Aug 5, 2020

Gov. Ralph Northam Virginia Press Conference Transcript August 5

Gov. Ralph Northam Virginia Press Conference Transcript August 5
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsGov. Ralph Northam Virginia Press Conference Transcript August 5

Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a press conference on August 5. He gave coronavirus updates and discussed Hurricane Isaias. Read the full news briefing speech transcript here.

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Governor Ralph S. Northam: (05:23)
Well, good afternoon everyone. And thank you all for being here today and for watching on television and also online, as we always say, we want you to have the most updated and accurate information. And I’m excited today, we have some really positive things that I want to share with you so make yourselves comfortable. And I think you’ll hear some good news today, but first, as we all know, much of the commonwealth felt that impacts of the tropical storm on Monday night and Tuesday. And sadly there was one storm related death in Lancaster County.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (06:03)
We also saw flooding and property damage, particularly in Suffolk, the town of Courtland and Lancaster and Gloucester counties. Our state and local emergency officials are assessing the damage to see if it meets the threshold to request federal assistance. We had more than 40 tornado warnings and the National Weather Service has so far confirmed four tornadoes in our commonwealth. Dominion Energy says it was one of the top 10 storms ever in terms of power outages. I know their crews are out working hard and we all thank them for that. Also, thanks to all of the emergency responders who were on alert Monday night and Tuesday to keep us all safe. Much work has gone into preparing for the hurricane season and I thank all involved. This is just the first storm in the hurricane season a bit earlier than we would have hoped for. So I encourage all Virginians to make sure that you are prepared, be ready for power outages are even evacuations as we move farther into the season. Make sure you have supplies of food, water, and any medications, and always have a mask. For those on the coast, please also review your evacuations zones as you remember, there are four evacuation zones. I’m also grateful to our Virginia National Guard. The guard is always there for us in emergencies, including our ongoing COVID pandemic. Guard members have been helping with logistics and with testing for months. During the storm this week, the National Guard staged approximately 80 soldiers and 30 vehicles to help with our storm response. Just this week, the federal government agreed to continue to support most of the costs of our guards work on the covert response. And I greatly appreciate that, particularly because it will allow the guard to continue helping with community testing events.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (08:18)
Now I’d like to give an update on Virginia’s coronavirus cases. As you all know, our cases counts have been rising in recent weeks, slowly in most regions, but sharply in the Eastern region. I’d like to show you how things stand this week. This slide shows you our total cases by date reported, that is the blue lines. And the yellow line is the seven day moving average. As you can see, we’re seeing roughly a thousand new cases a day close to where we were at the peak. And as we’ve settled along our goal several weeks ago was to have 10,000 tests per day. And we’re now averaging between 15 and 20,000 tests. And we anticipate increasing that as we move forward.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (09:13)
This slide shows you the total number of testing encounters, as well as the percent of those tests that are positive. Right now Virginia’s percent positivity is at 7.2% and it has remained steady for several weeks, and that’s a good thing. Now let’s look at the Eastern region. Here we see the total cases by date reported for the Eastern region. You can see that this was headed upward earlier this month. And now we can see that seven day trend line is leveling off somewhat, which is also encouraging. And here we have the number of test encounters and the percent positivity for the Eastern region. While the Eastern region showed an increasing trend in percent positivity through July, that trend is now decreasing and it’s been hovering around 10% for the past couple of weeks. This is also encouraging, but we can’t let up in our efforts to get the numbers down, not only in this region, but all across our commonwealth.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (10:24)
We’ve said all along that our primary ways of fighting this virus include testing and contact tracing. Today we’re launching a new way that we can all work together to help contain this pandemic, a really powerful tool in our toolbox. Virginia is proud to launch a new digital app called COVIDWISE, C-O-V-I-D W-I-S-E, that will be able to send you alerts if you’ve been in close contact with someone who tests positive. Virginia is the first state in the nation to use this technology. I’ll repeat that, Virginia, right where we should be is the first state to use this technology. Now here’s how it works. You go to the App Store if you have an Apple phone or the Google Play Store, if your phone is an Android. Search for the COVIDWISE app, it will look like this. Download it, opt in to the notification system and you’re all set and ready to go.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (11:32)
Now I want you all to listen to this very closely. I want to be clear, this app COVIDWISE does not, I’m going to repeat that, does not track or store your personal information. It does not track you at all. It doesn’t rely on GPS or your personal information. And while we want everyone to download it, it is voluntary. Instead it uses the Apple-Google Bluetooth low energy technology, which assigns random keys to positive cases. It uses those keys ways to determine if you’ve been in close contact with someone who test positive for the COVID-19 virus and send you an alert. We know people are contagious before they show symptoms. This can really help us catch new cases early before they spread as far. You get that alert, you can get a test and then you can quarantine yourself.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (12:40)
And if you get tested and your test is positive, you can choose to have that information entered into the app. So other people may have been near. You can be notified that they may have been exposed. To repeat, you are in control. All of this is your choice, to download the free app and to use it. But I hope Virginians across the state will use this. This is another tool we can have to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. This is a way that we can all work together to contain this virus. No one is tracking you. None of your personal information is going to be saved. It’s an exciting step forward and I’m proud that Virginia is leading the way. The idea behind the COVIDWISE app is that if you realize you’ve been exposed, you can get tested to find out if you have the virus.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (13:44)
This is critical information to have. So you know you need to isolate and contact your doctor. It means you know to take action so you don’t infect other people. But getting test results in a timely manner is a key part of that equation. Yesterday, I announced that Virginia is one of seven states joining together to find ways to expand the use of rapid antigen testing in Virginia. Now, when I say rapid, I’m talking 15 to 20 minutes, rather than days or weeks. This is another way that the states are leading America’s national response to COVID-19.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (14:28)
We are bringing together this bipartisan, multi-state coalition to combine our purchasing power and get rapid testing supplies to our communities as quickly as possible. The people in our state want to see action and together we’re delivering. Along with the governors of Maryland, Michigan, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, and North Carolina, Virginia is entering into discussions with Becton Dickinson and Quidel, the U.S. manufacturers of antigen tests that have-

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (15:03)
… Cordell, the US manufacturers of antigen tests that have already been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. I want to repeat, these have already been approved by the FDA. Antigen tests are different from the PCR test, which is primarily what Virginia and other states use. As we are seeing days in test results on PCR tests, we believe this compact is a way to get faster testing. We’re looking to purchase 500,000 rapid antigen tests per state. By joining together, we are demonstrating to private manufacturers that there is significant demand to scale up the production of these tests, which deliver results, again, as I said earlier, in 15 to 20 minutes.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (15:51)
This is about expanding testing and saving you money. I’m excited about the possibilities this could bring to Virginia and our testing strategy. As we know, we are in this pandemic, as I’ve said, for the long haul. Testing delays make it difficult to trace contacts of people who test positive, because it has been days or even weeks since they had their test. And while people wait for results, they must quarantine, not knowing if they have the virus or not. Quick test results will allow us to better contain the virus, which will help us to be able to relax our restrictions safely. We want everyone to get tested if you think you need to.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (16:40)
Last week, I had the opportunity and pleasure to visit the Norfolk Health Department, and they told me a troubling story. They’d gone out and knocked on about 4,000 doors to tell people how to come and get free testing, and only nine people showed up. Why? Well, I and a lot of others learned that in part, it was a trust issue. That told local health officials they needed to change their tactics. So they worked with a group of local faith leaders to create a video in which they all got tested on screen. I’d like to show you that video, because I think it’s a great way to show Virginians how important this [inaudible 00:02:30]. And it’s just another example of how together, we can put this pandemic behind us.

Medical Professional: (17:36)
It’s not bad. It’s not painful.

Kirk Houston: (17:36)
[inaudible 00:02:49].

Medical Professional: (17:36)
Yes, yeah. [inaudible 00:17:52].

William Tyree: (17:53)
Hi, I’m William Tyree, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Berkeley here with the City of Norfolk.

Joe Dillon: (17:59)
I’m Joe Dillon, the president of the Norfolk branch NAACP.

Gil Bland: (18:02)
I’m Gil Bland, I’m president of the Urban League of Hampton Roads.

Keith Jones: (18:06)
I’m pastor Keith Jones at the Shiloh Baptist Church.

Kirk Houston: (18:09)
My name is Kirk Houston, the senior pastor of Gethsemane Community Fellowship Baptist Church.

Donzell Jones Sr.: (18:14)
Hi, my name is Donzell Jones Senior, I’m the pastor of First Pentecostal United Holy Church.

Calvin Durham: (18:18)
Calvin Durham from New Hope Church of God in Christ.

Glen Porter: (18:23)
Hi, I’m Glenn Porter, pastor of Queen Street Baptist Church in Norfolk. As we all know, the COVID-19 virus has caused many concerns …

Gil Bland: (18:32)
… impacted our lives in many, many ways.

Keith Jones: (18:34)
In addition to sickness and the deaths caused by the virus …

Joe Dillon: (18:37)
… we’ve been frightened by rumors and misinformation about the testing.

Calvin Durham: (18:41)
I want to assure you that the test safe and highly recommended …

Speaker 2: (18:44)
… especially for those who have the symptoms, or have been exposed to others with the virus.

Kirk Houston: (18:52)
I’m going to take the test today, and I recommend that you do the same if you have the symptoms, and if you’re given the opportunity.

Gil Bland: (18:56)
It’s just like a swab, a thin Q-tip. There’s nothing to it.

Keith Jones: (19:03)
[inaudible 00:19:22].

Medical Professional: (19:03)
There you go.

Kirk Houston: (19:03)
And that’s it?

Medical Professional: (19:03)
[inaudible 00:19:30].

Gil Bland: (19:32)
Remember to practice social distancing …

Kirk Houston: (19:34)
… wear your mask, wash your hands …

Speaker 2: (19:36)
… and help your family and community remain safe. God’s peace, favor, and blessings to you.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (20:01)
All right, behind this project and behind this video is Dr. Keith Jones, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in our hometown, Norfolk. And I have asked him to come up and share his thoughts regarding how we all deal with COVID-19. So please welcome to the podium, Pastor Keith Jones from Shiloh Baptist Church in Norfolk. Pastor, welcome, and thanks so much for joining us.

Keith Jones: (20:27)
Thank you, Governor Northam, and to all of you who work so diligently to combat this dreaded virus. This COVID era has fixed a glaring spotlight on so many things, important issues in our community. The first thing it has shown us is the need for good leadership, leadership that will gather experts with the purpose of listening to those who are giving accurate scientific information. The second issue is that it’s shown us the need to have people who sit on boards of caring agencies, who actually know something about the communities that they advocate for. Thirdly, this pandemic fixed a glaring beam on all types of racial, policing, and most of all healthcare disparities. This is certain. Healthcare disparities are most often a byproduct of access to care.

Keith Jones: (21:40)
Those three issues are intertwined though, and the leadership must look to determine that efforts to help will indeed reach and help the intended audience. It’s one thing to publish procedures, but quite another to determine if the intended community has the means, the wifi, the hardware to even access the published information. One of the things that we found, very often, is that there were efforts to communicate with underserved communities, but the efforts were being made through means that underserved people may not have been privy to: again, access to wifi, the hardware, the computers, and even cell phones that would help them receive the necessary information.

Keith Jones: (22:40)
And so our question was, how do we care for a community that has been chronically underserved, and as a consequence has an age old mistrust for healthcare institutions? In the community of faith that I work with, the greatest fear in this pandemic was that there would be some who would receive access to testing, access to care, when in some communities there would be no testing at all. We’ve had plenty of anecdotes to that extent. We could easily see a scenario where the underserved would be under tested and barely treated, and that this virus would ravage those same communities.

Keith Jones: (23:37)
One of the things that the city of Norfolk did initially is that, as the governor pointed out, is they asked for those who were perhaps symptomatic to volunteer for testing. We think that because of great mistrust, very few people volunteered for testing. As of April 17th, the health care department made 768 calls in public housing areas, and only four persons requested to be tested. So what the area pastors, and the Urban League, and the NAACP, and the Norfolk Department of Public Health did, is that we started this journey of collaboration, where on a weekly basis we talk together, we share information, because information always reduces anxiety. And so we shared information, and we talked about the best ways of reaching communities. And to date, we think because of this film, because of this video, and because of the collaboration, 1,188, people have been tested in our area.

Keith Jones: (24:57)
And so we meet weekly, and we look at the numbers. Pastors have made it their goal to speak about COVID-19 from the pulpit. And we have done numerous testings right there at the church, understanding that we need to take the test to the people. These are places of trust, places that have already, as their aim, to feed the hungry, to clothe those who need clothing, to give healthcare screenings and information. And because of trust in these institutions, we think that in the Hampton Roads area, we have improved the number of people who have privied themselves or made themselves available for testing. We hope that this helps, because we’re concerned about every mother who has to send her child to school, wondering if that child is going to be safe. We’re concerned about every grandmother who has to get on the bus to go get food, and to bring that food back. We’re concerned about seniors who have to come out for food assistance. And so we’re trying our best to help our community.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (26:18)
I’m confident that this will help many people, and what was done in Hampton Roads, I believe will be a model for the rest of Virginia. So Pastor Jones, I thank you for your initiative, your leadership, and I also thank you for making time to come up with us today, much appreciated.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (26:34)
You all know how important Hampton Roads is. Not only is it the home to the world’s largest Naval base and the world’s longest pleasure beach, it also has a special place in my heart as Pam’s and my home. It’s also an economic engine that helps propel Virginia, and the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the need to continually invest for the future. Last week, I convened the leaders of the Eastern Virginia Medical School, Old Dominion University, and Sentara Healthcare to discuss opportunities to collaborate further, as we all look to build a post COVID-19 economy in Hampton Roads. Together, we agreed to retain a third party consultant to explore ways to strengthen the healthcare ecosystem in Hampton Roads.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (27:31)
We expect this engagement to play out over the coming months, and I’m confident it will lead to recommendations to advance the region’s healthcare assets and secure the longterm financial sustainability of Eastern Virginia Medical School. This is an important effort to benefit Hampton Roads, and the Commonwealth as a whole. Both universities, Eastern Virginia Medical School and Old Dominion University, Sentara and the Commonwealth are committed to working collaboratively, and we will keep you posted as this moves forward.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (28:07)
When we talk about the healthcare ecosystem, we’re also talking about our primary care physicians. Many of them and their practices have been hit really hard by this pandemic. During the early months, there were no elective surgeries, and fewer patients going to see their doctors in person. Even now, they must see fewer patients to accommodate social distancing requirements. And they’re also seeing very sick patients and suffering burnout. The Virginia center for health innovation has launched a task force with support from Secretary Kerry and our administration to look into payment models for primary care physicians, and how that may need to evolve. The last thing we need during a pandemic is for our family physician practices to start closing.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (29:03)
I also want to note that our Department of Labor and Industry workplace standards were published last week, and will be in effect for the next six months. These include standards around PPE, sanitation, recordkeeping, and plans and training around infectious disease preparedness in workplaces. DOLI, D-O-L-I, can help businesses that have questions or need help with compliance. For that, along with frequently asked questions and information for employees, go to doli.virginia.gov.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (29:40)
Last week, I announced additional restrictions in the Hampton Roads area, where we were seeing a large increase in case counts. You all know the rules, restaurants at 50% capacity, a 10:00 PM curfew on alcohol sales. We also returned to a 50 person limit on social gatherings. While it is-

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (30:03)
… limit on social gatherings. While it is too soon to tell how those restrictions are working ABC and other state agencies continue to enforce these public safety measures. Those inspections have been conducted statewide, although they have focused on the eastern and northern regions. There have not been licensed suspensions since these new restrictions went into effect because I’m told restaurant owners are following the rules or are correcting violations at the time the inspectors are there. I want to thank them for doing the right thing. And that’s really what we want. We’re not looking to punish people. We all want people to look after each other. Act in a safe manner and follow the rules.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (30:51)
That’s the only way we’re going to get our numbers back down, if everyone works together and does the right thing. We have seen how that works in April and May, when our numbers dropped. And around the country, we have seen what happens when people don’t work together and do the right thing.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (31:15)
I want as much as anyone to get back to our normal lives, but I want to be clear, the only way to do that is by doing what works to slow the spread of this virus. Don’t gather in large groups, don’t get within six feet of other people, wash your hands, and wear a face covering in public. Even if you’re at a private event like a wedding. If we all do all of these things, we can get our numbers down and protect ourselves and our neighbors. It’s up to all of us to work together. And I thank you all for being part of this solution.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (31:55)
So now I’d like to ask Dr. Norm Oliver to give a health update, and then we’ll be glad to take your questions. Dr. Oliver.

Dr. Oliver: (32:08)
Very quickly on the numbers, on the cases to date. As of five o’clock yesterday, we had new cases were 798. That’s a slight drop over what we’ve seen on the last couple of weeks when it’s been around 1,000 or a little bit north of that. We’ll hopefully see a trend in this direction as you all do what the governor has suggested. We all need to do in the measures taken in the eastern region really have an impact.

Dr. Oliver: (32:40)
Total cases now stand at 95,049. The deaths that were recorded yesterday were 30. And the total number of deaths in the course of this pandemic stands at 2,274. Testing as the governor and Pastor Jones said is very important. And we have amassed a total of 1,283,136 PCR tests over the course of our testing efforts. And yesterday posted another 11,600 or so tests. We have been tracking as was noted around 15,000 tests a day. And we’re very thankful that we will have the National Guard with us so that we can help maintain those numbers and continue the community testing. That’s so critical. I’ll stop there.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (33:42)
Be glad to take your questions.

Speaker 3: (33:45)
[inaudible 00:33:45] two questions. One, can you share what, if any information VDH is sharing with the developers of this app? What are the information relationships that exist? And two, when people get tested for COVID-19 and are contacted with a positive result, is the state going to urge them to log into their app and report that? And how strongly will you be encouraging people to do that?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (34:13)
Yes. Now, let me answer the second part of your question. And I may let Dr. Oliver or Dr. Carey answer the first part. But as you know, if someone tests positive, the only way that gets into the app system is if they voluntarily put that forward. And so that’s not mandatory, but to your question, we are encouraging that. And if people will comply with that, again, it doesn’t tell where they’ve been, it just lets others that may have been around them in their close proximity, know that they have been in close contact with someone and that they would in turn need to get tested. But that will be voluntarily shared. And we would certainly encourage people if they have the app, which we encourage everybody that has a phone and can use the app to do so.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (35:03)
Do you all want to address the first part of the question? As far as what we’ve shared with [inaudible 00:05:10].

Dr. Oliver: (35:12)
We’ve been… Back in April, Google and Apple developed the technology, the platform for vendors to then build applications using this Bluetooth technology. We vetted a whole number of vendors and settled on Spring ML, which is the vendor that is built the COVID Wise application for us. We do not share any data with Spring ML, Google or Apple. None of your personal information, your location, anything, this app doesn’t know who you or where you are. And we’ll never know that.

Dr. Oliver: (36:02)
And as the governor just said, if you opt into using this app, and if you personally decide that you want to post the fact that you have a positive test, when you find out that you have a positive test, VDH also finds out that you have a positive test, and the case investigator who contacts you will give you a unique pin number that if you so choose, you can use to upload that information. So, that’s the only way that this will happen. This is not something that automatically happens on the backend from Google or Apple or Spring ML.

Speaker 3: (36:42)
A pin number, like a spreadsheet with all of the pin numbers, for people who test positive, or is that coded or encrypted in any way?

Dr. Oliver: (36:49)
It’s a random pin number. Did you want…

Suresh S.: (36:53)
Yeah, it’s-

Dr. Oliver: (36:56)
Suresh you’re going to have to come up here. So Suresh Soundararajan is the chief information officer for VDH and was the one whose office worked with the vendor on this application.

Suresh S.: (37:15)
So it’s an auto-generated pin, random number, basically. The way it works is when we get the lab results, we generate the pin for each result, each individual. And to add security to that, basically in the app, if you incorrectly enter the pin for like three times, for example, basically it locks you up, and then you got to wait for 10 minutes to unlock.

Suresh S.: (37:41)
The second piece to it is also basically that pin stays in our system only for 48 hours. So basically we wipe it out 48 hours and then a new pin will be generated. So thank you.

Ralph Barrier: (38:03)
Hello, this is Ralph Barrier of the Roanoke Times. I am pinch hitting for Luann Right today. Thank you for taking my question. And this is for Governor Northam and others at the lectern. Western Virginia appears to be seeing somewhat of a surge in cases, and perhaps even in hospitalizations and deaths. Are there any additional steps that you all are taking to try to contain community spread in western Virginia and especially in the rural areas of western Virginia?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (38:38)
Thank you for the question. The question is regarding the southwest and western part of our state, and we are seeing an uptick in those numbers and uptick in the number of hospitalizations. And we monitor that on a daily basis. Presently, our hospital capacity is still is where we would like it to be, but what we’re doing to counter that is when we see these upticks, we are working with our local health departments, encouraging more testing, community testing sites, and also stepping up our tracing capabilities.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (39:12)
And as I’ve said before, we have set up our system to be as nimble as we can so that wherever there may be a hotspot, we can really get to that area with increased testing, with tracing, and with public service announcements, to make sure that individuals know that the numbers are trending upward in their neighborhoods, in their communities, and to be on alert and again, to follow the guidelines that we put forward.

Jackie: (39:40)
In regards to the seven state compact for testing, I’m wondering, obviously this pandemic has been going on for a while, and you’ve often spoke about the lack of national leadership on testing. So why is this compact just coming about now, and then also any timeline on when Virginia can expect to get those 500,000 antigen tests?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (39:59)
Yes. That’s a great question, Jackie. Why has this compact to work with other States, why is it happening now? Literally because we’ve had enough. We as in governors. As you know, I met with Dr. Burks about a week ago now. She validated what we’re doing here in the Commonwealth with our testing, with our trace, and with our guidelines to wear mask, to wash our hands, to keep our social distancing. And there’s just been a total disconnect. That message hasn’t been coming from the White House and also the support that we need. And you’ve heard me talk about fighting a war. We’ve been asked as governors to fight a biological war without supplies. We have competed from the beginning for PPE. We have competed for testing supplies, for the capacity to do the number of testing, and despite no leadership, no guidance, we’re where we are today. And I’m very proud. And I know a lot of the other governors are as well. I just got off a call from the National Governors Association talking about some of these very issues.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (41:06)
But we know that this pandemic is here for at least months until we’re able to get a vaccination. So we’ve got to look at other means. And the way we look at other means is by working together as governors. There is a power in us working together, purchasing power, and also a message to the vendors of these tests that we’re serious about this. That if they will manufacture these tests, that we’re going to be in a position where we’ll contract with them, obtain the testing, and as I said, and I think part of your question, 500,000 of the quick antigen tests. 15 to 20 minutes of return, whether you’re negative or positive is going to be very helpful. And as we move forward, we will announce when that is. We don’t have a timeline set as of yet.

Speaker 4: (41:58)
Sarah Rankin with the Associated Press.

Sarah Rankin: (42:00)
Hi, good afternoon, Governor. I’d like to ask about a recent report about the Virginia Parole Board, that your administration received from the Office of the State Inspector General. The version released to the press was almost entirely redacted, but did know that some allegations had been substantiated. I’m wondering if you can tell us about what the inspector general findings were and what is being done to address them.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (42:29)
Yes. I appreciate the question, Sarah. Our secretary of public safety is here, Brian, if you will address that.

Brian: (42:40)
Thank you, Governor. Yes, as you know the question is with respect to the pro board’s actions, and there were a number of anonymous complaints. So SIG, Office of State Inspector General investigated them. The issue of the report that was heavily, if not all redacted, and we are working with the lawyers to see if we cannot release much of the information, certainly the allegation, certainly the parole board’s response, because again, in working with the parole board, they are adamant that they follow their policies and procedures and would like them to have the ability to explain and defend their decision. So that is a work in progress.

Clark Mercer: (43:31)
Clark Mercer, Governor’s Chief of Staff. And this came in shortly before the press conference. I did not share with the secretary, but per the code of the parole board and the IG. IG have been working with the attorney general, they will be releasing the report to the speaker, the majority leader, the minority leader of the house of delegates and the president pro tem, the majority leader and the minority leader of the Senate per the code. So that’s good news. And we have certainly told the inspector general that we would like this report shared with as many people as possible. To the secretary’s point, we would like more people to be able to read it.

Clark Mercer: (44:08)
As an administrative review, which is something that at the outset of this complaint, the IG noted that it was not looking into the substance of deciding whether to parole this individual or not. It was not about this individual’s behavior. It was an administrative review based on a checklist of items that the parole board supposed to go through when they’re making this decision. So we just back up with the secretary said that we look forward to this being shared more widely. Thank you.

Speaker 5: (44:38)
I was just wondering COVID-19 numbers in state prisons had gone down a lot. I think the Secretary [inaudible 00:44:47] said it was a couple of weeks ago, 16, one six. This week, we’re up to more approaching 600. Do you all get a sense of what is causing the numbers to go back up? Is it sort of like, I just wasn’t sure if there’s anything you all could say about-

Ned: (45:03)
… is it sort of like? I just wasn’t sure if there’s anything you all can say about why the numbers seem to be rising, if you could contribute it to anything in particular?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (45:08)
Brian, the question is about, in our penitentiaries, the numbers are trending up a bit and the question is, do we know what to address that to?

Brian: (45:21)
Well, Governor, well, we’re all asking the why, Ned. DOC is not unlike other longterm-care facilities or congregate housing. If you look at the numbers, there’s some positives. We’ve tested over 29,000. Well, let me, we’ve had 29,000 tests. Some offenders have been tested multiple times. We are really aggressively testing in our corrections facilities. Three weeks ago, if you had asked that question, I would have told you, we had 16 active cases. Today, we have over 500, unfortunately.

Brian: (46:03)
We’ve done some aggressive testing at to two facilities in particular in the Chesapeake area, St. Bride’s in Indian Creek, and as you know, and what the governor has already addressed today is the Hampton Roads area that we’ve seen an uptick and we’re taking actions to address that. I think it’s reflective of that increase in the Hampton Roads region and Chesapeake. DOC will continue to be very vigilant to address the uptick and address those cases and make sure we can quarantine appropriately.

Speaker 6: (46:41)
[inaudible 00:46:41] Yes, Max Thornberry with the Northern Virginia Daily.

Max Thornberry: (46:45)
Morning, Governor. I just have a question about yesterday’s announcement about the letter of intent to purchase the rapid test. You already said that you’re not sure about the timeline of when the state might receive those, but do you have an idea of where those tests might go, where they’ll be allocated and how much those tests cost?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (47:08)
Yeah, actually I do. I’m going to let Secretary Carey address that, but we do have an idea. Thanks, Dan.

Sec. Dan Carey: (47:15)
Sure.

Sec. Dan Carey: (47:17)
Thank you very much, Governor. The question really was how would we deploy those rapid tests and how much might the cost be? We don’t have the exact cost estimates in terms of buying at that volume. That’s the great thing of buying, collaborating with six or seven states, that you can have the purchasing power to send a signal to the market, but also to get the best possible prices, not just for the equipment, but for the testing supplies. We don’t have the exact numbers, but we will share those when those are available.

Sec. Dan Carey: (47:49)
Second, how might they be used? The PCR, the Polymerase Chain Reaction tests, remain the gold standard test. The antigen tests are getting better and better. They have particular, I think, use in and longterm-care facilities for routine testing of staff and for residents that are asymptomatic in particular. We are evaluating where that might fit in our overall strategy. But the key also is in a point-of-care testing, like these machines that will supply at also in where they are for influenza. They’re at urgent care centers in primary care practices in emergency rooms. We will try to use them as strategically as we possibly can. As we get them available and start to use them that no doubt that will be modified. And frankly, we’re going to learn along with the other states how to best deploy them along with our other testing assets.

Sec. Dan Carey: (48:53)
Thank you. Great question. Thank you, Governor.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (48:54)
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 6: (48:54)
Yes.

Speaker 7: (48:59)
Governor, in 2002, Governor Warner then had a similar situation with his parole board with an infraction like we suppose is under the redaction here now. He fired the entire parole board. What is your action going to be once you see what’s under that redacted investigation report?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (49:17)
Well, we’ll take a look at that, but right now I support our parole board and I don’t have any intentions of making any changes.

Speaker 6: (49:24)
Mm-hm. Yep. The next question is from Patrick Larson with UPM.

Patrick Larson: (49:30)
Hi, Governor. My question is basically COVIDWISE testing app, I’m just wondering what sort of plans the state has in order to get people to actually download that? As I understand, ideally, we’d be looking at about 60% of Virginians using it to update themselves and update others. But yeah, I’m just wondering what sort of strategies are in place for getting those numbers up?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (50:02)
Yeah. No, that’s a great question. I think the question is about COVIDWISE the app that I was talking about, how do we market that? How do we encourage Virginians to use that? Certainly starting from my position, we have over 100,000 state employees and I will certainly encourage them. We’ve been in touch with our colleges and universities, they are very excited about this app. I think we’ll be encouraging their students, as you know that’s just right around the corner when our colleges and universities start back up this fall. Even at the K through 12, for individuals that have phones, that’s certainly a decision that that parents can make. But you could just look around the state, any opportunity we can, we will be encouraging folks to use that.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (50:48)
It’s a great tool. Again, to reiterate, it doesn’t take any of your personal information. It doesn’t tell where you’ve been. I think people had had some concerns about that, but it’s just a great tool that we have in our toolbox to really follow this pandemic and allow individuals that have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive to know that and to be able to get tested themselves or to have their family members tested.

Dr. Oliver: (51:16)
Governor?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (51:16)
Yes?

Dr. Oliver: (51:16)
Can I make an additional comment?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (51:16)
Sure. Yes.

Dr. Oliver: (51:18)
In addition to what the governor just said, I think it’s also really important to remember the comments earlier from Pastor Jones. Having trusted leaders in the black and Brown communities of the Commonwealth speaking out and saying they’re using this app, that their phones are part of the COVID fight, is going to be really critical to the uptake of this use of this application. The African-American and Latin-X communities have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19. We want to make sure that they also have an opportunity to use this.

Dr. Oliver: (51:56)
You mentioned the number, 55% of the population needing to use the app, that comes from a study done in Oxford. Now, Oxford study also found something else, which is that for every one person who uses the app, it averts one or two infections. Whatever we get is going to be really important in the fight against COVID-19. We’re going to shoot for hundreds of thousands, millions of people hopefully using the app, but we encourage every single person who gets this message from this news conference and from our marketing campaign to use this tool.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (52:38)
Great.

Speaker 6: (52:38)
We have one last question.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (52:38)
Thanks.

Speaker 8: (52:39)
I know you all have mentioned that this app will not track who you are, where you are, but for those folks who were concerned about big brother watching, …

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (52:48)
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 8: (52:49)
How do you let them know about this situation and what makes this app different from maybe Facebook, Twitter, some of those other apps that are heavily used?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (52:57)
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes, you want to address that?

Speaker 9: (53:01)
Yeah. Sure.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (53:04)
We’re going to have the to have the best people answer your question. I am not an IT expert. I appreciate the question. Come on and we’ll …

Speaker 9: (53:12)
Sure.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (53:13)
We’ll address that. Dan, if you want to follow up, that’s fine.

Sec. Dan Carey: (53:14)
Yeah. That sounds perfect, Governor.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (53:17)
Thank you, sir.

Suresh S.: (53:21)
That’s a great question. We have been asked that question plenty of times. The difference is it’s not where and who, which is what Facebook does, right? This is basically looking at the distance, not your location. It’s the distance and your signal strength. That’s the difference, right? It’s not where and who, which is what Facebook, all your other apps, social media apps, pretty much know where you are, what you’re doing, what your activity is. This app does nothing, except the fact that this is a strength of the Bluetooth. Right? It’s basically just over, like this morning we are talking about it. He kind of explained in a very nice way, it’s like your Bluetooth, watch and a phone or your phone and an another speaker, which plays your music, right? The farther you are, it’s not going to get it. The closer you are, it’s going to get it. The great example I thought he gave this morning. Yeah, that’s pretty much the difference.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (54:22)
[inaudible 00:54:22] Anything?

Sec. Dan Carey: (54:26)
Governor, just to add one more question. Really the essential question was, why should we trust this? Why should the public trust this? I’ll simply say, I downloaded it. It’s not something in the future. It’s there now. Go there right now. I ask the viewers at home to download it right now. It’s there ready to go. I downloaded the active application this morning.

Sec. Dan Carey: (54:49)
The other thing is that I think it’s a unique relationship. I realize that that Google and Apple mine information, that is one of their businesses. But this has been not a free-for-fall. Only one partner to each state of 50 States were able to come together and declare this is the partnership between government and industry, one per state, to make sure that we could focus efforts, not just for the time to market, and we got here as you, as you know today, but also to make sure that we focus on that trust building, that it’s not 500 vendors that some are playing by the rules and some aren’t. But there’s a limited number of vendors in there and it’s not 50 vendors because some vendors like SpringML work with other states, but a limited number of vendors and states working together in a collaborative way to build that trust. This is not the beginning of that effort, and it’s certainly not the end of that effort, as we heard about from, from Pastor Jones earlier this afternoon.

Sec. Dan Carey: (55:56)
I will simply say that it’s because of the technology, but also because of how it’s been limited to combine with states and state health departments to make sure this is really touching the most trusted elements within the states. That is one of those strategies.

Sec. Dan Carey: (56:13)
Thank you, Governor.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (56:14)
Thank you, Dr. Carey.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (56:15)
Well, thanks to all of you for being with us this afternoon. Hopefully you found this information helpful. I’d like to again thank Pastor Jones for making the trip from Norfolk and sharing his experience and how we can get into our communities, do more testing and more tracing.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (56:31)
I think we really have some great tools in our toolbox here in Virginia now. I’m excited about COVIDWISE. I hope you all will take the opportunity to try it and use it. I think it will help us all better control this pandemic. I’m also, as a clinician, very excited about the compact that we formed with other states and with our using the rapid test. I think some other states will really fall in line with us, and that will give us even more power. But to be able to have a test that gives us result in 15 to 20 minutes will be a real game-changer. We are continuing to use, as Dr. Carey said, the PCR test. That’s the gold standard right now. But as we move through this pandemic, the rapid antigen test is going to be very helpful.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (57:24)
The last thing, I just want to encourage everybody. We are all in this together. There are individuals that have lost their electricity from the storm that came through yesterday, so I encourage all of you to check on your loved ones, check on your neighbors. Make sure if they need your help, that you reach out to them.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (57:42)
Then something that I have seen so much during this pandemic is really people coming together and helping each other. Last week, I was in Norfolk. Today, I was here in Richmond with our food banks. Virginia has contributed to a program called We Care. We have contributed $1.4 million. This is an interesting statistic prior to COVID-19 about 9% of our population was food insecure. That means that they weren’t sure where their next meal was going to come from. Now, three or four months, five months into COVID-19, 22% of our population is food insecure. That’s one in five people in Virginia right now that don’t know where their next meal will come from. While we have contributed, businesses around Virginia, in this case, Sentara and Truest, which is a national bank, have each put $500,000 on the table to assist with We Care, and other businesses are joined in. That’s just why we’re going to get through this together. I encourage all of you to be part of the solution and to give thanks for all of the individuals, the businesses that have stepped up and to be part of this solution.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (59:03)
Thank you, and until we see you next, be safe, be healthy. Don’t forget to wear your facial protection, wash your hands and maintain your social distance. Thank you all so much.

Governor Northam Press Briefing | August 5, 2020

Tune in at 2:00 PM for updates on our continued response to COVID-19 and the impacts of Tropical Storm Isaias in Virginia.This briefing will be broadcast live in Spanish on the Virginia Department of Emergency Management Facebook page. // Esta conferencia es transmitida en español en vivo en la pagina Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Posted by Governor of Virginia on Wednesday, August 5, 2020