Northam says he expects to finalize decision on reopening on Wednesday

Posted at 12:16 PM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 19:21:08-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Governor Ralph Northam said Monday afternoon that he expects to be able to finalize his decision on Wednesday on whether to allow phase one of the reopening process to begin Friday, May 15.

"I suspect if if nothing changes, that I'll make a ruling, if you will, on Wednesday," said Northam. "If our numbers continue to trend in the direction they are, especially for areas of Virginia that we talked about today, aside from Northern Virginia, that I anticipate that we will go into phase one on Friday."

At his news conference Monday, Northam walked through the key metrics he’s watching to make that decision.

This included an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, hospital capacity, percentage of positive tests coming back, hospitalization rates, and the number of ICU beds and ventilators in use.

Northam gave every indication that the data is trending in the right direction.

But even if phase one of Virginia’s reopening begins Friday, Northam said that not all Virginia will be doing so, specifically Northern Virginia.

The governor confirmed that Northern Virginia will delay its reopening process because the metrics for that region aren’t trending in the right direction. He did not say how long that delay would be in effect.

The decision comes after political leaders and health officials from Northern Virginia sent a letter to Northam asking he allow them to move at a slower pace in easing restrictions.

Republican lawmakers called the governor's decision making inconsistent.

“We have called for a regional approach to reopening for weeks and it seems we are being held up due to northern Virginia,” Delegate Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) said in a statement. “While Northern Virginia has its concerns with reopening, the ‘Rest of Virginia’ as the Governor and his chief of staff referred to us are willing and able to safely begin that process.”

Officials also said they continue to increase their staffing for contact tracing and run more COVID-19 tests, noting that the Virginia Department of Health reported over 9,800 tests Monday morning, less than 200 from their goal of 10,000 per day.

Northam says he hopes to have an announcement surrounding testing in the coming days.

“What we're going to talk about is, is our ability to work with some of the retail stores across Virginia to have a lot more community testing, not only in metropolitan areas, but really throughout Virginia and in all of our zip code,” said Northam.

Last Friday, Northam detailed what phase one will look like, which included the easing of restrictions for some industries while keeping them in place for others. Executive Order 61, signed that same day, provides further information.

“We're not flipping a light switch from closed to open," Northam said on Friday. “When the time is right, we will turn a dimmer switch up just a notch.”

Northam’s Executive Order 53, which has closed many businesses, is set to expire on Thursday night and phase one would go into effect the next day.

Northam also said Friday that his administration is working on options to assist workers who cannot or fear returning to work due to health concerns, including asking Virginia’s Congressional delegation to get the federal government to give states more flexibility with unemployment benefits.

“We're also working to find every path forward for people who cannot return to work because of their own underlying health conditions or those of people that they live with. We will have more to say on this before entering phase one,” added Northam on Friday.

COVID-19 Statistics

As of Monday morning, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported 25,070 cases of COVID-19. This is an increase of 989 from Sunday.

167,758 tests have been reported. This is an increase of 9,801 from Sunday.

850 people have died from the virus. This is an increase of 11 from Sunday.

There have been 271 outbreaks of COVID-19 across Virginia. This is an increase of 3 from Sunday.

In terms of the impact of COVID-19 cases on Virginia’s hospitals, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) reported Monday that 1,504 patients are currently hospitalized. This is a decrease of 51 from Sunday.

3,273 people have been treated and discharged from hospital. This is an increase of 71 from Sunday.

4,647 beds are available in the state. This is an decrease of 39 from Sunday.

21% of ventilators in the state are in use. This is a unchanged from Sunday.

VHHA also reported no hospitals are “experiencing difficulty in obtaining or replenishing PPE [personal protective equipment] in the next 72 hours”, and no hospital are “experiencing difficulty in obtaining or replenishing other medical supplies in the next 72 hours”.

For a further breakdown of the current COVID-19 numbers in Virginia, click here.

Depend on CBS 6 News and for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Precautions

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.