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Video: Gov. Northam Briefing On Virginia’s “continued response to COVID-19 and vaccination efforts”

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See below for video and highlights from Gov. Northam’s weekly briefing, today at 2pm “on the Commonwealth’s continued response to COVID-19 and vaccination efforts.”

  • Northam: “First of all, I want all of you to know that I understand your frustration. I know, you’re out of patience. and I am as well. Everyone across  the country is tired of the  pandemic. We all want to put COVID behind us and get back to normal. We know that vaccines  are the way out, and everyone  wants to get their shot now and I get that. You deserve to know what’s going on and what  happens next.”
  • Northam: “So today we’re going to talk about two major things. We’ll talk first about how we are accelerating  Virginia’s work to get more shots in more arms faster. That has to do with supply and logistics – how we move that  inventory around to get it in the right places. Then we’ll  talk about how Virginia is significantly expanding transparency, so you can know exactly what’s going on.”
  • Northam: “I want to  start by reminding everyone  where we are as a country. The  first shots became available in  this country in the middle of  last month. We told you then that the first shots would go  to the people who are most  vulnerable- health care workers  and people living in long term care. We estimated that to be  about 500,000 people. Today,  about a month later, more than 520,000 shots have been given in  our commonwealth. It’s  important to know that it means  that we are on track. It’s also  important to know that in just  one month, more people have  been vaccinated than have  tested positive in the entire  year of the pandemic. And that  is good news.”
  • Northam: “It’s also  important to remember how the system works. The federal government contracts with drug  companies to manufacture a vaccine. The Feds then allocate doses to the states and we then distribute them to hospitals,  clinics and others to give shots to people. You’ll recall that we laid this plan out for you at a press conference not  too long ago, and we said then that everyone should expect  things to be bumpy at first. Let’s talk about one reason why  that is. People can get shots only if we have shots to give, and there has been a lot of uncertainty about that, especially over the past two  weeks…”
  • Northam: There is “both too much supply in  some places and not enough in others. That’s true in Virginia  and around the country.”
  • Northam: “I’ve spoken with the White House twice in the past week. Yesterday, I joined a call with the White House and governors of the 50 states, and what I heard was states dealing  with all the same issues we’re  dealing with here in Virginia – not enough supply, not enough  transparency, lots of logistics and not enough time to plan. I also heard something that I have not heard since the pandemic began, and that is a commitment at the national level to work together, find solutions and get this moving  so we can all get back to our lives. I heard a spirit of bipartisan cooperation – big states, small states, red states, blue states, east coast, west coast. in the heartland. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear that. The White House told us two pieces of good news. First, states are going to  receive about 16% more doses immediately… Second, they’re  locking in this increase, so  instead of being forced to  operate week to week, we will now be able to plan out a  month. This is really good  news, and it’s one critical part of our plan to get more  shots in more arms more  quickly.”
  • Northam: It “all depends on  having a stable supply and  trust that the supply will  continue to roll in…after more than a month of working,  the drug manufacturers have hit  a stable, regular sustainable cadence of production. and that  is good news. [The Army Four-star General leading the federal vaccine supply effort] is confident they will deliver the doses  they have committed to the  nation, and that’s why he and  the rest of the Biden team are  making the decision to allocate  more doses to the states. And as we heard in the news media,  this is one critical step that  will allow all Americans who want a shot to get one by the end of this summer. That’s our  country’s goal. That’s Virginia’s goal, and Virginia  is prepared to deliver. I got off  that call and met with our team.  I told them this is good news, this is our goal, and I said  people are counting on us to  work harder. and faster to meet  it.”
  • Northam: “Here’s our progress at giving shots. We have given 594,828 shots, putting us 11th among all the states, giving more shots than 39 other states. On a population basis, we have reached about 7000 per 100,000 people…puts us 26th  among the states and the District of Columbia. This puts  us right in line with our  neighbors like Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee. You’ll recall that two weeks ago, we set an initial goal of doing 25,000 shots per day. Well, we  have met that initial goal, and  in fact, we’re now exceeding  it. Our average is over 26,000  shots a day. And that’s good  news.”
  • Northam: “Now, let’s talk  about how we’re going to  accelerate it and move toward  our next goal of 50,000 shots  per day. We start with vaccinating people who are most  vulnerable, starting with older  people who live in long term  care. As you know, the federal  government brought CVS and  Walgreens in to vaccinate  people who live in long-term care facilities. They’ve been  doing a good job. and they’ve  been doing what the federal  government asked them to do.  But I spoke to their leadership  last week and asked, what’s  your timeline to vaccinate  everyone living in these  facilities? The answer was  later in February, as the  federal government wanted.  I said we need you to please do  it faster. They agreed, and I’m  grateful for what they have  done. Their fast action means  more shots in more  arms and…this is good news.”
  • Representatives from CVS and Walgreens give updates. Gov. Northam says Virginia appreciates their work.
  • Northam: On hospitals, “lots of doses went to  hospitals to cover them for  both 1st and 2nd doses. Hospitals have been working  hard. to vaccinate their  employees. they should be done about without first doses. So my message to hospitals is  this – there’s no excuse for first doses to be sitting there unused; get them out and get them into arms now. We’re also working with hospitals and local health districts to make sure they’re not holding on to too much supply of second doses, especially if they won’t need it for several weeks. So  my team and I have been working  the phones, asking hospital  companies to shift excess  supply two others who can get more first shots in arms right now this week. And hospitals  have really stepped up and I appreciate that. By shifting  inventory around, we’re going to be able to increase the  number of shots this week by about 20%. That’s about 40,000  more shots by this Sunday, on top of the 175,000 that were already planned, and that is  good news.”
  • Overall, Virginia hospitals have  administered more than 318,000  vaccine doses since mid-December.  Hospitals are capable of administering >100,000 doses each week if there’s adequate supply. Metrics are improving daily. Just need COVID-19 vaccine doses from the federal level. Dr. Northam says we are “blessed to have so many great  hospital systems in Virginia.”
  •  Who is eligible for shots? There’s been some confusion about  how to prioritize. “So today, the Virginia Department of Health is issuing clear  guidance to local health  district – here’s how to  allocate your supply. Half of  available doses should go for people aged 65 older. The other half should be used for frontline essential workers and people who are at increased risk of severe illness, as the CDC identifies…first responders, teachers and  others that we have discussed  before…It will take  several weeks to reach everyone, and I ask you to keep that in mind. I also ask you to remember  if you jump the line, you’re  taking the spot of someone who  needs it more because of their  health condition or the job  that they do in Virginia.”
  • On transparency, “Here in Virginia were making changes. Right now, during this briefing, we are launching a new vaccine dashboard…It includes more information and more clarity…You can see how many doses have come into Virginia, where they have been delivered and where they’re  sitting. You can see how many people have received their  first shot. how many people have received their second and how much of Virginia’s  population has been vaccinated. That’s good news. I want to talk specifically about data around race and ethnicity. It’s really important to make sure that equity is built into the  vaccination program and that  you can see what’s going on. So I directed the team to do more and to move faster…We want to ensure that our process for data collection  and vaccine distribution is  fair, equitable and transparent  to all Virginians.”
  • Northam: “I’ve directed the Virginia Department of Health to stand  up a single statewide system  with a phone number and a web  site where every Virginian can  go and have their information  go to the right place. That is  not ready today, but I expect  it to be ready soon. And I’ve  told the health department that  this is a priority. I know this has  been a source of great  frustration for a lot of Virginians. I hear you and  we’re getting this fixed. In  addition, we expect to  dramatically increase the size  of our call center, adding more  people to answer the phones.  This isn’t in place yet, but it  also will be soon. I take this  seriously because I know that  people just want answers.”
  • We have a whole series of safety policies in  place to protect people during  the pandemic. No one wants  these rules around forever, so  they are set to expire this  week. We need to keep them in  place a while longer, so I will  issue an executive order today  extending the current policies  through the end of February. We are ramping up vaccinations.  This is no time to let down our  guard. I also want you to know  that the Department of Labor has made our temporary COVID  workplace safety standards  permanent.
  • “In closing, I want to say what is on everyone’s mind. Vaccines are  the light at the end of this long and dark tunnel and they  are a great reason for hope and  optimism. I also want to  acknowledge that everyone is  out of patience and I understand that. That’s why I wanted to make sure that you  understand the actions that  we’re taking to get more shots  and more arms every day. It  will take time to reach  everyone, but we are reaching more  people every day, and the pace  is increasing. So I ask you to  please do the right thing – let  the most vulnerable people get  their shots first, keep washing  your hands, keep wearing your  mask and keep distancing from  other people.”
  • “I also want to say a  word to our team here at the  state capitol and everyone  working throughout Virginia in  health care. You are doing  heroic work, I want to thank you  for stepping up in a big way.  I know that you’re  exhausted and you’re out of  juice right when we’re asking  you to push even harder. I also know what you’re capable of and I’ve seen you rise to meet  the job that needs to be done.  We need you to do it once more and I have faith in you. So  thank you.”
  •  Northam: “I’ve  always tried to be receptive to  others’ ideas, to their criticism  and again as as long as people  are criticizing in a way to be  part of the solution, that’s a  good thing.”
  •  Northam: “Our National Guard, they have been  very helpful in working with testing…as you know our National  Guardsmen had been up in Washington dealing with the  insurrection there. There are  over 1,000 remaining there that  will be there for another few  weeks. We look forward to  having all of our National Guardsmen back in in Virginia  so that they can focus on some  of these jobs that at hand.”
  • Northam: “We want our teachers to all be  vaccinated, we want the  staff to be vaccinated. that’s  not what opening our schools  or getting our children back  into the classroom is totally dependent on. We have looked at  the data very carefully. Our  schools are able to follow our  mitigating measures and schools  are actually a fairly safe  place for our children. That’s  become more clear every day. So I  will continue to allow the  localities, depending on what  their numbers are in the  communities…to  make the decisions on if and  when our children can get back into the classroom. But  certainly our emphasis at the state level from our Secretary of Education, from our Superintendent of Public Instruction, is to know of this  data to continue those measures to get teachers vaccinated as  soon as we can, but really move toward getting our children back in the classroom  as soon as we can.”
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