County health district adds Johnson & Johnson vaccine

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Those seeking a COVID-19 vaccine in the Chesterfield-Colonial Heights Health District may get either the Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Dr. Alexander Samuel, the county’s health director, updated the county supervisors during their March 10 meeting.

Although hopeful the district would be able to start vaccinating those in Phase 1C soon, Samuel said that Phase 1B was still the focus.

Almost 70 percent of vaccines in the county have gone to those 65 and older, with the rest going to essential workers, including fire, police and hazardous materials workers, childcare and preK-12 staff, and food/agriculture, manufacturing and grocery store employees.

Samuel noted that a regional vaccination site is planned for Virginia State University that would be split 50/50 between the Chesterfield/Colonial Heights and Crater health districts.

“It’s going to be a game-changer when it comes online,” Samuel said.

Between 500 and 700 people are currently being vaccinated per day, four or five days a week, at the Chesterfield Fairgrounds, he said.

Chesterfield Fire & EMS Chief Loy Senter said that some 18,500 people have been vaccinated in the county by March 10, including 8,242 county and school staff.

Budget

During a long afternoon work session, staff updated supervisors on the proposed $806.8 million budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022. This represents an increase of $53.4 million above the current budget, or 7.1 percent.

A public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. March 24 on the budget, tax rates, utility fee changes, capital improvement plan and community development block grant plan.

Legislative update

The supervisors also heard from legislative liaison MaryAnn Curtin.

She noted that a bill that would allow data sharing between the Chesterfield/Colonial Heights Health District and Chesterfield Fire & EMS was approved by the General Assembly on the last day of the recently-completed session, March 1.

The legislature will convene for a veto session on April 7, Curtin said, noting Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has until midnight March 31 to either sign, veto or suggest changes to bills that passed.

In addition to the veto session, Curtin said the General Assembly will probably meet for at least two special sessions later this year to address additional federal stimulus funds and redistricting, the latter in the fall.

Of note, Curtin said the county could call for a voter referendum by November 2022 on whether the county should allow marijuana retail sales. A bill that passed the legislature would make such legal statewide by 2024, but it allows jurisdictions to opt out with a voter-approved referendum.

The budget includes a pay raise for teachers, Curtin said, but noting the legislation is a “little fuzzy,” so that may need to be cleaned up in a future session.

She noted that the Joint Legislative and Review Commission, or JLARC, will be studying the costs of public education in the state. The last time such a study was conducted was 2002, she said.

During public comment, Jason Melendez, a junior at James River High School, spoke against the use of facial recognition software and noted that a bill — HB2031 — would prohibit local law enforcement agencies from using such technology without authorization after July 1. The bill unanimously passed the House, but was referred to a special session later this year by the Senate Law Enforcement and Technology Committee, 14-0.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg), would allow a locality or public higher education institution to authorize a local law enforcement agency or campus police department to purchase or deploy such technology.

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