Virtual Vaccine Town Hall Thursday

Health Officials To Answer Area Residents’ Questions

A Vaccinate Virginia virtual town hall event will take place Thursday, April 29, to address Rockbridge area residents’ questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

The virtual event will be hosted by Lexington Mayor Frank Friedman and will include panelists from Rockbridge County Fire-Rescue, Rockbridge Area Health Center, Central Shenandoah Health District, Virginia Department of Health and Carilion Clinic.

“The town hall is providing a space for people who feel like they want to ask questions without judgment,” Central Shenandoah Health District public information officer Laura Lee Wight said Tuesday.

Participating representatives in the town hall will answer questions they get every day, Wight said, as there are folks that have concerns or are hesitant about getting the COVID vaccine.

The virtual town hall will start at 6:30 p.m. Questions should be directed by phone to 462-3700 or emailed to jhostetter@ A livestream of the event will take place on the Lexington government Facebook page at

On The J&J Vaccine

Among the topics that will be discussed at Thursday’s town hall is the status of the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which had been paused by the CDC and Food and Drug Administration for further investigation into cases of severe reactions after injection.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices determined there were a total of 15 cases of adverse reactions called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS.

According to Wight, the reaction individuals experienced was a rare type of blood clot paired with low levels of platelets in the blood. There were 15 cases of TTS among the about 7.98 million who had the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. After looking at the data, the CDC and FDA have now lifted the pause and ordered vaccination with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine to resume.

“We are confident the vaccine is safe and effective against COVID-19,” Wight said. “The known and potential benefits [of Johnson and Johnson] outweigh the risks. The chances of experiencing TTS are very low compared to the chances of being hospitalized due to COVID-19.”

Restrictions Relaxed

Due to vaccination numbers rising across Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam last week announced the expansion of capacities for social gatherings and public venues.

“It’s good news that half of all adults in Virginia have gotten a shot so far,” Northam said in a statement. “Vaccination numbers are up, and our COVID-19 case numbers are substantially lower than they were earlier this year. So, we have been able to begin easing some mitigation measures. We took a few more targeted steps this week, and we will do more next month.

“I’m optimistic that we will be able to take more steps in June. We are working to significantly ramp up vaccinations even further and aim to reduce capacity limits in June, hopefully all the way. But some things need to continue — we all need to keep wearing masks, social distancing, and encouraging each other to get a shot. It’s how we take care of one another.”

According to the new mandate, set to go into effect May 15, the maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase to 100 people for indoor settings and 250 people for outdoor settings. Social gatherings are currently limited to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

Indoor entertainment and public amusement venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity or 1,000 people, up from 30 percent capacity or 500 people. Outdoor venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity — up from 30 percent —with no specific cap on the number of attendees.

The number of spectators allowed at indoor recreational sporting events will increase from 100 to 250 spectators or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less. Outdoor recreational sporting events will increase from 500 to 1,000 people or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less.

Restaurants will return to selling alcohol after midnight, and dining room closures will no longer be required between midnight and 5 a.m.

Locally Speaking

Local vaccination efforts remain underway.

Rockbridge Fire-Rescue Captain Kevin Moore reported that 671 individuals received either a first or second dose of the Moderna vaccine at a regular clinic hosted by the VDH at the former Peebles building on Tuesday, April 20. A clinic by Carilion took place at the shared location two days later, April 22, where 304 second doses of the Moderna vaccine were administered. A clinic hosted by the VDH was set to take place yesterday, Tuesday.

Vaccination totals for the Rockbridge area are increasing, with 7,377 now fully vaccinated in Rockbridge County, 2,080 in Lexington and 1,744 in Buena Vista.

New cases of COVID-19 remain low across the Rockbridge area as of Tuesday. The Virginia Department of Health reported 11 new cases in Rockbridge County, bringing the total to 1,496. Lexington saw six new cases, totaling 1,165 and Buena Vista also recorded four new cases, totaling 881. Two new hospitalizations were reported in the area, one occurring in Lexington and the other in Buena Vista.

Two positive COVID cases were reported by Washington and Lee University this week, with one isolation or quarantine space in use on campus and four in use at other locations. Virginia Military Institute reported four active cases among cadets as of Tuesday, with six cadets currently in isolation. Southern Virginia University is reporting one off-campus case of COVID in isolation.

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