Several COVID variants posing new challenge for Richmond and Henrico Health Districts


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)– Health leaders in Virginia are facing a new challenge in the vaccination race as several COVID variants emerge.

According to the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, there are currently five COVID-19 variants of concern in the U.S: B117 originated in the United Kingdom, the South African variant, the variant from Brazil and two variants from California.

Amy Popovich is the nurse manager for the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts.

“These variants of concern are thought to spread more easily than others, than the COVID-19 virus,” said Popovich.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced today that the U.K. variant is now the most common strain in the country. Popovich told 8news, of the 16,275 B117 cases in the country, 349 of them are here in Virginia. The case count for other variants in the state is between 0 and 40 each.

“To date, it does appear that the changes in b1117 variant have not really impacted the vaccine’s effectiveness,” said Popovich.

But, data is still currently being evaluated.

In return, Virginia has now passed the four-million vaccination mark. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney believes this is wonderful news.

“We all should be elated and excited about that and what it means for the future as well,” said Stoney.

According to The Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, 17.7% of Richmond’s residents are fully vaccinated. 32% have received the first dose and 69% of seniors over the age of 65, have received their first dose.

The city has not attained herd immunity, which is a vaccination goal of 75%. 7,000 people have received a vaccine through RHHD’s community partnerships and outreach efforts with Second Baptist Church, Saint James Church, Walgreens and through large vaccination events.

The districts will continue to receive between 12-13-thousand doses a week.

According to the CDC, those who are vaccinated can join another household indoors that’s been vaccinated without wearing masks. People who are vaccinated can also gather with an additional household that has not been vaccinated but is not at high risk.

Those who are vaccinated should still avoid individuals above 65 or people that have underlying health conditions.

The Richmond and Henrico Health districts are in Phase 1c, and on track to meet the Governor’s Phase 2 start deadline of April 18. According to RHHD, everyone from the pre-registration list will be invited for a vaccination when Phase 2 begins, followed by everyone else who is interested in the general public.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney told 8news, residents cannot let their guard down.

“As it gets warmer, we must still take precautions. We must still wear our masks. We must still keep that social distancing. We must still get tested if you’re experiencing symptoms out there,” said Stoney.

Along with safety measures, health leaders believe the best protection against the COVID variants and the best way to avoid another surge, is vaccination. Residents should also avoid medium and large gatherings.

For more information on COVID variants visit here.

There will be a drive-thru testing event tomorrow Thursday, April 8 at the Regency Square Parking Deck from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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