While new cases of COVID-19 in the New River Valley are on a downward trajectory, tempers are rising as people become frustrated by waits for vaccines.
“We are going to ask that everyone cheer every vaccine that’s given even if it is not in your arm, because every dose is a shot against this pandemic. Every dose is a dose closer to herd immunity, and that’s what’s going to get us out,” Dr. Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Health District, said during a media briefing Wednesday.
Every part of Virginia is now in Phase 2, which means anyone 16 or older is eligible for COV…
Bissell said all the changes in supplies and distribution by the state and federal governments have been hard.
“I know this only increases confusion, frustration, anxiety and fear that often erupts in both misinformation and anger,” she said.
But yelling at the health district’s staff and volunteers, sending them blistering emails or creating bottlenecks by signing up over and over again in every registration system isn’t helpful.
“We’re all frustrated. We’re all tired. I would like to ask our community to exhibit the collaboration that we are known for in the New River Valley,” she said. “We need to change the conversation from the frenzied search for the vaccine, or a sense of injustice about vaccine delivery, to how we can help each other get through right now.”
Bissell said that 750 people who had appointments at one of the health district’s clinics found shots elsewhere and canceled, which added 400 hours of phone calls to back-fill those spots — time that she said could have been spent delivering vaccine or scheduling future appointments.
“If you have an appointment, you are going to get your vaccine. Keep that appointment and don’t seek another option that might be a week or two earlier. Let us do the appointments as smoothly and efficiently we can,” she said.
The health district’s priority is to reach the oldest residents first because they are at the highest risk of serious illness and death from the coronavirus. Bissell asked people to reach out to their older neighbors, friends and relatives to make sure they are getting registered, and asked for everyone to be patient as health officials work through the priority list.
But she also cautioned against judging younger people who are at the clinics, as they are the health care and emergency workers, teachers and other front-line essential workers who are also a priority.
The supply of vaccine is not expected to change for the next few weeks. But the trajectory of the disease appears to be offering some relief.
Bissell said the bump in cases that followed the holidays appears to have passed as the growth in new cases has slowed. She reminded people that how they behave with mask wearing and distancing could help reduce it further.
The New River and Roanoke valleys are in the state’s Near Southwest region for pandemic metrics. The region this week shows a high, but decreasing, level of new cases.
Weekly metrics released Wednesday by hospitals in the region also show improvement, with 328 COVID-19 inpatients, which is down 17 from the week before and about 100 fewer since the start of the year. There were 79 COVID patients in intensive care units with 51 on ventilators. Another 27 patients were awaiting lab confirmation of the disease.