Virginia Governor Ralph Northam visited White’s Travel Center June 21 to thank management and staff as well as the staff of Raphine Medical Associates health care clinic, which is located at White's, for their work offering COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Anytime the governor comes to your place, it is a good day,” said Bobby Berkstresser, owner of White’s Travel Center, located in Raphine, Virginia.
The governor's office, along with Dr. Robert Marsh, who runs the Raphine Medical Associates, Berkstresser, the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Transportation has made vaccinations easy and accessible to professional drivers, travelers, locals and employees at Destination Station inside of White's Travel Center.
“We’ve been doing walk-in clinics Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays,” Berkstresser said. “We wanted to make it as convenient as possible for those people who have to be on the road.”
Hundreds of doses of vaccines have been distributed since May 25. “The governor has made a huge push to make the vaccine available in doctors’ offices and pharmacies. The number of vaccinated people is going up each day, and the governor wanted to come and see what we are doing,” Berkstresser said, adding that Northam was interested in learning more about the number of trucks passing through each day and the number of visitors outside of truck drivers.
NATSO has been encouraging truckstops and travel plazas nationwide to host vaccine clinics to ensure that the nation’s truck drivers can access a vaccine. Truck drivers face unique challenges in accessing medical clinics because they are away from home most days of the year and are driving a commercial vehicle.
During the visit, Northam greeted and thanked healthcare professionals for their vaccination efforts. In addition, he toured the location, talked with the local hospital administrators, and held a press conference. “The place was packed,” Berkstresser said.
Northam talked about COVID and its impact on communities. Several elected officials, including State Sen. Emmett Hanger, State Rep. Jeffrey Campbell, Spencer Suter, Rockford County administrator, and local hospital administrators and health officials attended the press conference.
During the event, Berkstresser thanked Northam and Marsh for their efforts. Four television crews and multiple newspapers, including USA Today, covered the visit.
Clinics will continue Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer. “Thanks to the Governor, VDOT will now allow us to use their signage on the Interstate to alert drivers that there is a clinic ahead,” said Mellyorra Mason, director of marketing for White’s. “We offer all three vaccines (Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna), you do not need an appointment, and this is completely free of charge.”
Just before visiting White's, Northam announced that 70 percent of Virginians 18 years and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. “Virginia has reached a significant milestone in the fight against COVID-19,” Northam said. “Thanks to the millions of Virginians who have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated, the virus is in retreat, our economy is growing, and we are closer to putting this pandemic behind us.”
Just over 60 percent of Virginia’s 18-and-older population is fully vaccinated. "We are deeply grateful to all those who have been vaccinated and to the vaccinators helping Virginia reach and surpass this milestone," said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. "There are still Virginians we need to reach, and our efforts to make vaccination as accessible and as convenient as possible will continue."
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