Home 2013 races Live Video: Gov. Ralph Northam Holds Press Conference on College/University Reopening, COVID-19

Live Video: Gov. Ralph Northam Holds Press Conference on College/University Reopening, COVID-19

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See below for video and highlights from Gov. Northam’s 2 pm press briefing on college/university reopening, COVID-19, etc.

  • Will be a short briefing today. Will touch on health metrics, reopening plans for higher education, revenue #s for May.
  • Speaks to ongoing protests, Confederate monuments, which he says are divisive and glorify a racist and painful time in our history…that’s why he’s working to remove the Lee monument in Richmond. Richmond City Council also has agreed to remove other monuments. We need to do this by a process. The statues are very large and heavy, can injure people if pulled down. Let local governments take them down safely.
  • Statues, of course, aren’t the only racist and divisive relics of our past. Racism and discrijmination were written into our laws, particularly during Jim Crow era. Today, Gov. Northam is announcing that he’s extending the work of the commission on racial inequity and broadening its scope. Will now look at current state law, regulations that create/perpetuate inequities in housing, voting, criminal justice, public safety, health. Will provide policy recommendations. Very proud of the work the commission has already done. Expect a report by Nov. 15.
  • COVID19: So far, Virginia not seeing a spike; in fact, our metrics are continuing to trend downwards. We have made a lot of progress, but the virus is still very much with us, and we need to stay vigilant. Thousands of people out at protests – he understands that, but strongly encourages protesters to wear masks and get tested. He himself got tested, it wasn’t that uncomfortable, and his test came back negative.
  • Higher education – how colleges/universities can slowly return to in-person classes. For higher education, similar to PreK-12. Must follow all relevant guidance in “Forward Virginia” plan. Must meet public health conditions to reopen campuses. Must submit comprehenesive reopening plans to SCHEV. We have one of the best, most diverse, systems of higher education in the nation, so each institution will take on the challenge in a way that meets their unique circumstances.
  • Peter Blake of SCHEV: Shaken by events of past several weeks…manifestation of racism/injustice that has existed for too long. Higher education still faces many challenges around racial equity in terms of attendance/graduation rates, diversity of faculty, etc. “Yet we strive to improve, there is no other option.” The digital divide is real and contributes to learning gaps. On March 30, Governor ordered colleges/universities to close. As we move to Phase 2 and anticipate Phase 3, colleges/universities are getting ready to reopen. Must follow all relevant guidance from Virginia, CDC, etc. Must meet certain public health conditions as they reopen campuses. Safety of students, faculty, staff, communities are all important. Institutions are diverse, so each will take on challenge in a way that meets its mission. SCHEV stands ready to assist, will continue to work closely with colleges/universities. Expect a “new normal.” College life will change, but the learning experience will not be sacrificed.
  • Northam – We want students back on campus this fall in a safe and responsible way. Praises Anne Holton
  • May revenue #s – losses of jobs and income due to COVID, and state revenues definitely reflect that (20% below May 2019; this is slightly better than expected).
  • Sec. Finance Aubrey Layne: About 90 days, started to feel impacts of COVID19. This public health crisis also resulted in an economic crisis. Complicated how we look at revenues. Estimated at the time we’d be down about $1 billion, and in fact we’re now about $800 million below where we had thought we’d be, which is a bit better than where we thought we’d been. Virginia economy has an underlying resiliency. Many businesses have been able to remain open. Also, the Payroll Protection Plan and other federal assistance. It’s not like everything’s great and it’s an “all-clear,” but the virus seems to be abating and business activity seems to be picking. We’re much closer to a bottom than we were a few months ago, which doesn’t mean it’s going to turn around quickly, but we’ll have good data points for new biennium budget. Special session later in August will discuss all this. Virginia should be about where expected for this fiscal year…
  • Northam: Need to take this pandemic very seriously. It is NOT smart to act like this virus has been eradicated, because it has not.
  • Dr. Norm Oliver: 52,647 cases (+470 new cases in last 24 hours); 1,520 deaths (+6). Around 24% of deaths are African American, 11% Latinx.
  • Question on university guidelines. Blake – These are individual institutional plans.
  • Northam says he certainly does NOT support “dismantling” the police, they are a “much-needed resource,” but we do need to talk about reform, priorities for funding. Has had candid and frank conversations with police chiefs. Increasing diversity of police staff is important. Another area that’s important is co-responding (better to have someone truly trained to deal with mental illness along with the police). Deescalation techniques. Need for body cameras, but they cost money, especially reviewing the film. So when we talk about “defunding,” he’d look at how we best prioritize the funding we have.
  • Question on Phase 2 timeline. Northam – minimum two weeks. “Right now things look good…don’t let down your guard.” We’ll look at the data, will try to give businesses the guidance they need on our best thoughts on when we will go into Phase 3. Thanks businesses for their hard work, sacrifices. We’re all in this together, we all need to be part of the solution. Have to realize we’re in the middle of a pandemic; it’s about taking care of yourself and others.
  • From reporter Cam Thompson: “Q: Will contract with Northfield to procure PPE expires at the end of the month be extended?” Northam says Northfield is a Virginia company and has been phenomenal to work with. Brian Moran – PPE story has been one of ups and downs from the beginning. The Northfield contract was negotiated early on, has really panned out…still having conversations; we have over a dozen PPE contracts to diversity supply chain, may have a very exciting announcement in the near future to manufacture PPE right here in Virginia. It’s been a challenge but one we’ve done extremely well at. They’ve performed well.
  • Question on state being torn down in Richmond, whether any arrests were made. Northam/Moran – neither is aware, better to address Richmond Police Dept.
  • Question on protests, police response. Also question on Sen. Chap Petersen’s lawsuit. Northam – says he hasn’t involved himself with whether police engage at the scene. Re: Sen. Petersen’s lawsuit, Northam says he believes everything we’re doing is constitutional, won’t comment further because it’s in litigation. Says we have to have a special session, will happen after we do budget reforecast…probably mid to later August. Will focus on budget; discussions on other issues are ongoing.
  • Northam – would be very supportive of renaming bases, streets, etc. in Virginia with Confederate, “divisive” names.
  • Question on police reforms. Northam – Use of force will absolutely be discussed. Also is in process of setting up town halls to get community input – activists, local leaders, all of these folks are very important to be at the table.
  • Northam wraps up, says his administration tries to have an open line of communication with local officials, legislators, Congressional delegation. Encourages everyone to communicate with those people, who can bring ideas to the Northam administration.