Northam announces new guidance relaxing certain COVID-19 restrictions
In addition to vaccinating Virginians in priority groups 1a and 1b, vaccination centers in the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District are beginning to allow those in group 1c to sign up for appointments.
Group 1c includes essential workers in energy, waste and wastewater management, construction, food service, transportation, higher education, finance, information technology, media, legal services, public safety and other public health workers.
“We are excited to be expanding vaccination opportunities to more of the essential workers in our community who have been waiting their turn for the vaccine,” said Dr. Colin Greene, acting director of the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District, in a press release. “We encourage everyone to pre-register, so that when your opportunity comes, you can get your vaccine as quickly as possible.”
Rappahannock-Rapidan is on the leading edge of Virginia’s transition to priority group 1c, ahead of many other health districts. “We’ve seen our [appointment] fill rate slow a little bit, which is why we decided to expand the number of patients that are eligible,” Greene said.
The expansion comes as an additional 48,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine made by manufacturer Johnson & Johnson are set to arrive in Virginia next week. “That is good news,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday.
“The second piece of good news is about another potential new vaccine, this one made by AstraZeneca. Studies show it is also highly effective across all age groups,” the governor said.
Like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, AstraZeneca’s jab is administered in two doses, with the second dose given up to 12 weeks after the first. But the AstraZeneca vaccine is still awaiting approval for emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
About one in four Virginians have gotten at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. As of Wednesday, 2,265 Rappahannock County residents have received at least one dose and 1,337 are fully vaccinated.
Combined with a steady decline in COVID-19 cases, the success of the state’s vaccine campaign is prompting the governor to relax certain restrictions. “Over the past year when we added mitigation measures, we focused on those in places where there was greater risk for spread. Now as we look to ease those measures, we’re focused on places where there’s the least risk for spread such as outdoor venues,” Northam explained.
The governor said that starting April 1, social gatherings may have up to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Indoor entertainment venues will be able to operate at 30 percent capacity with up to 500 people, while outdoor venues can operate at 30 percent with no numeric cap.
The state is also allowing up to 100 spectators at indoor recreational sports events and 500 spectators at outdoor events, including high school sports games.
And graduation events will be capped at 5,000 people or 30 percent of capacity.
“These are measured changes,” Northam said. “We still have a strict gathering limit, a universal mask mandate and capacity restrictions both indoors and outdoors. We will continue to closely follow the data to see how these changes go but it really depends on Virginians.”
How to register
All adults who want a COVID-19 vaccine should pre-register with the Virginia Department of Health at vaccinate.virginia.gov, or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (1-877-829-4682). The line is available seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What if you’re eligible, registered and haven’t gotten a call?
Dr. Danny Avula advised anyone in the 1a or 1b eligibility group to make sure their information is updated in the state’s system if they haven’t yet received a call. “It’s possible that they perhaps spelled an email address wrong, or didn’t provide a phone number, or just need to kind of update their date of birth information because we did have a lot of incomplete records,” he said.
There are no available walk-in vaccine clinics in our area at this time.
More information about local vaccination efforts
Rappahannock Rapidan Health District: rrhd.org
Fauquier Health: fauquierhealth.org/covid-19-vaccination-information
Federal pharmacies with vaccine doses in our area
People who are eligible for vaccination and are interested in getting vaccinated at their local pharmacy should check the pharmacy’s website to find out if vaccine doses are available.
CVS (Culpeper, Front Royal, Luray, Warrenton)
Martin’s (Culpeper, Front Royal)
Walgreens (Culpeper, Warrenton)
Walmart (Culpeper, Front Royal, Luray, Warrenton)
Where to find vaccination centers
There are more than 300 local pharmacies receiving vaccine doses through the federal program, which could expand to more than 1,000 pharmacies. For an updated list of vaccination centers in our area, check out Vaccine Finder, a tool developed in collaboration between the Boston Children’s Hospital, Centers for Disease Control, Harvard Business School and Castlight. Use the tool online at vaccinefinder.org/search/.
If you have questions, contact the new Virginia call center hotline at 877-275-8343. It is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, with staff available to help those who don’t have computers or have difficulty using them. Language translation will be available.
If you registered two people but used one email address for both (e.g., parents, couples, etc.), that is OK. The system will use full name and date of birth and other unique characteristics to identify unique individuals.
The system is unable to provide your “number” or place in the queue. There are not enough doses available for everyone who is eligible to receive a vaccine. The latest knowledge as of March 4 is that Virginia is not likely to meet the demand for Phase 1b until March or April. It may be weeks or longer before vaccination appointments become available for those who have pre-registered. Please remember that [the VDH is] working through the list as quickly as [they] can with the number of vaccine doses available.
(Source: Virginia Department of Health)