Large-scale vaccination clinics starting next week in Va.
FEMA-funded events will start in Petersburg, Portsmouth and Danville
Updated 7 p.m.
The state will launch large-scale COVID-19 vaccination clinics beginning next week in Petersburg, Portsmouth and Danville, Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday.
Curtis Brown, the state coordinator of emergency management, said he expects large clinic events will be held at 13 locations within the next three months, determined by need and funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Brown said more details will be coming and that people must preregister with the state’s vaccination website and get an appointment for the clinic. Northam urged Virginians to answer their phones when they get a call, even if it’s from an unknown number, because it could be the health department calling to set up a vaccine appointment.
Marking one year since the first COVID cases and deaths were reported in Virginia, Northam said, “It has been a hard year for everyone, but I have been so encouraged by your resilience and your generosity.” The governor also thanked medical responders and frontline workers for their efforts over the past year and added, “Hang in there. We’re going to put this pandemic in the rearview mirror.”
Northam added that vaccination numbers are up across the state, and more than 1.5 million people — 18% of the state’s population — have received at least one shot, as of Virginia Department of Health reporting Tuesday. Also, the number of positive cases has declined in recent weeks after a spike following Christmas and New Year’s.
The governor also faced questions about matters outside the coronavirus.
Addressing an ongoing controversy regarding the Office of the State Inspector General and the Virginia Parole Board over the parole granted last year to convicted murderer Vincent Martin, Northam Chief of Staff Clark Mercer blasted an OSIG report last summer that characterized Martin’s parole process as “highly biased.” Without using the name of Jennifer A. Moschetti, the main state investigator who filed a whistleblower suit Monday against the Northam administration, alleging that his staff had intimidated her staff, Mercer indicated that the plaintiff was one of the authors of the disputed report.
Last month, Virginia news media outlets obtained a longer version of the six-page draft OSIG report from summer 2020 that included allegations against current and former members of the parole board.
Northam reiterated his earlier statement that he encourages an independent investigation into allegations that the parole board committed wrongdoing in releasing Martin last year, as the governor and others in his administration pushed for faster paroles to limit spread of the coronavirus in prisons.
Mercer said that some members of the state’s Republican Party, including lawmakers in the General Assembly, had used the issue as a political football to criticize the governor, which Mercer called “very irresponsible.” He also alleged that the longer draft had “unsubstantiated claims” not included in the final version.
He also noted that Moschetti, who is suing State Inspector General Michael Westfall in Richmond Circuit Court, is represented by Virginia Beach attorney and House of Delegates GOP candidate Tim Anderson, who has been involved in several suits brought by Republicans in Virginia, including state Sen. Amanda Chase’s suit against the Virginia State Senate and the Republican Party of Virginia.
While not naming Anderson, Mercer said, “I was disappointed, and I think it does not take much work to connect the dots here, that the counsel retained in this lawsuit is on the ballot himself this year, in November, running for office. He has sued the governor several times this year alone, over elections and over COVID. … We need serious people to look into this.”
Anderson said in a statement Tuesday night that “Clark Mercer uses the governor’s platform to attack my character as a lawyer, stating I am not a serious lawyer because I am also a candidate for office.” He defended the suits he has filed on behalf of clients, including Chase and Sen. Bill DeSteph, who sued Sen. Mamie Locke and House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn before the regular session of the General Assembly, seeking in-person meeting space for legislators and constituents.
“To be condemned by Clark Mercer at the governor’s COVID briefing must mean we are doing something right,” he added.
Northam said that he supports parole as “a very important part of criminal justice reform,” but said he does not plan to make further statements on the controversy as it moves into the legal system and a possible independent probe. “The last thing I’m going to do is allow this to be politicized.”