WATCH: Gov. Northam focuses on vaccine prioritization, school guidance, inauguration security during Thursday briefing


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC/WAVY/WFXR) — In a press conference Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam discussed vaccine distribution, plans for K-12 schools, and security measures in advance of the Presidential Inauguration. Here are some of the highlights:

More Groups Added to Phase 1b for COVID-19 Vaccinations

Virginia is moving people 65 and up and those with co-morbid conditions into Phase 1b for COVID-19 vaccinations, citing CDC guidance. You can be in either of those two groups.

Both groups had previously been in 1c. That means about half of Virginians are eligible for the vaccine, but the infrastructure to actually get those vaccines to people is still shaky.

Northam says it will be a “massive undertaking” that could take months. Virginia is only averaging 12,000 doses per day, and was at one point of the worst states as far as administering doses. Northam has blamed a lack of support from the federal government and hospitals withholding doses as part of the problem. He did say millions in needed federal aid was recently approved and on the way to help.

Virginia has set goals of 25,000 and 50,000 in the short and long-term.

Additional Restrictions? “All Options are on the Table”

When asked about whether he’ll add extra coronavirus restrictions to slow down record virus spread, Gov. Northam again says “all options are on the table.”

He says “stringent” measures are already in place, citing some limits on restaurants, a 10-person gathering limit, mask guidance, etc., but Virginia still allows indoor dining, gyms and worship.

Northam summed it up by saying “this pandemic is in the hands of Virginians.”

New School Guidance

The Virginia Department of Education will be releasing new coronavirus guidelines for Virginia K-12 schools on Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam says.

“Schools need to be open and here are the ways to do that safely.” He pointed to studies that show reopening schools can be done safely, even though spread in the surrounding community is high.

Dr. James F. Lane with the Virginia Department of Education said “even in the context of moderate transmission in the community, we can still open schools safely” if safety protocols are in place. Lane also said staff vaccinations are not necessarily needed to reopen schools safely.

Though Dr. James Fedderman, the president of the Virginia Education Association, seemed to push back on that statement.

“Simply put, schools are not the place to be while this virus surges.”

Northam also said the state is strongly considering extending the school calendar into summer months to make up for lost in-person schooling.

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC/WAVY/WFXR) — Gov. Ralph Northam held a press conference Thursday afternoon, during which he gave an update on COVID-19 vaccinations, guidance for K-12 schools, and security measures ahead of the Presidential Inauguration.

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, states got the green light to start vaccinating people ages 65 and up, marking a slight change from Virginia’s original prioritization schedule that included those 75 and older in ‘Phase 1b.’

Northam said he would talk with local health directors and hospitals on Thursday, Jan. 14, to see how they can make this happen.

Thursday’s briefing comes as Virginia is reporting record coronavirus metrics, including seven-day averages of 5,023 new cases per day, 115 new virus-related hospitalizations per day, and 50 new virus-related deaths per day, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

At his State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday, Jan. 13, Northam pledged to ramp up the speed of vaccinations in Virginia. The VDH says the Commonwealth currently has a seven-day average of 11,835 vaccine doses administered per day, but Northam wants to see that go up to at least 25,000 per day as soon as possible. 

As of Thursday, the VDH is reporting that 215,101 people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with a total of 943,400 vaccine doses distributed around Virginia. In addition, health officials say a total of 27,429 people have been fully vaccinated in Virginia, with a majority of those people in the 30-39 age group.

On Monday, Jan. 11, the president of the Virginia Education Association called on all public schools to move to all virtual instruction until staff members have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“This virus, which has killed more than 360,000 Americans, is surging again and spreading to all corners of our Commonwealth,” said VEA president, James. J. Fedderman. “Our public schools must return to all virtual instruction until all of our staff members have been vaccinated.”

Many K-12 schools have remained mostly virtual and/or canceled winter sports due to the high case numbers, but there are quite a few planning to return to in-person learning for some students.

However, a recent study from AAP showed the transmission of COVID-19 was rare in North Carolina schools that reopened last fall and utilized face coverings, distancing, and hand-washing.

In addition, City of Richmond declared a new State of Emergency on Monday after the FBI warned of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington D.C. in the days leading up to inauguration day.

Furthermore, Capitol Square has been closed until Jan. 21, in anticipation of possible unrest.

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