Home Coronavirus Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Monday (5/11) Virginia COVID-19 Briefing

Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Monday (5/11) 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.

  • Northern Virginia’s regional pace to ease restrictions, Petersburg’s water, the DMV and our elections here in the Commonwealth.
  • 9,801 tests yesterday, which is a great step as we work to ramp up testing.
  • Testing trending upwards overall. (From reporter Cam Thompson): “Hope to have some testing partnership announcements in the coming days. Pairing with stores to spread testing out into the community.”
  • Open to some regions moving more slowly on reopening. Northam says he asked Northern Virginia leaders to send a formal letter. Uniformity across the region is critical. Localities sent the letter over the weekend. Northern Virginia officials using same metric state is using – % positivity, PPE, hospital beds, testing, etc. # of cases alone doesn’t give accurate picture of the disease, and NOVA has a significant % of state’s cases. Similar differences in % positive between NOVA (25%) and rest of Virginia (closer to 10%). Same can be said about hospitalizations – in NOVA, COVID patients make up a significantly great % of hospitalizations. Will continue to work with NOVA officials on a slower Phase 1. The key to all of this is testing. Expects to have exciting announcements in coming days on testing partnerships.
  • From reporter Cam Thompson: “Last week we discussed Petersburg’s water issue… Dr. Oliver issued an order to restore water to 46 homes in the city and not shut off the water to any other.”
  • DMV – extending closure of offices for at least another week. This is a difficult time for graduating seniors, including drivers’ licenses – please be patient
  • >50 localities have elections coming up on May 15. Strongly encourages everyone to vote by mail. Selection option 2a.
  • Dr. Oliver: 25,070 cases (+989 over the past 24 hours), 850 deaths (+11 deaths), 167,758 total tests (+9,801 tests). Cases in African-American community continues to be disproportionately high. From reporter Cam Thompson – “40% for Latinx (believes this is because of outbreaks in poultry plants, those outbreaks have been trending down).”
  • Why is Virginia testing so low? Northam – we’re very close to 10,000 in the last day, he’s very pleased with the progress we’re making on this front, including ramping up PPE and testing supplies. We need PPE, testing to move into Phase 1. We should be at 10,000/day in testing in the next couple days. Test kits no longer a problem.
  • Question on regional approach leading to people traveling from hotspots to other areas. Northam: Encourages people not to travel from hotspots to other parts of Virginia – or DC and Maryland, for that matter. Best to stay at home, keep up the handwashing, etc.
  • Chief of Staff Clark Mercer – virus does not respect political borders. Surrounding states are don’t different things on reopening. Fairfax, PW, Alexandria, Arlington, Loudoun County combined had 73% of new positive tests in Virginia. The rest of Virginia accounts for 60% of the population. Outside of Northern Virginia “has hit those metrics.” It’s a “safer at home” order, will hopefully mitigate some traveling.
  • From reporter Cam Thompson: “Chief of Staff on third party vendors: We are looking at hiring them to increase testing. Close to executing a contact for tracing.”
  • Question on getting more staff at Virginia Economic Commission. Dr. Healy – we’ve increased staff, two call centers that hvae come onboard (Newport News, Grundy), working as hard as we can to make sure people get their benefits. Also have increased online capacity.
  • Question on contact tracing workforce.  Sec. Carey: We started pre-COVID19 with 200 or so tracers. Have staffed up to over 600; that’s a significant improvement. Want additional 1,000 tracers and 200 supervisory folks. We’re well on our way, “will aggressively ramp up over the next several weeks in order to meet those goals.” Need to increase capacity forward.
  • Has Northam considered a mask order? He’s considered it; right now, is recommending people wear masks.
  • From reporter Cam Thompson – “Q: Some restaurants are perplexed by the outdoor dining only. But retail can do 50%. Explain? And when will May 15 be finalized? Northam: On latter, I’ll make a ruling on Wednesday.”
  • Question from restaurants on inconsistent guidelines. Northam says he’s hopeful Phase 1 will last no more than 2-3 weeks. People have to be comfortable to go into restaurants. Also employees need to be comfortable. In phase 1, can serve outdoors at 50% capacity.
  • How long will Northern Virginia delay going into Phase 1? That’s to be determined, depends on data. Commends leadership in Northern Virginia. Couldn’t ask for a better relationship, they’ve chosen to be part of the solution, they are just as anxious as everyone to ease these restrictions and return to as near normal as possible. The goal is protect Virginians.
  • Question on case of Vincent Martin’s parole. Brian Moran – parole board has determined to put his release on hold. There have been a number of concerns raised. Now an independent General investigation into the process; number of allegations to have been made. New chair of the parole board.
  • Question on antibody testing. Dr. Oliver (from reporter Cam Thompson): “We made a decision to count all tests and change methodology from unique people. In general, we attempt to follow CDC guidelines. Around that issue. No set guidance, so there’s variability among states. Carey: We started with just PCR tests, serological tests were added. Idea was to survey all the tests we could. In retrospect we could have chosen a different path. We’ll look at disentangling the data. Mercer: Other states are including serological testing in their data.”
  • Clark Mercer – On Phase 1 on Friday, “I think we’re more than ready for the rest of the Commonwealth to enter phase one.” Need to get tracers into Northern Virginia.
  • Mercer – There will be tension with Trump administration about workers not feeling comfortable (or able) to come back to work and unemployment insurance. It’s a work in progress, working through it.
  • What are we looking for in Phase 1? Northam – we’re going into Phase 1 b/c we’ve been following the guidelines, data. We feel we can go into Phase 1 safely in most parts of Virginia. We also have the tools now on testing, tracing, etc. that we didn’t have a few weeks ago. Wouldn’t make the decision unless we had the tools to keep Virginians safe. This is in all of our hands. We know how contagious the virus is. He’s never seen any pathogen that acts like this. We are in a new day in this world. This virus is out there until there’s a vaccine. We have to protect our friends, neighbors, first responders, etc.