RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is instituting a hiring freeze of state employees and is telling agency heads to look for ways to cut budgets in response to the coronavirus.
Northam chief of staff Clark Mercer told agency heads in a Thursday memo obtained by The Associated Press that a recession is coming and the state revenues will be far below “even our most pessimistic forecast” from last year.
On top of that, Mercer said, the state is having to spend heavily on buying medical supplies, helping vulnerable populations navigate the pandemic, and other virus-related costs.
Richmond Convention Center to serve as Central Virginia 'alternative care site'
Gov. Ralph Northam said the Richmond Convention Center, Hampton Roads Convention and the Dulles Expo Center Center as COVID-19 "alternative care sites" in Virginia based on recommendations from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Northam said the Greater Richmond Convention Center could care for 432 acute or 758 non-acute patients.
The Hampton Roads Convention Center could house 360 acute or 580 non-acute cases and the Dulles Expo could host 315 acute or 510 non-acute cases, officials said.
"Teams are moving fast and We expect these alternative care sites to be ready in about six weeks," Northam said.
Officials said the next steps for the project consist of settling the contracts, design and construction.
"I want to be clear. These facilities will be to free up capacity in the existing hospital system," Northam said. "Our models look at May as being the time when the surge will be most likely to occur."
Officials had previously mentioned the ExxonMobil facility in Fairfax as a potential site, but said Friday that Dulles was the site "where construction can proceed the fastest making it a better site."
Officials said the Hampton Convention Center was near Sentara and Riverside hospitals and "central to Hampton Roads."
Northam said Wednesday engineers evaluated 41 potential sites in the Commonwealth for alternative hospital beds.
Virginia's COVID-19 cases top 2,000
Officials said 306 more people tested positive for COVID-19 out of the 1,426 people tested since Thursday's update. That brings Virginia's total number of cases to 2,012.
Officials said 312 people remain hospitalized and 46 people have died as a result of COVID-19-related illnesses.
Officials are investigating several "distinct clusters" where there is "local transmission" of the virus in Virginia.
Those clusters include 372 cases in Fairfax County, 135 in Arlington County, 130 in Loudon County, 131 in Prince William County, 128 in Virginia Beach, 112 in Henrico County, 104 in James City County and 89 in Chesterfield County.
VDH data showed the coronavirus has most impacted people aged 50 to 69 since that group accounts for nearly 37 percent of cases.
Slightly more men have been infected by the virus at 991 cases versus the 988 cases reported in women. No gender was reported for 33 cases in the Commonwealth.