SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Gov. Ralph Northam was in Suffolk signing new bills that protect women’s reproductive rights on Thursday, but 10 On Your Side was there to ask about another health issue: COVID-19.
“We will have to follow the science,” said Northam, referring to the potential of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which is now classified as a “variant of concern” to the CDC.
Northam is a doctor, a pediatric neurologist who knows medicine and knows the Delta variant is a concern.
“They mutate and they want to survive as long as there are vectors like you and me that they can survive in and that’s what they will do…and that’s why we need to be vaccinated,” Northam said.
Those not vaccinated will be most vulnerable if the Delta variant explodes.
“But here is what will happen if these variants continue to live and survive, then there will be booster shots, and we will be right back in this. That is why everybody needs to get the shot as soon as they can… We want to get this in the rearview mirror,” Northam said.
For now, Northam will allow his emergency order to expire July 1.
“I think Virginia is doing so well, I didn’t feel obligated to continue that emergency order past June 30,” Northam said.
We also asked Northam about COVID-19 and herd immunity, and what Virginia still needs to do to reach the goals.
“Right now, we have 69.3% of adults that have had at least their first shot, and obviously we want to get to 70% by July 4,” he said.
That 69.3% is the statistic Northam throws out first, and as more shots go into more arms that adult statistic could be reached by the weekend.
“Anything we can do to get shots in people’s arms. That’s what we are doing,” Northam said.
Here’s the statistic we wanted to ask the governor about: According to the Virginia Department of Health, only 50% of all people including children older than 12 are fully vaccinated. That 50% seems further away from 70%. We pointed out taking that number to 70% isn’t as easy,
“We are trying to get it as high as we can,” Northam said.
The easy vaccinations are done, and now comes the tough work of seeking out people who may not want to get the shot.
“We are working with providers, people who come in and see their doctor, and nurse practitioners, and their providers have vaccines in their offices, obviously the pharmacies are a place to go…Many more options now,” Northam said.
As we’ve reported, the state is shutting down the large community vaccination centers because it appears they have run their course and not enough people are showing up. The new strategy is to continue hitting the streets in smaller numbers.
“Our health departments are having mobile units; we were just in Charlottesville promoting one of those,” he said.
It means reaching out to private companies.
“Some businesses are using incentives like drinks [beers] in certain establishments. Anything to get a shot in the arm, we will do it,” the governor said.
There are two communities that remain subjects of concern in getting vaccinations in arms: African American communities and — believe it or not — frontline healthcare workers.
In order to get herd immunity of 70% fully vaccinated, efforts continue in the African American community.
Reaching herd immunity is key.
“That’s why we are working with community leaders, faith leaders, mobile units taking the shot to the people basically is what we are doing,” he said.
A March Washington Post survey found a stunning 48% of frontline healthcare workers had not received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. We could find no more recent statistic, but pointed out to the governor that this is a problem and it doesn’t look good that nurses, doctors, other healthcare providers are not getting vaccinated what does that say?
“I agree as a physician. I took my shot I would encourage all, not just our healthcare providers, but frontline workers, essential workers, everybody in Virginia needs to get a shot,” Northam said.
The major reasons why some are not getting vaccinated, according to the study, are the worries over side effects and the newness of the vaccine.
We asked Northam about that.
“A lot of reasons we may call excuses,” he said.
Northam tells fellow health care workers to get on board.
“People have struggled this past year. It’s been tough. We want to get our businesses back. We want to get our kids back in school. We can do all that safely and responsibly if people roll their sleeve up and take that shot,” Northam said.