Distribution System Ready but Vaccine Supply Dwindling; Accomack Approves Flooding Advisory for Real Estate Buyers

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Some of the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine are received and put into ultracold storage at a Riverside Health System facility in Virginia on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. Riverside Health System photo.

By Carol Vaughn —

The Eastern Shore Health District and its health care partners in the community have the infrastructure and plans in place to give out more COVID-19 vaccinations.
The problem is, “each week we keep getting less and less” of the vaccine, according to Jon Richardson, ESHD chief operating officer.
“The more infrastructure we build in, the less vaccine we seem to get each week,” he said.
It’s a problem that is happening statewide, he told the Accomack County Board of Supervisors Wednesday.
The board meeting was held virtually because of rising COVID-19 case numbers in the county.
The situation is unlikely to change for at least the next four weeks, according to information the health district received.
The district received 1,000 doses this week and next week expects to receive only 500 doses, according to information the health district received Wednesday afternoon.
“Sometimes that changes day to day, so we are just doing the best we can working with our partners to try to figure out what’s the best way to get doses to people,” Richardson said, adding the limited number of doses coming to the district “makes a lot of tough decisions on our end.”
Richardson said priority groups to be vaccinated are “the elderly and those who are most susceptible to a bad health outcome,” saying all efforts for now will be focused on those.
People ages 65 and over or younger adults with underlying health conditions, should contact their primary care provider about getting vaccinated. Eastern Shore Rural Health has agreed to vaccinate people who do not have a primary care provider.
Additionally, the health district is encouraging employers in Phase 1b groups to contact the ESHD about vaccination clinics.
“I say all that with the caveat that, with only 500 vaccines (next week) for the entire Shore, the plan may change,” Richardson said, adding, “If we are not getting enough vaccine to cover everybody, we want to really concentrate on covering the people who are most susceptible to a bad health outcome. That means some tough decisions and we are trying to work through all that.”
Both poultry processing plants in the county will vaccinate their own employees, totalling around 2,500 people, once enough vaccine is available, according to Richardson.
The district completed its Phase 1a vaccinations “quicker than most,” Richardson said. That phase includes frontline health care workers. Additionally, in a separate federal partnership with two pharmacies, long-term care facilities are included in that phase.
Supervisor Robert Crockett noted the district received only around 25% of doses it requested.
This week, 4,250 doses were requested and 1,000 were received, including by ESHD, Riverside, and Eastern Shore Rural Health, Richardson said.
“It’s not a matter of the number of people to administer; it’s a matter of the number of doses that you have,” Crockett said.
Richardson said the district has capacity to vaccinate 1,800 to 2,000 people weekly if more doses are available.
Plans include partnering with the Accomack County Department of Public Safety, the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps, and Walmart, among others, to get people vaccinated once more doses are available.
Richardson said no severe reactions to the vaccine have been reported so far in the district.
‘Buyer Beware’ of Tidal Flooding, Water Level Rise Risks; County Issues Advisory Document
The Accomack County Board of Supervisors approved an advisory document that gives people buying or looking to buy real estate in the county information about risks associated with water level rise and tidal flooding.
“This is pretty much a ‘buyer beware’ kind of statement,” said Chairman Ron Wolff.
The vote, on a motion made by Supervisor Robert Crockett and seconded by Supervisor Paul Muhly, was unanimous.
The 2018 update to the county comprehensive plan recommended reviewing data and identifying the number of structures and properties affected by tidal flooding and water level rise, likely to be followed by actions including issuing an advisory statement.
The planning commission in June 2019 began reviewing models projecting sea level rise and the number of buildings likely to be impacted.
The commissioners did not reach consensus on the models and “several commissioners were not comfortable with model projections of sea level rise,” according to a Jan. 11 memorandum from Rich Morrison, Accomack County deputy administrator for building, planning, and economic development.
Still, the commission did vote to use NOAA high tide flood maps to show vulnerable areas in the county, and later decided to divide its work into three categories: advisory information for potential or new property owners; advisory information for existing development; and advisory information for torrential rain events.
After work on the matter was suspended for a time as result of COVID-19 and staffing resources, the commission in December recommended the board approve the advisory statement for new or potential property owners, addressing the first of the three areas.
The information will be placed on the county website and handouts will be printed for distribution.
The document uses the term “water level rise,” rather than “sea level rise.”
“(P)eople who are not familiar with living in Coastal areas are frequently unaware of the basic impacts of water level rise, road flooding, and other challenges of living in a coastal environment (nor’easters, wave action, seasonally high water table, etc.),” the memorandum says, adding, “People have been and continue to purchase property without being properly informed. This document is intended to help inform prospective purchasers and new owners of property, and to set proper expectations.”
The three-page advisory document includes this statement: “Purchasers of property and individuals looking to construct/install a home in Accomack County are strongly encouraged to become knowledgeable about water level rise and high tide flooding in Accomack County.”
It also mentions that Tidewater Virginia “is nationally recognized as one of the coastal areas of the United States that is most vulnerable to water level rise” and notes recurrent tidal flooding, not associated with storms, happens “in several parts of the County.”
The document says trends show water level rise and tidal flooding are becoming more prevalent and affecting property and roads more frequently.
“If the property is close to tidal waters, wetland, or low lying areas, you need to be prepared that property may flood or that access to/from the property will be restricted by flooded roadways currently or in the future,” it says.
The document includes information about the impact of flooding and water level rise on septic systems; personal property, including vehicles; shoreline erosion; and ambulance response time or even the ability to provide emergency service.
“As a general rule of thumb, first responders will not enter an area where the road surface or ground surface cannot be seen through flood waters,” the document says, noting purchasers of property in or near vulnerable areas “need to be aware of the limitations of the County government and set expectations accordingly.”
The document is advisory, not regulatory, in nature.
The board’s action included approval of the Accomack County Vulnerable Areas Maps based on the NOAA High Tide Flooding Maps.
Broadband Expansion Update
Eight communities have new public Wi-Fi and will have expanded access to broadband internet service as result of projects funded by the federal CARES Act, according to Accomack County Administrator Mike Mason.
Five of the eight projects are completed, with three more being worked on.
The projects, done in partnership with Accomack County Public Schools and the Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority (ESVBA) involve installation of more than seven miles of fiber, which in addition to serving the communities will pass an additional 194 homes along the way.
The areas chosen for the projects included high densities of Accomack County public school students who need access to the internet for schoolwork.
Mason said he expects to present a plan for increased deployment of the fiber network to the board of supervisors next month.
The projects funded by the CARES Act and their status are:
AS West Rd, Craddockville — New public Wi-Fi in service/~400ft of fiber added to ESVBA network.
Bailey Road Apartments, Parksley — New public Wi-Fi in service/~5,100ft of fiber added to ESVBA network/15 additional homes passed to bring broadband services to this area.
Seaside Village, Parksley — New public Wi-Fi in service/~6,700ft of fiber added to ESVBA network/44 additional homes passed to bring broadband services to this area.
Johnson Court, Nelsonia — New public Wi-Fi in Serivce/~400ft of fiber added to ESVBA network/10 additional homes passed to bring broadband services to this area.
Petit Trailer Park, Mappsville— New public Wi-Fi In Service/~2,000ft of fiber added to ESVBA network/Additional 20 additional homes passed to bring broadband services to this area.
Dreamland 2 Trailer Park, Hopeton – New public Wi-Fi In Service/~8,900ft of fiber added to ESVBA network/43 additional homes passed to bring broadband services to this area.
Captains Cove, Greenbackville – New public Wi-Fi In Service/~12,000ft of fiber added to ESVBA network/62 additional homes passed to bring broadband services to this area.
Pine Street Apartments, Onancock — Underway.
McComas Rd, Greenbush – Currently being reviewed.
Royal Tartan Rd, Hallwood- Currently being reviewed.
ANEC Offering Utility Relief
ANEC wants members to know the cooperative was awarded funds through the State Corporation Commission to help members who have a past due balance 30 days or over on their electric bill because of COVID-19.
The funds are available to both residential and non-residential customers with overdue bills occurring between March 1 and Oct.1.
Members with overdue electric bills have to complete an attestation form. The deadline is Feb. 1.
Contact ANEC Member Services Department at 757-787-9750, option 3, for information.