Home Coronavirus Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Monday (5/18) Virginia COVID-19 Briefing

Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Monday (5/18) 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.

  • This was the first weekend of Phase 1. Northam – “From what I understand, it went well. By and large, most Virginians continue to do the right thing, and for that I say thank you.” People need to keep following restrictions. Wearing a mask “may save another person’s life.”
  • % of positive tests trending down. Yesterday, about 5,800 PCR tests and 1,700 antibody tests. Testing at sites around the states. Ramping up specifically where there are at-risk populations…people have a higher risk of complications from COVID-19. Focus on Northern Virginia in particular. Testing in Petersburg on Saturday, distributing 20,000 masks and 20,000 bottles of hand sanitizer.
  • Public beaches – “As of Friday, May 22…I will allow the city of Virginia Beach to open its beaches to recreational activity.” Beach ambassadors will monitor compliance. Rules must be followed. If people don’t follow them, he will not hestitate to reinstate restrictions and/or close the beach. People “must be responsible.”
  • VA Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer – Thanks Gov. Northam for allowing VA Beach to open its beaches in a phased and safe way. Will require a coordinated effort – cleaning, educating guests, physical distancing, etc. Believes we have a great plan…will be a safe beach. Urges all visitors, residents to adhere to rules. This is short-term inconvenience for long-term gain.
  • Gov. Northam – This opening applies only to VA Beach and to First Landing State Park. Encourages others to use this as a model.
  • On schools, Gov. Northam says closing K-12 through the end of the year proved to be the right decision. Now, looking towards the fall, working to figure out what’s possible. That’s an important question to millions of students and parents. Have named a team of education leaders at all levels – State Superintendent, local school superintendents, school officials, etc. Will lay out specific next steps in coming weeks.
  • Working to protect Virginians from evictions. 3-month mortgage deferral, must be passed along to tenants. $12 million in funding to support >200 non-profit housing organizations across Virginia. 60-day deferral on eviction proceedings if can show lost income due to COVID-19. Capping late fees at 10% Pushing federal government for additional rent relief funding.
  • Dr. Jeffrey Stern, the State Coordinator of Emergency Management of VDEM over the past six years, is moving to a role with FEMA  on June 8 – “with one stipulation, no hurricanes this fall.”
  • Local elections being held tomorrow. Additional safety measures in place.
  • Moving into Phase 1 does NOT mean we can let our guard down. “We are all responsible for the health of our neighbors and our communities.”
  • Dr. Norm Oliver – 31,140 cases (+732 over past 24 hours); 1,014 total deaths (+5). African American cases about 23% of total cases, African-American deaths at 24% of total deaths; 45% of cases are Latinx. 9% of deaths are Latinx.
  • Question on some retail establishments requiring masks, some not. Northam – The key is which establishments serve others. Continue to monitor, will change if needed.
  • Question on June 9 deadline to get signatures to get on the November ballot. No statutory authority for governor to move the deadline. Some candidates have gone to court and won.
  • Question about Remdesivir. Dr. Oliver – Remdesivir is an investigational drug, has been approved by FDA for emergency utilization in hospitals. Manufacturer donated ~1.5 million doses to HHS, which sent some to hospitals with high number of patients. First shipment went to Inova Fairfax.  HHS then decided to send to central site, which is VDH. Every patient with COVID-19 has an equal opportunity to get this medication. Recently received 10 cases, enough for a handful of patients. Received 96 cases a couple days ago..it’s a very scarce resource, hence the random selection of hospitals and patients.
  • Question on evictions, what Virginia’s doing. Northam reiterates the steps he just outlined. Will continue to follow those guidelines, while trying to get more resources from the federal level.
  • Question on planning for schools in the fall. Secretary of Education Atif Qarni – started to meet about 3 weeks ago, nexus to bring K-12 and higher ed stakeholders together; lots of subgroups focusing on a variety of things, will put plans in front of governor in coming weeks. Northam – there will be a lot of different options, not one-size-fits-all. This is a NOVEL virus, so many unanswered questions.
  • Question on testing by locality, positivity rate. We aim for 10% or lower positivity rate. We’re definitely trending in that direction. We’ll have to look into the exact data point.
  • Question on legislative black caucus letter. Northam – Has had some communications with members, thinks you’ll see better communication as to what we’ve been doing to address equity, access to healthcare, access to PPE. We’re in the process ongoing of improving communications with these individuals.
  • Question to VA Beach Mayor. Coming up on 1-year anniversary of greatest tragedy ever in VA Beach. “It rocked our foundation.” Planning to memorialize the victims virtually this year, because of COVID-19. There will be a permanent memorial going forward. On the beaches, urges people to stay complaint; we want to move to Phase 2. Ambassador system to encourage social distancing, etc. It’s good emotionally and physically to come to the beach, but we want people to be safe.
  • How important is it to get kids back to school in the fall. Fairfax County talking about millions of $$$ in extra cost, dramatically reduced capacity. Northam – “It is VERY important for me to get our children back in schools.” Praises educators. Children will be “much better back in the classroom, because it’s an equity issue.” There are children who don’t have the opportunity for virtual learning. As soon as we can get children back in the classrooms safely, we will do that. Is hopeful students will be back in the classroom this fall.
  • Question on cases of multi-system inflammatory sytem in children? Dr. Oliver says we’ve learned of one case so far. Northam – This is a post-infectious disorder, why the antibody test is so important.
  • Question on testing guidance, who can be tested. Dr. Remley – It’s a combination of looking at where testing’s occurring, adding public health layer on top of that. As for when we’ll hit 10,000 tests per day, Dr. Remley says we have at least 5,000 tests in process of being entered into the system. We’ve had days where we’ve been at 10,000. That’s not a “magic number.” The approach is to “never turn anyone away” from being tested.
  • Northam – We are working with nursing homes to make sure they know how to request more PPE. Nursing homes have been a top priority since the pandemic began. We have the nursing homes task force. Doing everything we can to take care of nursing homes.
  • Question on cases in congregant settings vs. community settings. Dr. Oliver – the approach to trying to contain the disease is different in a congregant setting, it’s a different challenge. Other than that, we approach all these cases the same way. Northam – nursing homes are a top priority, we can deliver PPE to them. “We’ve come so far…every day is better…We have a great stock of PPE… more coming in.”