Home Coronavirus Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Wednesday (4/29) Virginia COVID-19 Briefing

Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Wednesday (4/29) 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 meat processing facilities, allowing hospitals and outpatient providers to resume non-emergency procedures, allowing dentists to see non-emergency patients, and also allowing veterinary to see non-emergecy patients.
  • Yesterday, Trump invoked Defense Production Act on meat processing facilities. CDC sent a team to Virginia’s Eastern Shore yesterday, beginning to assess the poultry processing plants, whether the plants are operating consistent with CDC guidelines. #1 concerns it the workers – they are all human beings whose health deserves our attention. “I am very concerned for them.” We raised the minimum wage, passed legislation to allow citizens who are not yet citizens to have driver’s licenses, expanded Medicaid, etc. Grew up on the Eastern Shore, fully understand how important these facilities are. Thanks hard-working farmers, truck drivers, etc. to ensure that all of us have safe, nutritious food during this crisis. But this depends on workers who are healthy and safe. If workers at meat processing plants are declared essential, we have to support their health and safety. Was on call with Sonny Purdue. Hopes federal government will play much larger role, including federal support to ensure every worker has protection/PPE. Should know more about this situation in next few days. Time is of the essence to stop the spread and protect our workers.
  • Elective surgeries – 5 weeks ago, Public Health Order 2 temporarily prohibited elective surgeries and dental procedures, in order to preserve PPE and prepare for COVID-19 surge. Because everyone has worked together, we have avoided hospitals being overwhelmed. Have more PPE, ways to decontaminate masks/gowns. Testing has ramped up, much faster now than 6-8 weeks ago. Together we took the right actions, slowed the spread of this virus. Now ,hospitals and dental facilities are prepared to restart non-emergency procedures safely. They have worked for weeks to prepare and are now ready. These are safe, clean places to go. Encourages all Virginians to resume your healthcare. So today, announcing that elective surgeries and dental procedures can resume as of midnight tomorrow night. Dental issues can impact the rest of the body, so it’s important that dentists be included in this.
  • Dr. Elizabeth Reynolds – thanks dentists, hygienists, etc. for their professionalism and attention to patients; the longer dental practices remain closed, the more likely untreated dental diseases will progress. When governor’s order is lifted, Virginia dentists will be following detailed guidelines from ADA, VDH, CDC ,etc. to keep patients, dentists and dental team members safe. Contact your dental health provider if you have an oral health need. Dental offices have always been leaders in infection control, now have new protocols in place such as wearing masks, adjusting appointment times and schedules to allow thorough cleaning between appointments, limiting/eliminating patients staying in waiting areas, etc.
  • Northam – everyone in health care system has really stepped up; people have followed our stay-at-home order and we are flatting the curve; hospital census levels have remained steady, so now it’s time for hospitals to resume elective procedures. They can wait a while but certainly not forever. Will take swift action if the situation worsens again.
  • Dr. McDermott of Mary Washington Healthcare, chair of VHHA’s board of directors –  gratitude for executive order on liability issues, also for “the incredible partnership and collaboration of this unified COVID-19 response.” Everyone involved recognizes that this pandemic has had a significant effect on Virginia…including the many patients and families impacted by COVID-19; healthcare providers; it has touched everyone in some way. Gov. Northam’s focus has been exactly where it should be  – on public safety and the health of communities across Virginia. Governor has been a steadfast ally in this coordinated response effort. Non-emergency procedures can include things like cancer treatments and other very important treatments. Virginia hospitals believe time is right to resume non-emergency, scheduled procedures to people who need that care. Virginia hospitals have more than 5,000 available beds. Hospitals follow best-practice care and infection prevention protocols and are “exceedingly safe facilities.” If you need care, please do not hesitate to receive care to improve your health outcome. Will safely and responsibly take next steps, continue to work closely with Northam administration.
  • Northam – Grateful to hospitals and dentists. Also grateful to our Veterinarians, many of whom donated PPE to those on the frontlines but have continued to care for animals throughout this crisis. Thanks them for their full cooperation. Our two labarador retrievers love their veterinarians. Veterinarians can now resume their full array of services while using public health best practices.
  • Northam: Virginia joining several other states to allow 200k additional students to delay student loan payments, including late fees being waived for 90 days.
  • Northam – A few weeks ago, were were tremendously concerned about running out of hospital beds and PPE. We focued on testing the highest-priority patients in our hospitals to make sure we weren’t burning through PPE. Now, we have more testing capacity, so can expand testing to nursing homes, first responders, etc.
  • Northam – Pleased to report that data will be reported by zip code starting in next few days and going forward.
  • Dr. Oliver – Total cases = 14,961 (+622 new cases in last 24 hours); 522 deaths (+30 in last 24 hours). 206 outbreaks in Virginia, of which 116 are in long-term-care faclitiies. Continue to try to give reports on racial/ethnic breakdown. African Americans – 27% of cases, 26% of deaths. Don’t have a good breakdown today for the Latino population, are working on that…
  • On easing restrictions, whether we’ll look at that regionally/by county/etc., Northam says we’re still working through a plan to do that, looking at data…there have been great discussions, including in Monday afternoon meeting…getting some good feedback from all over Virginia…one more formal meeting…numerous businesses that want to provide their input, have heard from many of them as well even if they’re not in the formal meeting. Very excited to start easing restrictions, get economy back up and running ,but need to do it responsibly/safely.
  • Northam – Reopening criteria (PPE, beds, etc.) have been met by the hospitals. For instance, need for ventilators has remained roughly flat. Capacity has not been overburdened.
  • Secretary of Agriculture Bettina Ring – CDC guidelines apply to meat and poultry facilities. Additional federal assistance will let us look at best practices and apply them across the state.
  • Dr. Remley – Public health labs now have a large testing capacity we can use. Also, hospitals have their own testing facilities, all can use their own systems or commercial labs to do their testing. That’s why we can now say there’s testing available…
  • From reporter Cam Thompson: “Q: In explaining why Virginia has lower testing capacity, did closing schools early lead to FEMA sending supplies to other places with higher cases? Northam: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, FEMA is sending us 200k swabs.” Was very difficult decision to close the schools. What was concerning was that while outcomes among kids are much better than older people, they live in homes with elderly individuals, so if the child contracted COVID-19 and it went into homes, then that’s where we have problems with the surges and increases in cases everyday…that was some of the thought process in closing the schools…also wanted to give Virginians consistency and let them be able to plan because we knew the virus would be with us for months. Will students be back in class this fall? If we continue to do what we’re doing, we’re all working as hard as we can that they are in late August/early September.
  • Northam – We’re looking at trends in the numbers on cases, etc. When we do more testing, you’re going to have more positive results, so that affects the numbers. Also depends on the turnaround time, so that throws another variable into how to follow those trends. Also, who are we testing helps determine the positive rate. It’s not that straightforward as just looking at # of positive cases each day. Is Northam still thinking about May 8 to start reopening? Right now, our numbers haven’t flattened out yet.
  • Question about false negatives, false positives, etc. in results coming from differing types of tests. Different types of tests are important, provide important information. Molecular tests are highest-performing tests, do meet a threshold of acceptability and comparability. Timing of tests being performed is important – don’t want to test too early (can get false negative) – to get most accurate result and what it means.
  • How has discontinuing elective procedures impacted providers fiscally? It’s been significant…these are businesses. Elective surgeries are part of the revenue stream, also how many beds/dental chairs are being occupied. There was a reason for keeping beds empty, but we’ve gotten past that stage. It all affects the bottom line. But this wasn’t about money, it was about safety for Virginians and being ready for a possible surge. Healthcare providers have sacrified to do the right thing. VHHA representative echoes that stopping elective surgeries was absolutely the right decision to be made at the time. Fortunately ,we have bent the curve, have not seen the types of surges we saw in Italy and New York. Financial impact to Virginia’s hospitals and health systems is well over $200 million at this time, but the more important thing was to build the capacity to care for Virginians in COVID-19 crisis.
  • Question on Colonial Heights rise in cases…does it need special attention in public health efforts? Dr. Oliver says Colonial Heights and a number of other areas have particularly high pockets of disease incidence. Communities of color particularly hard hit – one of the areas we want to focus on as we expand testing capacity.
  • Question on inmates being released despite testing positive for COVID-19. Secretary Moran says there are individuals being released based on mandatory release dates. But early release program have not/will NOT release people who have COVID-19 virus.
  • Governor Northam closes by saying restrictions will be lifted as soon as can be done safely. Get back to the basics – we know what works to minimize the spread of this virus (social distancing, frequent handwashing, covering your face if you sneeze or cough, etc.).