Roanoke-region Vaccination Effort Focuses on Seniors, Slight Uptick in New COVID Cases

Mar 23, 2021

Health officials in the Roanoke area say they’re making one last big push to get people over the age of 65 vaccinated. 

Seniors will be prioritized for vaccine clinics next week.

The district will open a phone hotline for residents over the age of 65 to set an appointment.  Those residents can call 540-613-6597 this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between 9am and 4pm.

Doctor Cynthia Morrow said there are still about 11,000 people in the 1A and 1B eligibility groups waiting on a shot in the Roanoke City-Alleghany Health District.  Morrow said the district’s allocation of vaccine doses is not expected to increase next week, though there’s still some uncertainty about potential shipments of Johnson and Johnson’s one-shot vaccine.  Any expansion of the eligibility into the Phase 1C eligibility group will depend on the availability of J&J vaccine.

Meanwhile, the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the district ticked up a bit over the past week.  Morrow reported 306 new COVID-19 cases in the district over the past week, up from 286 the week before.  Hospitalizations also increased to 40.  That figure was 37 last week.  "What we don’t want to have happen is a reversal in the trend," Morrow told reporters during a weekly call Tuesday.  "And while this is a small increase, it is an increase."

The number of deaths in the district actually decreased by seven to 445.  Morrow said that was the result of a state review of death certificates that found a few did not meet the clinical definition of being COVID-related.

Proms Not Safe, Morrow Says

Asked about the possibility of some schools holding proms this spring, Morrow cast doubt on their safety.  “I cannot endorse proms at this point," she said. Morrow said the possibility was discussed during a weekly call with school division superintendents.  

She cited several potential problems with the idea from a public health standpoint:  an indoor setting, close contact among students, and food and drink that requires the removal of masks.  "It is just not safe for us  to have any type of social gathering like that," Morrow said.  

There are some variables as spring moves on, though, including use of an outdoor location and the potential to vaccinate anyone over the age of 16.