Hi everybody! Can you hear me okay? Next week is my last week at the session. I am really excited. I’m tired. It’s pretty exhausting. Especially when I am running back and forth between the medical practice and getting to deliver a baby. At least one to two babies every week, this session. So, it’s been a wild one.
A couple of things to start off updating on is, number one, COVID reports are really good in Virginia now. That is so reassuring. We’re seeing a significant drop-off in the number of cases but for an even longer, more significant drop off we’ve been seeing fewer hospitalizations and, thank God for quite a while, many fewer deaths. We’re leveling back down to more of a constant place where we were before the holidays last year. All the way really from July until the holidays where there was occurrence but not significant acuity or deadliness. So, that’s a really good sign. I don’t know how much the vaccine contributes to that because we’ve vaccinated about one quarter of Virginians. Excuse me. One eighth of Virginians. We have 8.5 million Virginians. We believe, now, that we have vaccinated 1 million people. So, we know from Israeli’s studies, where they have been much faster on vaccinating the high risk groups, that they saw a dramatic drop in the cases in the age groups they’re vaccinating. Those were high risk ages groups 65 and older. We can put that study up. It’s a study that we have pulled. It’s actually from the Economist I believe. They look at what the risk factors are for different age groups. More of the younger age groups get positive infections. More of the older age groups get hospitalized and put on a ventilator. The oldest age groups end up dying. So, they’ve looked at the risk factors in those ages groups and within two weeks of being vaccinated about 80% of the elderly… all of those numbers changed. They started dropping off in their acuity and their hospitalizations in the ICU. So, very exciting. I am happy to see that in the forming weeks we have more vaccinations coming into Virginia. We’re getting very close to 200,000 a week. I would love to see us at more than that. I would love to see us at 300,000-500,000 per week. Now that we’ve had Doctor Danny Avula improve the website that is new and up and running and is something we asked them to do. We wish it had been done in the beginning before we started. We now have the legislation I carried on vaccinations to mobilize students and everybody else. It is now law. That has an emergency clause so it has gone into effect already. So, students are trying to vaccinate. We will have a robust workforce for vaccination and locations to do that. Now we're moving to the part where we can really execute. We just need to have the vaccines here. We need the federal government to really up-regulate that. That is where we are on all of that.
The big thing that I will have this week is my open schools bill. I’m going to be honest with you. I knew that there was profound political opposition to this bill. It was pretty much straight down party lines except for the two democrats that I made a pact with before we started this session that we were not going to get out of session without mandating schools open. We had language in the budget to go into effect July 1. We had my bill which went from emergency legislation which means it would go into effect within 7 days of being signed. In order to pass emergency legislation you have to have 4/5 of the body agree to it. That is a lot of Senators. We would have to get a lot of Democrats onboard. We got 8 Democrats but not 4/5. We were able to get it through so that it would start July 1. When it got to the House I wasn’t sure if they were going to hear the bill or what they were going to do. What they did is they put their own bill on top of mine and claimed credit which is not unusual. Their bill was not in keeping with what I wanted. Some language in there I thought was potentially valuable but I have reworked that bill. Tomorrow morning I will have a substitute that should be available on our website now. We’ve really been working very closely Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg who I’m going to say has really compromised on this. I really appreciate his help and his input. The way that the substitute they gave us has changed, based on my language, I am going to explain to you now. Number one, I defined what in-person is. It is a definition where both the student and the teacher are in the classroom and there is real education going on. It does not include remote education in the classroom. So many of you came to me and said “hey my kids are going to school but they’re opening their laptops and they’re doing virtual education with a proctor in the room.” We saw that is what Fairfax did. Fairfax hired 800 proctors, put the kids in the classroom, and kept teachers home and did virtual education. That does not help us overcome the shortcomings of virtual education. We need that interaction. We need that teacher using their skill set to assess when that student is getting what they’re being taught and also screening kids. We’ve got a definition of in-person that is solid. We have that they have to be full-time. We have that they have to be doing in-person for a minimum number of hours required by law in Virginia for a school year. We have guidelines that they’re to use not community spread to decide when schools should abate or quarantine or do something else. They must use the VDH guidelines of school impact. Those are very different because while you might track schools community spread the VDH guidelines are very clear about the number of outbreaks in the school and then they convert to the guidelines where they quarantine or isolate just the necessary number of children. It might be a classroom but that does not mean the whole school needs to close. They also have to confer with the local health department. The school boards have to bring in the health experts. We don’t want them deciding this on their own because there has been some decision making without following evidence-based practices. We’ve go