VIRGINIA — Virginia's top health official plans to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for the state's residents when a vaccine becomes available to the public. Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver told a Richmond news station Friday that as long as he is still the state's health commissioner, he intends to mandate the coronavirus vaccine.
Oliver emphasized that the state would only launch a mass vaccination campaign as long as the vaccine has been proven to be safe.
“It is killing people now. We don’t have a treatment for it and if we develop a vaccine that can prevent it from spreading in the community, we will save hundreds and hundreds of lives,” Oliver told 8News.
Many companies around the world are currently working on developing a coronavirus vaccine. Experts are expecting a vaccine to be available for the public in early 2021.
On Saturday, the Virginia Department of Health reported the number of new cases of the disease across the state increased by more than 1,200, while the number of hospitalizations of people with the coronavirus fell to its lowest number in more than a month.
The VDH reported 1,212 additional coronavirus cases Saturday and seven new deaths from the disease. The cumulative total of cases in Virginia is 112,072, and deaths stand at 2,443. There have been 9,139 coronavirus hospitalizations to date.
Across the state, 1,154 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, down from 1,233 hospitalizations reported Friday. The number of hospitalizations is at the lowest point since July 16 when 1,134 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus. Since the start of the pandemic, the highest number of hospitalizations was May 8 when 1,625 people were hospitalized.
The Virginia General Assembly is considering a bill during its special session that would allow people with religious opposition to opt out of a vaccination mandate. The bill is still in a committee in the House of Delegates.
Oliver told 8News that he strongly opposes the bill. While he does not know what would happen to people who do not get vaccinated, Oliver told the news station that he expects most people will respond to the mandate by getting the vaccine.
A new Marist poll shows 35 percent of adults across the nation would not get a COVID-19 vaccination.
According to Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association data, 14,353 COVID-19 patients have been discharged from hospitals statewide. The COVID-19 hospitalizations include 124 on ventilators and 254 in the intensive care units. Ventilator use among all hospital patients dropped from 20 percent Friday to 19 percent Saturday, and ICU occupancy remained steady at 80 percent from Friday to Saturday.
One hospital is reporting difficulty obtaining personal protective equipment in the next 72 hours, according to the association.
As of Saturday, 1,453,671 tests have been completed in Virginia, up 16,393 from Friday. The latest average of PCR tests stood at 6.5 percent on Aug. 18.
Here are the latest case updates for our coverage areas between Friday and Saturday:
Alexandria: 3,238 cases, 292 hospitalizations, 61 deaths; increase of 35 cases and four hospitalizations.
Arlington County: 3,357 cases, 449 hospitalizations, 137 deaths; increase of 23 cases and one hospitalization.
Fairfax County: 17,531 cases, 2,006 hospitalizations, 539 deaths; increase of 112 cases and one hospitalization.
Fairfax City: 106 cases, 13 hospitalizations, seven deaths; no changes.
Falls Church: 64 cases, 10 hospitalizations, seven deaths; no changes.
Loudoun County: 5,684 cases, 365 hospitalizations, 115 deaths; increase of 37 cases and one hospitalization.
Manassas: 1,747 cases, 125 hospitalizations, 23 deaths; increase of seven cases.
Manassas Park: 551 cases, 52 hospitalizations, seven deaths; increase of two cases.
Prince William County: 10,278 cases, 833 hospitalizations, 182 deaths; increase of 91 cases, two hospitalizations and two deaths.
Fredericksburg: 447 cases, 47 hospitalizations, four deaths; increase of seven cases.
Spotsylvania County: 1,691 cases, 107 hospitalizations, 36 deaths; increase of 18 cases, one hospitalization and one death.
Stafford County: 1,579 cases, 132 hospitalizations, 10 deaths; increase of nine cases and two hospitalizations.