Dogwood Download: Things You Should Know for Monday, Feb. 1

By Brian Carlton

February 1, 2021

It will be a few months before we can move to the next vaccine phase, Virginia officials say.

RICHMOND-The weekend’s weather caused some damage. The COVID-19 vaccine situation in Virginia is slowly improving and there’s now a tiered system for who gets vaccinated. Quite a bit happened over the weekend and here’s a look.

Vaccine Situation Slowly Improving 

There was good news and bad news Friday, when Dr. Danny Avula gave his latest vaccine update. Avula, who works as Virginia’s vaccine coordinator, said the state has now used 57% of the vaccine doses it received. On the other hand, that still puts Virginia behind 20 other states in terms of distribution. 

As of Friday, Virginia ranked 21st out of 50. That’s a big jump from one week prior, when the state ranked 49th. What changed was the state’s strategy. Originally, officials let hospitals hold some doses back. The plan was to use them as second doses for those who took the first shot. However, in some cases the vaccine had to be tossed out, as they expired before being used. When Avula took over less than two weeks ago, he changed the plan. Instead of storing any, all vaccine doses now get used as soon as they come in. 

“In some cases we have had places holding on to their inventory because they weren’t sure what they could count on from the federal government,” Avula said during a media call Friday. “They want to make sure they had second doses in stock to cover their patients and staff they provided the first dose to.”

Vaccine Order Set for Phase 1B

As part of his conference call with reporters Friday, Dr. Danny Avula outlined the new order for vaccinations. First, local hospitals and health districts have to get through Phase 1A. That hasn’t changed. It’s still medical staff and then long-term care facility residents, as well as the staff. But after that, the focus turns to Phase 1B. 

Since several areas have already started vaccinating people in Phase 1B, Avula set out guidelines for who takes priority in regards to essential workers. That portion of Phase 1B includes a nine-tier list. 

  1. Firefighters, hazmat, and police
  2. Jail/prison and homeless-shelter workers
  3. All pre-K-12 teachers and staff at both public and private schools
  4. All food and agriculture workers
  5. Manufacturing workers
  6. Grocery store workers
  7. Public transportation workers
  8. Mail carriers, including both USPS and private companies like FedEx 
  9. Judges and judicial workers

It’s going to take quite a while before all nine tiers on this list are vaccinated. At a best guess, Avula said it may be at least March before we’re halfway through. 

“I think it’s going to be a month or longer before we get to the fourth or fifth tier,” Avula said. “I’m trying my best to make sure people manage their expectations.” 

RELATED: Northam Stretches Some Restrictions Through February

Winter Storm Leaves Damage Behind

Winter Storm Orlena gave opportunity for sledding and snowball fights, but it also caused some damage. The Virginia State Police reported as of 9 p.m., they had responded to 362 crashes and 321 disabled vehicles across the state. 

Here’s a breakdown of where the incidents happened: 

  • Richmond Division: 71 disabled vehicles and 117 traffic crashes
  • Culpeper Division: 30 disabled vehicles and 31 traffic crashes
  • Appomattox Division: 41 disabled vehicles and 39 traffic crashes
  • Wytheville Division: 39 disabled vehicles and 19 traffic crashes
  • Chesapeake Division: 47 disabled vehicles and 60 traffic crashes
  • Salem Division: 49 disabled vehicles and 52 traffic crashes
  • Fairfax Division: 44 disabled vehicles and 46 traffic crashes

Don’t Believe the Message

Over the next few weeks, you may get phone calls, emails or text messages about the COVID-19 vaccine. Some of these may claim to be able to speed up the process, offering to move you up higher on the list if you just provide either information or money. Simply put, the FBI warns, don’t believe the message. 

“Yes, people are resorting to using COVID-19 as a tool to scam others,” FBI officials said in a statement released Sunday. “Be careful, folks.” 

You won’t get unsolicited text messages from hospitals, health departments or any other group scheduling vaccinations. They won’t send emails either. When it’s your turn, you’ll either be notified through your work or called at home. When you get a call, FBI officials suggest you take down the information and then call the hospital, just to confirm.

Virginia Resident to Lie in Honor at Capitol

A Virginia resident will be laid to rest next week, but not before being honored by Congress.

Brian Sicknick, a 42-year-old Virginia resident and member of the Capitol Police, died from injuries sustained in the Jan. 6 attack.

Sicknick was defending the U.S. Capitol building when domestic terrorists stormed it, injuring temporarily taking control of parts of the Capitol building. The attack came as Congress was voting to certify the Electoral College count from the 2020 presidential election.

Sicknick’s body will arrive at the Capitol Rotunda Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on the East Front of the Capitol, according to information from Capitol Police. His fellow Capitol Police officers will take part in a viewing immediately after, with members of Congress invited at a separate time.

At 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, a congressional tribute for Sicknick will take place. His body will then be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington County Receives Grant to Help Combat COVID-19

There’s nearly $2.3 million heading for Arlington County. The county became the first in the Commonwealth to receive a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

The award of $2,283,147.93 will help the county procure necessary items ahead of a larger supply of COVID-19 vaccines. With the funds, the county plans to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and other equipment, as well as storage supplies to properly handle, distribute, transport and administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Hannah Winant works as the public affairs manager for the Arlington County Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management. She noted that when the call stating that Arlington County received the grant came, local officials immediately got to work.

“We actually got the call during inauguration – so talk about rapid action from the new administration and rapid action from the state on a federal level,” Winant said. “We’re really grateful to our state and to the federal partners with whom we work who are taking really quick action to make sure localities are empowered to take the steps we need to quickly role out vaccine once supply becomes available.”

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