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Grading the Governor: Virginia's response to COVID-19

Posted at 6:06 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 18:56:12-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- One year after he ordered a statewide shutdown of schools and some businesses in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam sat down with CBS 6 to discuss his administration’s response to the pandemic.

“There were so many unknowns at the time about COVID-19,” Northam recalled. “I signed up for this and I have come to work every day. I haven’t taken a day off. I look at the data every morning. I commend our staff, but folks across Virginia have stepped up like the nurses and doctors.”

Northam held his first weekly COVID-19 press conference on March 11, 2020.

At the time, there were nine reported cases of the coronavirus in the Commonwealth.

Northam said we should expect more cases.

Nearly 365 days later, more than 500,000 Virginians have tested positive for coronavirus and nearly 10,000 people have died.

“We are ready to put COVID-19 in the rearview mirror,” Northam said. “I look forward to getting as close to that herd immunity as soon as we can and to do it equitably and expeditiously. Get our children back into school, get our businesses back up and get back to a near normal. I really think that’s the light and the hope at the end of a long dark tunnel.”

Part of the process to returning to normal is the Northam administration’s efforts to vaccinate as many Virginians as possible.

News of a COVID-19 vaccine made headlines in December, which increased hopes for easing business capacity restrictions and limits on social distancing.

However, CBS 6 heard from many families who found difficulties navigating the registration systems during the start of 2021.

Some said they registered with four separate vaccine lists just to sign-up for an appointment.

The Vaccination Administration Management System (VAMS) proved problematic for most states including Virginia.

A backdoor loophole in the CDC-created registration system (VAMS) allowed for individuals ineligible for a vaccine to sign up anyway.

“This has been a learning curve and one of the things I tell my team every day to be flexible and to be creative. When we went to the central registration system, that has been helpful. Another thing I felt very strongly about that we have been able to accomplish is the call center. We have close to 1000 individuals who can answer the phone and get people registered.”

As of Monday, 17.5 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Northam estimated that most eligible Virginians who want to get vaccinated should be able to do so by the end of May.

Gov. Northam and First Lady Pam Northam continue to wait for their turn to get vaccinated. They both fall under Phase 1B.

When asked to grade himself and his administration following a year’s response to the pandemic, the governor instead graded his fellow Virginians.

“Virginians have weathered this storm, our children have sacrificed, our families are sacrificed, and for the most part they’ve followed the guidelines,” he explained. “I’m proud of Virginia. I think we live in the best state in the best country in the world, so I give Virginia an A-plus.”