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Virginia’s vaccine allocation increased by 23%

On Feb. 5 the General Assembly reached crossover, the traditional midpoint of the legislative session. At crossover, the House and Senate must complete work on their own legislation so that it may “cross over” to the other body for consideration.

We now know that the General Assembly will be in session longer than anticipated as Gov. Ralph Northam has called a special session to start on Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Monday, Feb. 8, the House is scheduled to adjourn Sine Die for the 2021 Session. I will continue to keep you updated as new developments occur.

Gov. Northam also recently made an announcement relating to our progress on vaccinations and getting all our children back in school. He has directed every school system to have some form of in-person learning by March 15. To see his entire press conference, please visit https://www.governor.virginia.gov/newsroom/all-releases/2021/ february/headline-892131-en.html.

With the extension of session, the General Assembly’s focus must now turn to addressing the damaging effects caused by extended remote learning and making sure no child falls behind permanently.

Every single school division needs to return to in-person classroom learning, for those who want it, as quickly as possible, but we also need to recognize that going back to the classroom is simply not enough. We need a plan to attack the learning loss and get every child in Virginia back on track, regardless of zip code or background. And we need to reward the teachers who go above and beyond to make it happen.

Last week, the Senate passed Senate Bill 1303 (SB 1303). Sponsored by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico), the bill will require all public school divisions in Virginia to “make in-person learning available to all students by choice of the student’s parent or guardian.” This is an important step to ensure that all of our children have the opportunity to get back into the classroom and curb the already dangerous learning loss many are experiencing.

SB 1303 passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote, and the bill has made its way to the House and was referred to the Committee on Education.

Gov. Northam has extended Executive Order 72 through Feb. 28, which maintains the 10-person limit on social gatherings, the requirement to wear masks in public places, guidelines for businesses and other provisions.

Regarding the current state of vaccinations in Virginia, I want to share the very latest information I have available.

The federal government has increased Virginia’s allocation of vaccine by approximately 23%, from 105,000 to 129,000 new first doses per week. While this is good news, the increase for each of Virginia’s 35 health districts is still relatively small. All states rely on the federal government to distribute vaccine doses by population, and the pace of incoming doses is not expected to increase again until March.

As part of a federal retail pharmacy program, 36 CVS Pharmacy locations in Virginia will soon receive a total of 26,000 first doses beyond Virginia’s normal allocation. The commonwealth is working with CVS to identify locations and registration processes that will help promote equitable distribution. The number of weekly doses and retail locations as part of this program are expected to increase in the coming weeks. Charlottesville and Lynchburg are included and will be vaccinating as early as Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Walmart also announced that it will start vaccinating people who are in Phase 1a or 1b at certain stores in Virginia, including the Appomattox and Ruckersville locations.

People can sign up at CVS. com or walmart.com/COVIDvaccine, but appointments cannot be made until the vaccine doses arrive at stores.

All local health districts currently have clear information on their websites about vaccine eligibility and how eligible individuals can pre-register online or by phone. Local health districts are starting to test a new statewide pre-registration system that will launch very soon to improve the consistency of this process and allow individuals to confirm their pre-registration status at any time.

DEL. C. MATTHEW FARISS represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@ house.virginia.gov.