There has been a minimal amount of COVID-19 cases announced in the last few updates from the Emergency Response Team. There were two confirmed cases between Feb. 26 and March 4 and three confirmed cases between March 5 and 11. This brings the total number of cumulative confirmed cases to 34 and 31 total cleared cases.
The VWU Emergency Response Team stated in an email update on March 12 that the Virginia Department of Health has asked state residents to verify and update their COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration information in the new statewide system. They recommend that if an individual has not updated their information, they should take the time to review their information and answer the additional questions added to the form. This can be done at the Vaccinate Virginia website: vaccinate.virginia.gov.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, as of March 16, Virginia has had over 597,000 total confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, over 25,000 confirmed and probable hospitalizations, and nearly 10,000 confirmed and probable deaths. Regarding localities near VWU, Virginia Beach has had 31,937 cases of COVID-19 and Norfolk has had 15,467 cases as of March 16.
Other universities in our region are facing this challenge as well. For example, Old Dominion University, which has 24,000 students, had 12 confirmed cases between March 5 and March 11. Norfolk State University, which has 5,000 students, has 67 positive COVID-19 cases as of March 10. As of March 16, Christopher Newport University, which also has 5,000 students, currently has six active student cases with a total of 251 cumulative cases in 2021. Also, William & Mary, which has 8,000 students, has seven active cases as of March 16.
This comes as Governor Northam has made key changes to his COVID-19 mitigation regulations relating to social gatherings, entertainment venues and dining establishments. According to a news release from the Office of the Governor, “Governor Northam is beginning to ease public health restrictions by taking steps to increase capacity limits in outdoor settings, where evidence shows the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19 is lower.”
For social gatherings, the maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 25 people for outdoor settings, while remaining at 10 persons for indoor settings.
Additionally, outdoor entertainment and public amusement venues will be able to operate with up to 1,000 individuals or at 30 percent capacity, whichever is lower. Indoor entertainment and public amusement venues must continue to operate at 30 percent capacity with a cap of 250 people. Previously, entertainment venues were limited to a maximum of 250 individuals.
For dining establishments, the on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol will be permitted until midnight, extended from 10:00 p.m.
The delegation that represents VWU on the state level, Delegate Nancy Guy (D) and State Senator Jen Kiggans (R) expressed differing opinions on Northam’s leadership during the pandemic in an interview with Chronicle news reporter Brianna Sandy.
Guy approves of Northam’s actions and is appreciative of his medical background. “I think the governor’s done a masterful job. He is, as you know, a physician. And not only is he a physician, he is a physician who has worked in crisis situations as an army doctor in a time of war, [who had] to allocate scarce resources and understands the need to, to make those decisions about what goes where, when,” Guy said. “And I feel like he’s surrounded himself with good people and done exactly that.”
Guy also commends Northam’s ability to make decisions about what restrictions to instate and how to allocate resources. “In terms of PPP, we were way ahead of most states in that sphere [and that was] responsible for us keeping that [coronavirus] at bay. And hopefully there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Additionally, Guy mentioned that we cannot eradicate this disease, so it is important to keep the case number curve flat enough in order for the healthcare infrastructure to handle the patients using their services. She has also tracked the Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Association of Hospitals and Healthcare Providers website to examine the statistics and has come to the conclusion that Virginia has effectively handled the virus.
“I track not just the VDH website that shows, who has it, you know, how many cases were reported. I track the Virginia Association of Hospitals and Healthcare Providers to see how our hospitalization rates are going, how many people are in ICU, how many people are on ventilators, what our capacity is, and we never got into the red. Never,” Guy stated.
On the other hand, Senator Kiggans critiqued the Northam administration for their handling of the pandemic. “We didn’t do a good job in the beginning. I think everybody would admit to that, probably. Probably, he [Northam] would as well. We were ranked, what? 49 out of 50?” Kiggans said. “The beginning rankings were not good and I really wish that we would have prepared a little bit more. I think that we probably should have had more foresight into some of the barriers that we encountered early on, you know, what was this going to look like, what do we need.”
Kiggans also criticized the set-up of the vaccine registration hotline. She wished that the state government would have had the foresight to prepare the program for individuals who do not use computers on a regular basis, especially older adults.
“I was in close contact with the health department, I know those guys were trying. We were asking them to do things that they just don’t do on a regular basis and vaccinate the entire population of Virginia as fast as possible. That’s not what they’re normally doing,” Kiggans said. “There was a lot of room for improvement, I’ll say that. I think it’s slowly getting better and I know that some of the rankings, you know, Virginia has moved up and up and up. So, we’re doing a better job, but it would have been a better thing to have just a smoother rollout.”
Recent public opinion data released by The Harris Poll COVID-19 Tracker (Week 54) fielded March 5th to 7th, among 1,963 U.S. adults, resulted in interesting findings about Americans’ thoughts on the pandemic. In response to the question, “Are we out of the woods yet?” 57% said not yet and we are in the same position as we were in summer 2020, 43% stated that the current state of the pandemic is not as bad as previous months because of vaccination efforts.
Additionally, The Harris Poll response examined what Americans think about the mitigation restrictions. 30% say that the restrictions should be lifted only after a consistent decline in cases and hospitalizations. 28% stated that regulations should be lifted once everyone who wants the vaccine is able to get it. 9% said it should occur when those in priority vaccination groups are vaccinated. 19% said they should be lifted right now.
By Connor Merk