Home Coronavirus Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Monday (4/13) Virginia COVID-19 Briefing

Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Monday (4/13) 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.

  • Treacherous weather across Virginia. Flooding in SW Virginia. >166,000 electricity customers without power as of noon today. Weather system moving across Virginia but could still see dangerous storms and high winds through the afternoon. Please take immediate shelter if you hear a tornado alert. Taking shelter to save your life takes precedence over social distancing.
  • Modeling update. Models are highly comprehensive. We’re basing our decisions on science and data, listening to expert epidemiologists, economic experts, hospitals, etc. We have made decisions – e.g., to close schools and businesses – based on what we’ve learned from our experts. Have watched the national models – University of Washington, Pennsylvania model. Those models change daily, as our own behavior changes. Social distancing measures have changed the models’ predictions for what we will experience. Today, excited to share a Virginia-specific model, developed by UVA. It too will change as we move forward depending on our own behavior. Right now, shows that social distancing measures are working. Also shows that Virginia’s hospitals have sufficient capacity to handle the surge we expect. BUT, if we lift the social distancing and rush back to normal too soon, the # of cases will spike higher and earlier, and we can’t afford that. Emphasizes how important it is to keep doing what we’re doing.
  • Dept. of Education plans to ensure students continue to learn. Closing schools has had a profound impact on students and teachers. Nothing can replace the exact experience of the classroom, but our teachers and leaders are doing their best. This situation can also exacerbate inequities. Our school leaders all over the state are working hard to address these inequities head-on. Making additional resources available: 1) expanding Virtual Virginia to allow every teacher in Virginia to host virtual classrooms; 2) beginning today, four Virginia public media stations will broadcast  (VATVclassroom) teacher-led classroom instructions into homes across the state; 3) release of new guidance document for teachers and schools for high-quality, equitable instruction.
  • From reporter Max Smith: “On nursing homes, Northam highlights his budget amendment that would increase Medicaid rates for nursing homes by $20 per person/day. Also looking at Medical Reserve Corps potentially helping with staffing in long term care facilities.”
  • Northam says he acted on 1,291 bills by Saturday night’s deadline – “more than any other year in my memory.”  Proposed 144 amendments to the budget, including freezes to discretionary spending of $874 million in FY2021 and $1.4 billion in FY2022 due to COVID-19 crisis. Other amendments give more flexibility to educational institutions as they deal with the crisis.
  • Thanks everyone who adhered to social distancing and other guidelines on Easter Sunday weekend. We’re going to keep living this way for the near future. That is one lesson the modeling showed us today. The key is for us to keep doing what we’re doing – stay home, stay away from groups, wash your hands…distancing is our best way to fight this.
  • Numbers update: 5,747 cases (+473 in last 24 hours); 149 deaths (+9 in last 24 hours). There’s race/ethnicity data on about half of cases – Virginia one of about 12 states to report this data, and all of those states face the same problem with missing data. About 30% of cases are African-American; 22% of deaths are African-American.
  • From reporter Max Smith: “Dep Health Commissioner says it’s now 53/97 outbreaks in nursing homes, including at least 34 deaths. A newly identified nursing home outbreak is getting additional protective gear and tests, Dep Commissioner says, but staffing becomes an issue in the facilities during outbreaks. Asked how long stay-home order lasts, given new model info, Northam says ‘no known answers as of today’ ‘We take this one day at a time” Understands people want to know when things get back to normal – ‘as soon as we can…but we also have to do it safely’.”
  • Will businesses be allowed to reopen after 4/23? We’re looking at our peak being later April/early May, so will extend the order…will have an announcement on Wednesday as to when that date will be and for how long.
  • How much coordination with MD and DC on reopening businesses/easing restrictions? What we do NOT want is for VA to do one thing and MD to do another thing, since we’re only separated by the Potomac River. We also have NC to our south. Working very closely with neighboring governors/mayor.
  • On testing, doing a survey as to what capacity is, how the capacity is being used and how it’s growing. Also a task force working on that as Virginia looks to expand all of the elements. Still don’t have widespread serologic testing –  challenge is false positives/false negatives. Will have plans to announce in days to come. In-house testing can get results in as short as 10 hours. Goal is 15-30 minutes; that’s where we need to be in order to ease restrictions.
  • On games of skill, Gov. Northam is proposing to tax them and keep them going for another year. The General Assembly will be back on April 22 and decide if they want to do that. Could be $125-$150 million revenue in a year. If these games of skill are allowed to remain for a year, the tax revenue will be put towards homelessness and sheltering, health care needs, small businesses…
  • Northam says it couldn’t be further from the truth that Virginia has enough PPE. Is working hard to get more. We’re nowhere near where we want to be. Bed capacity is adequate, but far as ventilators, PPE and staffing, we have some challenges.
  • From reporter Max Smith: “Commissioner Oliver says VDH working with electronic health records companies and others to try to ensure race data is recorded/transmitted – believe that if it’s in EHR the info will be transmitted to the labs with the test order; also asking doctors to enter the data.”
  • Question on family awareness of outbreaks in nursing homes, how is that information communicated to the families? That typically happens at the facility level…recommend that facilities keep families informed with timely, accurate information.
  • This virus doesn’t know any borders, doesn’t know what county or city it’s in. The transmission depends a great deal on population density and proximity, which is why social distancing is such a powerful tool. Higher density => risk of greatest surge. Rural parts of the state – surge not as steep.
  • Question on state parks, campgrounds closing and not letting people get to their private lots. Northam says everyone has a different situation, doing what he can to best deal with those. Challenge is that people were coming to campgrounds, congregating in them, putting themselves and others at risk. None of these decisions have been made easily. On private campgrounds, if individual is in the camper for over two weeks, they are allowed to stay; different for “transient” folks.
  • On Trump’s talk about lifting social distancing restrictions, whether it’s a federal or state decision, Gov. Northam says from day #1 he’s tried to do what’s in the best interest of Virginia, has made some very difficult decisions. Says every state is different, and that he will continue to make decisions that are in the best interests of Virginia, following models and epidemiologists, talking to business, etc.
  • Moving ahead with options for additional COVID-19 care capacity. This is a fluid situation, haven’t decided to move forward at this stage with the alternative care facilities, but if need be, we need to have everything ready to go.
  • On releasing inmates, Gov. Northam says we have some plans that will require General Assembly approval. Sec. Moran says there are very few people even eligible for parole; recognizes these are confined spaces. Legislation would apply to approximately 2,000 inmates who have 1 year or less left on their sentence. DoC will review each and every one of those cases and determine whether it’s appropriate for public safety and the inmate’s welfare. We have the lowest recidivism rate in the nation, because we create a plan for success…may require mental health services, substance abuse treatment, housing, employment…all of which have been substantially disrupted right now. Need to approach this in a humane, smart, responsible fashion.
  • Gov. Northam thanks the press, emphasizes the need for accurate information.