Northam: Dr. Avula to lead Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccine program; possibility of year-round schooling

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam named Dr. Danny Avula the head of Virginia’s COVID-19 distribution program and said the state is considering year round schooling to help students make up for learning losses.

Dr. Avula is most known for being the Director of the Richmond City and Henrico County Health Departments. Northam said he will be the “field general” for coordinating the distribution of the vaccine with local health departments, hospitals and private providers. The governor said Avula will also work with the Virginia National Guard who will eventually be deployed to help distribute the vaccine.

After healthcare workers, Northam said the vaccine will distributed to at risk individuals in long term healthcare facilities and then essential workers. He said essential workers include first responders and grocery store workers.

The governor said teachers are also a top priority for receiving the vaccine so Virginia can open schools as soon as possible. He also said the state is considering year-round schooling and adding more days to the school year in the summer to help students catch up.

Northam also urged hospitals and health care providers who currently have the vaccine to administer what they have. But that doesn’t mean just give it to anyone who shows up and to follow guidelines which prioritize health care workers.

As of today, Northam said Virginia is receiving about 110,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine a week, which works out to about 14,000 doses a day. He said in order to get Virginian’s two shots later this year, they will need to double these numbers to giving 25,000 shots a day. However, Northam said the state won’t get there by tomorrow and will need to give it some time.

Northam said he hopes to have all Virginians vaccinated by the summer.

Once Phase 1b of Virginia’s vaccination plan is rolled out it will be broken up into eight groups. Frontline essential workers are next in line for the vaccine but not all at once, this group overall makes up about 2 million people.

According to the VDH, “because there is not sufficient supply at this time to vaccinate everyone in Phase 1b at the same time, local health districts will reach out to engage the Frontline Essential Worker groups in vaccination planning in the following order:

  1. Police, Fire, and Hazmat
  2. Corrections and homeless shelter workers
  3. Childcare/K-12 Teachers/Staff
  4. Food and Agriculture
  5. Manufacturing
  6. Grocery store workers
  7. Public transit workers
  8. Mail carriers (USPS and private)

Overlap of vaccination of groups is expected to ensure people in Phase 1b are vaccinated as quickly and efficiently as possible. Opportunities to vaccinate Frontline Essential Workers should not be missed.”

Even with the vaccine’s rollout, today Virginia saw its largest number of new cases since the pandemic began. Northam said a model from UVA predicts cases will continue to rise until Valentine’s day.

“So we have a long winter ahead of us,” the governor said.

Northam said the vaccines are Virginia’s path forward, and the quickest way for things to return to something close to “normal.” He said he and his family will take them, and he suggested everyone else takes them as well.

The VDH is encouraging Virginians to continue to follow social distancing guidelines to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

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