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Northam To The Unvaccinated: You Are Hurting People

Gov. Ralph Northam speaks at Monday's briefing.
Governor's Office Livestream
Gov. Ralph Northam speaks at Monday's briefing.

In his first COVID-19 briefing in weeks, Governor Ralph Northam said there are encouraging signs: new cases and hospitalizations have been down statewide over the last few days. And 80% of the Virginia’s adult population has received at least one dose of vaccine.

But he also called the decision of those who have refused the vaccine selfish. "You are absolutely hurting other people," Northam said bluntly. "Unvaccinated COVID patients are the people filling up our hospitals right now, making it difficult for everyone else to get the hospital care that they need. And you are costing everyone a lot of money."

Notham said there wasn’t much more he could add to change people’s minds, except to relate his own experience with COVID-19. "A year later, I still can’t smell anything or taste anything. And now the COVID variant that’s going around is a lot worse."

The state’s vaccine coordinator said the health department should be able to meet demand for booster shots to eligible populations. The boosters are only available to those who got the second dose of Pfizer vaccine more than six months ago and are over age 65, have certain underlying conditions, or work on certain front line jobs.

Northam said health departments are planning to offer in-school clinics if the vaccines are approved for the 5 to 12 year old age group. He called it the easiest and most equitable way to reach that age group.

Roanoke City superintendent Verletta White said that’s how her division is planning. "That’s what our parents, we believe, would benefit from and our students as well, to have the availability of those vaccines on site," White said during Monday's news conference.

Richmond school superintendent Jason Kamras said most of the COVID-19 cases among students and staff in his division were contracted outside of schools. He said the best way to avoid the continuing cycle of exposures and quarantines is to get more parents and students vaccinated.

Northam admitted there will be challenges in getting younger children vaccinated. About 60% of the state’s 12-to-15 year olds are vaccinated. He said he'd like to see that percentage around 80 to 85%. Northam asked for parents to be patient and said it would likely be late October or early November before the age group is approved.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

David Seidel is Radio IQ's News Director.