Health district director reports on COVID situation in New River Valley

Dr. Noelle Bissell’s weekly update on COVID-19, vaccinations and more in the New River Health District:

I’ll keep it short today. Looking at the epi curves, you can see how our new cases overall have come down from their
highs after the holidays. We are watching for a bump from
the Superbowl parties last weekend, but we hope it will be
small and short-lived.
You can see how Montgomery County seems to have
plateaued. This is from the population increase with the
students returning to town and some student gatherings, but
not like the significant spikes in the fall. The main thing to note
is that, especially in Floyd, Giles, and Pulaski, we see the cases
clearly trending downwards.
This has been a very difficult year and we still have a long way
to go. We continue to vaccinate our most vulnerable
populations and essential workers in Phase 1a and 1b. We
need to remind everyone who has had a vaccine to get their
second dose at the same place they received their first dose.
This is important because second doses are allocated to the
first dose location.
There continues to be much greater demand than supply. We
receive about 2,000 doses per week, with about 90,000
people eligible in this phase. We continue to ask for patience
and grace while we work to get people appointments. It will
take weeks to months to get vaccines to everyone who
needs/wants them.
Our local pharmacy and medical provider partners are
working with us to follow the state’s priorities as we protect
the most vulnerable, seek health equity, and support our
critical infrastructure. Most of the teachers in our district will
have their second dose of vaccines by the end of next week,
and most of our healthcare and emergency workers have had
their second doses.
CVS pharmacy is offering some additional vaccines through
the federal program at a few locations in our district.
While the CVS system does not interface with the Virginia system, on Monday night we were able to alert many of our
residents who had preregistered on our system and are older than 65 to sign up for a vaccine through CVS. While some
people had trouble with the CVS connection, a number of residents have reported that they were able to schedule an

As more pharmacies offer the vaccine, we have a request: if
you get an appointment, please don’t accept a duplicate
appointment for a 1st dose, even if it is sooner. Processing
cancellations has put a strain on our system. If you get an
appointment, please honor it. Leave open appointments for
people in our community who are among the most
vulnerable. Let’s cheer every vaccine given.
We do have the new COVID variants in Virginia and, although
they have not yet been identified in our district, we can
expect that they will become the dominant variants in
coming weeks and months. These new variants are
potentially more contagious and require that we continue
vigilance with the use of masks, physical distancing, and hand
We need to remind everyone that we still have significant
levels of community transmission. Our vigilance message
extends to those who have been vaccinated, even with two
shots. Until we get more people vaccinated to approach herd
immunity and have less virus circulating, everyone needs to
wear a mask, watch their distance, and wash their hands.
Even if you have received both doses of vaccine and wait
several weeks, this is not the time for you to mix households
without wearing a mask and keeping your distance. Let’s
keep seeking ways to visit our parents, grandparents, and
grandchildren outdoors with masks on and physically
distanced. There is a light at the end of this long tunnel, and
we need to hang in there together.
Lastly, I’d like to mention that the state is moving to a single
pre-registration and scheduling system. If you have signed up
on the website, you do NOT need to
preregister again on the new state system. We will be
merging our existing signups into the state system. In order
to do this, our pre-registration system will be down this weekend. We will post updates as they are available on the
site. Please know that no one across the state will be able to pre-register during this time.
It is still winter, and with that comes the potential for snow and ice. Weather-related vaccine clinic schedule changes
will be sent in email and phone messages. Please keep up to date with our vaccine and pandemic information of
—Dr. Noelle Bissell, Director, New River Public Health District.