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Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Delta Variant: Where Local Municipalities Are and What the VDH is Expecting

(WYDaily/Courtesy of CDC)
The Virginia Department of Health reported an increase in Delta variant in Virginia, but also supports children returning to in-person learning under the CDC’s updated guidelines. (WYDaily/Courtesy of CDC)
UPDATE (Aug. 13, 2021): City of Williamsburg has joined other municipalities in Hampton Roads, requiring that city government employees who are not yet fully vaccinated to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. For more information, click here.

STATEWIDE — The Delta Variant is proving to be a bigger bug than some experts have predicted, with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reporting a significant increase of the variant earlier this month.

“The Delta variant is here in Virginia, and it is hitting our unvaccinated population especially hard,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver in a news release from Aug. 6. “We have a very effective tool to stop transmission of COVID-19: vaccination. There is no question that COVID-19 vaccination is saving lives and preventing and reducing illness.”

According to data from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), Virginia has reached 711,078 cases, with 31,849 hospitalizations and 11,578 deaths.

In James City County, there have been 73 deaths related to COVID-19, with 60 in York County and 14 in the City of Williamsburg.

The City of Williamsburg, and James City and York counties are showing an upwards tread of COVID-19 cases, with a 7-day average of 14 in James City and 13 in York County.  Click here to view COVID-19 data by locality. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their guidelines earlier this month, reinstating their advice to mask up while in indoor places in areas where the risk for the variant is considered Substantial or High, regardless of vaccination status.

“In response to that revised guidance from CDC, the Governor and VDH advise all Virginians to wear a mask in pub indoor settings where there is increased risk of COVID-19 transmission, and that applies to anyone two and older,” Deputy Director of the State’s Office of Epidemiology, Dr. Laurie Forlano said.

“COVID is not going to go away after the Delta variant,” Dr. Danny Avula, state vaccine coordinator, said during a tele press conference yesterday. “We are going to see likely future variants, and we are going to need to learn how to live with this disease.”

Avula said that vaccinations are the most effective course against the Delta variant, later adding that, similar to annual flu vaccines, pharmaceutical companies will most likely develop vaccine variations that require yearly boosters for COVID-19.

On top of the Delta variant, Avula said it is likely that there will be a variant that current vaccines aren’t as effective against, which is why pharmaceutical companies are already developing variations of the current vaccines.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing data for a the need of a third dose. Avula said he is expecting an update from the FDA within the next week or so.

There is some hope, though. Avula said he predicts there to be a vaccine for young children, ages 11 to five, by the end of September.

Meanwhile, the VDH is still in support of children returning to school in-person.

“We strongly feel that children should return to in-person learning in the fall with those layered preventions in place,” said Dr. Forlano, referring to social distancing and sanitation guidelines from the CDC.

Several municipalities provided context for their Delta mitigation strategies, but the results are a mixed bag depending on which county you’re in.

James City County Assistant County Administrator Brad Rinehimer said in an email that the County has updated signage in buildings and strongly encourages any visitors, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face coverings inside.

“We are also continuing to do daily health screenings of all employees and following the guidance from health care professionals related to exposures or a COVID-19 diagnosis. We do not anticipate closing any of our facilities at this time, but we are closely monitoring the situation and will make adjustments as necessary,” Rinehimer said.

County employees are encouraged to minimize face to face contact. Rinehimer said the County would anticipate more virtual meetings for the near future. Vaccinations are not required for County employees at this time.

Meanwhile, York County does not have any information regarding mitigation strategies at this time, according to York County spokesperson, Gail Whittaker.

At this time, there is no word from the City of Williamsburg about what mitigations they have planned in order to deal with the Delta Variant.

James City County is in regular communication with other local governments in the Hampton Roads area as well as the Virginia Department of Health and other partner agencies.

“As always, our emergency management personnel and other County officials are closely monitoring the situation and will make any necessary changes and updates as deemed necessary. We will continue to maintain open lines of communication with all County employees and our citizenry to keep everyone informed and as safe as possible,” Rinehimer said.

If you need a copy of your vaccination records, all personal vaccination records are available through the state’s database. Visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website here.

WYDaily will continue to keep you up-to-date as more information becomes available. 

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