Northam joins Dr. Fauci, state health leaders for virtual discussion on vaccines

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 11:05 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2021 at 5:15 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - According to the Virginia Department of Health, the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate is now hovering above six percent with more than 54 percent of Virginians now fully vaccinated, but herd immunity is still a long way off. That’s why Governor Ralph Northam joined state health leaders, along with Dr. Anthony Fauci, for a virtual discussion on how to improve the commonwealth’s vaccination efforts.

More than 5,000 healthcare professionals attended the event, with more than 2,000 questions submitted to the panel for health leaders to answer.

Fauci spent the first half of the virtual discussion answering the most common questions fielded by the public. Chief among them was the reason for the CDC to change its mask guidance recommendation for those who are fully vaccinated. Fauci says making schools safer was a driving factor to that change.

“That’s the fundamental reason for the CDC guidelines - that local districts should seriously consider having a mandate for everyone in the school system to wear a mask whether they are vaccinated or not,” Fauci said.

A large emphasis was also placed on the effectiveness of the vaccine, even against the variants, as well as the risk the variant still poses for those who are fully vaccinated.

Fauci says data shows that the vaccines are more than 80 percent effective against symptomatic infections of the delta variant and severe disease, but adds there is still not enough hard data on the number of people who are asymptomatically infected by the delta variant

When asked about the likelihood of nationwide lockdowns in the wake of the delta variant, Fauci said 2020-era lockdowns can be avoided if vaccination numbers continue to rise.

“I don’t think we’re going to see the type of surge that would require a lockdown if we get the overwhelming majority of unvaccinated people vaccinated; we’re going to do really well,” Fauci said. “If we don’t succeed in getting the overwhelming majority of the population, we will have smoldering infections that will prevent us from getting back to normal.”

So far, more than 1,400 new COVID-19 cases were reported overnight, eclipsing the 160 daily cases recorded exactly a month ago.

With the surge of COVID-19 and its variants, mask and vaccine mandates have been gaining traction in local businesses and big cities. Tuesday, it was announced that Richmond City Mayor Levar Stoney will likely push new mandates for requiring city employees to get a vaccine this week in response to rising COVID-19 cases.

At this time, no word has been given on how likely the state is to follow suit. Northam says he’s not ruling out any option but remained tight-lipped on specifics for tighter restrictions or vaccine requirements for government employees.

“My job is to keep Virginians safe and healthy,” Northam said. “We have all options on the table; it’s something that I talk about every day with our staff. The answer to this pandemic is to get vaccinated, and we’ve got three effective and safe vaccines in Moderna, the J&J and Pfizer”

State health leaders say the biggest challenges ahead are ensuring vaccine access to communities of color and rural populations, making vaccination rates across counties are uniform, continuing to educate unvaccinated people to get a shot, and overcoming vaccine misinformation.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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