Home Coronavirus Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Monday (4/6) Virginia COVID-19 Briefing

Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Monday (4/6) 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.

  • Gov. Northam says social distancing is for everyone. Nearly half of all cases are among people <50 years old.  People can transmit this virus even if they don’t have symptoms. That’s one reason why CDC has issued guidelines for people to wear face coverings to help reduce spread of COVID-19. “You don’t need a medical-grade mask to do this.” “You can even use rubber bands and a bandana.” Advises everyone to wear a face covering when you’re out. You will be safe and can go about your business as normal, “nobody will write any citations.” Wash the mask every day.
  • Starting to use genetic technology to help understand COVID-19. Building a library of genetic information. One insight – appears that the virus was introduced in Virginia in multiple communities, not just one single source. Very sophisticated work that will help public health officials understand how the virus spreads, how it changes, etc.
  • From reporter Max Smith: “Northam: Finalizing contracts for first three field hospitals. Work to build out Dulles Expo Center and the two other locations will begin this week…Virginia has a $27M contract with Northfield for PPE. First shipment from Asia to arrive next Monday. Also a trucking contract for logistics & distribution. Shipping MREs to food banks to supply for next 6 weeks. Also shipping hand sanitizer & old masks”
  • Shortage of PPE both in Virginia and nationwide. Have been working every angle to buy more. Have executed $27 million contract with Northfield to buy PPE, expect first shipment from Asia in a week from today.
  • Still don’t have what we need to do widespread testing.  We continue to work as fast as we can on testing that will have a 15 to 30-minute turnaround.
  • Issue stay-at-home order a week ago, believes Virginians are taking it seriously, need to keep up the good work. Can’t relax our vigilance against this virus in coming weeks.
  • This shows us how vital how vital the work of our public health people is.
  • Dr. Oliver: VDH website updated – 2,878 cases, 54 deaths.
  • Question on why recovery numbers not posted on VDH site. That data is actually not collected, so can’t display it on the site. Those numbers in and of themselves are almost certainly an underestimate. We have widespread transmission of the disease, many people in our community with COVID-19 walking around in the community. Unfortunately, we don’t have widespread testing.
  • Models are changing all the time, in part because the data changes from day to day. University of Washington model has changed a good deal in the last week. Working with UVA on a new report this week. This is not a perfect science.
  • Northam says he just spent 1 1/2 hours with the VP and governors across the country, talked about modeling, PPE, testing…working to get to a 15- to 30-minute turnaround. The message is to continue doing what science tells us works.
  • Asked why he isn’t wearing a mask right now, Northam says he doesn’t wear a mask in his office, but does wear a mask when he’s out and about.
  • From reporter Max Smith: “Va Homeland Security and Public Safety Sec Brian Moran says Virginia still ‘woefully short’ on protective equipment, but says the state has now made substantial purchase. The delivery will come in a number of phases, but will include N95 masks and other equipment…Virginia Health Sec Carey says not yet getting enough test kits to do large scale quick turnaround testing at volume – right now, they have some of the machines in the state but not many of the test cartridges”
  • Virginia is looking at other sites for surge capacity. Have identified three sites so far – one in NOVA, one in Richmond, one in Hampton Roads  – and will get those three sites up and running as quickly as possible.
  • Any special precautions/procedures with regard to long-term care facilities, local divisions of Virginia’s health department are working closely with long-term care facilities in their area.
  • Re: recreational facilities in SW Virginia, “this virus knows no borders, whether they be counties, states, even countries,” so facilities have been closed to protect everybody.
  • Why are construction projects across Virginia being allowed to continue? Northam says it’s perfectly clear that these businesses are to adhere to the rules – 10 or less, social distancing, etc. Haven’t heard of any problems with that.
  • Without widespread, rapid-turnaround testing, there are a lot of people with results pending. Commercial labs committed to getting turnaround times more rapidly. It’s critically important for people in the hospital to know if they have COVID-19 and especially if they *don’t* have it. Some reductions in testing turnaround times. There is a desire to coordinate testing and divert some of hospital work to new laboratories with capacity that can share the testing burden. Even if hospitals get the instrumentation, the dearth of reagents will still be a barrier to scaling up testing.
  • Question on Gov. Northam using his pardon powers on inmates at risk from COVID-19. “We have protocol we work through with parole; my folks are working around-the-clock, a number of individuals have been released…we have to follow our protocol”; no plans to issue an executive order. Sec. Moran says geriatric parole eligible about 2,351. Parole Board has been working overtime to review these cases. 95 released in March, up significantly from the previous month. 90%-95% of the geriatric and pre-1995 inmates are incarcerated for violent offenses. With respect to the governor’s clemency powers, the case of Bill Howell vs. Terry McAuliffe found that the governor can only apply clemency powers on an individualized basis, not blanket, and that’s a combersome and lengthy process. Have to comply with recent case law in individualizing every one of the cases. Diligently abiding by CDC guidelines, “doing our very best” to stop the spread of COVID-19 in confined spaces like prisons.
  • Question on non-essential businesses still open. Northam says they can stay open as long as they can maintain the 10 or fewer rule and adhere to other rules on cleansing of surfaces, etc. If the business can’t comply, it must close. Pretty straightforward.