A few new COVID-related milestones were reached last week—a couple hopeful and one a sad reminder of just how long and impactful this battle has been.
Last week marked the passing of the 100th resident of Roanoke (a number that has since risen to 106) from complications associated with COVID-19. Our region has seen nearly 250 deaths since the arrival of the virus last March. Accompanying these sad statistics are the thousands that have been sickened by the virus, including more than 30 Roanoke residents who are currently hospitalized. As sad as these numbers are, they do not represent the totality, as it is nearly certain many more will contract the virus, be hospitalized and, in the most severe cases, succumb to its complications in the upcoming months. Widespread vaccine can’t come soon enough for those who have already lost loved ones and for those who will be sickened over the next several months!
Last week also marked the first fully vaccinated Virginia resident. That is, for the first time since the virus arrived, we now have residents in Virginia who have received both of the necessary doses to provide them with a heightened level of protection. In just a week’s time, this number has risen from the first to more than 7,000—hope is finally here! In Roanoke, more than 3,000 of the first dose of the vaccine have been administered as a part of Phase 1A to frontline health care workers, EMS personnel, and those residing and working in nursing homes. While no one in Roanoke has yet to receive both doses of the vaccine, we are only a couple of weeks from that being the case.
Last week also offered further hope, as it was announced that our area would join several others throughout Virginia moving from Phase 1A to Phase 1B. Whereas Phase 1A focused on those in health care and nursing homes, Phase 1B will expand that focus to a larger collection of those engaged in the delivery of essential services or at greater risk, ranging from law enforcement and transit workers to teachers and grocery clerks. Additionally, those 75 years of age and older are now eligible to receive the vaccine. VDH published a more detailed list of those eligible for Phase 1B on its website—“VDH COVID-19 Vaccination Response” and an explanation of how the vaccine will be distributed—“ VDH COVID-19 Vaccine Phase 1b in Depth.”
Information about how Roanoke-based businesses and organizations may connect their employees with VDH to secure a slot for vaccination may be found here. Information about how a Roanoke resident who is 75 or older may connect with VDH to secure a vaccination may be found at this link. It is important to note that for the next few weeks, in addition to a continued emphasis on frontline health care workers and those in nursing homes, the focus will be on those in public safety and teachers. After enough progress has been made with these groups and when vaccine doses are available, others in Phase 1B will be served.
While these two most recently noted milestones offer some of the best hope that we are nearing the end of this long struggle and, thereby, can lessen those added to the terrible statistics this post started off with, there remains the need for continued vigilance at maintaining the safety practices of staying home if you are sick, avoiding large gatherings, and wearing masks.
There are still many turning down the opportunity to receive the vaccine. I encourage residents to make an educated and informed choice. Seek out information for yourself and share with others what you learn about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. Widespread protection from the virus through inoculation will only work if most of us actually receive the vaccine. If not, what we are currently experiencing will drag on much longer than necessary and the consequences (more sick and more dead) will be more severe than necessary.
Please take some time to review materials and view the videos at these sites:
You may also want to talk to someone you know and trust who has already received the vaccine. However you approach your decision, please remember—your health, that of your family, your neighbors, and our community depend upon it!
-- Bob Cowell