Central Virginia frontline workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Posted at 12:01 AM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-12 06:39:08-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- About a quarter of Virginians will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination during the next phase of the state’s vaccine rollout.

On Monday, nearly a dozen health districts moved into Phase 1b of the state’s distribution plan.

That group includes people over age 75, incarcerated people, and front line essential workers like police, teachers, grocery store workers, and public transit employees.

Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s new COVID-19 vaccination coordinator and Richmond and Henrico County's Health Director, said he anticipated Central Virginia could join them as early as the beginning of next week.

“What's clear is that this is the most complex logistical challenge we've ever faced,” Avula said. “Our charge is to ensure we’ve built the infrastructure to vaccinate.”

Dr. Avula said the fact some regions are moving into Phase 1b, while others are not, should not be seen as some communities falling behind.

"Because of the diversity of our state, you have places in Southwest Virginia that just don't have the concentration of healthcare workers that other parts of the state do," said Avula.

As doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are being distributed to health care workers and those who live and work in long term care facilities, you might be wondering when you will be eligible for a vaccination.

The Virginia Department of Health created this questionnaire that should help provide some answers.

“That information is sent to the local health district to assign them into clinics based on their prioritization,” Avula said.

GRTC Transit System has been preparing its employees for their turn in the vaccination rollout.

“We are an essential part of how our community functions and how people get to and from people get to their jobs,” said GRTC spokesperson Carrie Rose-Pace.”

News of a vaccine on the horizon comes on the heels of the announcement of a second GRTC employee to die from complications of the coronavirus. GRTC said the victim's family wishes them to remain anonymous.

GRTC recorded their first death when bus driver John Thrower died due to COVID-19 in September.

“We’ve been preparing our staff for the vaccine with education information since the holidays and before Christmas to make sure they have time to take that information home to their families,” Rose-Pace explained.

GRTC is not mandating that employees get the vaccine. But, they are offering two virtual town halls with state health experts to answer questions and concerns..

“I am so deeply saddened by this loss to their family and to all of us at GRTC and so deeply weary in my soul of the ongoing toll this disease is taking on all of us and all of our families and friends. This is our second loss of a GRTC employee to complications from the COVID-19 virus. I pray this is our last,” GRTC CEO Julie Timm said a statement.

Avula said right now, the state is averaging around 10,000 vaccinations per day and is likely around six weeks away from hitting Governor Northam's target of 25,000 per day and even further from the eventual goal of 50,000 per day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.