By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Dec. 28 — Five days ago — a day that Page County reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 and only two days after a record-high 76 new cases — staff members at Page Memorial Hospital received the first round of the coronavirus vaccine.
“Round one of COVID-19 vaccines is wrapped up. We’ll kick the New Year off with the second dose for our front-line and patient-facing staff. Thank you to our amazing staff, including our pharmacists, nurses, providers, administrators, and everyone who rolled up their sleeves and took a shot in the arm for the team. #worth it,” reads a Dec. 23 Facebook post on the PMH page.
Three staff members posted personal messages along with photos of themselves receiving the shot, like the one featured above of Dr. Jim Dale.
“The vaccine is incredibly safe, and has been proven to be 95% effective. This is a terrible virus, but now we have a great vaccine. My best advice is to do just what I’m doing, get the injection, come back in a few weeks for the second dose and get through this,” reads Dr. Dale’s message.
“Getting vaccinated in this first round will help provide good clinical data that will help others feel more comfortable with getting the vaccine. Plus, this is my way of honoring all the amazing scientists who dedicated the last 10 months of their lives to help us get through this!,” reads a message from RN Lisa L.
“I lost my son when he was just 9 years old, that’s why I became a nurse, to help prevent others from experiencing the same pain of losing a loved one. It’s time to put an end to this and getting this vaccine is so #worth it!,” reads a message from LPN Tammy S.
As of Sunday, the Virginia Department of Health’s new vaccine dashboard reported that 38,172 people had been “vaccinated with at least one dose” among 227,425 vaccines distributed to various facilities and agencies across the state.
“Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is a two-step process. A person will get one shot, or dose, of the vaccine. After 3-4 weeks, a person will need to get a second dose of the vaccine. Getting both doses of the vaccine is important. This will help the vaccine protect people from getting COVID-19 or becoming as sick if they do get COVID-19,” reads a notice on VDH’s vaccine dashboard.
VDH reported that health districts across the state began receiving the Moderna vaccine last week, after receiving the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine a little over a week earlier.
“Both the previously approved Pfizer vaccine and Moderna vaccines are being distributed to 96 sites this week at geographically diverse locations,” reads the Dec. 22 press release from VDH.
The state health department ordered 140,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, received Dec. 23, along with an additional 50,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Virginia’s initial expectation of 480,00 doses of the vaccines by the end of the month will fall short.
“The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) was informed late yesterday [Dec. 17] by Operation Warp Speed that, like other states, Virginia’s estimated allocation of COVID-19 vaccine doses will be less than initially planned for the next few weeks,” reads a Dec. 18 press release by VDH. “Virginia is now planning to receive 370,650 doses of vaccine in December 2020 from two manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna. This is down from the previously expected 480,000 doses.”
However, the state expects to receive a steady supply of vaccines in the coming weeks.
“Based on planning estimates provided by Operation Warp Speed, Virginia is planning for a weekly allocation of a total of 100,000 doses of vaccine (about 50,000 doses of each type of vaccine) for the next few weeks,” reads a Dec. 22 VDH press release. “The actual amount of vaccine received in Virginia is a moving target and is dependent on when and how quickly vaccination doses are manufactured.”
Health districts have been working with healthcare systems to plan for administering the vaccine to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility, residents and staff. Most long-term care facilities in Virginia signed up for the federal LTCF Pharmacy Partnership Program and will be receiving their vaccinations onsite, from CVS and Walgreens vaccination teams, according to the VDH press release. Pharmacies are expected to begin vaccinating at LTCFs this week.
“Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic. With Pfizer-BioNTech and now Moderna vaccines available, more Virginians are able to get vaccinated,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “The interest we are seeing from community members on when they can get vaccinated indicates people want this protection. We are working hard to get vaccines to people as quickly as possible. In the meantime, please continue to wear a face mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands frequently.”
The state health department is working through state and federal guidelines to administer the vaccine to the greater population in phases, based on risk. Those plans were laid out by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and VDH.
Monday’s COVID-19 Update
In the last five days, Page County has reported 36 new cases of COVID-19, with 12 on Christmas Day. Nearly half of those cases have surfaced in the last two days, with eight new cases reported Sunday and seven on Monday.
Page County has not reported a new hospitalization due to the virus in five days, and the county has not reported a COVID-19 fatality since Dec. 2.
According to ZIP code data provided by VDH, the new cases of COVID-19 reported in Page County over the past six days surfaced in the following areas:
• 28 cases — Luray area (22835)
• 19 cases — Stanley area (22851)
• 10 cases — Shenandoah area (22849)
After reaching a record-high 22.4 percent on Sunday, Page County’s seven-day positivity rate stood at 21.7 percent on Monday, according to Daily Locality Metrics data provided on the VDH website. Page County’s positivity rate has been climbing for 53 days. According to School Metrics data on the VDH site, the county’s 14-day positivity rate is now 20.2 percent, a new high.
The Lord Fairfax Health District reported 70 new cases of the virus on Monday. That’s a significant drop from 162 cases reported the previous day and 143 on Christmas Day. Shenandoah County had the highest case count on Monday with 23, followed by Frederick County with 13 and Warren County with 10.
The health district reported four hospitalizations due to the pandemic on Monday and has seen 20 in the past week. Six of those were reported in Frederick County and five others in the county seat of Winchester.
The district has not reported a COVID-related death in the last three days, but has seen five in the past week. Shenandoah County reported its 70th death from the pandemic on Dec. 23, and its 71st on Dec. 24. Winchester reported its seventh and eighth fatalities due to the virus on Dec. 23 and Dec. 25, respectively. Frederick County reported its 25th death on Dec. 24.
Virginia set back-to-back state records for new cases of COVID-19 on the two days leading up to Christmas, with 4,652 cases reported Dec. 23 followed by 4,782 cases on Christmas eve. However, the case count for both the state and the region has slowed over the last three days, with only 2,599 new cases reported statewide on Monday. Saturday’s count saw Virginia only add 1,584 new cases.
Statewide, 57 new hospitalizations and seven deaths were reported on Monday. Both of those figures, like cases, are lower than the previous day; however, hospitalizations (2,563 currently) and ICU bed occupancy (78 percent) remain high. There are currently more COVID-19 patients in Virginia on ventilators (321) than at any point during the pandemic.
Virginia’s statewide seven-day positivity rate has risen to 12.3 percent, nearly a full-point increase over the past week.
For more information about VDH’s COVID-19 Vaccination Response Plan, visit: www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine.
Information is also available from the CDC.