Gov. Northam: Half of Virginia Now Eligible to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

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Gov. Ralph Northam speaks during a December 2020 press briefing.

By Stefanie Jackson – Gov. Ralph Northam announced today that new COVID-19 vaccination guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, mean half of Virginia is now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This morning, I spoke with all of our local health directors and the leaders of Virginia’s hospitals,” Northam said. “My message to them was simple: Thank you, and Virginia needs everyone to move faster.”

People age 65 and over, and people under age 65 with underlying health conditions will be moved up in line for the vaccine, from Phase 1C to Phase 1B.

Already in Phase 1B are first responders such as police and firefighters, essential workers such as grocery store and transportation workers, and childcare workers and K-12 teachers.

That group is second in priority after Phase 1A – healthcare workers and residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Some Virginia health districts already have begun vaccinating people in Phase 1B, and all districts are expected to reach Phase 1B by the end of January.

Virginia’s goal is to vaccinate 25,000 people per day and eventually 50,000 people per day; the commonwealth currently is receiving about 110,000 doses of the vaccine per week.

The Virginia Department of Health has reached out to pharmacies, high schools, and universities to serve as vaccination clinics to get the COVID-19 vaccine to everyone as soon as possible.

Virginia Medical Reserve Corps volunteers and the Virginia National Guard will help administer the vaccine at “mass vaccination clinics,” and more VMRC volunteers are needed, Northam said.

The governor reminded medical facilities to “use it or lose it,” meaning if they use all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in a timely manner, they will avoid the risk of having future shipments of the vaccine reduced.

Over the last week, 100% of COVID-19 vaccines received were distributed at 160 vaccination sites, Northam said.

The Virginia Department of Education updated its COVID-19 guidelines for schools today, creating a path to reopening for all schools in the state.

The new guidelines address the implementation of COVID-19 mitigation strategies in schools, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and sanitation.

The guidelines also provide prioritization levels for in-person instruction; for example, students with disabilities and English learners return to school in person before other student groups.

The Virginia Education Association recommended that all instruction should remain virtual until all teachers are vaccinated.

Virginia had 5,294 new cases of COVID-19 as of Jan. 14., bringing the total cases to 417,839. A total of 5,626 deaths in Virginia have been attributed to the coronavirus.