Home Coronavirus Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Wednesday (5/20) Virginia COVID-19 Briefing

Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Wednesday (5/20) 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.

  • Testing numbers yesterday were good – over 10,000 total. Percent positivity continues to trend downward.
  • There are a few different ways to get tested – provider, clinic, community testing events. $58 million from CARES Act to ramp up contact tracing program, hiring 1,000 contact tracers.
  • We’ve worked to build up supply of PPE in Virginia; hospitals now have an adequate supply. We started this with little to no supplies. So far, we’ve distributed more than 1.3 million surgical masks, more than 3 million gloves, and a lot of face shields, gowns, containers of hand sanitizer, etc.
  • This public PPE is distributed to support the state’s COVID response and testing. Direction is that healthcare providers should exhaust their private supply chains before requesting state assistance, but at the same time have been clear that noone treating COVID patients should go without PPE. We want to provide that help. Dept. of General Services (DGS) has established a rapid review process for vendors selling COVID19 related supplies and services, maintains a list at DGS.virginia.gov Virginia has also worked with Amazon. FEMA is shipping PPE to nursing homes.
  • Since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, there have been efforts to undermine it. But millions of Americns have accessed healthcare because of that law. Since the beginning of this administration, we have has worked to expand access to quality/affordable healthcare for Virginians. That is especially critical during this pandemic. Expanded Medicaid eligibility, more than 421k Virginians have enrolled in coverage and now have access to healthcare they didn’t have previously, to access critical services to treat medical conditions, including underlying conditions (e.g., asthma, COPD) that make COVID-19 so dangerous. The pandemic is amplifying economic, social, health disparities. We should all be grateful for expanded Medicaid coverage. Since March, almost 30k adult Virginians have enrolled in Medicaid, plus 25k children. Convening a new work group to identity new ways to reduce costs and improve quality of healthcare coverage for all Virginians.
  • Has vetoed HB795/HB235 and SB861 – would increase insurance costs for sicker Virginians. Need more broadbased healthcare solutions for all Virginians.
  • Localities are seeing an increase in the # of drug overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal. This is very concerning. We can’t lose sight of public health emergencies like opioids and addiction. Anyone who needs treatment or emergency care should seek it, including telehealth services.
  • Yesterday, Virginia held first elections since pandemic began. They went smoothly, well-run. Commends Secretary of Administration.  Most Virginians listened to Northam’s message and voted absentee.  Yesterday – more than 55k voters returned absentee ballots across the Commonwealth, compared to fewer than 1.7k absentee ballots in May 2016. Voters can request an absentee ballot for June 23 primary is 5 pm on June 16th. Encourages as many Virginians as possible to vote absentee.
  • Dr. Norm Oliver: 32,908 cases (+763 in last 24 hours); 1,074 deaths (+33 in last 24 hours); 235,199 tests. African-Americans account for 23% of cases and 24% of deaths. Latinx account for 46% of cases and 10% of deaths for which we have demographic data.
  • Question on National Guard and testing…they are well trained and well equipped. Goal is to test as many long-term care facilities as possible; National Guard is helping.
  • Question on what administration is doing to help minority communities get access to healthcare, testing. Northam – health equity task group/Dr. Janice Underwood coordinating ongoing communityt testing sites around the Commonwealth. Important to have adequate testing available for everybody. On healthcare, Medicaid expansion is crucial. Also working with free clinics.
  • Question on metrics following as we move through the phases. Northam – they are the same metrics we’ve been using, the CDC guidelines (# of new cases, % positivity, amount of PPE and testing capabilities, hospital capacity, ventilator utilization, staffing at hospitals). “We’re really looking at trends,” not a “specific number.”
  • Question about PW County Board of Supervisors’ request about outdoor dining, and more broadly about Northern Virginia moving into Phase 1. Northam – he’s had a # of requests from across Virginia about easing restrictions. Emphasizes that guidelines are a ceiling, not a floor. Trying to be consistent. We are in daily communications with NoVA leaders; they are following the data just as we are; no particular timeline…when NoVA leaders and comfortable and when the data supports move into Phase 1, we will do so.
  • Question on federal funding. Northam – Top priority and largest challenge is nursing homes and long-term care facilities. This funding will be very helpful. Need resources and flexibility from the federal level.
  • Question about tracing someone who has tested positive. Dr. Oliver – first have very skilled case investigators, interview the person who is ill, discover who that person has been in contact with, then find out if the folks who have been exposed are themselves doing well, put them in self-quarantine…monitor progress…we do NOT release their names to the public, but do encourage them to communicate with their healthcare provider(s).
  • Question about what Gov. Northam has learned about Virginians through this crisis. Northam – “We live in the best state, in the best country,” most proud that Virginians followed guidelines, flattened the curve, so we could maintain surge capacity. Now two months down the road and our supplies are better, testing capability is better, hospitals are better equipped, etc., so outcome for anyone who contracts COVID-19 today will be better. It’s a novel virus, “we’ve learned something new everyday.” This is like a novel, every day has a chapter or two that’s new…we don’t know how the last chapter will read, so have to stay patient, look at data not dates.
  • Guidelines on flea markets and yard sales?  Sec. Navarro – if they’re not brick-and-mortar stores, they just need to meet guidelines/recommendations (e.g., cleaning, wearing masks, protections for workers).
  • Northam – we meet every day, review the data…best way to prevent crisis from escalating is to catch it when it flares up and take appropriate action.
  • We’re now five days into Phase 1, will continue to watch, will give people a few days notice about heading into Phase 2…the earliest will be two weeks from the start of Phase 1, but no specific timeline.
  • Question on childcare and unemployment benefits. Federal government sets rules/regulations Virginia has to follow. Working to figure out guidelines, options for childcare…continues to be an issue.
  • Northam – Understands we have been through very, very difficult times, our lives have been turned upside down, people have lost jobs, etc. Reminds everyone “we’re going to get through this together.” “People right now are on edge…testy…we’re all under stress…but remember the Virginia Way…work together…be kind, smile, say thank you…help others who may need your help.”