Our View: There’s more than pollen in the air

Our View: There’s more than pollen in the air
Two Hermitage staff members celebrate the vaccine roll out. (Courtesy photo)

Spring is all around us, and so is something that feels an awful lot like hope.

This hope emanates from advances in COVID-19 vaccinations and from signs everywhere that life is beginning to, if not resume pre-pandemic routines, at least assume a tolerable version of our new reality.

On Sunday, a spectacular early spring day, Easter services were held outdoors around the city as churches found creative ways to safely gather their congregants on Christianity’s holiest day. Children were seen hunting eggs in city parks and families gathered together.

Activities that were cancelled last year are sprouting in 2021 like daffodils on a hillside, albeit with pandemic-necessitated adjustments.

Historic Garden Week is taking place throughout Virginia from April 17 to 24. In Alexandria, the Historic Garden Week tour will feature gardens only, and not the inside of houses, on April 17. The Torpedo Factory resumed in-person, though distanced and masked, art classes on April 5. Classical Movements resumed holding outdoor concerts in its “secret garden” as soon as it received a permit from the city last month.

Outdoor spring sports have also returned to Alexandria after being cancelled in 2020. The Alexandria Soccer Association, the Alexandria Lacrosse League and Alexandria Little League will all hold spring seasons, while following safety protocols.

And the Washington Nationals belatedly opened their season at Nationals Park on Tuesday, winning in dramatic fashion on a walk-off single by star outfielder Juan Soto in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was the first time the Nationals have played at home in front of fans since winning the World Series in October 2019.

All of these activities are possible because three effective vaccines against COVID-19 are being given to increasing numbers of people, leading to caseloads that have declined dramatically in Alexandria since the post-Christmas surge.

Virginia is about to enter Phase 2 of vaccinating for COVID-19. This means everyone over age 65, those 18 to 64 with pre-existing conditions and frontline workers – from police officers to grocery store employees – all should either be vaccinated or have been able to schedule their shots by now. The Alexandria Health Department is working to finish vaccinating everyone from Phase 1 in the coming weeks.

The Victory Center vaccine location on Eisenhower Avenue opened last week to much fanfare. This location, a partnership between the City of Alexandria and Fairfax County, is scheduled to host to 6,000 vaccines per day initially and eventually 12,000 as supplies increase.

President Joe Biden even came by Neighborhood Health’s vaccine clinic located at the Virginia Theological Seminary’s Immanuel Chapel for tour of their operation on Tuesday.

More than 31% of Alexandria residents age 16 or old-er have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the city’s website. When you combine the number of residents who have been at least partially vaccinated with those who have already had COVID-19, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, the beginnings of herd immunity can be seen on the horizon.

As of Wednesday, 41,702 people had received the COVID-19 vaccine in Alexandria, while another 11,100 have had the disease. Add to those the unknown number of people who have had undiagnosed cases of the disease – the scientific consensus indicates it’s likely several times the diagnosed number – and you get 70,000 to 80,000 people who potentially could have at least partial immunity to COVID-19 in Alexandria.

There are many unknowns in tossing about numbers like that, and it’s important not to leap too far in assumptions and projections.

For instance, an unknown number of those 41,702 people who have received at least one vaccine dose have already had COVID-19, meaning they would be double-counted. And those who work in Alexandria can be vaccinated even if they don’t live here, so they would count against vaccine totals. Also, it’s not clear how much immunity people who have had COVID-19 carry with them nor for how long.

Even with those caveats, it’s entirely possible that close to half of the city’s 133,372 residents age 16 and over have at least partial immunity right now.What is known for certain: That number is increasing by the day. And that’s hopeful news indeed.