Gov. Ralph Northam addressed latest response to COVID-19 pandemic, OSIG report in latest briefing

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Posted at 12:44 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 15:23:21-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Governor Ralph Northam held a news conference on Tuesday to update the public on his administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccination efforts.

This was Northam's first news conference since he announced the lifting or loosening of several restrictions.

These include no more overnight curfew, extending alcohol sales at restaurants from 10 p.m. to midnight and allowing outdoor sports and entertainment venues to have up to 1,000 people in attendance or 30% of capacity, whichever is smaller.

Northam said if the case trends continue to decline and the vaccination rates continue to increase, he would remove the 1,000-person cap.

When asked why wedding venues were not included as outdoor venues, Northam said the activities at weddings -- such as hugging and eating -- are not safe right now and there was no way to prevent these activities from happening at these events.

Northam said things will go back to "normal" in the Commonwealth when we reach herd immunity, but, until then, restrictions will stay in place.

Mass community vaccination sites will be set up in the cities of Petersburg, Portsmouth and Danville soon, Northam said.

Curtis Brown with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management said these sites were chosen based on a detailed assessment of all local governments across the Commonwealth.

More sites will be added in the coming weeks and Brown said they expect to have a total of 13 of them.

For the time being, only individuals who are signed up through the state's vaccination registration website will be called to make an appointment at these sites, Brown said.

Officials also said that all of Virginia's school systems have submitted plans to return to in-person learning as Northam had requested.

Dr. James F. Lane, Superintendent of Public Instruction, said all but one or two of Virginia's schools will have some students back in the classroom by next week.

Northam was also asked about the recent lawsuit filed involving the Virginia Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) and the Virginia Parole Board.

Northam's Chief of Staff, Clark Mercer, said, "Those draft reports include unsubstantiated claims that are being bandied about as fact by political opponents."

Mercer claimed the governor's office met with members of the OSIG's team last year to discuss the findings in the report in question.

"We went into that meeting thinking that there was bias and lack of objectivity. We left that meeting knowing that there was bias and lack of objectivity in that report," said Mercer.

Mercer and Northam both stated they will rely on an independent investigation to determine what comes from the controversy.