Updates from Northam’s briefing:

Northam calls on schools to offer some in-person learning by March 15

Gov. Northam says every school division in Virginia should make at least some in-person schooling available by March 15, citing CDC guidance and research that shows coronavirus spread is rare in schools when proper safety measures are in place.

Most schools across the commonwealth have offered some form of in-person learning for a while now, but about 40 districts, including several in Hampton Roads, have been all-virtual.

Virginia Beach and Chesapeake have already begun a return to in person learning. Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News and Hampton are all currently on-line only.
We reached out to each of them after the Governors announcement.

A spokeswoman for Newport News responded that, “plans are underway”.
We’re told the School Board of the City of Portsmouth will discuss the Governor’s expectations at its next Board Meeting on Feb. 18. A spokesperson for Suffolk said, “Our plans are still developing and will be discussed at our next school board meeting to be held on Feb. 11.”.

Teachers are in the process of getting vaccinated and Northam emphasized how teachers have been prioritized for vaccines as part of phase 1b.

Coronavirus metrics have decreased recently statewide, but still remain higher than most of the pandemic. Some teachers however are still concerned about their health and insist schools should remain closed.

Northam also emphasized summer schooling will not be mandatory, but schools should prioritize it as an option. Northam says federal dollars are available to help and teachers will be compensated beyond their current salaries.

“This could include extensive summer classes, remediation, additional instructional time, or even year-round schooling. You have access to federal funds to pay for this, and the Commonwealth stands ready to ensure that you have the resources necessary to address the loss of learning many students have experienced,” Northam said in a letter to superintendents.

More highlights from Northam’s briefing:

  • Northam says the South African variant of the coronavirus has been identified in Virginia for the first time. At least four versions of the U.K. variant have also been identified.
  • A new state call center is being set up to answer questions and register people for vaccine appointments. 750 people are being trained to help starting tomorrow and the call center will be available starting next week.
  • CVS pharmacies will start administering COVID-19 vaccines in Virginia starting next week, including in Hampton Roads. More are coming through other chains such as Kroger.

Previous coverage

Meanwhile vaccine administration has increased, but Virginia’s vaccine coordinator, Dr. Danny Avula, told 10 On Your Side’s Marielena Balouris more supply will be needed to really ramp up doses given out.

Virginia has been reporting as many as 50,000 doses per day, but some of that reporting is also due to data input catching up.

“Right now, we’re getting 120,000 new doses per week coming into the state, and until we get to 350,000 doses a week, we’re not going to be able to reasonably sustain the 50,000-dose-a-day pace,” said Avula. “If we continue to have a weekly distribution that’s around 120,000 doses, it’s going to be a while,” Avula said. “I would say two to three months before we work through 1b.”

WAVY will carry the livestream here online and on Facebook at 11 a.m.

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