Don’t let guard down

Published 5:45 pm Friday, March 26, 2021

Vaccinations, long regarded as our light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic, are available to quite a number of Virginians now and will soon become widespread.

Across the state, far more people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 than have tested positive for the disease since the start of the pandemic. That’s a great accomplishment, considering the disease had about a 10-month head start. Here in the Western Tidewater Health District, the number of people in each locality with at least one dose of a vaccine also far outpaces the number in that locality who have tested positive. In fact, in three of those four localities, just the number of people fully vaccinated is higher than the number of positive tests; only Franklin is the outlier there, and it is catching up fast.

However, after a precipitous drop from the post-holiday highs in January, the seven-day average of daily new cases in the Western Tidewater Health District stalled at the beginning of this month, plateaued, and has started to rise again. Whether this is because of the rise of different variants of the disease, or because people are being less cautious these days, we encourage everyone not to let their guard down.

This week, Gov. Ralph Northam loosened restrictions on gatherings and venue capacities beginning April 1. He cited lower case counts and increasing vaccinations in doing so. By April 1, social gatherings indoors can have up to 50 people; outdoors, 100. Entertainment venues can operate at a 30% capacity up to 500 people indoors, and outdoor venues can have up to 30% capacity with no cap on the number of people. Recreational sports capacities also increased from 25 to 100 people outdoors and from 250 to 500 outdoors.

However, there is still a mask mandate in public buildings, and it’s a good idea to keep your distance from people you don’t live with. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued extensive guidelines on what you can do if you’re vaccinated, and we urge folks to pay attention to those and try not to stray from them even if you’re vaccinated. We all still have a long way to go to beat this pandemic.