PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Earlier this summer, the region thought happy days are here again. The beaches were open, games at Harbor Park in Norfolk were on, and masks were off.

It didn’t last long.

Delta variant infections, hospitalizations, and pediatric COVID-19 cases are up.

Clinicians work on intubating a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital on August 10, 2021 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 surpassed another record in the state yesterday to 2,720 with Louisiana as one of the nation’s epicenters while the spread of the Delta variant continues. More than ninety percent of Louisiana’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. Lake Charles Memorial currently holds 52 COVID-19 patients, 25 of whom are in the ICU. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Scientists and advocates saw the trend coming. Millions of Americans have refused to get the potentially life-saving coronavirus vaccine.

Local scientists and activists are pleading with residents to roll up their sleeves for one of three vaccines that studies have shown are safe and effective.

“By preventing that infection in the first place, you don’t allow the virus to have the opportunity to change itself and becoming a variant,” said Dr. Parham Jaberi, the acting director of the Norfolk and Virginia Beach Health Departments.

Most patients in the nation’s hospitals battling COVID-19 have the highly transmissible delta variant and most are unvaccinated.

“It’s mind-boggling because this disease is so serious. It’s moving at a rapid pace. It can infect six to nine people at a pop — just like that,” said Gaylene Kanoyton, president of the Hampton NAACP.

The vaccination rate is slowly creeping up, but Kanoyton says among residents of the Black and brown community, especially the young, minorities are still very hesitant.

(WAVY photo/Regina Mobley)

Kanyoton says, unfortunately, the call for a booster shot has created even more ill-advised hesitancy.

“With the third shot, they are saying it must not work because [now] you have to get a third shot,” said Kanoyton.

The Hampton NAACP is hosting one of several back-to-school COVID-19 vaccination clinics taking place in Hampton Roads this weekend. Vaccinations are additions to three events and the clinics are not noted in the e-fliers posted below.

Additionally, vaccines will be offered Saturday at New Hope Baptist Church’s annual Community Day. The event runs from noon to 4 p.m. in the church’s fellowship hall at 395 Old Great Neck Road in Virginia Beach.

The weekend clinics are taking place as colleges and more employers are mandating shots. This week, the president ordered nursing homes to require employee vaccinations or face funding cuts.

“Everyone is out here trying to get people vaccinated wherever they can,” said Kanoyton.