RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia's vaccine coordinator said he expected to see another surge of the coronavirus in the late summer or early fall driven by the Delta variant of the virus.
"We are in a great place. We're seeing some of the lowest rates of COVID than we have at any point during the pandemic, but this is not over," warned Dr. Danny Avula.
Avula spoke at Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney's weekly press briefing where he also announced that he is beginning to transition away from his role with the state and back into his role as director of the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts.
"We'll probably have a hybrid role in the local health department work and continuing to have a role in the state vaccination rollout over the course of the summer and we'll just kind of reevaluate how that effort is going," added Avula. "But excited to get reacclimated to the local work and happy to be here today."
Regarding the Delta variant, Avula said the strain has already become dominant in several other countries and is expected to do the same in the United States.
"It's basically doubling every week. We've already seen parts of the country in Missouri segments of Texas, other states that are seeing increasing infection trends due to the Delta variant," said Avula.
Avula said Virginia has had 48 confirmed cases of the Delta variant so far.
"Seventy-six percent of those [Delta variant cases] are not travel related. So, we are seeing the Delta variant here in Virginia and we are seeing it spread unrelated to travel," Dr. Avula said. "We can fully expect that we will see the Delta variant continue to, probably, double every week and become more of a concern -- especially in communities that have lower vaccination rates."
Those low-vaccinated areas include neighborhoods around George Wythe High School in South Richmond and parts of Richmond's East End.
As Avula transitions from his role as Virginia's vaccine coordinator back to leading Richmond's Health Department, he said getting more Richmonders vaccinated remains a top priority.
"We have made great progress here in the city, but the work is not over," he said.
Avula and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced they would use a new $4 million federal grant to boost vaccination rates.
"We will use these funds to work with community-based organizations to develop health literacy plans to increase availability, acceptability, and use of COVID-19 health information and resources as well as address health disparities amongst our at-risk communities," Mayor Stoney said.
Health department officials said they would partner with Richmond Public Schools over the summer to set up vaccine clinics inside middle and high schools. There, students could not only receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but also other vaccines needed for rising seventh and twelfth-grade students.