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Daily vaccinations slowing down in Virginia; health leaders warn pandemic still not over

Virginia recorded record-low COVID-19 case numbers not seen since April of 2020.

NORFOLK, Va. — More vaccinations could mean more ways in which we return to the ways of life we used to live.

“The CDC will be updating their recommendations and guidelines, but yes: we need to start being more liberal as we get more people vaccinated," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's lead coronavirus and vaccine expert, told ABC News.

According to Dr. Fauci, the Centers for Disease Control could change its guidelines for indoor mask use. Virginia’s vaccine leader, Dr. Danny Avula, tells 13News Now that this would be consistent with the CDC's revised guidelines so far. 

Just days ago, they revised outdoor mask guidelines to allow fully vaccinated people to be without masks when outdoors in certain situations.

“The more people getting vaccinated, and the lower the case rates we see, the more comfortable we can be making these incremental steps," Dr. Avula told 13News Now in a one-on-one interview Monday afternoon. 

But a step toward normal doesn’t mean states like Virginia have put the coronavirus in the rearview mirror.

Based on data from the Virginia Department of Health, as of April 9 more than 160,000 Virginians who had received their first dose of either of the two-shot vaccines had not yet returned for their second shot. This translates to 9.4% out of the 1.7 million people who received either of the two vaccines. 

“A number of reasons why people haven’t: some had side effects they were uncomfortable with, which is demotivating. A lot is also about logistics; some haven’t had a second dose appointment at the time of the first dose," Dr. Avula said.

“It’s a concern. Right now, we’re using our state call center to do outbound calling for people who haven’t gotten that second dose."

According to Dr. Avula, daily average vaccinations have dropped by roughly 20,000 doses. He said herd immunity is still possible and the 75-percent goal of Virginians vaccinated is still achievable, but also added that the state is on the other side of the "demand" wave and that it might go slower than anticipated. 

"It's entirely possible we don’t get to 75 percent, but we still see an abatement or subsiding of the pandemic," Dr. Avula said.

“We’re almost seeing a COVID wave that has nothing to do with COVID. It has to do with other illnesses that are part of the care gaps created during the pandemic," Chief Physician Executive of Sentara Healthcare Dr. Jordan Asher told 13News Now Monday

He said it might be easy to think COVID-19 is winding down, but health systems are still seeing patients every day, and realistically COVID-19 will continue to be prevalent in hospitals.

“We’re excited with COVID that vaccinations is less of an issue. But we know there’s going to continue to be COVID patients, it’s going to be here a while,” Dr. Asher said.

“This concept that we’re out of the woods, everyone’s feeling better in the health care world: that’s not a true statement.”