HENRICO COUNTY ENTERS MEDIUM CDC COVID-19 COMMUNITY LEVEL

RICHMOND, VA- After weeks of having low COVID-19 community level, the CDC reported Henrico County as having moved to the medium COVID-19 community level. Although Richmond City is still reported as having low COVID-19 community level, COVID-19 cases are increasing within the city and it is likely to enter medium COVID-19 community level in the coming weeks. Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) recommends everyone in the region take precautions.

The CDC’s COVID-19 community level is a tool to help communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.

Based on CDC guidance for individuals who live in an area with medium COVID-19 community level, RHHD recommends everyone who lives, works, or spends time in Henrico County to stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, improve ventilation in indoor spaces, and follow CDC recommendations for isolation or quarantine if sick or exposed. Because increasing case counts are observed across the entire region, RHHD recommends Richmond residents also take precautions. Individuals who are immunocompromised, at high risk for severe illness, or who spend time with high risk individuals should consider wearing a mask around others.

RHHD also continues to recommend everyone keep several at-home tests in their home in case it’s needed. Individuals can request free tests at covidtests.gov, purchase a test at a pharmacy and submit a claim to their insurance, or pick up a free COVID-19 home test at some Richmond Public Library locations (Broad Rock, East End, Ginter Park, Main Library, and North Ave). RHHD is also increasing the availability of free COVID-19 PCR test events to meet a potential increased demand; visit rchd.com for more information on testing.

“We understand that moving into a medium level may leave folks feeling frustrated or tired,” says Dr. Melissa Viray, Acting Director of RHHD. “However, this is what we’ve been preparing for. We have an opportunity to implement CDC guidance to minimize the worst impacts of a COVID surge while still functioning as a society. If we stay up to date on COVID vaccinations and implement more prevention measures during times of increased transmission, we can protect our most vulnerable and maintain healthcare’s capacity to care for us… all while still being able to maintain some activities in person.”

About Richmond and Henrico Health Districts: RHHD are sister public health agencies serving Richmond’s and Henrico’s communities. Our mission is to expose and address the root causes of health disparities, protect health by preventing the spread of disease, and build health equity by partnering with communities and working collaboratively across sectors.

RHHD TO WELCOME NEW HEALTH DIRECTOR

RICHMOND, VA- After a three month vacancy, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) will soon have a new Health Director. Dr. Elaine Perry will join RHHD as Director on July 10, 2022. Dr. Melissa Viray, who has been serving as Acting Director of RHHD during the interim, will remain with RHHD as Deputy Director following Dr. Perry’s arrival.

Dr. Elaine Perry is a board-certified preventive medicine physician and comes to RHHD with a wealth of local, state, and federal public health experience with VDH, the US Navy, and the pharmaceutical industry. Most recently, Dr. Perry served as Interim Health Director in VDH’s Central Shenandoah Health District. She has also worked as a physician for Loudon County Health District and as the director of Peninsula Health District. During her time at Peninsula Health District, she was instrumental in starting the Coalition for Obesity Prevention-Peninsula and served as president of the Board of Directors of Access Partnership, a newly-formed non-profit organization working on access to health care for the Hampton Roads region. Beyond her work with VDH, Dr. Perry served in the US Navy as the Senior Medical Officer at two Navy Medical Clinics. She also worked in the pharmaceutical industry at Merck for over 12 years and has served as a consultant on vaccine safety with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Dr. Perry grew up in upstate New York and attended Penn State, graduating with a BS in Biology and Honors in Microbiology. She attended Dartmouth and Brown Medical Schools, graduating with academic distinction, before completing a Pediatrics internship at the Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth. She completed a residency in Preventive Medicine and her master’s degree in Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“Richmond City and Henrico County are diverse communities with rich histories and culture and a robust network of community organizations… still, the communities experience complex health inequities,” says Dr. Elaine Perry. “I’m looking forward to joining RHHD to continue the work towards eliminating disparities and supporting the health of all residents. I am thankful to work with such dynamic teams and am grateful to Dr. Viray for her leadership and warm welcome.”

After serving as the acting director since February, Dr. Melissa Viray is returning to her position as Deputy Director of RHHD where she’ll continue to grow the data and epidemiology infrastructure for both infectious and noninfectious diseases at RHHD, as well as provide  ongoing support to RHHD’s clinical teams. Before starting her role at RHHD in 2017, Dr. Viray served as the Deputy State Epidemiologist for the Hawaii Department of Health. She has also previously worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer and as a medical epidemiologist. Dr. Viray completed her adult infectious diseases fellowship at Washington University in Saint Louis, her internal medicine residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, her medical education at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and her undergraduate education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“I am feeling energized and excited knowing that Dr. Elaine Perry will be joining us at RHHD in a couple of months,” says Dr. Melissa Viray. “I’m eager to partner with her and the rest of our staff to build health equity across our communities… I’m also looking forward to being able to devote more of my time and attention to building up our epidemiology and data programs that will be critical to informing and supporting our work in addressing Richmond and Henrico’s pressing public health issues.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic exemplified how critical the health districts are to the health, safety, and well-being of Henrico’s residents,” says John Vithoulkas, Henrico County Manager. “We have seen exceptional leadership across RHHD and believe Dr. Perry will be an incredible asset in maintaining our health districts’ ability to respond to public health crises like COVID-19 and the opioid epidemic.”

“On behalf of the residents of Richmond, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Melissa Viray for serving as the Acting Director for the Richmond Henrico Health District following the departure of Dr. Danny Avula in February of this year,” said Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney. “ Dr. Viray and the experienced Richmond Henrico Health District team are healthcare heroes who have worked tirelessly to keep Richmonders safe and informed throughout the pandemic, while supporting other key public health initiatives in the region. We look forward to working with Dr. Perry to maintain the same high standards and continuum of care for our city and region, and wish her the best in her new role with VDH.”

About Richmond and Henrico Health Districts: RHHD are sister public health agencies serving Richmond’s and Henrico’s communities. Our mission is to expose and address the root causes of health disparities, protect health by preventing the spread of disease, and build health equity by partnering with communities and working collaboratively across sectors.

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RHHD AND PARTNERS ANNOUNCE SPIKE ALERT TO PREVENT OPIOID OVERDOSES

RICHMOND, VA- Local city and county agencies in the greater Richmond area have partnered together to start Metro Richmond Spike Alert, a system that notifies the general public when spikes in opioid overdoses occur. A spike in overdoses may signify the presence of illegal or diverted prescription drugs in the community that are more potent or more likely to cause an overdose. Informing individuals that may use opioids and their loved ones of a recent spike may prevent injury and death.

Representatives from each locality monitor overdose rates in their area. When a spike is observed, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) will issue an alert to individuals who sign up by email and to the broader community via social media. Individuals who are interested in receiving spike alerts should sign up for the email listserv at rhhd.gov/spikealert or follow the health districts on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

“In addition to providing notification of a spike, the spike alert offers life saving educational information,” explains Lauren Herschler, Opioid Outreach Coordinator at Chesterfield County Mental Health Support Services. “We want to make sure folks are informed on overdose spikes in the region, what makes a person more vulnerable to overdose, signs of an overdose, how to respond, and where to access free naloxone.”

“This program puts data to use and allows us to help our communities stay safer from overdoses,” says Wayne Harbour, Chief Operating Officer at Richmond Ambulance Authority.  “We’re glad to help collect and analyze this data and to do so in collaboration with our neighboring communities… this is an issue that transcends borders.”

“Many families have experienced tragedy from an opioid overdose that could have been prevented,” explains Captain Michael Roth, EMS Supervisor at Henrico County Division of Fire. “Spike alerts provide life saving information that can help prevent these immeasurable losses.”

The importance of this program is preceded by recent increases in overdoses; there were over 430 overdose deaths in 2020 across Richmond City and Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover counties. This represents a 40% increase from 2019.

“Opioid overdoses is one of the leading public health crises our communities are experiencing,” says Dr. Melissa Viray, Acting Director at RHHD. “Beyond notification so that individuals can be informed and take precautions, we’re hopeful that this will generally bring more awareness of the opioid epidemic.”

To learn more about opioid overdose prevention, visit rhhd.gov/spikealert.

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RHHD OPENS APPLICATIONS FOR COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE

RICHMOND, VA- Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) invite Richmond residents with personal or professional experience with systemic racism and the root causes of health disparities in Richmond to apply to the Health Equity Fund Community Advisory Committee (HEF CAC). The HEF CAC will assist RHHD in identifying innovative, community-led projects that address health disparities to fund. This is a paid opportunity.

Last Fall, Mayor Levar Stoney proposed and Richmond City Council voted to start the Health Equity Fund with an initial investment of $5 million from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. RHHD provides administrative oversight for all aspects of fund stewardship, award allocation, and grant management. Priority areas include COVID-19, mental or behavioral health, food access, substance use, healthcare access, maternal or infant health, in addition to other areas where data indicates a disparity in outcomes for Richmond populations.

“We really want to incorporate personal experience into the decision making… whether that’s having had a severe COVID-19 illness in the family, difficulties affording food for your household, experiencing a substance use issue, or other health challenges,” explains Hannah Quigley, Food Access Specialist at RHHD. “The lived experience is essential to helping us determine how to address the public health issues our communities face.”

Anyone ages 18+ is welcome to complete the online application available at rhhd.gov/hef by May 20th, 2022. Accepted individuals are expected to spend about 15-20 hours total between May and the end of 2022 through a combination of meetings and individual work completed at home. Individuals will be compensated for their time.

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RHHD OPENS APPLICATIONS FOR COMMUNITY ADVISORY COMMITTEE

RICHMOND, VA- Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) invite Richmond residents with personal or professional experience with systemic racism and the root causes of health disparities in Richmond to apply to the Health Equity Fund Community Advisory Committee (HEF CAC). The HEF CAC will assist RHHD in identifying innovative, community-led projects that address health disparities to fund. This is a paid opportunity.

Last Fall, Mayor Levar Stoney proposed and Richmond City Council voted to start the Health Equity Fund with an initial investment of $5 million from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. RHHD provides administrative oversight for all aspects of fund stewardship, award allocation, and grant management. Priority areas include COVID-19, mental or behavioral health, food access, substance use, healthcare access, maternal or infant health, in addition to other areas where data indicates a disparity in outcomes for Richmond populations.

“We really want to incorporate personal experience into the decision making… whether that’s having had a severe COVID-19 illness in the family, difficulties affording food for your household, experiencing a substance use issue, or other health challenges,” explains Hannah Quigley, Food Access Specialist at RHHD. “The lived experience is essential to helping us determine how to address the public health issues our communities face.”

Anyone ages 18+ is welcome to complete the online application available at rhhd.gov/hef by May 20th, 2022. Accepted individuals are expected to spend about 15-20 hours total between May and the end of 2022 through a combination of meetings and individual work completed at home. Individuals will be compensated for their time. 

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HENRICO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS TO HONOR RICHMOND AND HENRICO HEALTH DISTRICTS

HENRICO, VA- In honor of last week’s National Public Health Week and in recognition of Richmond and Henrico Health District’s (RHHD) pandemic response, Henrico County’s Board of Supervisors (BoS) is issuing a proclamation today honoring RHHD’s public health staff. Dr. Melissa Viray will join tonight’s BoS meeting to share some words of gratitude following the proclamation.

“The staff at RHHD have been incredibly collaborative, innovative, and dedicated to the health and safety of Henrico residents,” explained Mrs. Patricia O’Bannon, Supervisor and Chair of BoS. “From working with our County Emergency Management team to establish the Richmond Raceway as a gold star model for mass vaccination to partnering with faith communities to offer community-based vaccination, testing, and education… RHHD has worked quickly and efficiently to bring resources to Henrico County.”

“I’m so proud of our teams at RHHD,” said Dr. Melissa Viray, Acting Director of RHHD. “They have demonstrated commitment to their communities; expertise in their ability to develop new programs, systems, and policies; and a high level of resiliency to be able to do it all during a challenging and evolving time.”

The public meeting is tonight, April 12, 2022 at 7:00pm and will be streamed live on the Henrico County webpage.

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SECOND BOOSTER DOSES NOW AVAILABLE THROUGH RHHD

APRIL 1, 2022- Following the recent FDA authorization of second boostersCDC revised guidelines, and announcement from VDH that second boosters are available for Virginians, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) opens all clinics, including the Doses on Demand in-home vaccination program, to eligible individuals seeking second boosters.

According to VDH, the following individuals are now eligible to receive a second booster:

  • Adults aged 50 years and older may choose to receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months after the first booster dose.

  • Adults aged 18–49 years who received Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine as both their primary series dose and booster dose may receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months after the first Johnson & Johnson/Janssen booster dose.

  • People aged 12 years and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised may choose to receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months after the first booster dose.

Many in our communities will receive their second boosters through pharmacies and private providers. Any eligible individual can also now receive their second booster by making an appointment, walking in at a clinic, or scheduling an in-home vaccination through Doses on Demand; visit vax.rchd.com or call 804-205-3501 to learn more about these options. Upcoming walk-in clinics are listed below.

  • April 1, 2022 (Fr) from 9am-11am at Southwood Pool House (Clarkson Rd. and Southwood Parkway)

  • April 1, 2022 (Fri) from 1pm-2:45pm, Fairfield Resource Center (2506 Phaup St, Richmond, VA 23223)

STATEMENT FROM VIRGINIA STATE VACCINATION COORDINATOR CHRISTY GRAY ON RECOMMENDATION OF SECOND COVID-19 BOOSTER DOSE FOR PERSONS 50 YEARS AND OLDER, IMMUNOCOMPROMISED INDIVIDUALS AND JOHNSON & JOHNSON RECIPIENTS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 30, 2022
MEDIA CONTACT, Logan Anderson, VDH PIO
logan.anderson@vdh.virginia.gov

Statement from Virginia State Vaccination Coordinator Christy Gray on the Recommendation of Second COVID-19 Booster Dose for Persons 50 Years and Older, Immunocompromised Individuals and Johnson & Johnson Recipients

(RICHMOND, Va.) — The Virginia Department of Health is announcing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance for COVID-19 vaccination. Second booster doses may now be provided to certain populations in the Commonwealth.

    • Adults aged 50 years and older may choose to receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months after the first booster dose.
    • Adults aged 18–49 years who received Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine as both their primary series dose and booster dose may receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months after the first Johnson & Johnson/Janssen booster dose.
    • People aged 12 years and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised may choose to receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months after the first booster dose.

Approximately 1 million Virginians are now eligible for a second booster, according to VDH, and now have access should they wish to receive one. Virginians are encouraged to consult with their healthcare provider regarding their own risk assessment to decide whether or not to receive a second booster.

The following is a statement from Virginia’s State Vaccination Coordinator and Director of the Virginia Department of Health’s Division of Immunization Christy Gray, M.P.H:

“VDH welcomes CDC’s updated guidance. This is not a blanket recommendation for everyone. Members of the general population who are staying up-to-date on their vaccine remain well protected from severe disease without a second booster. We want to provide the public with information so they can consult with their healthcare provider to make an informed choice to address their own level of personal risk. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen that the older you are or if you’re moderately or severely immunocompromised, the more you are at risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death if you contract COVID-19. There is ample supply of vaccine available in the state to ensure everyone eligible for a second booster will be able to get one.”

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Those who are unvaccinated and without a booster remain at the highest risk of severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19. This population remains VDH’s top priority. Everyone 5 years or older is eligible to be vaccinated. To find free vaccination opportunities near you, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages.

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RHHD OFFERS AT-HOME COVID-19 VACCINES TO ANYONE THROUGH DOSES ON DEMAND

RICHMOND, VA- Starting today, March 23, 2022, any Richmond or Henrico resident who is interested in a free COVID-19 vaccine can now call the Richmond and Henrico Health District (RHHD) hotline to schedule a time for nurses to come to your home to give you a COVID-19 vaccine. The program, called Doses on Demand, is available for adult and child primary series and booster doses and will offer all vaccine types.

“We previously offered this program for folks who were very ill, elderly, or who had extreme difficulty leaving their house,” explains Joanna Cirillo, Public Health Nurse Supervisor. “But now, with lower demand, we’re able to offer more individualized services to everyone and make it as easy as possible for folks to get a vaccine… we hope this helps folks get vaccinated and boosted who might have challenges like transportation, child care, etc.”

Individuals who are interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine from Doses on Demand can call 804-205-3501 to schedule an appointment with an RHHD representative. The program is available to everyone who lives in Richmond and Henrico, is free, and does not require health insurance.

Doses on Demand appointments are typically offered about two weeks out from when an individual calls, but there are many same-day walk-in COVID-19 vaccine clinics available in our community. To find a walk-in clinic or make an appointment, visit vax.rchd.com or call 804-205-3501.

RICHMOND CITY COUNCIL TO HONOR RICHMOND AND HENRICO HEALTH DISTRICTS

RICHMOND, VA- One week ahead of National Public Health Week, Richmond’s city council is recognizing Richmond and Henrico Health Districts’ (RHHD) efforts to protect the public health of Richmond’s citizens, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The council will share words during tonight’s city council meeting with public health workers, including clinical, epidemiological, outreach, and administrative staff.

“The past couple of years have been tough for public health workers,” explains Dr. Melissa Viray, Acting Director of Richmond and Henrico Health Districts. “Despite this, I’ve been humbled and amazed by the level of dedication and expertise our staff has demonstrated… I am so grateful that our elected officials are taking the time to recognize the team.”

“Throughout the pandemic, we have seen RHHD’s public health workers rise to the occasion offering COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, community resources, and education,” explains Dr. Cynthia Newbille, Richmond City Council President. “The council is honored to recognize this talented, committed, and caring group of individuals.”

The public meeting is open to anyone who wishes to attend and will take place tonight, March 28, 2022 in city council chambers at 6:00pm.

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