Gov. Ralph Northam today announced state employees will be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 by Sept. 1 or take weekly tests and encouraged local governments and businesses to follow suit.
However, he has not announced a new mask mandate so far, although he continues to encourage people to wear masks in public venues.
Speaking at an Aug. 5 press conference, Northam also pointed out that state law passed in March requires Virginia school divisions to follow CDC guidance—and currently that guidance is that students should be masked in school.
With vaccination rates slowing and the more highly contagious and dangerous Delta variant spreading, Virginia has seen hospitalizations and deaths begin to climb again. Those serious effects are felt virtually exclusively by unvaccinated people—while vaccinated people have shown some “breakthrough” infections of the virus, they almost universally experience much milder symptoms and seldom wind up in the hospital.
According to the latest numbers from the Virginia Department of Health, since May, 97.25% of COVID-19 cases have been in people who are not fully vaccinated. 94.72% of people who wind up in the hospital were not fully vaccinated, and 93.46% of people who died of COVID-19 were not fully vaccinated. In that same timeframe, the state reports, 0.019% of fully vaccinated people have tested positive for COVID-19.
Deaths and hospitalizations from the virus, while ticking up, still remain well short of early pandemic highs.
“It breaks my heart as your governor and as a doctor to see people getting sick, getting hospitalized and unfortunately dying of a disease that is now preventable for most people,” Northam said.
Northam also referenced the repeated refrain in news stories and on social media from people who refused vaccination and ended up in the hospital or worse, who said they wished they’d been vaccinated and encouraged others to do so. And he encouraged people who have been hesitant to get vaccinated now.
“Do it to protect your family, especially, especially if you have young children. Do it to protect everyone around you because none of us is an island,” Northam said. “We can call vaccination a personal choice, but our choices affect other people. And do it to save yourself. I do not want any Virginian to die, especially when it could have been prevented.”
Northam also suggested that he would not attempt to require Virginians to be vaccinated, even after the vaccines gain full FDA approval.
“The way I look at this, I’m in charge of a 120,000, plus or minus a couple, state employees and that’s who I have control over. I encourage businesses across the Commonwealth of Virginia to follow that lead, and we’ve already seen some of that,” Northam said.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, 78.1% of Loudoun’s adult population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 72% fully vaccinated. Vaccines are now widely available at pharmacies and doctor’s office.