Home Coronavirus Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Wednesday (4/8) Virginia COVID-19 Briefing

Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Wednesday (4/8) 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, elections, health data, efforts to help Virginia restaurants.
  • Continuing to distribute PPE around the state. 1.5 million gloves and more than 430,000 N-95 masks. Numerous shipments have been made to localities around Virginia…to hospitals, nursing homes, other medical care facilities. Continue to work to purchase PPE. That market is chaotic and difficult due to a lack of federal direction. We continue to compete for the same supplies. No Virginia hospital has run out of PPE, but they are worried they might not have enough. We look at the data hourly and look at all scenarios.
  • Two upcoming elections – local and special elections in May; Congressional primaries in June. We’re in the middle of a public health crisis. We have wrestled with our options, but there are no ideal/perfect options. Elections are the foundation of democracy and voting is a fundamental right, but nobody should have to choose between their health and casting a ballot. Holding in-person elections right now would put people’s health at risk. Recommending move May elections to November. Have discussed this with Speaker of the House, legislators on both sides of the aisle. Will require General Assembly action on April 22. This is the best way to protect democracy without endangering public healthy. Will move June 9 primary to June 23. Has discussed this with legislators and members of the Congressional delegation.
  • There are racial inequities in explaining why African-American communities have some of the underlying health conditions that put them at greater risk for COVID-19. Need to do a better job of tracking racial/demographic data for confirmed cases, and has directed the Virginia Dept. of Health to do just that.
  • While coronavirus outbreak is primary focus, the business of government must continue. That includes the 100s of bills passed by the General Assembly. Deadline for signing/amending/vetoing legislation is midnight Saturday, and we will meet the deadline. One of those bills is the state budget. The one that was passed a few weeks ago can’t move forward as written, given large increases in spending and reductions in revenues. Looking at budget amendments to deal with that. General Assembly passed 1,291 bills for Governor to consider. So far, Northam has acted on 864 pieces of legislation. Will act on the others in coming days.
  • Also working on ways to ease pressures on businesses, including restaurants. Has directed ABC to defer annual fees for licenses and permits that would be up for renewal through June. This affects around 6,000 establishments with ABC licenses. Also has directed ABC that establishments with mixed beverage licenses will be allowed to sell them through takeout or delivery, effective midnight Thursday.
  • Passover begins tonight. Please celebrate Seder only with those you live with or in a virtual Seder. Science tells us that social distancing is working.
  • Dr. Oliver: 3,645 cases, a 312-case increase over the last 24-hour period. Total deaths = 75, up 12 in last 24 hours. Now have a weekly report on the VDH website, posted each Monday. Includes case description about all the cases we have. Virginia is one of the <12 states to actually report race/ethnicity data on COVID-19.  We don’t have race/ethnicity on 53% of incident cases, mainly because of labs receiving data from providers without that information. Same problem with respect to deaths from COVID-19 – about half have no racial/ethnic data; but that can be fixed. The reasons for racial/ethnic inequities in COVID-19 flow from broader social inequities, such as lack of access to healthcare and a higher disease burden, placing these folks at higher risk of mortality and also higher risk of getting the disease because of the industries they work in, less social distancing, less opportunity for teleworking, etc.
  • Dr. Oliver: Canterbury long-term care facility has a population that’s at very high risk of mortality from COVID-19, and that’s certainly proved to be the case there. They’ve done their best to isolate the cases and to provide distancing to try and keep down the spread.
  • Are counties on their own for PPE? Gov. Northam says the state can help, including shipment of $27 million worth of PPE expected to arrive in next few days. If you’re getting low on PPE, please let the state know.
  • On physicians assistants, no plans on changing relationship between physicians and P.A.s.
  • What types of patients are being prioritized for testing at state labs? The criteria look at whether people have symptoms consistent with COVID-like illness. Also, patients who have symptoms and there’s no other cause to explain it. Also, any patient 65+.
  • Any specific hot spots for the virus in Northern Virginia? Mayor Bowser, Gov. Hogan and Northam have been working closely together, tried to be consistent in their guidelines. Northam realizes the Greater Washington region is at risk. The specific data is available for localities in NOVA. Northam commends Northern Virginia for doing a good job and following the guidelines, taking this seriously. If we continue to follow the guidelines, we will flatten the curve and put a much lower burden on our hospitals. Proud of the work the hospitals are doing – they are prepared.
  • On “strike teams” in Maryland, Northam says we’re doing basically the same thing. The challenges in the nursing homes speaks to how contagious this virus is once it gets in a confined space like that. Also speaks to challenge of lack of PPE and also the difficulty with the testing. It gets better every day, but 7-9 day turnaround time really “ties our hands.”
  • On applying for unemployment benefits for people who are self-employed, Gov. Northam’s Chief of Staff Clark Mercer says we’re seeing record #s of unemployment and that’s stressing the system. Increasing capacity to deal with increased need for these services. Very mindful of individuals who have lost their jobs and the small businesses that are affected, looking at options to get them the aid they need.
  • Any investigations into Canterbury? Northam says he’s touched on the challenges, the day will come in the future when people can go back and assess what was done, could have been done. Right now, working to keep people in nursing homes safe and to prevent this from happening in other nursing homes.
  • Northam: From the start of this crisis, there’s been limited direction from the federal level, so “every governor has been on their own.” States are competing with each other. Proud that Virginia has the amount of PPE we have. We have gotten around 10% of the PPE we have requested. In fairness to FEMA, there are hotspots like NY, Detroit, New Orleans, etc., so they’re really directing a lot of their supplies to those hotspots. Concerns that the greater Washington area could be an up-and-coming hotspot.
  • Question on outstanding pieces of legislation – balance billing, COPN reform, financial viability of emergency rooms, etc?  Northam says he will act by Saturday, at this stage has signed over 800 pieces of legislation. Says to “be patient,” by Saturday night at midnight will all have been acted on, and all of that will be public on Monday morning. Says all of these pieces of legislation are important.
  • Question on informing employees if another employee has come down with COVID-19. Clark Mercer says that is an issue nationally, should make a complaint with DOLI (Dept. of Labor and Industry)…then DOLI works with the federal government. Thanks the media for reporting on this. First thing Mercer did when he heard about that is get in touch with the business and express his displeasure at not hearing the news directly from the business, but through the media. Management needs to be proactive and let its employees know if someone has contracted coronavirus.
  • On absentee ballots already cast for May, in November voters will have the opportunity to vote for those offices. Absentee ballots cast to date will be discarded. Will Northam call a special session to deal with elections? Legislators will deal with that on April 22 when they return for the reconvene session.
  • Question on better communicating with the African-American community, Northam notes office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, says he will pass recommendation on to that office. Would be a good idea to let people know all the things Virginia is doing for different communities. Dr. Oliver says he’s mapping out a messaging campaign for the African-American community and other vulnerable populations.
  • Northam thanks reporters for their questions, says it helps a lot, gives his team ideas for what to focus on. Such a contrast with Trump!