Northam addresses 'rumors' of Virginia mobilizing National Guard

'I want to remind Virginians to be wary of rumors.'
Posted at 12:00 PM, Mar 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-21 13:22:44-04

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam addressed "rumors" that he was mobilizing the National Guard during a news conference Saturday morning on the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I want to remind Virginians to be wary of rumors," Northam said. "I'm certain times like this can give rise to a lot of bad information. For example, I've heard the rumor that Virginia is mobilizing our National Guard. To be clear, when I declared a state of emergency last week, that activated the Virginia National Guard, it did not mobilize them. That tells guard members to stand ready to help when we need them. And I can assure you that they are ready."

Northam noted that the National Guard frequently provides help during natural disasters.

"For example, helping to transport supplies," Northam explained.

The governor said some guard members are currently doing that for the state's Emergency Operations Center.

"When you hear information, please check the source," the governor said. "And I want to remind Virginians to please get your health information from the Virginia Department of Health, the CDC or other reliable medical sources."

Virginia health officials said that 152 people have tested positive for the virus in the Commonwealth. That is up 38 cases from Friday's results.

Officials said 25 people remain hospitalized and two COVID-19-related deaths have been reported.

Officials said Thursday they were seeing "distinct clusters" of coronavirus cases in the state.

"We have at this point distinct clusters and a few geographic areas in the state," Dr. Lilian Peake, a state epidemiologist at the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), said. "And so we are at a level where we're seeing local transmission in Virginia."

Those clusters include 20 cases in James City County, 14 in Prince William County, 22 in Arlington County and 22 in Fairfax County.

Officials said 2,790 people have been tested for coronavirus in Virginia. That is an increase of 465 tests since Friday's report.

Northam urged the public to take social distancing seriously and follow the 10-person restrictions.

"I'm proud of what most Virginians are doing, but let's be clear," Northam said. "There are a few people that are not yet getting the message."

The governor said restaurants, fitness centers or other non-essential businesses that stay open and have more than 10 patrons inside their facilities can be charged with a misdemeanor and will lose their operating permit "on the spot."

"This is real," Northam pleaded. "I am taking this seriously and I asked you to take it seriously as well. We will get through this. But it is imperative that every everyone does their part to limit social interactions and slow the spread of this virus."

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.