- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that the state will ease coronavirus capacity limits at gatherings and events next week.

“This combination — lower case counts and higher vaccinations — means that we can slowly ease mitigation measures that we have in place,” Mr. Northam said during a press conference.

Beginning April 1, social gatherings can expand to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Recreational sporting events can operate at 30% capacity, with a maximum of 100 people indoors per field and 500 people outdoors per field. Entertainment venues can operate at 30% capacity, with a maximum of 500 people indoors.

Last week, Mr. Northam announced that on April 1 graduation events can permit 30% capacity, with a maximum of 500 people indoors and 5,000 people outdoors.

During Tuesday’s press conference, a reporter asked why vaccine doses are being allocated to jurisdictions based on population instead of demand.

Dr. Danny Avula, director of the Virginia Department of Health (VDOH), acknowledged that some areas have higher demand than others, saying “the goal is to make allocation decisions based on where the risk lies.”

“There are communities where we’re seeing the demand in Phase 1 slow down, and so that means we’re going to push vaccine to other parts of the state so that we can all try to move forward into the general population around the same time,” Dr. Avula said.

Mr. Northam said the commonwealth is on track to make all adult residents eligible for the vaccine by the May 1 target date set by President Biden.

With regard to efforts for equitable vaccine distribution, Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said Black, Hispanic and other vulnerable populations are taken into consideration when determining where to open mass vaccination sites. Extra staff have been hired to do outreach in the communities.

“We’ve put boots on the ground in all 35 of our health districts and those teams are doing your basic sort of community organizing kind of work — door-to-door, working with faith leaders, community-based organizations and their leaderships — to bring out the people from these vulnerable populations to our vaccination sites,” Dr. Oliver said.

Mr. Northam said that a vaccine sign-up call center has been established for those unable to access a computer.

“[W]e want to do this as expeditiously as we can, but also we also want to do it as equitably as we can,” the governor said.

As of Tuesday, more than 3.1 million shots have been administered and 24.5% of the commonwealth’s more than 8.5 million residents have received at least one dose, according to VDOH.

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday the state plans to open six mass vaccination sites next month. The new shot spots will be located in Montgomery, Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Frederick, Howard and Harford counties, he said during a press conference.

Phase 2B of the vaccine distribution plan, which begins March 30, will expand to include residents age 16 and older with disabilities, he said.

The news came the same day the state entered Phase 2A, under which residents age 60 and older are vaccine-eligible.

Montgomery County officials said Tuesday that a new order from the Maryland Department of Health requires county-run clinics to align with the statewide vaccine eligibility plan, WTOP first reported.

The county, which is the state’s most populous jurisdiction, previously had added eligibility at a slower rate than the rest of Maryland.

More than 2.2 million shots have been administered statewide, as of Tuesday, and more than a quarter of the state’s more than 6 million residents have received at least one dose, according to health officials.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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