See below for video and highlights from today’s COVID briefing by Gov. Ralph Northam; presumably the last full-fledged press conference of his governorship, which ends on Saturday. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say…
1:43 pm – Gov. Northam says he thinks Gov.-elect Youngkin have a “wonderful opportunity ahead of them,” as Gov. Northam turns over a record budget surplus, a Commonwealth in as good a shape as it’s ever been. Also says Youngkin has a responsibility to continue to listen and serve our fellow Virginians.
1:40 pm – Gov. Northam talks about the I95 situation. Says it was a nasty snow storm, says we’re fortunate nobody lost their lives and no injuries. Commends VDOT, state police, emergency management people who worked diligently through the night. Doing an after-study to see what we can learn from this experience and hopefully not get in that situation again.
Gov. Northam says we are NOT planning to return to virtual learning, that children learn best in the classroom, that’s where they’re safest. We want our children to be in school but also be there safely and responsibly. Vaccine available for ages 5+; really encourages everyone to get your children vaccinated.
1:32 pm – Gov. Northam says he’s met with Gov.-elect Youngkin and has had “several very productive conversations” with him. This transition has been much more efficient than the one in Washington last year. Wants Youngkin to be successful, because if he and his administration are successful, Virginia will be successful.
1:26 pm – Gov. Northam says this is his last week as governor, that Saturday Gov.-elect Youngkin will be sworn in. Says he’s grateful and proud of Virginia – seen your strength, resilience, kindness, generosity. Says he and his team have worked every day to make things better for Virginians, to help people, to leave Virginia better than when he took office. Today, Virginia does a better job of treating people right – more welcoming, more open, more fair, more equitable. Today we recognize the wrongs of the past and work to rectify them. Today, everyone has more access to opportunity. We are leaving a strong and healthy Commonwealth that treats everyone right, takes care of people when they need it, provides opportunity for everyone to thrive. Four years seems long when you’re looking ahead but not when you’re looking back – seems like he just got to Richmond. Proud of what he’s accomplished. Thanks Virginia for the opportunity to serve.
1:19 pm – Today, we have lots of reasons to be hopeful…vaccines, principally. So everyone needs to be vaccinated. Gov. Northam turns it over to Dr. Norm Oliver, thanks him as well as others on the VA Dept. of Health team for their countless hours of hard work. Also thanks to Dr. Danny Avula, the leader of Virginia’s vaccination efforts, says he’s done a “tremendous job.” “I am proud of this team…we have consistently followed the science, and our approach has saved 1000s of lives.”
1:18 pm – On testing, Gov. Northam says last week we were averaging 50,000 tests per day, and that likely doesn’t count at-home tests. PCR tests not in short supply, and more rapid test kits coming available. VDH opening 9 new testing sites…able to process about 500 tests per day, six days a week. Federal government also making 500 million free, at-home tests available.
1:15 pm – Gov. Northam declares state of emergency in order to ease the pressure on Virginia’s hospitals and their staff. Relaxes some regulations to help get care to people more quickly. We don’t expect this to continue indefinitely…wave of hospitalizations should peak in early February, so this emergency order lasts for 30 days.
1:10 pm – Gov. Northam says it’s painful to watch cases rise again, but things are a lot different than before the vaccines. Today, more than 14 million shots have been given in Virginia – close to 90% of adult population has had at least one shot. “That’s good news…vaccinations are keeping people safer, even as the omicron variant spreads.” Need to look not just at the number of cases, but how severe those cases are. Omicron seems to cause symptoms that are less serious than previous variants. And nearly EVERYONE going to the hospital with COVID is *unvaccinated*. According to Ballad Health, 97% of individuals ending up in the ICU are *unvaccinated*. Omicron is very contagious, so hospitals are being inundated with COVID cases…
1:09 pm – Gov. Northam says it’s a “been a long 22 months for all of us.” Says we’re “not built for this kind of uncertainty for this long,” that it’s sometimes “brought out the worst in people” and “it’s been heartbreaking to watch people lash out and hurt each other.” “But more often, these times have also brought out the best in people…in big ways and small” (especially front-line workers, healthcare workers, etc.)
1:08 pm – Gov. Northam says he’s done about 70 of these briefings since COVID first appeared, and this will be the final briefing.