The Loudoun County Health Department today began offering COVID-19 vaccinations by appointment to kids ages 12 and up today, following approval by the Virginia Department of Health.
The expansion of the vaccination program comes as the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people no long need to wear masks in most situations—inside and out. “Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance,” the CDC announced Tuesday.
“The safety of people who are receiving the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be our highest priority,” stated County Health Director Dr. David Goodfriend. “Our nation’s top public health experts have carefully evaluated the data and we have great confidence in the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine for everyone age 12 years and older. I encourage parents to get their kids vaccinated as soon as possible because vaccinating this age group is another important step toward getting back to normal.”
Additionally, he said Tuesday, the local health department is looking into ways to distribute the vaccine in schools or through other partnerships in the community. He also hailed the approval as another important step to ending the pandemic.
“About 60-70% of our adults have gotten at least one dose of vaccine, which really is critical to reducing transmission, so now a lot of what we’re seeing are kids who are not yet able to get vaccinated,” Goodfriend said. “And that’s why this new age group is so important for vaccination, both for their protection, for preventing them from having to get quarantined again, but also to reduce transmission in our community.”
The Health Department has also streamlined the appointment-making process to make it easier to schedule appointments online in one step. Loudoun residents may now schedule appointments at loudoun.gov/COVID19vaccine, skipping the previous process of pre-registering and waiting for an email invitation to schedule.
Anyone who needs assistance making an appointment, such as those who do not have access to the internet, can call the COVID-19 Information Line at 703-737-8300 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Vaccinations are free for everyone regardless of immigration or health insurance status. They can also be found at other providers in the community by visiting vaccines.gov.
The number of new daily cases has been declining since April 13, dropping from an average of nearly 100 per day to under 34 last week. The lowest average of new cases was last Oct. 1 when the rate dropped to 20 per day.
“Transmission is going down. Vaccination works,” Goodfriend said. “That’s the most important reason why our numbers are going down. Additionally, the weather’s better, so people are outdoors more, and outdoor transmission is less than indoor transmission.”
Gov. Ralph Northam has said that restrictions on gatherings and building occupancy could be lifted on June 15 if COVID-19 metrics keep trending in the right direction. Depending on CDC guidance, that could also mean an end to the mask mandate. With reopening on the horizon, Visit Loudoun President and CEO said Loudoun’s tourism and hospitality businesses are ready for a welcome rush.
“This is going to bring a tremendous amt of pent-up demand, which is most welcome,” Erickson said. “The challenge is going to be making sure that we are adequately staffed to meet that demand.”
Loudoun businesses have been poised to welcome customers back as restrictions on gathering and occupancy have gradually been lifted—and both locals and visitors, she said, are ready to go back.
“It’s going to be such a great opportunity for all of us to go and visit our favorite haunts that we may have only been seeing through takeout and outdoor dining, and to be able to thank our really dedicated tourism and hospitality industry,” Erickson said.
But, she said, those businesses still have “a long, rough road ahead.” She said they still need support wherever they can find it, from individuals, from the county, the state and the federal government.