FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 10, 2021
Media Contact: Maria Reppas, Director of Communications, Maria.Reppas@vdh.virginia.gov
Statement from State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) applauds President Biden’s initiatives, announced September 9, to meet the growing challenge of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant, which is now powering a surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the United States and in Virginia. With the U.S. averaging close to 150,000 cases and about 1,500 deaths per day, primarily attributable to the Delta variant, it is imperative we do all we can to beat back this surge.
Many Virginia employers from across the economic spectrum have already instituted one of the planks of the president’s response to the Delta surge: vaccination requirements for their employees. Leading the way has been the Commonwealth of Virginia following Governor Ralph Northam’s directive for all 120,000 state employees to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing for infection. The governor has called on local governments and other governmental entities to follow the Commonwealth’s lead, emphasizing that vaccination is the only sure way out of this pandemic and the only sure way to return to pre-pandemic normality. President Biden’s directive to employers with 100 or more employees to require their employees to be vaccinated will build more momentum for COVID-19 vaccination in the private sector. VDH echoes that call.
VDH has also taken the following steps in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response:
- Greatly expanded testing and screening opportunities for the general public, scheduling more than 170 Community Testing Events across the state in the month of September. Virginians in need of COVID-19 testing may call (877) VAX-IN-VA or (877) 829-4682, Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., for information about testing opportunities near them.
- Developed the Virginia School Screening Testing for Assurance (ViSSTA) program in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Education to provide free testing to K-12 schools, public and private, in the Commonwealth in an effort to ensure the learning environment is as safe as possible for students, teachers and staff. With pilot programs in place now, we anticipate the full program to go live later in October.
- Currently, more than 30 hospitals and medical centers throughout the Commonwealth have obtained monoclonal antibodies from the federal government for COVID-19 use. Over the last two months, VDH has launched a statewide educational and awareness campaign about monoclonal antibodies directed to physicians and healthcare providers. This effort will continue, and information about these medications are being developed for distribution to the public.