Home Coronavirus Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Wednesday (5/6) Virginia COVID-19 Briefing

Live Video, Highlights: Gov. Ralph Northam’s Wednesday (5/6) 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 data points, testing, National Guard. Tomorrow marks two months since VA had first postive COVID case. We are now at a place to think about next steps. Phased approach to restricted operations that we will implement in phases over time based on data and science. More detail on that on Friday. Working with businesses, localities on this as well. Phase 1 restrictions will be the “floor”; localities can be stricter, and Virginia will work with the localities, including in Northern Virginia. We are closely monitoring the health metrics as we proceed, and decisions are dictated by those numbers. Following CDC guidelines. Hopefully can enter Phase 1 next Friday, but will closely monitor data to make that decision. % of tests that are positive, hospitalizations (stable), hospital capacity (stable), PPE supply (no hospitals reporting difficulties right now), increased ability to test and trace (doing that). Health is and will continue to be first priority.
  • Testing, tracking, ability to quarantine are key to next steps. Continued to be concerned about cases in poultry plants on Eastern Shore. Large-scale testing, working with CDC. To increase tests, need both kits and people to perform the tests. Partnering with Virginia National Guard to do that. Federal government helping to pay for this assistance through the end of May; asking president to extent this authorization. National Guard regularly provides assistance in emergencies, and this is the greatest emergency we’ve seen in many years. Thanks the National Guard for its help.
  • Maj. Gen. Tim Williams of VA Nat. Guard. Unique dual status force with federal and state missions. Community-based force. etc. Now working to support local, state, federal efforts to mitigate effects of coronavirus. ~570 personnel working and/or ready to support Virginia’s coronavirus response, with VDH and VA Dept. of Emergency Management. So far, personnel have performed >22,000 hours of planning augmentation. (From reporter Cam Thompson) “Personnel have received VDH training to help with testing. Collected samples from over 2700 people around the state. This week we have people in Central and Northern Virginia. While supporting testing effort is top priority, personnel also helping food banks. Across the 7 VDEM regions, we also help with material/supply delivery of PPE.” Most National Guard members have full-time jobs. Thanks families and employers.
  • Northam – National Guard does amazing work, whether with COVID-19 or hurricane relief, they’re always there for us. “We are so thankful and you make us very proud.”
  • Northam thanks Virginia’s hospitals for stepping up to help long-term-care facilities. VHHA has announced it will assist facilities with several issues – staffing, testing, PPE. Thanks to VHHA’s commitment to being a long-term partner in combating COVID-19. Donation of 15,000 masks and 100s of bottles of hand sanitizer for at-risk neighborhoods.
  • Today is Nurses Appreciation Day. “My favorite nurse was my mother.” Nurses are “the bedrock of our health system.”
  • Dr. Norm Oliver – VDH hasn’t been updated yesterday due to technical problems. Hopefully will be posted later today.
  • Question about uniformity across Virginia with regard to allowing localities to go above the “floor” in Phase 1. Northam says greater DC area is one we need to pay particular attention to, have been talking to local leaders in Northern Virginia. Still 1 1/2 weeks from the 15th, but will work with local leaders if they feel they need to raise the “floor.”
  • Question on child support payments in Bon Air Correctional facility. Sec. Brian Moran – could not find any statutory authority to suspend those payments. No positive tests in several days at Bon Air…lowest population in years.
  • Question on contracts with private labs for increased testing. Dr. Remley says two contracts are being finalized; up to 5,000 per week. Goal is to always have testing available in a timely fashion.
  • Question on transferring inmates between facilities during the pandemic. Sec. Moran – we have not changed our policy at all; any transfers are limited to a necessity…for safety and security purposes in the case that was mentioned in the question.
  • How is testing going in under-served areas?  Northam says we’re deploying National Guard where we need testing, also Dept. of Health, etc. Looking at ways to reach out, take a test kit to people’s homes, provide transportation, looking at deploying home health nurses, etc. Will do whatever we can to make sure everyone who needs a test can get one?
  • Question to Gov. Northam – how are you doing, working such long hours, etc? “I’m doing fine.” “This is a biological war we are fighting…I spent a number of years in the U.S. Army as a physician, we trained for biological war, I never experienced that…but I did experience a different conflict, Desert Storm…took care of wounded soldiers…in Germany…30-45 casualties a day and it was tough work…so while it was tough it was also perhaps training for this…it did end and we got through it…I appreciate you asking about our staff…They are working 7 days a week, around the clock, no complaints and doing great work…We have a great team up here…Together, we’re going to get through this.”
  • Dr. Oliver – Outbreak on Eastern Shore are not only at poultry plants, but those are the majority of cases. About 3,000 employees at the two plants. Think of them as a cruise ship…with 100s of COVID-19 patients…so very concerned about community spread. Also an outbreak at a nursing home there. Have been working diligently with our contact tracers to contain the spread of disease there. Working closely with CDC. Want to try to increase as much as possible physical distancing within the plants as well as social distancing. Plant management has been very cooperate in this, putting up plexiglass, providing masks, altering and staggering break times, etc. National Guard will help; planning to test surrounding communities.
  • From reporter Cam Thompson: “Q: What happens if title 32 isn’t extended (feds paying for VNG)? Hopkins: If not, VNG would still be available to respond. It wouldn’t change response time. State would take on the funding burden.” “Funding always matters.”
  • How much federal funding for COVID-19? ~50 different income streams releated to CARES Act that have come to Virginia, including all the different disciplines. That amounts to $15 billion. There is not a mandate that money go to localities, although fully intend to get an allocation out to localities, but has to be certified that it will be used in compliance with federal guidelines. Federal money will be used for testing and contact tracing.
  • Question on contact tracing, other states say they’re hiring 10,000 or more. Where are we on this? Dr. Oliver: need 15-30 contact tracers for every 100,000 in the population; that’s how we came up with number – core group of up to 300 more highly trained folks, plus another 1,000 contact tracers, and that will put us at the lower end of the 15 per 100,000…prepared to ramp up. Northam – contact tracing is a critical factor as we transition into Phase 1. We’ll hire as many people as we need to do the job adequately.
  • Question on outbreak at the Dillwyn Correctional Facility. Sec. Moran: Doing more “point prevalence testing”; need to early detect those who have the virus. Buckingham today, Dillwyn the end of the week, going to test everyone…not just symptomatic inmates. Early detection will allow for measures to ensure safety and health of those in custody as well as correctional officers.
  • How will we know when we’ve hired enough contact tracers, given lack of clarity about how many we have now? Lack of clarity is due to distribution of workforce across the state; each department facing a different level of cases in their jurisdiction. At any given point, can’t say exactly how many people are working on contact tracing in a particular locality. Can figure out how many people we hire as we ramp up. Need about 1,300 to hit the 15 per 100,000 population goal. Will keep public posted on how we’re doing on this.
  • Question about reaction of Gov. Hogan and Mayor Bowser to Gov. Northam’s announcement of looking to enter Phase 1 on May 15. “We have a great relationship with our neighboring leaders…We all have different situations…unique challenges…how can we move forward together…As we move forward, things aren’t really written in stone…has to be flexibility…the conversations are always very cordial…we have a great relationship…will continue to communicate once or twice a week.”
  • Who will have the final say on local restrictions? Gov. Northam: “I will have the final say.” Working closely with localities, meeting with Northern Virginia leaders tomorrow.
  • Question on what’s your message to the people outside honking their horns outside right now? Northam: We have hundreds of Virginia National Guard doing their job. Today is National Nurses Day and Teacher Appreciation Day. Want to thank the people stepping up every day to be a part of the solution to get the economy up and running again.