NORFOLK, Va. - FEMA will be setting up a mass vaccination clinic in Portsmouth next week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced during a press conference on Tuesday.
It's the next step in Virginia's vaccine rollout, and more details still need to be worked out. Currently, Virginia is vaccinating 51,000 people per day on average, and about 18% of the population has now been vaccinated.
"We're now in what we hope is the final phase of this pandemic," said Northam. "Our cases are going down and our vaccinations are going up."
If people are waiting for a vaccine appointment, Northam said people should answer their phones, as it could be the health department calling to help set up an appointment. "It is important that you answer your phone. Our call centers and local health districts are telling us a lot of people aren't," he said.
Progress is being made in getting kids back in the classroom. Northam gave all school divisions a deadline of March 15 to come up with plans to get kids back in the classroom. He says all school divisions have met that goal. "I'm glad our children are getting back into the classroom because that is where they need to be," he said.
In addition, two-thirds of school staff have now been vaccinated, and 40% are fully vaccinated. "The vaccines are a light at the end of a long tunnel, and that light gets brighter every day," said Northam.
While there is good news, Northam did not announce any easing of restrictions on Tuesday. Some in the wedding industry are hoping the governor will allow them to host more people than the current 25-person limit for outdoor gatherings, but Northam said not yet. "If you think about what happens, people are in close proximity. They're hugging folks. They're glad to see people. There's eating. There's dancing. There's singing - all things we know spread the virus," he said.
He's telling people to "hang in there" for now. "What we hope is if these trends continue, we'll be able to ease or lift some of these measures we have put in place," he said.