Home Coronavirus Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Friday (4/17) Virginia COVID-19 Briefing

Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Friday (4/17) Virginia COVID-19 Briefing

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See below for live video and highlights from Gov. Ralph Northam’s 2 pm press briefing on the COVID-19 situation in Virginia.

  • Updates on PPE, medical staffing, testing, nursing homes and jail populations.
  • Just spoke with Gov. Hogan, Mayor Bowser – all dealing with similar challenges, looking to coordinate responses.
  • Yesterday was on phone with President Trump…those guidelines are consistent with what we’re doing in Virginia – a phased approach based on science and data. Need to be on a downward trend for 14 days – stlil haven’t met those criteria. In fact, 600 new cases today. But making plans for when that day comes. We received $1.6 billion in federal stimulus funds. Approval from FEMA to provide hotel accomodations for first responders.
  • Even though we continue to see cases go up, that doesn’t mean that social distancing isn’t working, because it is…the point is to slow the spread, not eliminate it entirely. We’ll continue to see cases that are new, and unfortunately we’ll continue to see deaths. Hospitals need more PPE, and some of it’s coming in. Expect more shipments in coming weeks. National supply chain issues for PPE continue, working to find alternate suppliers, stretch supply of PPE by decontaminating with ultraviolet lights.
  • Signed Exec. Order 57 – eases licensing on some medical professionals, allows more use of telehealth. This order wlil allow us to expand our workforce so more trained medical professionals can step in and help meet the need. Also, health of people working in nursing homes remains a concern and a priority. National Guard can help train staff on how to best use PPE. Expanding testing criteria for people about to be admitted into long-term care facilities. Will work to make sure any nursing home or long-term care facility experiencing a breakout can test everyone in their facility.
  • Local and regional jails also at risk. That’s why administration encouraged local authorities to avoid sending people to jail where possible. Better to use alternatives to jail if person isn’t a threat to public safety. Since early March, local jail population has been reduced 17% and a 67% decrease in the # of people entering our jails on misdemeanor charges. All of this has been done with public safety in mind. Trusts local stakeholders to make decisions that are right for their communities.
  • More than 106,000 additional unemployment claims last week, more than 410,000 in the past month. Doesn’t include all the people newly eligible under federal rules. We have payroll records for about 80% of people. If not, we need additional documentation – portal for that will go live tonight. Have added call centers in Grundy and Newport News; 50 new employees at HQ; private call center should be up and running next week.
  • Understands this is taking a toll, wants to get back to where businesses are open, but…need to open up based on science, not rush to reopen or all the sacrifices we’ve made will be for nothing.
  • Dr. Oliver – case count this morning shows 7,491 (+602 new cases), 232 deaths (+23 new deaths). Uptick in cases in central Shenandoah due to an outbreak at a nursing home there. Racial stratification – have had some improvement in collection of race/ethnicity data. Now only 10% of data on race/ethnicity missing for deaths. 34% of deaths have been African American.
  • Question on remote voting for General Assembly, with “reconvene” session on 4/22. Could also come back for a session in July/August. Option of remote voting is something Northam’s open too, commends Speaker Filler-Corn for pursuing that.
  • Question on why health department is refusing to release information about COVID-19 outbreaks at individual facilities and individuals. Answer – it’s a statutory requirement, would need legislature to override the code of Virginia.
  • Question on “pushback” against stay-at-home, social distancing, etc. and also Trump’s encouragement about this (Trump tweeted “LIBERATE VIRGINIA” earlier today). Northam says he’s fighting a biological war, doesn’t have time to involve himself in “Twitter wars,” will continue to focus on protecting Virginia and saving Virginians’ lives.
  • “We have no national guidance on testing.”
  • Will VA, MD and DC be in coordination on easing restrictions? Northam says “absolutely, we will be” – also with NC. “I couldn’t ask for anymore…we share some of the same challenges” and will work to be consistent.
  • Question on MD creating a registry of people who have had the virus and recovered or who have symptoms, why doesn’t VA do more to gather recovery data. Northam says he’s in discussions on this, working on it, looking at apps, doing a lot of things as surrounding states. Dr. Oliver says a number of academic partners are cooperating on this…
  • From Cam Thompson of WTVR CBS6 Richmond: Q – Regarding the Vincent Martin parole not following state code: wtvr.com/news/local-new Northam: That was a decision by parole board. I will have to look into that. Q – Any chance you’ll rescind the parole board’s decision. Northam: I haven’t looked into that, but I will.”
  • From Cam Thompson of WTVR CBS6 Richmond: “Moran: Condolences to Ofc. Connors’ family and RPD. We asked the parole board to make sure process was followed. They said it was. Moran: Family does have 45 days to respond before release, but they have already responded. I also asked the parole board chair to post a letter describing her process.”
  • Question on possible revisions to testing guidellnes. Dr. Forlano says “very soon.” Highlights include items “pertinent to the longterm care facilities” and “some other groups will also be incorporated into that new testing criteria.” On testing going down, not up, the goal is to get to a “significantly higher” – “thousands per day” – of tests. “Scouring the country” looking for equipment, haven’t been successful due to national shortage, but know we need to increase testing to accomplish goals.
  • Question about state prisons and conditional pardons. Northam says we have had the lowest recidivism rate in the country for the last four years.  Part of the reason for this is we do a lot of preparation before inmates are released. Making sure they have healthcare, roof over their head, making sure they’re not a danger to society. We have to take all of these things into consideration and keep our society safe. Secretary Brian Moran – we’re not going to release people from prison “irresponsibly” “without a successful home plan, someplace to go…We’re using what tools we have…parole in a safe manner…addressing this humanely and responsibly…sweeping use of governor’s clemency power…would be very difficult to achieve in a responsible fashion.”
  • Really wants to get hospitals open again for elective surgeries. Things like breast and prostate cancer don’t need to be done emergently, but they need to be done. Also, financially speaking, hospitals use those elective surgeries as “their bread and butter” to “keep their lights on.” In almost daily communication with hospital CEOs on this…
  • Question about post-peak Virginia and medications to treat coronavirus, also on serological tests. Northam says serological testing is becoming more available each day, but not enough to follow trends in Virginia. Northam says there are clinical trials going on all around the country, including at VCU and UVA, for medications to treat coronavirus. Hasn’t heard any reports of a particular medication that’s successful, but would welcome any new medications that are successful.
  • Question on yesterday’s protests in Richmond and on reaching out to Republicans. Northam says he talks to everybody, isn’t ignoring what anybody’s saying. On the protesters, Northam says his only response is that they’re putting themselves and all of us at risk, including our healthcare providers. “Turn the TV on and look at our heroes – the men and women fighting this biological war everyday…I’ve been in the trenches myself…we all should be part of the solution…While we all have the right to protest, I would say let’s join the team…put this health crisis in the rear view mirror” so we can return to our normal lives again.
  • Has requested 30,000 individuals through volunteer medical corps…will keep a registry in case there’s a surge, need to increase staffing.