Home Coronavirus Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Wednesday (5/13) Virginia COVID-19 Briefing

Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Wednesday (5/13) 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.

  • Will talk about Phase 1, both statewide and in Northern Virginia. Also, when DMVs might reopen.
  • Video stopped, so I’m switching to reporter Cam Thompson, who’s in the room, I believe. “Northam: A few DMV customer service centers will start opening Monday. 11 centers in 7 of the 8 regions. Will focus only on services that require in-person visits…Such as vital records, disabled parking permits. These will be by appointment-only and visitors will have to wait in their car…We’re doing more testing at long-term care facilities and around the state. Pharmacies and drug stores are stepping up. Rite Aid has done more than 1200 tests as of Monday in two sites. We’ll see more of this in the coming days (names Walmart)… I feel comfortable to allow phase one to begin this Friday for most of the Commonwealth. As a Commonwealth, our health metrics are trending in the right direction. This will not be like turning on the light switch, instead, it will be like turning up the dimmer switch.” Have to meet health metrics to enter Phase 1. Child care centers will continue to prioritize working families and following guidelines. Parents who need help finding childcare to call 866-KIDS-TLC. Ban on gatherings of more than 10 will remain, we encourage telework and face masks in public. We will require masks for some businesses. ‘Phase one represents a small step forward, but we will remain vigilant.’ Same data that allowed us to begin phase one will guide us into allowing phase two. Phase one is a floor, not a ceiling and I’m open to some regions moving more slowly.” This virus has not gone away and everyone needs to act accordingly. You will be safer at home. We all need to act responsibly.
  • OK, switching to the YouTube feed. Northern Virginia is our most populous region by far, shares workforce with DC and MD. Health metrics show amority of positive cases in Northern Virginia, as well as higher % of positive cases and people hospitalized. So, he’s delayed the implementation of Phase One in Northern Virginia for two weeks.
  • Mayor of Falls Church David Tarter (also Chairman of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission) – NVRC represents 2.4 million people, 40% of state’s GDP, has been meeting twice a week, sharing information and best practices. Come together to provide a unified response. Thanks Gov. Northam and members of his staff, willingness to “work with us and recognize our unique circumstances.” Asked Gov. Northam to consider Northern Virginia separately from rest of state. “One size does not fit all” when it comes to this complex challenge. Need a responsible reopening process, when the data supports it…
  • Fairfax County Chair Jeff McKay – Thanks Gov. Northam for recognizing that the DC metro area is one cohesive region, very important to coordinate with DC and MD to protect the safety of the community. 1000s per day use public transit, important that there not be huge variatians in the rollout of various phases. This virus does not know jurisdictional boundaries, so we must remain a coordinated metro DC area. Our metrics are not there right now. Have to coordinate with all of our partners. Thanks Gov. Northam for recognizing that.
  • Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey – Half of Virginia’s cases are in Northern Virginia. Most responsible path forward is to maintain current status until Phase 1 criteria are met for Northern Virginia. All five metrics are either unmet or cannot be determined based on currently available data.
  • Loudoun County Chair Phyllis Randall – Looking forward to moving to Phase 1, not expecting different rules, just a timeline that makes sense for the data we’re seeing. NOVA is interconnected, so we’re taking a regional approach. There is nothing she wants more than to enter Phase 1 on May 29. For now…everyone please stay home, except for essential trips. Other restrictions remain. We will move to Phase 1 the  moment public health officials determine it can be done safely.
  • Prince William County Chair Anne Wheeler – Thanks Gov. Northam. Says question is how to get to Phase 1 as expediously as possible. Says it comes down to personal responsibility, to people listening and following the rules. Residents in every Northern Virginia locality needs to follow the same rules.
  • Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson – Thanks residents for taking personal responsibility, for folks on the front lines, for people helping neighbors. We all want to open the economy as quickly as possible, but we need to do safely – health and economy go hand in hand.
  • Gov. Northam thanks all the NOVA leaders for showing leadership. Says we’re focusing on data, not dates. Says he’s in frequent consultation with DC Mayor Bowser and MD Gov. Hogan. We all share the same priorities – public health as the top priority. Working to support local governments. $650 million going to help local governments pay for the cost of responding to the pandemic. Dept. of Health working to hire many more contact tracers for each region.
  • Gov. Northam mentions that this is national skilled nursing week…please recognize the work they’re doing.
  • Dr. Norm Oliver – 26,746 cases (+946 cases in last 24 hours), 927 deaths (+36)…23% of cases with data are African-American; Latinx =43%. In terms of deaths, 25% of deaths are African-American, 10% Latinx. As we move into Phase 1 will be critical for us to contain this disease via testing, contact tracing, isolation.  Currently processing 3,000 applications for new, additional workforce of contact tracers. We plan to step up that workforce to near 1,300. That’s about 15 contact tracers for every 100,000 people, a number from Harvard University researchers… We will start at 15 per 100k and ramp up as needed.
  • How does contact tracing move forward? From reporter Cam Thompson – “When we ID someone who’s a contact of a positive case. Find out how they’re feeling. If it appears they’re symptomatic and need testing, we’ll arrange it. If they’re a primary contact to the case, we’ll ask them to self-quarantine for 14 days. Primary contact is for example, we’ve been talking for more than 10 minutes six feet apart, you are a primary contact. But if you’ve talked to someone else, they are considered a secondary contact.”
  • Question on whether just NoVA will be delayed; what about other regions? Gov. Northam – Only one region so far has requested through their leadership to delay entering Phase 1. If there are other regions with similar concerns, he hasn’t heard from them, would encourage them to go through same process as NoVA.
  • Question on nursing home testing. Gov. Northam – We have about 260 long-term care facilities in Virginia, are committed to testing all of them. Won’t be done in the next 2 weeks, but will be done as quickly as possible. National Guard is helping. Also, nursing homes can contract through private testing companies.  Will be “all hands on deck” approach. Need to realize if we are able to test all of these, there may be reasons we need to go back and test the facility again. This will be an ongoing process. These are some of our most vulnerable populations, we are doing everything we can to keep them healthy.
  • Question on easing restrictions, potential for increased cases. Northam – We are in position to enter Phase 1 b/c we have the hospital capacity, PPE. We’re ready for more cases in next few weeks. What about this fall/winter? We’ve got to be ready or that. We’re not just preparing for tomorrow, but for months and years down the road. As a country, we were caught flat-footed by this pandemic, we weren’t ready, and we’ve learned a significant lesson here in Virginia.
  • Northam – This is a *novel* virus, a LOT we don’t know, so really no way to say exactly what’s going to happen.
  • Question about staffing levels at state prisons. Sec. Public Safety Brian Moran – We have not experienced a significant staffing shortage. Cites great commitment on the part of correctional officers. Also mentions protections for correctional officers…point-prevalance testing (this week, Dillwyn)…with that knowledge, can take steps to separate/quaratine and ensure safety/health for those in custody.
  • Question on balancing economy/health. Gov. Northam – We are in the middle of both an economic and health crisis, and until we get the health crisis behind us, the economy will never recover. So…emphasis on safety and well-being of Virginians. But clearly, people have lost their jobs, making tremendous sacrifices, so will keep working to move forward. We were in great shape economically heading into this crisis.
  • Gov. Northam – We will be able to enforce the guidelines. He’s more of a carrot than stick person, but we do have a stick if we need to use it. Encourages Virginians to cooperate.
  • Press conferences are going to 2x per week after Memorial Day.