Opinion: Commentary: One Year Later: Covid and Vaccine Update

Opinion: Commentary: One Year Later: Covid and Vaccine Update

Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 Vaccine dashboard

Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 Vaccine dashboard

It’s been one year since the Commonwealth and the nation locked down with the first restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, and when we learned only that to do everything possible to save lives it was necessary to wear a mask and even better, to stay isolated from each other. Now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we can start to dream of a post-Covid reality. Indeed, vaccination rates continue to increase. We have a third vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, and not only does it require just one dose but it doesn’t need the extreme refrigeration of the first two vaccines, Moderna mRNA and Pfizer-BioNtech. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) data, Virginia’s vaccination system is ranked the 4th most efficient in the entire country.

Over the past year, we have seen more than 29 million cases of COVID in the US and over 120 million worldwide. Tragically, we have lost over 530,000 lives to COVID nationwide, and 10,069 here in Virginia. Too many of us know someone who has succumbed to the virus. Globally, there have been over 120 million cases and more than 2.6 million deaths confirmed in over 192 countries according to the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 dashboard. The whole of planet Earth is in a war against this deadly virus and no one is giving up this fight.

On Monday, Governor Ralph Northam and First Lady Pam Northam received their Covid-19 vaccines by members of the Virginia National Guard on camera. “Pam and I are thrilled to do our part by getting vaccinated,” Governor Northam said, “and I hope every Virginian will do the same when their turn comes.”

Virginia is now administering nearly 53,000 doses per day on average, with more than 2.7 million doses given to date. Almost 1.8 million Virginians—21 percent of the population—have received at least one dose, and more than one million Virginians are now fully vaccinated. Many of our most vulnerable, aged, and those in the front lines of battling the virus already have had their first dose. Indeed, I am very happy that my elderly parents were able to receive their second dose last month. In fact, Virginia is on track to meet President Biden’s goal of expanding eligibility to all adults 18 and over by May 1, 2021. Moreover, 90% of doses received have been administered, outpacing the national average of 80%. Fairfax County is hiring nurse practitioners, physician assistants, registered nurses, and Licensed Practical Nurses to offer expanded COVID-19 vaccination and pandemic response support.

Vaccine supply has increased dramatically in the past few weeks, with Fairfax County now receiving over 31,000 doses per week. And, as you read in this newspaper last week, by the end of March, a new mass vaccination site in the City of Alexandria, the Victory Center, will be open to both Alexandria and Fairfax County residents, boasting 50,000 square feet, 64 vaccination tables and vaccinators, 400 waiting room chairs, and 30 pharmacy preparation tables and pharmacists. At maximum capacity, this site could vaccinate up to 12,000 people per day!

THIS WEEK, the CDC shared new guidance for those who are fully vaccinated.

People are considered fully vaccinated:

  • Two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

  • Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

What's changed:

  • You can gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.

  • You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from Covid-19.

  • If you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has Covid-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

What hasn't changed:

  • Fully vaccinated people should still wear masks when 6 feet distance can not be maintained: in public, while gathering with unvaccinated people from more than one other household, and while visiting with an unvaccinated person who is at increased risk of severe illness or death from Covid-19 or who lives with a person at increased risk.

  • You should still avoid medium or large-sized gatherings.

  • You should still delay non-essential domestic and international travel. If you do travel, you’ll need to follow CDC requirements and recommendations.

In order to get through this pandemic, build a stronger Virginia and defeat this virus once and for all, we must continue to remain vigilant. This means we must wear a mask, continue to follow safe social distancing guidelines, and practice good hygiene. Together we will get through this, and as the President predicts, by July 4th we will celebrate our independence from this virus!