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While Virginia Celebrates Vaccination Milestone, Many Communities Lag Behind

AP Photo / Ted S. Warren

Seventy percent of Virginia’s adult population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

But that’s largely thanks to over-performance in northern Virginia and a few other communities like Albemarle County.

In the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District, only one locality is close to the milestone according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.  Roanoke County is at 69%.  Only 59% of Roanoke City adults have received at least one shot.  And in rural Craig County it’s only 45%.

The district’s health director, Doctor Cynthia Morrow, says officials are trying to understand the mindsets of three distinct groups.  "Within the group of individuals who have not yet been vaccinated I think it’s important for us to look at people who are vaccine complacent-- 'I’ll get it tomorrow. I’m not opposed to it, I’m just gonna get it tomorrow.' And for those individuals we really want to understand what those barriers are," Morrow said in a bi-weekly call with reporters. "And then there are people who are hesitant.  They just have some questions and concerns they haven’t had answered yet."

She says a third group, which is strongly opposed to any vaccination, is unlikely to have their minds changed.

Keeping An Eye On The Delta Variant

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Roanoke region has remained relatively low this spring and summer.  The Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District is averaging about 80 new cases a week.  Morrow says that’s still a significant number.

Her biggest concern is how the still-growing delta variant might impact the region, which is lagging behind the statewide vaccination rate.  "At this point in time, we have not documented the delta variant in southwest Virginia," Morrow said Tuesday. "But I think most of us think it’s a matter of time and just to keep in mind that the delta variant is more transmissible than the other strains of COVID-19."  Morrow said the region would be better protected if more people are vaccinated.

The number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 has remained low.  Just two Roanoke City-Alleghany District residents were hospitalized as of Monday.  That's down from 10 reported in Morrow's previous update two weeks earlier.

The district has now recorded 503 deaths related to the virus, four more since the previous report on June 8.

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