Governor Northam’s COVID-19 Briefing – 4/01/2020

TOPLINE UPDATES

  • Today’s remarks from the Governor focused on three main topics:
    • Alternative care sites as we prepare for surge capacity
    • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
    • National Census
  • The Governor also reiterated his previous executive orders and emergency declarations.
    • “Stay home.”
    • The EO is longer than most other states (through 6/10/2020).
    • We must be realistic and know the truth of the situation.
  • The Governor acknowledged the challenges and hardships Virginians are experiencing.
  • The virus needs hosts – humans – to survive. Stay home and only go out if you really need to; the more people who stay home, the fewer people will get sick.

ALTERNATIVE CARE SITES

  • 41 sites in Virginia have been evaluated by the Army Corps of Engineers and its state partners.
    • Exxon Mobile facility in Fairfax, next door to Inova system
    • Hampton Convention Center, central to Sentara and Riverside systems
    • Site in Richmond area – decision will be announced on Friday
  • Models indicate that surge peak will arrive in late April or early May.
  • Alternative sites are based on greatest need, population, and risk of spread.
  • The state is also assessing sites west of Richmond.
    • HHR/VDH team visiting Charlottesville next week
  • State is exploring sites to set up hospital services and treatment areas through public-private partnerships.
  • There will be a need for additional PPE at alternative care sites which will face the same PPE constraints as current hospital needs.

PPE

  • Third shipment of PPE arrived from national stockpile this week but Virginia needs more.
  • We need as much PPE as we can get. We are competing with each other, other states and other countries for PPE.
  • Virginia is working to ensure healthcare and frontline workers have PPE.
  • Healthcare system is burning through PPE supplies; very high demand.
  • Administration is exploring manufacturing and other sources for more PPE.

CENSUS

  • April 1 is National Census Day. It is important to complete census forms.
  • An accurate census count is crucial for:
    • Federal funding, which is critical to recovery
    • Congressional seats
    • Public safety planning and more
    • Funding for Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP, WIC, housing, school meals, grants, student loans, community centers, other programs
    • Everyone should complete it; responses are kept confidential
  • Virginia is 8th in the nation in response rate, 40% of households responded.
  • Call the Census Bureau Customer Service Center at 1-800-923-8282 or 301-763-INFO (4636).

ELECTIONS

  • May local elections and June congressional primaries in Virginia this year.
  • Administration is working on best options on how to hold elections during this crisis.
  • Citizens are encouraged to vote absentee by mail; can ask neighbor to witness the absentee ballot from a safe distance.
  • Candidates and campaigns should think outside the box and use social media.

COVID-19 CASES AND STATISTICS

  • Numbers are updated at 9am daily on VDH website.
  • 1484 cases, 234 new cases since yesterday
  • 34 deaths, 7 more than previous 24 hours
  • Cluster of higher cases in Northern Virginia, Central Virginia and the Peninsula
  • 305 hospitalizations, 145 in ICU, 108 patients on ventilator support
  • Administration is working on epidemic modeling.
    • UVA is working with the state on a model specifically for Virginia.
    • The model should be ready within a week and VDH will report when it is fully operational.

TESTING AND CAPACITY

  • There are fewer cases in Southwest Virginia likely because of lower population and density.
  • Testing criteria is the same/consistent across the state.
  • Criteria for testing is set by VDH and has been broadened since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • There is a limited number of tests so VDH has to be selective and focused on high risk areas; no plans to change criteria at this time.
  • State lab has completed evaluations of automation and running higher batches; as a result, has been able to double throughput from 100 per day to 200 per day.
  • VDH has 2000 tests inhouse and expecting more this week.
  • Test have a 20-30 minute turnaround time.
  • Testing will also be important as we come off curve and get back to normal.

HEALTH AND HOSPITAL SYSTEMS

  • Military hospitals are coordinating with local health systems.
  • State is working with hospital systems to prepare for surge capacity and is sharing information constantly.
  • The Administration is aware of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association’s letter requesting to open military and VA hospitals for COVID-19 response
    • Administration is communicating with heads of military and VA hospitals, which are also preparing for their own surge capacity and their own patients.

CORRECTIONS AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

  • Two out of forty-one state corrections facilities have experienced positive cases.
  • These facilities are on modified lockdown and are following the applicable CDC guidelines and implementing plans to quarantine inmates and conduct contact investigation to contain spread.
  • The Parole Board is working overtime to expedite review.
  • 95-96 individuals were released in March, 153% increase from previous month.
    • Still considering public safety but looking more closely at early release.
  • DOC is working to ensure inmate safety while operating under current criminal justice system.
  • Secretary of Public Safety is in regular contact with local public safety officials regarding jail population and safety.
  • Local officials are responding by trying to find ways to avoid low level offenders unnecessarily entering the justice system.
  • Many localities are reducing the inmate population and following CDC guidelines in facilities.
  • Law enforcement is taking the ban on groups of 10 more seriously, especially in Hampton Roads and its beaches.

LOCAL AND STATE BUDGETS

  • State and local revenues are taking major hits, but right now the state is focused on public health response and obtaining PPE.
  • The Governor is looking at various legislation, such as the minimum wage, that passed this session regarding the business environment, and is talking to businesses, labor and other stakeholders.
  • No decisions have been made on amending legislation; will make a decision after consulting with stakeholders.
  • Localities are asking the state not to delay taxes because much of that revenue goes to localities.
  • The state is required to keep a balanced budget. The Administration wants to avoid drastic last-minute action by the Governor to avoid a shortfall when we need resources the most.

HOUSING, EMPLOYMENT AND OTHER TOPICS

  • Governor acknowledges that rent or mortgage payments are due the first of the month.
  • Residents should apply for unemployment if necessary.
  • Virginia has asked for individuals to be able to defer loan payments on federal housing loans.
  • Virginia is suspending evictions for those with public housing vouchers.
  • A statewide judicial emergency has already been issued that suspends evictions proceedings through 4-26-2020.
  • Governor acknowledges there are religious holidays of various faiths this month.
  • For everyone’s safety, we need to find other (non-inperson) ways to celebrate our faith.
  • Faith leaders will issue more guidelines and suggestions on Friday.
  • Secretaries of Commerce & Trade and Finance Secretary are working on assistance to homeless.