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Virginia readies to rollout a half-million COVID-19 vaccine doses

Like most other states in the country Virginia is seeing rises in COVID cases and hospitalizations, and with the vaccines approval expected soon, the state is set to receive nearly a half-million doses by the end of December. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who is also a physician, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Like most other states in the country, Virginia is seeing a rise in COVID cases and hospitalizations. And with the vaccine's approval expected soon, the state is set to receive nearly half-a-million doses by the end of this month.

    Virginia's Governor Ralph Northam is also a physician. And he joins me now.

    Governor Northam, thank you very much for being with us again.

    So, tell us, how is Virginia doing with regard to infections, hospitalizations, positivity rate?

  • Governor Ralph Northam:

    Judy, thanks so much for having me.

    We are seeing upward trends of our number, our positivity rate, which we follow closely. It's now over 10 percent. There are some areas of Virginia where it's even higher than that, especially out in our southwest.

    We took some aggressive actions prior to Thanksgiving to mitigate these numbers. Obviously, we have the Thanksgiving surge that we are concerned about. We are probably seeing some of that beginning now. And we're having further discussions, Judy, on whether we should take further measures to mitigate these numbers. So, a lot of that is in discussion.

    But we're very concerned, especially our hospital capacities through Virginia. For the most part, they are doing well, but, certainly, in the southwest, we are seeing decreased number of beds, and also our staff, Judy. And that's across Virginia.

    Our staff has been doing just a wonderful job now for 10 months, but they're very tired. They're fatigued. And we need to take that into consideration and make sure that we protect them. And we continue to encourage Virginians — and, for the most part, they have been doing a good job to follow the guidelines of wearing the facial protection, washing our hands, not gathering in large groups.

    So, those are the things that we're doing. We're anxiously awaiting, like all governors, like all states in Virginia, the vaccination. Two companies, as you know, are very close to receiving approval from the FDA.

    We have been told that we're going to have 480,000 doses, which will cover our front-line health care responders and providers and also our long-term care facilities, both the residents and the staff.

    So, we're excited about that, but we know there's going to be a couple of months at least where we need to keep these numbers down and need to keep that curb flat.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, you're saying the people who will be first in line for the vaccine once you get it will be your front-line health care workers, and then individuals who live in long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and so forth.

    But what about beyond that? I mean, when you look at essential workers, people who are over 65 years old, I mean, that's a lot of people. How will you make decisions about who gets the vaccine first?

  • Gov. Ralph Northam:

    Yes, it's no doubt going to be supply-dependent, Judy.

    And we're looking at teachers. We want our children to be back in school safely and responsibly, our food preparers. Those individuals, as you said, that can't work virtually from home, we really have got to make them a top priority. So, we have three phases. And we're following the guidelines of the CDC.

    But we really want to get to the first phase and then, as the supply will allow, get to these other individuals as well. And we are confident, that, if the supply is there — I mean, we have been preparing for this for months now. And, certainly, as a physician, I have experience doing this in the past, working with vaccinations.

    And so we're confident that, by early to mid summer, all Virginians will have access to the vaccination, which is really encouraging news. There's finally some light at the end of this long, dark tunnel, and we're all really looking forward to that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Governor, the other thing I do want to ask you about is legislation you signed several weeks ago modeled around so-called Breonna's Law, banning no-knock search warrants, of course, after the case of Breonna Taylor, the Louisville Kentucky young woman who was killed by police in her own home.

    This makes Virginia the third state to pass this law. How do you see it changing law enforcement in your state?

  • Gov. Ralph Northam:

    You know, this was a somber day for Virginia, but it was a necessary day. And what a tragic loss of Breonna Taylor. And her family was with us today in Virginia, and just had a — I had the opportunity to sit and really hear their story.

    As you mentioned, we're the third state had to have a no-knock warrant law. We're actually the first state to sign into law in response to her death. So, this is important. It's time that we as a society do more than just talk about these tragedies. And it's time to take action.

    And that's what we chose to do. I called the General Assembly back into special session in September. And they took up a lot of measures with police reform, such as decertification, co-responding when there's mental illness, better training for police officers.

    And, as I made the point today, this is not about being anti-police. It's about being pro-people. We need to make sure that we treat people civilly across our commonwealth. And so, today, to be able to sign Breonna's Law into law was a — it's just a — was a good step for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

    And I would hope that other states follow suit.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And finally, Governor, law enforcement organizations in Virginia, are they accepting this? Are they — this and your other moves to reform policing?

  • Gov. Ralph Northam:

    No, we have had a listening tour in Virginia, Judy.

    And I like to say, the more I learn, the more I can do. And the police forces were at the table, as well as a lot of community activists, a lot of the protesters that we heard from, especially after the tragedy in Minneapolis. So we all worked on this together.

    And they couldn't have been more cooperative. And I think they agree that we needed to make changes. And this was certainly one of them.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia.

    Governor, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

  • Gov. Ralph Northam:

    Thank you so much for having me, Judy.

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