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State making progress on vaccinations

Gov. Ralph Northam said any testing on COVID-19 vaccinations for children would not be complete until at least this fall or possibly next winter, even as the state has administered more than 2.4 million doses with about 18.5% of residents having received at least one dose.

“The message here is that it’s going to take a while to reach herd immunity in order to get both our adults and our children vaccinated,” Northam said near the close of his briefing March 9, “which is what our ultimate goal is.”

Currently, those aged 16 and up can get the Pfizer vaccine, and for the Moderna or Johnson and Johnson vaccines, one must be 18.

In Suffolk, 19,378 vaccine doses have been administered, with 13,098 people having received at least one dose as of March 10, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s vaccine dashboard. So far, 6,286 people in the city have been fully vaccinated.

In Isle of Wight County, there have been 11,036 vaccine doses administered, 7,654 with at least one dose and 3,391 people fully vaccinated. In Southampton County, 4,848 vaccine doses have been administered, 3,311 have gotten at least one dose and 1,529 people fully vaccinated. For those in Franklin, 2,308 vaccine doses have been administered, 1,648 people have received at least one dose and 660 people have been fully vaccinated.

The state is currently averaging 50,665 vaccine doses administered daily. Northam said some health districts in southwest Virginia have vaccinated enough of their 65-and-older population that those areas have been able to move on to other groups of people in Phase 1B, such as those under 65 with pre-existing conditions.

“Our message is (to) get vaccinated when you can,” Northam said. “That’s very important, and also, continue to follow the guidelines. The combination of the vaccinations and following our guidelines — the social distancing, the hand washing and the wearing of facial protection is the way that we’ll put this pandemic behind us, but it is going to take some time, so be patient, and we’ll get there.”

Northam said a handful of community vaccination clinics would be phased in next week with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“You’ve seen massive clinics on TV, like at Dodger Stadium,” Northam said. “Well, Virginia won’t be that big, but these are intended to be large scale events, able to vaccinate anywhere from several hundred to several thousand people in a day.”

Northam said they were working with localities and health districts to identify sites to vaccinate people equitably, starting in Danville, Petersburg and Portsmouth.

He outlined the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that said it is OK to spend time indoors unmasked with people if everyone has been fully vaccinated and it has been more than two weeks since the second dose or the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

“It’s a small step forward, but it’s an important one,” Northam said.

The vaccines, Northam said, are “our path back to normal.”

Democratic Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine on March 10 announced more than $38 million in federal funding to support vaccination efforts in Virginia.

“Getting shots into arms is what will end this pandemic,” Warner and Kaine said in a joint statement. “That is why we’re glad to see these federal dollars will provide support for vaccination efforts throughout the Commonwealth, and we remain committed to ensuring that every Virginian has the opportunity to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.”

The funding was awarded in the form of two grants from FEMA to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. A $1.8 million grant will help pay for staff needed to administer vaccines, while a grant of nearly $36.8 million will help set up a number of mobile vaccination sites around the state.

On Saturday, Warner and Kaine voted for the American Rescue Plan, emergency relief legislation that includes $20 billion for improving vaccine administration and distribution nationwide.

Statewide, positive COVID-19 cases were at 1,246 for March 10, with the seven-day average at 1,324.

Suffolk had 16 new cases and its seven-day average is 13. Jan. 16 was the last day the city had 100 or more cases reported in a day. Isle of Wight had seven new cases, with its seven-day average at 5, Southampton and Franklin did not report any new cases.

The statewide seven-day positivity rate is 5.7%, while in Suffolk it is 7.1%, Isle of Wight is nearly 12.2%, Franklin is 9.5% and Southampton is 1.1%.