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Northam Strikes Cautious Note on Reopening Virginia

man talking at podium next to ASL interpreter
(Screenshot: VPM News)

Gov. Ralph Northam is still cautiously anticipating reopening businesses next week. He says by that time he's hoping to see 14 days of declines in COVID-19 cases.

“We are seeing that and I hope we will be able to enter phase one next Friday ... but we will continue to closely monitor the data to make that decision as we do with all of our decisions,” Northam said.

Northam said in addition to a decrease in cases the state is also looking at several other metrics: COVID-19 hospitalizations, hospital bed capacity and ventilators, increases in protective equipment, and increased ability to test and trace. 

Exact numbers on cases and hospitalizations were not available as of this afternoon from the Virginia Department of Health, but Dr. Norman Oliver promised an update before the end of day, and Northam said all indicators are going in the right direction.

The governor also announced support from the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, which he said discussed ways hospitals could support state efforts at long-term care facilities last week. And, "Today, the Virginia hospital and Health Care Association has done just that, announcing that they will assist facilities with several issues, including staffing testing and PPE."

The governor also addressed outbreaks on the Eastern Shore, centered in communities with two large meat packing plants. “The two companies are conducting large scale testing for plant workers, and we should get those results in a few days,” Northam said, outlining next steps. In addition to members of the health department, the National Guard will expand their work this weekend and test an estimated 1,500 people in the area around the plants.

Outbreaks are also in a nursing home and a gas station, Oliver said, necessitating an increased response from the department of health. “If you think of those plants which together have about 3000 employees as a cruise ship, what's happening in their communities every day is a cruise ship with hundreds of COVID-19 patients disembarks into the community.”

During his briefing, the governor highlighted groups for thanks, including the National Guard, nurses, and teachers. The governor brought them up again in response to a reporter’s question about the protesters driving around outside the building and honking, which could be heard in the background of the briefing.

Noting it was national nurses day and teacher appreciation week, and citing the work of the National Guard, Northam said, “My message is to Virginia,” and asked viewers to thank all three groups - especially teachers.

“Whether you have one that lives in your household or whether it's a neighbor or whether it's a teacher of your children, please reach out to them this weekend, thank them and let them know how much we appreciate them for all that they do,” Northam said.

 

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