Virginia has administered more than 2 million vaccines since inoculations began in mid-December. The majority were within the past month.
Nearly 1 in 6 residents have received at least one dose and almost 700,000 people are fully vaccinated — a number 1.2 times the amount of total COVID-19 infections reported in the state throughout the pandemic, according to figures from the Virginia Department of Health.
The Food Drug and Administration has said the second doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are critical in ensuring the highest possible levels of immunity. This differs from the 69,000 vials of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine expected to arrive in Virginia this week, which requires only one shot and was authorized for emergency use on Saturday.
Public health officials have stated that the boost in overall vaccine supply could speed up Virginia’s ability to widening vaccine eligibility to the rest of phase two — which includes farmworkers, grocery store clerks and cleaning staff — sometime in March.
President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that with increased production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, every American who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by the end of May. He had previously set the goal at the end of July.
While vaccinations have more than doubled and federal retail pharmacy partners are helping to expand distribution, variants of the virus continue to pose a threat to the continued decline in cases.
On Tuesday, the VDH announced another COVID variant was identified in Northwest Virginia. The state agency is only reporting regional locations for privacy reasons.
This is the state’s fourth case of a highly transmissible strain that first emerged in South Africa. At least 20 cases of the United Kingdom variant, which is expected to become the dominant strain in March, are currently confirmed throughout the state.
The VDH urged Virginians to comply with mitigation measures in a statement, noting if more people become infected, there’s a greater chance of the virus mutating.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explicitly warned states on Monday not to roll back restrictions as a result.
“Please hear me clearly. At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” she said in a White House COVID briefing. “Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know could stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, not when we are so close.”
Walensky said the past week has shown about a 2% increase in new cases and deaths across the country after more than a month on a statistical plateau. Gov. Ralph Northam loosened some restrictions last week that included lifting the midnight curfew, increasing outdoor gathering limits from 10 to 25 people and upping capacity for entertainment venues outside to 1,000 residents.
These went into effect on Monday.
“I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people against COVID-19,” Walensky continued. “I understand the temptation to do this —70,000 cases a day seems good compared to where we were just a few months ago. But we cannot be resigned to 70,000 cases a day, 2,000 daily deaths.”
By the numbers
For five consecutive days, Virginia’s single-day increases have not surpassed 2,000 cases. On Monday, the state recorded 1,385 new cases and is averaging 1,646 daily infections over a seven-day period.
While this is a decline from highs seen in January and February, Virginia has yet to revert back to the numbers seen before November.
The total caseload is at 578,559. The percentage of people testing positive has dropped to 6.7%, which is down from the high of 20.2% in April and up from the low of 3.7% in March 2020.
COVID-19 hospitalizations slightly increased on Tuesday. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported 1,345 people in the hospital, a 24-patient jump from Monday. About 1 in 5 is in an intensive care unit. One in 7 is on a ventilator.
Richmond has reported 14,897 cases, 680 hospitalizations and 203 deaths.
Henrico County has reported 21,507 cases, 885 hospitalizations and 506 deaths.
Chesterfield County has reported 23,654 cases, 792 hospitalizations and 324 deaths.
Hanover County has reported 6,688 cases, 252 hospitalizations and 134 deaths.
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