWS RELEASE: RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced that as COVID-19 vaccinations continue to rise in Virginia, certain sports and entertainment venues may begin to operate with additional capacity and indoor and outdoor gathering limits will increase starting Thursday, April 1. He amended Executive Order Seventy-Two with the next steps of the “Forward Virginia” plan to safely and gradually ease public health restrictions while mitigating the spread of the virus. More than two million Virginians, or approximately one in four people, have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Social gatherings: The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase to 50 people for indoor settings and 100 people for outdoor settings. Social gatherings are currently limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
- Entertainment venues: All indoor and outdoor entertainment and public amusement venues must continue to operate at 30 percent capacity. Indoor venues must operate at 30 percent capacity or with a maximum of 500 people, an increase from the current cap of 250 people. Outdoor venues must operate at 30 percent capacity, with no specific cap on the number of attendees. These venues were previously limited to 30 percent capacity or up to 1,000 attendees, whichever was fewer.
- Recreational sporting events: The number of spectators allowed at recreational sporting events will increase from 25 to 100 people per field or 30 percent capacity, whichever is less for indoor settings, and from 250 to 500 people per field or 30 percent capacity, whichever is less for outdoor settings.
- In-person graduation and commencement events: Last week, Governor Northam issued preliminary guidance on safe in-person graduations and commencements, which included a cap of 5,000 people or 30 percent of the venue capacity for outdoor events, whichever is less. Events held indoors may have up to 500 people, or 30 percent of the venue capacity, whichever is less. Attendees must wear masks and follow other guidelines and safety protocols to ensure proper distancing.