Dec 10, 2020
Gov. Ralph Northam Virginia COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 10
Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a press conference on December 10. He announced new coronavirus restrictions. Read the full news briefing speech transcript here.
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Governor Northam: (04:30)
Well, good afternoon. And thanks to all of you for tuning in today. We’re going to do today’s briefing just a little bit differently because the situation around the country is really serious and that’s true here in Virginia as well. I want you to know that I do see reasons for optimism ahead, and we’re going to talk about that in just a bit. But first, we need to start with some hard realities. The case numbers in Virginia are still better than most of the rest of the country, but they’re not good anywhere, even here in Virginia. Case numbers have been rising for weeks. They’re now at record high levels. They are higher now than they ever have been during this entire pandemic. Virginia’s now seen 4,000 new COVID-19 cases per day on average. Today we recorded an additional 54 deaths. We all remember what it was like when things were really bad back in May. Back then we were seeing about 1200 cases a day.
Governor Northam: (05:46)
Now we’re seeing almost four times as many. The statewide rate of test positivity is at 11%. That’s almost doubled in just one month. All health regions report a positivity rate over 5% and hospitalizations have increased statewide by more than 80% in just the last four weeks. In many parts of the country, intensive care units are at capacity. There are no more ICU beds. Mercifully, that’s not the case in most of Virginia, and that’s a good thing. But hospitalizations in the ICU have been rising since early November and capacity is becoming a problem in Southwest Virginia and could soon become an issue here in central Virginia. In most Virginia hospitals, the biggest problem right now is staffing. The nurses and doctors are literally exhausted. They’ve been working around the clock for months.
Governor Northam: (06:58)
Even worse, many of them are now dealing with COVID at home. They live with someone who gets it or they get it themselves. That takes them out of the work rotation and it makes the pressure on other workers even worse. So I want to start today by showing you what healthcare workers are experiencing. I’d like to introduce you to Emily. She is a registered nurse. She works at Ballad Health. That’s the hospital company that serves Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee. It’s my understanding that sound may not be quite as good in this room so listen up. But hopefully those of you that are viewing will be able to hear this well. Let’s listen to Emily.
Okay. So I guess where to start. We started this path together. We started staying at home, not going out unnecessarily. As a community, I think that everybody did really well. They fought with us. We were trying to stop the spread of it. Everybody knew how dangerous it was. They supported us. We felt like they were behind us. And now, I guess, they’re tired of it. I guess people are tired of being alone or in their homes and want to get out and be social again. And we understand the importance of mental health but the fight is getting out of hand. It’s getting worse, it’s spreading. I work on the COVID ICU and I’ve been down here for about a month now, solid.
We’re losing more than we’re keeping. I’ll put an ungodly amount of people in body bags that I wasn’t prepared to do, that I wasn’t prepared to give up on a patient, but there was nothing else we could do and we lost them. There’s been days that I have lost two patients, did their care and got them moved out to the funeral homes and had to take two right back that were equally as sick. I go home, I carry it home, I cry a lot, I cry a lot. This is real. I understand the sacrifice and that it’s hard to stay home and it’s hard to wear a mask and you feels like you can’t breathe, but seeing these people die that can’t breathe, it starts to take a toll on you and he feels so frustrated that they didn’t take it serious.
I can’t tell you how many patients that we’ve had, that they contracted it at a ball game or at a family affair of some sort, some birthday parties or dinners, or… I’ve not seen my grandparents in a long time. I sacrifice my time. I give it here and I don’t get to be with them at home or around the Thanksgiving table. I’m giving these patients my all. I’ve sat with them, I’ve held their hand as they died because family couldn’t be here and it starts to hurt. And if you could just stop one case by wearing a mask or staying home when you didn’t have to go out, it would help us so much. Just one case. If everybody did that for one person, I think we could stop this.
Governor Northam: (10:44)
Thank Emily for sharing her experiences with us. And I did want to repeat her last words for those of you that may not have heard them, they’re powerful words. I’d quote, “If you could stop just one case by wearing a mask or staying home when you didn’t have to go out, it would help us so much. If everybody did that for one person, I think we could stop this.” And Emily is right. We need to do what she’s asking. So here are our next steps in Virginia. Starting at 12:01 AM Monday morning, Virginia will go into a modified stay at home order. Every day, starting at midnight and lasting through 5:00 AM unless you are commuting to or from work, you are asked to stay at home. It’s a reminder that you should stay home whenever you can during the rest of the day.
Governor Northam: (11:48)
But from midnight to 5:00 AM, you need to stay home. If you don’t need to go out, go home. This is just plain common sense. That’s the first way we’re going to respond to Emily. You heard the other thing that she asked for, and that was to wear a mask. So the new rules will be clear, if you’re indoors and you’re around other people, you need to wear a mask. If you’re outdoors and you can’t stay six feet apart, you need to wear a mask. When you’re at work, wear a mask. When you’re watching your kid play soccer, wear a mask. That’s really simple and we can all do that. So please wear a mask. That’s the second thing we’re going to do for Emily and the nurses like her. Then we need to limit social gatherings to no more than 10 people. It was 25 before Thanksgiving but cases went up so we have taken that action. The virus, we know, spreads when people are around each other in groups. When groups are smaller-
Governor Northam: (13:03)
… people are around each other in groups, when groups are smaller, it spreads less. That’s one more reason why it’s important to stay home. If you don’t need to be out, we ask you to stay home. So I want to be clear, Virginia has significant limits on capacity in restaurants already and these will remain. Bars are closed, no alcohol sales after 10:00 PM. There must be at least six feet between tables. Wear a mask, if you’re not eating and everyone who works in a restaurant must wear a mask. Whether it be waiters upfront or cooks in the kitchen, everyone must wear a mask.
Governor Northam: (13:46)
These new measures will start at 12:01 AM on Monday morning. They will be temporary, at least for now. They will remain in effect through January the 31st and certainly not forever, but I want everyone to understand this upfront. We don’t want to extend this, but we may have to. It all depends on what the virus is doing next month and that depends on you do right now. If the virus starts to come under control, we may be able to loosen up. But if not, we may have to take further action. In the meantime, we are stepping up enforcement. Here’s where I’m so proud of Virginians, the vast majority of people and businesses are doing the right thing. You’re looking out for one another and doing the hard work that matters. Staying home and wearing a mask when you need to go out, but not everyone.
Governor Northam: (14:50)
ABC, and the health department do most of our enforcement. Together, with Department of Labor and Industry and the agriculture department. They have completed more than 200 visits just since the current rules took effect less than a month ago. They’re seeing compliance rates of about 90% and that’s really good news. And I appreciate everyone working hard to do the right thing, but not everyone is doing the right thing. And that’s really too bad for Virginia. Some people in some businesses are literally being selfish, by not doing the right thing, they’re making things harder for you and for everyone across Virginia.
Governor Northam: (15:35)
We received the most complaints about people not wearing mask in businesses, mostly restaurants, brick and mortar facilities, the grocery store and convenience stores. So far, our safety teams have issued 181 enforcement letters for violations. These are actions against people who couldn’t be bothered to do the simple things that everyone else is working hard to do and that is to wear a mask, stay home, avoid crowds. The things that Emily asked us to do. I’ll give you a few examples, in Petersburg, the health district obtained a warrant for a Class 1 misdemeanor against the restaurant owner just a few days before Thanksgiving. They suspended the restaurant’s operating permit because people were at the bar. There was no social distancing. Employees and patrons were not wearing masks. And the restaurant was over occupancy limits. So they got shut down.
Governor Northam: (16:40)
At least four other restaurants have lost their permits recently just in the Richmond area alone. You’ll recall that we stepped up enforcement in Hampton Roads, after cases soared there over the summer and several restaurants there also lost their licenses. So I can’t understand why anyone wants to flaunt these rules because they make such a big impact and they are really easy. Stay home, if you need to go out, wear a mask, that’s it. But a handful of people still need to get the message that this is serious, so enforcement will continue and enforcement will be stepped up.
Governor Northam: (17:22)
Now I want everyone to understand this is not about getting people in trouble. This is about doing the right thing. Stay home, whenever you can, wear a mask when you have to go out, if you can telework, you need to do that. We have a telework policy in place for our state workforce, Virginia state employees are not traveling out of the state for work right now and that will continue. Again, this message is clear, if you can work from home, please do it. If you don’t need to go out, please stay at home.
Governor Northam: (17:57)
I know that parents everywhere are worried. You want to know what this means for your child’s school. The simple answer is this does not change anything about schools or colleges and universities. Across Virginia local school boards and school superintendents are working very hard to make thoughtful and responsible decisions at the local level. Local leaders know what’s right for their community, virtual learning, or virtual learning together with some in-person. We’re going to keep working with local leaders to make sure they have the information they need to make these important decisions. Everyone wants to get students back in school as safely and as quickly as possible. We know that that is the best place for our students.
Governor Northam: (18:45)
Parents and students are also worried about recreational sports. The measures we’re announcing today include limits on spectators for recreational sports, 25 people per field for indoor sports and two guests per player for outdoor sports. I will repeat that, 25 people per field for indoor sports and two guests per player for outdoor sports. I know that watching your child play a sport that they love is an important experience. Pam and I have had that same experience, but I would encourage schools to consider creative ways of allowing spectators streaming games online, for example. Schools should also consider moving sports outside if they can, just because school basketball is typically played indoors doesn’t mean that it has to be. So we’re considering ways to get our teachers vaccinated because that’s an important step in getting schools back to in-person learning quickly. We’re also working with education leaders on ways to help students catch up because we know these few months have been very, very hard.
Governor Northam: (19:56)
Now, I’d like to take a moment to talk about our faith communities. This is a holy time for multiple faith traditions. Tonight, as a matter of fact is the first night of Hanukkah, Christmas is two weeks away. The holidays are typically times of joy and community. We gather together, we celebrate our faith and we celebrate with family. But this year we need to think about what is truly the most important thing, is it the worship or the building? For me, God is wherever you are. You don’t have to sit in the church pew for God to hear your prayers.
Governor Northam: (20:39)
So I strongly call on our faith leaders to lead the way and set an example for their members. Worship with a mask on is still worship, worship outside or worship online is still worship. I can’t remind Virginians enough how serious this virus is and as I call on our faith leaders to set the example, I also hope that our local leaders across the commonwealth will do the same, many already have. We have seen so many people who didn’t fully realize how dangerous this disease was until they experienced it themselves.
Governor Northam: (21:20)
I want to share this message that Hillsville Mayor Greg Crowder posted on Facebook this week after he tested positive. As you all know, Hillsville is in our beautiful Southwest. He says that he felt the odds were in his favor until he experienced COVID himself and he is suffering. In fact, he said, “This is absolutely awful and it tortures you.” That’s his quote. I want to read some more of mayor Crowder’s words, because I think it’s important for people to hear how serious this is, even for someone who has not, and hopefully will not need to be hospitalized. Quote, “I had bragged about how I hadn’t let this virus change my life. Well, I can tell you it has now. I never could imagine how bad a muscle our joints could hurt. I’ve run a fever for so long, I can’t turn my neck. I can barely walk from the sheer pain. I can’t get comfortable. I sleep 30 minutes at a time. I’m sharing this, so maybe someone with the mindset I had will give the virus the respect it deserves not to fear it, but respect it. Wear your mask went out, wash your hands every chance you get.”
Governor Northam: (22:54)
Hillsville is in the Mount Rogers health district in Southwest Virginia and a region that has seen a large surge in COVID cases. Again, I want to thank the mayor for sharing his experience with the rest of Virginia. I also want to send Mayor Crowder my best wishes, and I very much hope that he gets well soon. And for everyone else, please, please listen to his advice. So wear your mask, wash your hands. You do not want this virus.
Governor Northam: (23:28)
Now, I do want to talk about positive news and that’s the vaccination. The Pfizer vaccine is already being deployed in the UK, as you all have heard. And today the FDA is meeting to take action on the Pfizer vaccine here in the United States. If approved, we can expect vaccinations to begin in Virginia within 24 to 48 hours, just as soon as this weekend, possibly. Again, this is very hopeful news. These vaccines are created by the world’s best scientists and getting ourselves vaccinated is the only way to end this pandemic. It will be the light of a very long and dark tunnel. My family and I fully intend to get vaccinated and I hope every Virginian will do the same. Our department of health is experienced in vaccination and they have a plan in place for how to do this. Now, I’ll be glad to take your questions.
Governor, regarding the enforcement, are you referring to just a continued enforcement with businesses, restaurants, things of that nature, or is that also referring to the stay at home order? And if so, how would that latter part look like? And also, can you just clarify the difference for the mask mandate here, what’s different now than what currently is?
Governor Northam: (24:55)
Yeah Cam, thank you for the question. And now I’ll start with the mask and to date, we have required the use of wearing of mask inside, especially when you’re involved with service to the public. So that is expanding to anybody indoors, especially when they’re not able to keep six feet of distance. I gave the example of restaurants. We have also seen convenience stores across Virginia, where people have walked in and none of the employees have on mask. So everybody indoors, everybody will be required to wear a mask. As far as outdoors, we know that when people are gathered tightly together and individuals don’t have masks, we know that the virus spreads through being aerosolized. And so if, one can’t maintain six feet of distance outdoors, they’re going to be required to wear a mask as well.
Governor Northam: (25:50)
Regarding the enforcement, it will be similar to what we’ve already been doing, especially in places of business, but the enforcement will be stepped up. And I commend our agencies across …
Governor Northam: (26:03)
… up. And I commend our agencies across Virginia. They’ve been doing a good job, but I’ve asked them to continue to do the same and increase that. And I would just use an example, [Cam 00:00:12], when we had the numbers rising in Hampton Roads. Most people were doing the right thing, but there were a number of businesses that weren’t. We went into those businesses. Some of them were shut down, and the word spread. And I just want to make sure that Virginians take this seriously because we’re serious about it. And not to reiterate, but we’re very concerned about our hospital capacity, especially in the southwest. And if the numbers continue to go up, we’re going to have some real challenges. And so that’s what we plan to do with mask and the enforcement.
Speaker 1: (26:51)
[inaudible 00:26:51] stay-at-home portion, that 12:00 to 5:00, is that going to be something that’s enforced?
Governor Northam: (26:56)
That’s something that we will ask Virginians to follow those guidelines. And that’s the way we’ll move forward with that.
Speaker 2: (27:06)
Luanne Rife, Roanoke Times.
Luanne Rife: (27:10)
Good afternoon, Governor. Could you explain the reasoning behind the curfew and what staying home midnight and 5:00 AM will actually do to slow the spread of this virus?
Governor Northam: (27:25)
Thank you. The question is the curfew, the stay-at-home, that is between midnight and 5: 00 AM. And I’ll use two words to summarize. It’s called common sense. I also said something that my parents taught me when I was younger, and that is that nothing good happens after midnight. So we’re asking individuals when our bars close, when restaurants close, unless they have any other business, unless they’re working, traveling to and from work, they need to be at home.
Speaker 2: (27:53)
Yeah, this is all about a curfew. North Carolina decided to do 10:00. I already know that a lot of our businesses are closed after midnight anyway. Curious about why you decided putting a little later for Virginia. And then as a second question, just curious about the state of housing since our positivity rate is now 11%. Is there anything that state is doing to make sure that we have ample testing, and where are we on that?
Governor Northam: (28:25)
Yeah. [Mel 00:02:27], thank you for your questions. The first question is why midnight?, We’re trying to follow the guidelines that are already in place and be consistent. And as I said earlier, we’ve stopped the sale of alcohol at 10:00. Restaurants close at midnight. And so that’s why we made it from midnight to 5:00 AM. Regarding testing, I don’t know, Dr. [Carrier 00:28:51] might want to take that, but we’re testing on average over 20,000 individuals. And I’ll let Dr. [Oliver 00:29:00] comment, but I’m confident that we have the supplies that we need. And the turnaround time has much improved. Still room for improvement. But Dr. Oliver?
Dr. Oliver: (29:10)
Thank you, Governor. Oops. So as the Governor mentioned, we are averaging about 20,000 tests per day. We have plenty of test supplies. We know now that the National Guard will be with us through March of next year. We will continue to mobilize teams with the Guard to do testing. Our local health departments are doing a lot of testing. Most of those 20,000 tests are being done commercially. And the turnaround time is under two days across the commonwealth. So that’s not the problem. The problem with the test positivity is not that we’re not doing enough testing, but that the disease is just spreading quite widely and the number of cases is quite high. So the steps that we have outlined and that the governors talked about and in terms of mitigation or what we need to do, people need to wear their masks, watch their distance and wash their hands, and we’ll get that back down.
Speaker 2: (30:26)
Sarah Rankin, Associated Press.
Alan Suderman: (30:28)
Actually, this is Alan Suderman. I’m going to fill in for Sarah. Governor, I had a quick question on schools. What’s your thoughts on the fact that some private schools are operating in-person in districts where the public schools are not open? Has there been any thought into trying to make sure there’s a uniform response in areas where public schools are only virtual but there are private schools that are offering in-person?
Governor Northam: (31:01)
Thank you, Alan. And also, thank you for just one question today. So I appreciate that. It’s a good question. And Mr. Suderman’s question was regarding private schools are in-person. Some of the public schools in the same area are learning virtually. And so what we’ve tried to do or what we have done is allowed individuals to use their discretion, especially in localities. We know that one size doesn’t fit all. And also, the private schools may be in a different position as far as their ability to test, do tracing, et cetera. So we’ve given the private schools as well as the public schools the discretion on whether to teach in-person or virtually. And that’s the way we’ll continue to move forward.
I have two questions, but one’s more clarification. So the first one. So my understanding previously-
Governor Northam: (31:53)
Is that one of your two, or that’s just going to be a total?
No, no. Yeah, there’s two total, including the clarification.
Governor Northam: (31:59)
So my understanding previously was that the mask mandate applied to indoor public spaces. So are you now requiring that people wear them indoors in private?
Governor Northam: (32:11)
Well, that’s something enforcement wise. We’re not going to go into private places of business, Jackie. But just as we do here when we’re in our office and by ourselves, I think it’s appropriate that one can take their mask off. But any time you’re around other individuals, we put our mask on. And that’s what I would encourage the private sector to do as well.
Got you. Okay. And then in regards to places of worship, so I’ve seen some states rolling back capacity and occupancy here. It sounds like you’re just encouraging faith leaders to take the lead on this rather than instilling formal capacity limits. So my question is, why not do that ahead of the holidays when churches and others are expected to be busy? And did the Supreme Court decision influence that decision at all?
Governor Northam: (32:59)
I think you just answered that question. But I will tell you, Jackie, and my church, as you know, is on the eastern shore. And they were actually worshiping from the parking lot, and we don’t even have in-person worshiping. And so a lot of places of worship, most of them, across Virginia have done the right thing. But there are some, and I’ve heard reports just like everybody else has that they don’t use distancing inside the church, they’re not wearing masks. And quite frankly, we know that a lot of the spread is coming from this because these individuals that are in a place of worship and contract the virus then go out to their place of work or to the grocery store or the convenience store or wherever. And that’s how this has spread. And so that’s a long-winded answer to your question. But there is a case, as you know, at the Supreme Court in New York that they were not able to enforce guidelines in places of worship. And so we were following suit with that.
So the state hasn’t done any enforcement in churches?
Governor Northam: (34:04)
Okay. And that will continue?
Governor Northam: (34:06)
That will continue.
Governor Northam: (34:11)
Jackie, that’s five questions just for the record.
Speaker 2: (34:15)
We’ll go to [Roberto Rodan 00:08:16] with VPM.
Roberto Rodan: (34:23)
Governor, I just wanted to try to get a little bit of clarification. The curfew, is that guidance or is that a mandate? It sounds like the state and local law enforcement won’t be able to enforce or put penalty on folks who aren’t observing by the curfew. Is that accurate?
Governor Northam: (34:46)
It’s a modified stay-at-home order. And let me try to clarify it or reiterate it if I can. Between midnight and 5:00 AM, unless there’s a purpose to be out, such as traveling to and from work or working, one needs to stay at home. I think to your question, it’s part of messaging. And even during the other hours of the day, if you don’t need to be outside of your house, we know that the safest place to be is at home. So yes, it’s about messaging, but it’s also about saving lives. 54 additional deaths we recorded today, over 2,000 hospitalizations, 4,000 new cases. If you don’t need to be outside of your house, we need to take this seriously. We need to stay at home.
Yeah. I also have a couple of questions, but I’ll start with the first one, which is just, is there a reason why you haven’t expanded current restrictions on indoor dining and other non-essential businesses to reduce capacity or even close them altogether? I guess fundamentally, why focus on gatherings but then Virginians can still go eat inside a restaurant?
Governor Northam: (36:04)
As you know, Kate, we’ve put some fairly aggressive restrictions on our restaurants. Bars are closed. Now alcohol sales stop it at 10:00. Tables have to be distanced six feet. And so effectively what we’ve done, we have reduced the capacity in our restaurants. And you probably have talked to restaurant owners. In almost all cases, that capacity is less than 50% the way that our guidelines are written. And most of the restaurants are complying with that. The additional step that we’re taking today, because we have seen some of this, is to make sure that not only servers, not only patrons when they’re not eating or drinking wear masks, but also the people that are working in the kitchen, the chefs, the individuals that wash dishes, et cetera. So we’re encouraging everybody to wear a mask, but they already have some fairly strict restrictions in the restaurants. And we’re not changing that.
Okay. And second part, like you mentioned, the current restrictions and the new ones announced today won’t affect schools. And I think widely, a lot of Virginians are hearing that transmission isn’t occurring in schools and that schools are taking steps. But I know in southwest Virginia, health officials have recommended that school districts start shut down and stop in-person instruction until after the New Year to try and reduce some of the spread. And so that to me seems a little incompatible. And I’m wondering, why ask for that if schools are also safe?
Governor Northam: (37:35)
Well, as you know, and I’ve said this a couple of times, Kate, we have left decision-making in the school districts to the discretion of the school boards, the superintendents in each district. And the reason for that is one size doesn’t fit all. They’re making modifications. The one that you just mentioned, which with the holidays coming up I think is fine. But that’s a decision that they had been able to make and they’ll continue to make. And I’m not going to change that.
Speaker 2: (38:05)
I’m going to do two more on the phone and then [inaudible 00:12:06]. David McGee, Bristol Herald Courier.
David McGee: (38:15)
Thank you. Governor, you’ve mentioned southwest Virginia several times. And the rise here appears to be in part perhaps because we’re next to Tennessee where the cases are skyrocketing. I’m wondering if your office has had any communication with Governor Lee’s office or had any other special advice for this part of the state?
Governor Northam: (38:33)
the answer to that is yes. And we communicate quite often with our neighboring state. And to your point, there are a number of increased cases in Tennessee as well as Kentucky that are on our western borders, and they come to and fro across state lines. So we have made it clear that we’re seeing our numbers rise in those areas to those particular state leaders. And hopefully, they’ll make some changes as well.
Speaker 2: (39:00)
Speaker 3: (39:02)
Governor, two questions if I may.
Governor Northam: (39:03)
… changes as well.
Speaker 4: (39:03)
Governor, two questions, if I may. How are you doing today?`
Governor Northam: (39:05)
I’m well, Andre. Thank you for asking.
You’re welcome. First, in terms of crime in the city of Lynchburg, we’ve had increased calls of shots fired and malicious woundings. We had two shootings this week within an hour apart in Hampton Roads walking through Douglas Park this week in Portsmouth, Virginia. Senior citizens said they’re scared to come outside, young people, middle-aged are scared to come out for exercise, crime is up. In terms of the virus and complications there are, is there anything that you are looking into in terms of the effects of COVID and crime in our cities throughout the commonwealth?
Governor Northam: (39:47)
Wow, that’s a great question, Andre. And I think it’s fair to say, and I certainly don’t want to condone that type of behavior, but Virginians, Americans are stressed right now. People have lost their jobs, people have lost their businesses, people have lost their homes, over 20% of the population doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from, they’re food insecure. And so I think it’s a time, especially during the holiday season that we really step back, and I hear people talk about their rights and I’m all about rights, but I think we need to talk about responsibility. And I think all of us have a responsibility right now to look out for our fellow mankind, our neighbors, our family, our friends, and to realize that we are hurting. Virginians, Americans are hurting right now. And so I’m not in the law enforcement business, but I would hope and I suspect they will encourage our law enforcement agents to be in the communities.
Governor Northam: (40:55)
And they’ve really tried to do that, be more part of the community and let people know that they’re there to keep the peace and to keep people safe. And again, I think it’s a group effort as we move forward and make sure that we take care of everybody. I will say, in addition to that note, Andre, that people are hurting, businesses are hurting, et cetera. This is a time for Congress to step up as well, and especially before the holidays. I think we were able to use the CARES Act funding quite well in Virginia to help in a lot of these areas, whether it be evictions, or homelessness, or food insecurity, or small businesses getting back on their feet. And it is imperative that our Congress act and put their politics aside and realize that people are hurting now. And it’s also imperative that we have leadership in the White House.
Governor Northam: (41:49)
For some reason, unfortunately, it seems that our president has just checked out. He’s checked out on the pandemic. I don’t hear anything said about it, and so it’s time for real leadership. And in order to get past this pandemic, in order for us to put it in the rear view mirror, to get our economy back up and running, to get people back to work, to get our children back in school, we need leadership. It is so, so important. So I ask for that in Washington. And I want to just-
Governor Northam: (42:17)
Secondly, your parole board recently released Mr. Greg Joyner in Lynchburg after he served, well, he had a life sentence for killing and attempted rape when the young lady was 15, I think he was 16. And a lot of people in the community are frustrated wondering, what is the policy? How are some of these violent offenders being released? And of course, I’ve interviewed Secretary Moran who’s talked about Virginia being the state of a second chance.
Governor Northam: (42:48)
Yes. Our parole board looks at each case in a lot of detail. Andre, I have confidence in our parole board and I’ll continue to support them. Obviously, parole is an important part of criminal justice reform. I think that they’re doing good work and when these individuals are eligible for parole and they feel that it’s safe for them to be released from corrections, then that’s a decision they’ll make and that’s a decision that I’ll continue to support. I hope that all of you will just stay with me for just a second. I have an announcement regarding personnel and this won’t take long. But I want to have a final announcement and that is a bittersweet one for our administration. Keyanna Conner, as many of you know, is our Secretary of Administration and she is leaving us for a new opportunity in the private sector.
Governor Northam: (43:44)
Keyanna has been an exceptional member of our cabinet. She has overseen three elections in the midst of this pandemic, and she has done an excellent job. She led the effort to transition our state workforce, thousands of people to work remotely in a matter of days and oversaw the work to ensure that we had the technology infrastructure to make it happen. Keyanna has also led our department of elections through cybersecurity and technology reviews to make sure our election system is safe. She recruited the commonwealth’s first chief data officer and oversaw the effort to make sure all levels of government share their data with each other. She has been a leader and greatest advocate for our workforce. We will miss Keyanna, and Keyanna, on behalf of the commonwealth, I am extremely grateful for your service. Also, to announce in her place, we are appointing Grindly Johnson, who is currently our deputy secretary of administration.
Governor Northam: (44:47)
As secretary, Grindly has deep roots in state service. She was deputy secretary of transportation in the McAuliffe administration and previously served as chief of administration for the Virginia Department of Transportation. She has served in the private sector as an accountant, financial analyst and community relations consultant. I am grateful to Grindly for her service in this administration and pleased to have her as a member of our cabinet. So I have both Keyanna and Grindly. On behalf of Virginia, Keyanna, thank you so much for your [inaudible 00:45:24].
Keyanna C.: (45:23)
Thank you, governor.
Governor Northam: (45:40)
[inaudible 00:45:33]. One final note, as I mentioned earlier, this is an extremely important month for our faith communities. It is indeed the holiday season. I know that Christmas and Hanukkah are truly cherished times. People gather with friends and family to celebrate. The holidays look a bit different this year and some of the traditions we treasure just aren’t possible. Big gatherings are not safe. But the holidays are also a time to remember that we’re part of something bigger than ourselves. We remember the men and women who serve our country, especially those who are away from their loved ones this time of year. And we also remember the nurses and doctors who continue to save lives in this pandemic, as well as the essential workers. This season, I am most grateful for the people of Virginia. You have shown remarkable resilience and generosity this year.
Governor Northam: (46:44)
It has been a tough one, I know, but as we look ahead to a new year, I see reasons for hope and optimism that in the coming months, things will be better. So to all of you, thank you for being here today. Thank you for viewing from home. And if I don’t speak to you before the holidays, all of you, I wish you a safe and peaceful holiday season and a much better 2021. Thank you very much.