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Live Video: Gov. Ralph Northam Holds Press Conference on COVID-19, etc. at 2 pm


It’s been a while, but it looks like the live briefings by Gov. Ralph Northam on the COVID-19 situation are baaaack. Check it out at 2 pm today. Among other things, it will be interesting to see if there’s any indication that Virginia might have to move back to Phase 2, given increasing numbers of cases in Virginia and around the country, a higher virus reproduction rate, etc.

  • Update on where we are with COVID-19 and what we expect to happen now. Reviews where we’ve been…has urged Virginians to do everything possible to stay safe and healthy. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, “these strategies have worked.” We have not the spikes that some other states are now seeing, but we’re seeing some troubling numbers and an increase in cases, largely out of the Hampton Roads area.” Clearly, the virus hasn’t gone away. Until we have a vaccination, it will impact everything we plan. “We are in this for the long haul, so we all need to be clear eyed about what our health situation is.”
  • “As a doctor, I believe that numbers tell a story.” Our case numbers are increasing statewide; we’re also testing more. % positive is inching up recently to about 6.8% now from a low of 5.6%. Still a good number…well below 10% positive rate. VDH hiring additional contact tracers. Doing about 10k tests per day. NoVA has 2/3 of our population, but cases there are “dramatically down.” In SWVA, there’s a “small uptick in cases.” Small increase in cases in central VA. In the eastern region, the situation is “much different…this is a large increase in cases…a large portion of the increase in cases [statewide] coming from the Tidewater region…% positivity here is 10.1% and it’s been rising…substantial community spread.” Driven to a large extent by people socializing – particularly young people – without wearing a mask. This is “very concerning.”
  • We are not seeing surges like FL or TX, “but we don’t live in a vacuum…if we don’t take this seriously now, we could see bigger increases.” That’s why we’re taking action today to head this off. Clearly, step 1 is stronger enforcement of existing regulations on physical distancing, face coverings. Also directing teams to conduct unannounced visits to establishments as needed. This will happen across the state, especially focused in Hampton Roads. If you own a restaurant or business and don’t follow the regulations, your license could be on the line. If you have a patron violating the rules, you have the ability to stay no, just like “no shirt, no shoes, no service.” You don’t have to serve a patron who’s not waring a face covering. Earlier cutoff for alcohol sales at restaurant coming.
  • This isn’t the end of actions to be taken, just the beginning. Reduction in the size of gatherings possible. The point is to “stop people who are clearly flouting the rules; you are being selfish and you are hurting everyone who is doing the right thing to help us all beat this virus.” “It’s going to take everyone…this is not political…it’s about our health and wellbeing” and our economy.
  • Have distributed 49 shipments of PPE since yesterday. Hospitals not reporting shortages of PPE. Overall, we feel like the PPE supply is stable.
  • One of biggest policy decisions to be made is how/when to send children back to school for the fall semester. These are not easy decisions/choices…have to balance what’s best for students’ education with what’s best for the health of students, faculty, staff, etc. Want teachers and support staff to feel safe going back to work. Dept. of Education has set out guidelines; local school boards will make final decisions. “In this case, one size does not fit all.” Physical distancing will be a critical component, and a school’s ability to accommodate that may vary in different areas of the state.” Could be 4-5 days of school in rural areas. SCHEV is reviewing reopening plans for colleges/universities. Schools must be aware of the health data in their locality and be prepared to shift their plans accordingly.
  • Rent/mortgage relief – $50 million in CARES Act funding. Has served 900 households so far. Since June 29, more than 1,300 calls for rent or mortgage help. Our goal is to help people remain in their homes.
  • Unemployment # – since March 15,  938,559 Virginians have applied for unemployment benefits, and 91% of eligible claims paid within 14 days. VA Employment Commission has increased staff by 550%, is getting >60k calls per week. New labor standards to be finalized this week, so workers can return to work safely.
  • DMV locations have been slowly reopening. Now 41 DMV locations open…by appointment only. 533k appointments scheduled. Serving 7k appointments per day. Last month, gave 90-day extension for licenses, registration, etc. expiring.
  • VA National Guard has been a critical partner. Has asked federal government to continue funding assistance.
  • Special session coming up.
  • “We have come a long, long way together since March,” thanks to sacrifices made by everyone. We’ve done well compared to other states. But we can’t let down our guard. The virus has clearly not gone away. We have to remain vigilant and doing the things we know work. If we want to return to something like normal life that we used to have, we all have to take responsibility…we are all in this together.
  • Dr. Norm Oliver – overwhelming majority of Virginians have been doing the right thing, but ~500 inspectors will be checking on businesses to make sure they’re enforcing COVID guidelines.
  • Northam – Overall, thinks Virginia has done a great job. Most people are doing the right thing, but there is an issue with non-compliance. We can’t go back to where we started, and we don’t have to. Let’s all be part of the solution, do the right thing. We want to get this health crisis behind us, get the economic recovery going, but if everyone doesn’t cooperate, we won’t get there…and if they don’t, and we’re watching, then “there are going to be consequences.” Not looking to put people in jail or arrest people, but none of this would necesssary if people would just do the right thing – it’s that simple, just wear your mask.
  • Northam says parties/social gatherings are problematic; may consider reducing the current allowance from 250 people down to 50.
  • Possibility of going back to Phase 2? “We’re considering all of our options.” “I’m data driven…very fluid…will make adjustments as we need to.”
  • “There is nothing to slow down this virus other than us,” unless/until we get a vaccination. So definitely not going to a “Phase 4.”
  • Wants children to be back in schools, but need to do it safely/responsibly. Social distancing a lot easier to accomplish in places like SW Virginia where the #s are smaller. Everybody has to feel safe. Every school district is different. Colleges/universities are also different.
  • Question on being more transparent on releasing detailed info on COVID-19 outbreaks. Northam says transparency is important, some of this will have to be done legislatively.
  • Northam – We understand importance of communicating information about COVID-19 in different languages. Dr. Oliver – have made a concerted effort to hire bilingual contact tracers, particularly Spanish speakers…


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