RICHMOND, Va. -- As 2022 nears and COVID-19 cases continue to surge across Central Virginia, health officials are urging folks to use caution and potentially cancel plans for New Year's celebrations.
The warning comes as Virginia reported the biggest increase in COVID-19 cases (12,112) in a single day during the pandemic Wednesday.
Dr. Julia Murphy with the Virginia Department of Health said events can be broken down into three risk categories: low, medium and high.
"I would generally recommend you avoid or think carefully about high-risk events and your participation in them," Murphy said.
Low-risk events include virtual or ones with those you live with, while medium-risk ones include indoor events with fully vaccinated people or outdoor gatherings if you do not know them, according to the health department. And high-risk events are indoors with people with an unknown vaccine status or where people are close together cheering or celebrating loudly.
"Really try to focus on those lower risk types of events," Murphy urged. "We'd also ask people to keep in mind that layering prevention strategies is always better than just relying on one."
Some of those strategies include masking, testing before and after, and getting the vaccine or booster.
Additionally, Murphy asked anyone with symptoms like a fever, cough, sore throat or muscle aches to stay home and get tested.
"We would very much recommend to anyone that you not attend a social gathering, if you're feeling unwell," Murphy urged. "No matter what you're doing on New Year's Eve, if you're not feeling well, please, please stay home."
Moreover, some businesses and event organizers have decided to cancel plans because of the surge.
"It's unfortunate all the way around. We had a wonderful program planned out," EFS President and Artistic Director Janine Bell said. "If we just had that one incident, it would just put a damper on everything and so that's when the risk became too great."
Bell said because the decision was made so close to the event time they were not able to pivot to a virtual format and are encouraging people to watch their 2020 virtual celebration on their YouTube page.
"Really that like age three to 11 space, you know, some of whom could be vaccinated, they're not fully vaccinated, and many of them can't be vaccinated," RVA Winter Puppetfest Artistic Director Heidi Rugg said. "Given all the other cancellations that have been happening, it seems like that was the right decision to make."
Rugg said while they were unable to shift to a virtual format, anyone who had bought tickets for their event was given access to a virtual event being put on by a theater in Boston.
Virginians age 5+ are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Pre-registration is no longer required, so go to Vaccine Finder to search for specific vaccines available near you or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343).
Have You Been Fully Vaccinated?
People are considered fully vaccinated:
- 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
- 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
How to Protect Yourself and Others When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated
COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.
We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.
These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.