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Richmond health districts enter Phase B1 of COVID vaccinations, which includes first responders, teachers, other essential workers

First responders, corrections and homeless shelter workers, and teachers and school staff are among the essential workers eligible for the vaccination under phase 1B.

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The local health districts of the Richmond Metropolitan Area, which includes Chesterfield, Chickahominy, Henrico, and Richmond, will begin expanding their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns to include some Phase 1b frontline essential workers on Monday, January 18th.

Specifically, workers in the first three categories of ​Phase 1b​, will now be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccines will be administered through a combination of regional mass vaccination events, as well as partnerships with various providers. Vaccination of ​Phase 1a populations​ will continue as the region opens up to Phase 1b.

“We know that the burden of this disease and the underlying social vulnerabilities that put these essential workers at risk do not end at the boundaries of our city and counties,” said Dr. Melissa Viray, Acting Director for Richmond and Henrico Health Districts. “It makes the most sense to coordinate our vaccination efforts and make sure all of our communities have access to the best tool we have to end the pandemic.”

The first three categories of Phase 1b frontline essential workers include:

  1. Police, Fire, and Hazmat
  2. Corrections and homeless shelter workers
  3. Childcare/PreK-12 Teachers/Staff

Individuals in these categories will start to have the opportunity to receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at one of three large-scale regional vaccination clinics beginning next week.

“Many school teachers and staff in our jurisdictions have courageously shown up for in-person instruction throughout this pandemic in order to serve their students’ needs and to provide the best education possible. This vaccine offers a shield of protection and a beacon of hope for this group of essential workers,” says Dr. Tom Franck, Director of Chickahominy Health District.

Next week’s COVID-19 vaccination events are taking place in addition to each local health districts’ ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts for qualified individuals. Metro area districts are exploring ways to move deeper into the 1b vaccine eligible group as additional resources become available to distribute vaccine more broadly.

“VDH is continuing to work with pharmacies, hospital systems, and medical practices to establish the infrastructure to more quickly and effectively distribute available resources and vaccinate others who are part of 1b and beyond,” says Dr. Alex Samuel, Director of Chesterfield Health District.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Richmond health district moves into phase 2, all people 16 and older now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Anyone interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine should pre-register at vaccinate.virgininia.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA if they have not done so already.

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Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, Chesterfield Health District, and Chickahominy Health District are all moving into Phase 2 of COVID-19 vaccinations. Many pre-registered individuals will receive emails and phone calls today to schedule their appointment for as soon as next week. Additional scheduling outreach will be conducted over the coming weeks until everyone who has preregistered has been contacted for an appointment.

“This is a turning point in our vaccine distribution,” says Amy Popovich, Nurse Manager for Richmond and Henrico Health Districts. “Everyone ages 16 and over is now eligible; people no longer have to wonder if they qualify.”

“We are thrilled to make the move to Phase 2 and vaccinate more of our community members,” said the Chickahominy Health District Director, Dr. Tom Franck. “We will continue to prioritize those in Phase 1 as we move into Phase 2, while continuing to focus on equity and reaching our vulnerable populations with the support of our community partners.”

“We are proud to take this step forward in vaccine distribution alongside partners in our area,” explains Dr. Alexander Samuel, Director of Chesterfield Health District. “This is good news for all of our residents.”

Anyone interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine should pre-register at vaccinate.virgininia.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA if they have not done so already.

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Downtown

Marijuana possession and cultivation could be legal by July

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam amended legislation to accelerate the legalization of marijuana possession and home cultivation in the state to July as opposed to 2024.

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By Sam Fowler

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam amended legislation to accelerate the legalization of marijuana possession and home cultivation in the state to July as opposed to 2024.

“Virginia will become the 16th state to legalize marijuana—and these changes will ensure we do it with a focus on public safety, public health and social justice,” Northam stated in a release.

The governor proposed changes to House Bill 2312 and Senate Bill 1406, which passed earlier this year during the Virginia General Assembly’s special session. The bills legalized marijuana possession and sales by Jan. 1, 2024, but marijuana legalization advocates and Democratic lawmakers lobbied to push up the date for possession.

“This is an historic milestone for racial justice and civil rights, following years of campaigning from advocates and community groups and a strong push by the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus,” the group Marijuana Justice stated in a press release.

Marijuana Justice seeks to legalize the use and possession of marijuana. The group advocates for communities most impacted by the criminalization of drugs with their “legalize it right” campaign.

The bills allow adults 21 years of age or older to legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana if they don’t intend to distribute the substance. Virginia decriminalized marijuana last year and reduced possession penalties to a $25 civil penalty and no jail time for amounts up to an ounce. In the past, possessing up to half an ounce could lead to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

Individuals can cultivate up to four cannabis plants without legal repercussion, with punishments ranging from misdemeanors to jail time if over the limit. The governor’s amendments would allow households to grow up to four plants beginning July 1. The plants would need to be labeled with identification information, out of sight from public view, and out of range of people under the age of 21.

Legislators will review the governor’s proposals during the General Assembly’s reconvened session on April 7, according to Del. Kaye Kory, D-Falls Church, one of more than two dozen legislators who sponsored the House bill.

Chelsea Higgs Wise, executive director of Marijuana Justice, said legalizing simple marijuana possession now rather than later is important for racial justice.

“Waiting until 2024 to legalize simple possession and therefore stop the desperate policing is allowing this continued bias enforcement against Black Virginians to continue for three years,” Wise said.

Accelerating the legislative timeline is key, Kory said.

“The figures show that it is much more common for a Black or Brown person to be charged with possession,” Kory said.

A state study released last year found that from 2010 to 2019 the average arrest rate of Black Virginians for marijuana possession was more than three times higher than that of white residents for the same crime—6.3 per 1,000 Black individuals and 1.8 per white people. This is despite the fact that Black Virginians use marijuana at similar rates as white residents. The conviction rate was also higher for Black individuals. Northam stated that people of color were still disproportionately cited for possession even after marijuana was decriminalized.

The original legislation established the Virginia Cannabis Control Authority as the regulatory structure for the manufacture and retail sale of marijuana and marijuana products.

The governor’s amendments would allow the authority to revoke a company’s business license if it interfered with union organizing efforts; failed to pay a prevailing wage as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor; or classified more than 10% of employees as independent contractors.

Lawmakers grappled with the dangers of juvenile use of marijuana, Kory said, and the impact of use on developing brains.

Marijuana Justice wants to remove the delinquency charge that designates marijuana possession a crime, not a civil penalty, if committed by someone underage. The penalty is still up to $25.

“Instead of punishment, young people should be evaluated for appropriate services that address the root causes of their usage,” Marijuana Justice stated.

The amendments would fund a public awareness campaign on the health and safety risks of marijuana. The changes also would train law enforcement officers to recognize and prevent drugged driving. Northam stated that his amendments include “explicit language directing ongoing support for public health education.”

The bill established a Cannabis Equity Reinvestment Board tasked with providing youth mentoring programs to marginalized youth and those in foster care, as well as providing scholarships to children who have been negatively impacted by marijuana in their family or community.

The current expungement of marijuana-related crimes is set for July 1, 2025. Northam’s new amendments call for marijuana-related criminal records to be expunged and sealed “as soon as state agencies are able” and to “simplify the criteria” for when records can be sealed. This will allow individuals convicted with marijuana offenses to be resentenced, according to the new amendment.

The bills originally passed along party lines. No Republicans voted for either bill, and several Democrats in the House did not vote on either measure. Sens. Richard Stuart, R-Montross, and Jill Vogel, R-Warrenton, stated that the governor’s amendments helped assuage their original concerns.

The conservative, faith-based organization The Family Foundation told supporters Thursday to contact their representatives and urge them to vote against the accelerated timeline.

The organization stated that violent and nonviolent crime rates have increased in states that have legalized marijuana, citing an opinion piece from a police defense group.

“It’s always been about generating more tax revenue to finance the ever-expanding state bureaucracy, creating massive fortunes for those who would use marijuana (like gambling) to prey on our most vulnerable citizens, and catering to a generation increasingly void of moral standards,” stated Victoria Cobb, the foundation’s president.

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Government

As of April 18th Anyone 16+ Eligible for Covid-19 Vaccine

To pre-register, visit http://vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA.

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Starting April 18th, every Virginian 16 and older will be eligible to get a Covid 19 vaccine. To pre-register, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA. Currently, Virginia is in Phases 1a, 1b, and 1c. On April 18th the commonwealth will be moving on to Phase 2. Find out more about the Phases and which category you fall into here.

The COVID-19 vaccine is FREE, regardless of insurance. The federal government pays for the COVID-19 vaccine but some healthcare providers can get paid for administering the vaccines. For those with health insurance, this cost is typically billed to the insurance company.

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