RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam laid out what he called the blueprint for Virginia to begin reopening during his Friday afternoon press conference. The earliest he said that process could begin was May 8.
In order for that to happen, Northam said Virginia must hit several benchmarks. Those benchmarks include having enough space in hospitals, enough PPE, and the ability to test about 10,000 people a day for COVID-19.
There must also be a 14-day decrease in the percentage of positive tests and hospitalizations. A trend the governor said he’s already seeing.
“Our daily case numbers are still rising. As you can see from this chart, looking at the blue line on the top, but our growth rate is slowing. We see that our case count was initially doubling every three days, but now it is taking nine days to double. That means the growth rate is slow and hospitalizations rates remain flat.”
Northam also announced the creation of a business task force to help with the process of reopening Virginia businesses. That task force will establish guidelines for different industries on how to safely reopen.
When Virginia reopens, Northam said, it would do so with restrictions in place like teleworking, wearing face coverings in public, and social distancing.
COVID-19 IN VIRGINIA
Positive Tests: 11,594 (+596 from Thursday)
People Hospitalized: 1,837 (+84 from Thursday)
COVID-19-Linked Deaths: 410 (+38 from Thursday)
People Tested: 69,015 (+4,497 from Thursday)
It has been four days since Northam’s last news conference. For the last few weeks, he has been holding news conferences on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but this last Wednesday's news conference was preempted by the General Assembly’s reconvene session. Here is some of what has happened since Monday:
- On Wednesday, state lawmakers met in Richmond for an out-of-the-ordinary reconvene session due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The House met under a tent outside the State Capitol, while the Senate met at the Science Museum of Virginia. Lawmakers approved the majority of Northam’s proposed amendments to the budget and 102 bills passed in the last General Assembly, including delaying an increase of the minimum wage.
- One amendment that was not passed, was Northam’s proposal to move the local elections in May to November. The Senate did not take up the amendment, effectively killing it. Northam said on Thursday he will “review the General Assembly’s actions on scheduling local elections and announce next steps soon.”
- The reconvene session also saw another ReOpen Virginia protest, where people circled the Capitol grounds in their cars calling on Governor Northam to lift his COVID-19 restrictions that have closed many businesses.
- Northam announced he was extending his ban on elective surgeries by one week and it will now expire May 1. The announcement came a few hours after the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association said it had asked the Governor not to extend the ban.
#BREAKING: Governor Ralph Northam extends his ban on elective surgeries by one week (now May 1) and closure of DMV offices by two weeks (now May 11).— Cam Thompson (@CamThompsonCBS6) April 23, 2020
State Police being directed to suspend enforcing vehicle inspections through July 31. @CBS6 pic.twitter.com/HyiJdSrx3Y
- Northam also announced he has ordered the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles offices to remain closed for an additional two weeks, until at least May 11. He has also directed Virginia State Police to continue the suspension of vehicle inspections through July 31.
- Congress approved another coronavirus relief package. The $484-billion-dollar package called the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, includes $75 billion for hospitals, $25 billion to establish a national testing regime, $60 billion in disaster aid and $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (which had exhausted its initial fund last week).
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.