RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam announced a new vaccination hotline and loosened outdoor sporting event restrictions during his Wednesday afternoon COVID-19 update.
On Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Health launched a centralized system that allows residents to pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine. On Wednesday, Northam announced a new state call center to help people register for the vaccine.
The governor also highlighted that the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are trending down. Because of this, he said they would be increasing the number of people who could attend outdoor sporting events to 250. Northam said they are also considering a percentage-based attendance plan for other outdoor events.
Here are details from Northam’s press conference:
New call center and high demand for online registration
There’s a new state call center to help with registering people for the COVID-19 vaccine in addition to the online registration center. The number is 877-829-4682.
English and Spanish speakers are available to help. You can also get a call back in 100 languages. 10 percent of the more than 700 call center agents speak Spanish.
TTY service is also available for the deaf and hard of hearing communities. Northam said the center will prioritize callers ages 75 and up.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Northam said about 240,000 people have pre-registered for a COVID-19 vaccination after Virginia’s one-stop portal opened up yesterday. The website was slow at times due to the demand, but Northam said the response was strong.
“At the peak, the new sight was getting 300 registrations per minute, and it averaged 150 registrations per minute,” Northam said.
People who had pre-registered through their local health department had their information imported into the new system. Northam said 1.6 million records were migrated into the new system over the weekend and more are coming in. Northam said it might still take time for your name to show up in the system.
The pre-registration puts you in line for the vaccine (though right now Virginia is still only vaccinating those in phases 1a and 1b at this time due to demand.)
Whether you’re pre-registering online or by phone, you’ll be asked some basic information to determine eligibility. You will not be asked for your social security number, your immigration status or for any form of payment.
Avula clarified the list applies for vaccine administration through the Virginia Department of Health and health practices it disseminates doses to. It does not put you on a list for CVS and other future private pharmacies that are getting their doses separately through the federal state pharmacy program. CVS had said their program didn’t allow for the synchronization. You’ll have to continue to check CVS’s website.
BELOW: Watch the full press conference from Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021
All outdoor sports increasing to 250-person capacity — that could expand
Northam said capacity at all outdoor sports events will be increased to 250 people starting Monday. Northam will send out an executive order later Wednesday with more details.
Some venues had already been at the 250 capacity limit — the Virginia High School League had a 2 guests per player cap. Northam said more information about possibly increasing capacity at larger venues (Richmond NASCAR track, college football stadiums, etc.) will be announced next week.
Some Chesapeake parents told us this week they were frustrated by the school division’s decision to not allow any spectators for the games.
More than 12% of Virginians have received their first dose of the vaccine. Northam said the commonwealth is now receiving about 130,000 doses a week. The state is administering an average of about 34,000 doses a day, but Northam said there’s still a ways to go.
“Supply is key to getting this vaccination into everybody’s arms,” he said. “Until we get to herd immunity, people will need to continue to follow these [safety] measures.”
VDH is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to put a greater emphasis on community pharmacies.
“We also want to ensure that pharmacies can work with our pre-registration system. I know a lot of our small pharmacies are eager and willing to vaccinate patients, but many of those pharmacies haven’t gotten any doses yet because the supply is so limited,” Northam said.
Northam recently signed emergency legislation that will allow health care professionals like dentists and medical students to administer shots at vaccination sites. He said that’s part of the infrastructure needed to reach the state’s goal of giving 50,000 doses a day.