Governor Northam’s COVID-19 Briefing – 5/18/2020


  • Phase 1 of reopening began this past weekend and “went well.”
  • Virginia Beach and First Landing State Park beaches will open to certain recreational activities on Friday, May 22, 2020 under local regulations.
  • The Governor has convened a team focused on how to reopen schools.
  • The Governor emphasized that we cannot let down our guard in Phase 1. It is still important to wear face coverings, stay physically distant, and wash hands. Wearing a mask my save another person’s life.


  • The Governor reviewed COVID-19 testing trends in Virginia:
    • The positivity rate, a key metric, is trending downward. The state’s goal is a 10% or lower positivity rate.
    • The number of tests performed depends on the day.
    • Yesterday about 5,800 PCR (nasal swab) tests and 1,700 anti-body tests (serological tests) were performed.
    • Both types of tests are important in detecting whether people have COVID-19 or have been exposed to the coronavirus, which helps detection and treatment.
  • Testing events are ramping up in at-risk or high-risk areas, Northern Virginia in particular.
  • A testing event will occur in Petersburg, where 20,000 masks, 20,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, and educational materials will be distributed.
  • The Health Equity Work Group is working with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the National Guard to focus on high-need areas, such as Richmond, Harrisonburg and Chesapeake.
  • Testing events are focused on not missing certain groups of people, in addition to testing symptomatic or exposed people.


  • Virginia Beach and other beach localities worked with the Secretary of Natural Resources on comprehensive beach safety plans.
  • On Friday, May 22, 2020, Virginia Beach and First Landing State Park can open its beaches to recreational activity, including sunbathing, swimming, surfing, and fishing as defined by the city’s ordinance.
    • Does not include group sports, alcohol, speakers, use of tents, or groups of umbrellas.
    • Parking along the beach will be capped at 50%.
  • Beach ambassadors will monitor compliance and there will be enhanced cleaning schedules for high-touch areas.
  • If beachgoers do not comply with social distancing rules or local regulations, the Governor will take action to reinstate restrictions or close the beach.
  • Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer further addressed how beach regulations will work:
    • Cleaning high touch surfaces
    • Educating guests
    • Enforcing regulations – beach ambassadors and cleaning teams
  • The Governor encourages other beach localities to use Virginia Beach as a model for future reopening plans once allowed by the Governor.

Schools and Colleges & Universities

  • The Governor has named a team of education leaders at all levels to develop phases, plans, and options for reopening schools. The team is comprised of:
    • State Superintendent of Public Schools
    • Local school superintendents
    • Public and private college and university presidents
    • Early childhood education, K-12, and other higher education officials

Courts and Evictions

  • Virginia courts are beginning to hear non-emergency cases today, including evictions proceedings.
  • The Administration worked with the Virginia Housing agency on a 3-month mortgage deferral for those experiencing economic hardship; qualifying landlords must pass the deferral on to their tenants.
  • Virginia Housing has committed $12 million to support more than 200 nonprofit housing organizations across the state for housing support services.
  • Last month the Governor amended legislation so that tenants receive a 60-day deferral on an eviction proceeding if they lost wages due to COVID-19.
  • New legislation caps late fees at 10% on periodic rent or 10% of the remaining balance due, whichever is less, preventing the cascading accumulation of late fees.
  • The Administration is asking the federal government to include rent relief funding in the next stimulus package.
  • Virginia Housing and the Department of Housing and Community Development have launched a new website,, for renters, homeowners, landlords, and people experiencing homelessness.


  • 31,140 cases, 732 new cases in last 24-hour reporting period
  • 1,014, 5 new deaths in last reporting period
  • African-American cases stand at 4,864, 23% of cases for which data is available
    • 213 deaths, 24% of deaths
  • Latino/x cases stand at 9,374, 45% of cases for which data is available
    • 82 deaths, 9% of deaths


  • Dr. Jeffrey Stern, State Coordinator of Emergency Management at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), has taken a position with FEMA. His last day at VDEM is June 8, 2020. The Governor will name a successor at a later date.
  • In many localities, elections will be held tomorrow.
    • Additional polling place safety and cleaning measures have been put in place.
    • Medical Reserve Corps volunteers will help elections workers and polling places, including ensuring adequate supply and proper use of PPE for poll workers.
  • The Administration has no power to waive signature requirements for candidates to get on the November 2020 elections ballot.
    • Candidates should find safe and creative ways to gather signatures, or petition the courts.
  • VDH has received a distribution of Remdesivir, an investigational drug that the FDA has granted emergency approval for hospitalized COVID-19 patients, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A Virginia medical advisory committee developed an allocation process by which a random selection of hospitals will receive the drug so that hospitalized COVID-19 patients have an equal chance of receiving the drug.
    • The shipment of Remdesivir that Virginia received will allow approximately 350-400 patients to be treated with the drug.
    • VDH will provide the names of hospitals that will receive the drug.
  • VDH has learned of one case of multisystem inflammatory syndrome, the disease associated with coronavirus that attacks children. More data is forthcoming.
  • If a facility needs more PPE, they should contact VDEM.