By Taylor Boyd
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests several states, including New York, Michigan, Connecticut, and New Jersey, are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases.
But this trend is “not the case in our district. We’re doing pretty good,” said Nancy Bell, public information officer of the West Piedmont Health District (WPHD).
Some of Virginia’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies were eased on April 1, a decision that Gov. Ralph Northam said was influenced by a combination of higher vaccination numbers and a lower-case count.
Easing the mitigation measures was to begin in the “places where there is the least risk for spread, like outdoor venues,” he said.
Noting the COVID-19 numbers have improved dramatically since Virginia’s peak in January, Northam said “our seven-day average of cases is around 1,400 a day. So, the message is there’s still a lot of virus out in our communities. That number has hit a plateau, and we’re watching that very closely, but there’s still a vast improvement over where we were just six weeks ago.”
Northam said the state’s percent-positively is “around 5.6 percent, down from 17 percent in early January,” and the state is seeing fewer hospitalizations, need for ICU visits, and less need for ventilators than the state has seen since last October.
Virginia is not simply throwing the doors open with the new strategies, Northam said, but rather the new strategies “are measured changes. We still have a strict gathering limit, a universal mask mandate, and capacity restrictions both indoors and outdoors.”
New restrictions will allow social gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, Northam said.
“Entertainment venues will be able to operate at 30 percent of capacity, up to 500 people indoors. Outdoor venues can have up to 30 percent, but won’t have a numeric cap,” he said.
The number of spectators allowed for recreational sports increased to 100 indoors and 500 outdoors, while recreational sporting events, indoors and out, are limited to 30 percent of capacity.
“Graduation events outdoors will be capped at 5,000 people or 30 percent of capacity. Events indoors may have up to 500 people or 30 percent of capacity, whichever is less,” Northam said. “If you’re attending these events, and I hope that you can, you need to wear masks, and follow other guidelines and safety protocols.”
Virginia is eighth in the county in terms of vaccine doses used, Northam said, and added “almost one in four Virginians have now received at least one dose of the vaccine. That’s more than 2 million Virginians, more than one million people are fully vaccinated. On many days, we’re doing around 60,000 or 70,000 doses.”
Some localities are moving into phase 1C of the vaccination plan, he said, and added “we expect that it’s only a matter of weeks before we can open it up to anyone who wants to be vaccinated.”
The vaccine offers widespread protection, according to Northam.
“The virus survives by infecting new people. The more people that get vaccinated, the fewer people the virus is able to infect. We all want to get back to normal, and the way to do that is to get vaccinated as soon as you can,” he said. “If we continue to be careful with waring our masks in public, washing our hands, keeping our distance in public, and getting vaccinated, I expect our case counts will keep going down.”
Northam said the federal government will also begin to increase the weekly allocations of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by five times the current amount. He said another potential vaccine, AstraZeneca, is currently undergoing trials to receive authorization in the United States. Studies have shown the vaccine is effective across all age groups.
Northam said the federal government will launch an extensive education campaign, that will include information about the safety of the vaccines, “that they work, and you will hear it from people you trust. From community leaders, neighbors, doctors, ministers, and lots of other folks.”
As of Tuesday, March 30 data from the Virginia Department of Health suggested there are 4,379 cases, with 312 hospitalizations, and 120 deaths in Henry County. In Patrick County, 1,279 cases with 98 hospitalized, and 41 dead from the COVID-19 virus were reported. In the City of Martinsville, 1,552 cases were reported with 138 hospitalized, and 73 dead.
The data also suggested there are 617,941 cases in the state, with 26,367 hospitalized, and 10,242 dead from the COVID-19 virus.
Information from the CDC suggested there are 30,085,827 cases in the United States and 546,704 dead from coronavirus.
Data also suggests that as of March 30, 1,320,424 Virginians have been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
For more tips on how to stay safe, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov or www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov.