By Denise Dunbar | [email protected]
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) was on hand Tuesday afternoon as the first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine were administered to Alexandria City Public Schools staff and teachers.
First in line for the vaccine was ACPS Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D, who said prior to receiving the vaccine, “My job is to lead by example, and I can’t wait to get my vaccine today. I’m so thankful that we have our nurse here today, Nurse Desmond, who I adore and appreciate and hope that she’s going to be gentle with me.”
Hutchings received his vaccine without incident, and was followed by T.C. Williams High School math teacher Danielle Thorne, who was the first person to sign up for the vaccine within ACPS.
Northam, who is a pediatric neurologist, offered praise for all involved in the vaccine campaign.
“This has really been a team effort. … It’s hard to believe [we’ve] been doing this for 10 months. The hope, the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel is our vaccine,” Northam said. “It’s really good to see everybody here: the doctors … the nurses, the healthcare workers, the reserve corps. Everybody who’s stepped up and said, ‘You know what, we’re going to be part of the solution to put this vaccine in people’s arms and finally put this pandemic behind us.’”
The vaccination campaign at ACPS began after Northam announced last week that select health districts Virginia would move to Phase 1b of vaccinations on Monday. Teachers and school staff, along with police officers and other essential workers, are eligible to receive the vaccine in this phase. Alexandria, as well as fellow Northern Virginia jurisdictions Arlington and Fairfax, were included in the increased rollout of the vaccine.
Hutchings set a festive tone for the kickoff in his brief remarks.
“This is probably one of the best days I’ve had since this COVID-19 hit March 13,” Hutchings said. “… [This is] a huge celebratory event and the reason for that is now we’re going to be able to get our staff vaccinated and get some sense of normalcy back into our schools.”
The proceedings were kicked off by Mayor Justin Wilson, and Alexandria Health Department Director Dr. Stephen Haering also took part in the proceedings.
The vaccine event took place as the Virginia Department of Health confirmed a record number of new COVID-19 cases. Virginia experienced a spike of 5,798 new cases on Saturday, and the state sits at a total of 407,947 confirmed and probable cases, according to VDH. Alexandria has a cumulative count of 8,248 cases as of Tuesday, and experienced a record-breaking spike of 168 new cases on Saturday, according to VDH. In total, 458 residents have been hospitalized and 91 residents have died due to COVID-19.