Jul 28, 2020

Gov. Ralph Northam Virginia Press Conference Transcript July 28

Gov. Ralph Northam Virginia Press Conference Transcript July 28
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsGov. Ralph Northam Virginia Press Conference Transcript July 28

Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a press conference on July 28. He ordered new restrictions in the Hampton Roads region. Read the full news briefing speech transcript here.

Transcribe Your Own Content

Try Rev for free and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (01:49)
Well, good afternoon. It has been two weeks since we met for an update on COVID-19 in Virginia. Through all of this heat and humidity, we are still in the middle of a pandemic in Virginia, around the country, and beyond. It’s been a hard summer and a difficult year. We’ve seen about 87,000 cases in Virginia of COVID-19, and more than 2,000 people have lost their lives. These are difficult numbers because they represent real people and real lives, but there is hopeful news, and we need to acknowledge that as well.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (02:33)
Virginia has so far avoided the dramatic increases that other parts of the country are seeing. In fact, cases are largely stable in four out of the state’s five health districts. This includes Northern Virginia where 3 million people live. Cases have dropped there by two-thirds since the peak in late May. It’s happened because people are doing the right thing and following the guidelines. But we are seeing a concerning rise in Hampton Roads, and we’ll talk more about that in a moment. I want you to know this. We are putting a lot of attention on Hampton Roads, but before we get to that, I want to acknowledge that these are indeed tough times, and everyone is hurting.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (03:27)
Children are frustrated about not going back to school in the way that they’re used to, or not being able to play sports or interact with their friends and teachers. They’re confused. They’re frustrated. They’re scared, and their parents even more so. I’ve heard from parents of children with autism who are worried about how their children will be able to get an education this fall. I’ve heard from people who desperately want to go visit their loved ones who live in nursing homes like my father, and I’ve heard from people who are living with the pain of loneliness.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (04:10)
I’ve heard numerous stories of Virginians who are out of work, who are having trouble putting food on the table or keeping a roof over their head, people worried about going to work when they can’t socially distance from other people. I’ve talked to a mother in Hampton Roads whose child has been having uncontrolled seizures. She needed to come to Richmond for special treatment, but she was worried about what she was hearing about the protest.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (04:43)
Everyone is questioning what tomorrow will bring. I’m worried that people are starting to lose hope, and that’s not a good thing. I want everyone to know this. There is a path out of this. I see hopeful signs ahead. Most importantly, the country’s best scientists are making progress on a vaccination. It’s being fast-tracked, and that is a good thing for all of us. In our nursing homes, things have turned around.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (05:19)
A few weeks ago, nursing homes accounted for about a third of Virginia’s cases, but today, just about 1% of individuals tested are positive there. Almost 3,000 people in nursing homes have recovered from COVID-19. Our hospitals have discharged almost 12,000 people who have been treated for COVID, and that’s good news as well.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (05:47)
Across Virginia, we’re putting new tools in place to help. If you need help paying your rent or your mortgage, we now have a program to help with that. If you can’t work remotely, we’re putting in place the country’s first emergency workplace safety standards for COVID-19. If you own a small business, we announced Rebuild Virginia just yesterday to get you the help you need to keep going. $70 million will be invested in that program. These are major steps forward. They’re all about mitigation and recovery, and we’re doing more every day.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (06:29)
I want you to listen, and I want you to hear this. Be not afraid. Do not let yourself grow weary. We are going to get through this together. I know that we all need to do what we can just to let a little air out of what I would describe as a very tense balloon. I know people sometimes feel helpless, like there’s nothing you can do, but we do have the power to turn this around. You have that power, and we all know what to do: wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, stay at home unless you need to leave, avoid crowds, and follow the guidelines, and please, check in on each other. We all need to help out our family, our friends, our neighbors, even people we don’t know. I see this happening every day. Across Virginia, people are donating to food banks, packing boxes, and volunteering to make home deliveries.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (07:41)
A community leader called me just this morning and said she is opening her home on a daily basis to five young children so they can have a special place to do virtual learning. I like to hear stories like these. We all need to hear stories like this because they remind us that people are good, and good people step up in tough times. We take care of each other. That’s happening all over our country. I know it can be hard to see and hard to hear over all the shouting, but it’s real. I hope we will all remember that.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (08:20)
Before we turn to Hampton Roads, I want to report on today’s meetings with Dr. Deborah Birx. Our senior health team met with her privately this morning and reviewed what Virginia is doing. We discussed the public health data that I’ll show you in just a moment. She was complimentary of our work and the mitigation measures we have been taking for weeks. I told her that in Virginia, we see her and we see Dr. Fauci as our country’s medical leaders. We then convened a group of two dozen stakeholders from across Virginia, local public health leaders, labor leaders, advocates for LatinX Virginians, doctors, hospital administrators, representatives of nursing homes, legislators, and others.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (09:13)
They explained what they are seeing, concerns about home health workers, the ongoing need for access to PPE, testing turnaround times that are too long, and the ongoing need for a national strategy. It was a very positive meeting. I told her that we are taking all of the mitigation measures she recommends, wearing mask, social distancing, and limiting gatherings. She pointed out that pandemic today is much different from what it was like in March and April. This includes rising spread among young people, especially in places like Hampton Roads. This means the way we address it today needs to be different as well.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (10:03)
Let’s turn to the data. Here, you can see the total cases in Virginia by date reported. We don’t like that curve, but there’s a lot behind that, and remember, our goal several weeks ago was to test 10,000 individuals a day. Now, we’re testing usually around 17 to 20,000, and thus, you see an increase in the number of positives.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (10:28)
On this next curve is the percent positive curve. Dr. Birx talked a lot about percent positive this morning. This curve looks a lot better. It’s 7.3 statewide, down from around 7.7 last week. There’s been a dramatic decrease in Northern Virginia, down to 5.7%. You can see that here. We’re seeing a similar trend in the Northwestern part of the state where it’s down to 5%. We’re monitoring the Southwest region where numbers are slightly increasing but relatively stable at 7.1%. The trend is positive in Central Virginia at 6.8% positive.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (11:20)
But we are concerned about Hampton Roads and the Peninsula. Overall, the rate is 10.8% positive. As of yesterday, test positivity in Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, and Hampton range from 9.9% to 18.6%. On the Peninsula, the rate has soared to 8.7%, up from 3.4% just one month ago. The test positivity rate for Virginia outside of Hampton Roads in the Peninsula is just 6%. Case numbers are rising as well as-

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (12:03)
… percent. Case numbers are rising as well as our hospitalizations, intensive care, and emergency room visits. Our local health directors and their teams have been clear. They are seeing a significant shift toward younger people testing positive. People in their twenties and even younger. They’re seeing increased socialization with non-household members, such as birthday parties, backyard barbecues, and other celebrations. So we need to act to turn this around. First everyone needs to know that we are putting a lot of attention on Hampton Roads. A federal team from FEMA was here over the past week to assess what’s going on there. They were complimentary of our work and they have left. I’ve been in direct contact with the mayors and other local officials there and I’m heartened by the unified commitment to addressing the rise. And as you know, we have stepped up enforcement through the health department, ABC and other agencies.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (13:11)
Now we need to take additional steps to avoid congregating. Dr. Oliver and I are issuing an executive order and public health emergency order that will take effect at 12:00 AM Friday morning, that’s midnight Thursday night, affecting Hampton Roads. First, no alcohol will be sold or consumed onsite after 10:00 PM and all restaurants must close by midnight. This effectively closes all bars. Second, indoor dining will be limited to 50% capacity along with food courts, breweries, wineries and distilleries. Third, public and private social gatherings of more than 50 individuals are prohibited. This includes parties, indoors and outdoors. This is about stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Hampton Roads. It happens when too many people gather together, when too many people are noncompliant and as I’ve said before, when too many people are selfish.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (14:26)
And we all know that alcohol changes your judgment, you just don’t care as much about social distancing after you’ve had a couple of drinks. That’s when the virus gets spread and that’s why we are taking this action. Finally, let’s turn to ways that we are helping our local governments. This week we will begin the process of distributing the second half of Federal Cares Act money to Virginia localities, almost $645 million. Every city and county in Virginia knows this is good news. Remember where we’ve been, we got the first half of the money weeks ago and we did it much quicker than most other States. We also gave them a lot more than many other States have done. In fact, the federal government requires just 15% of Cares Act money go to localities. We are giving them almost half of Virginia’s entire allocation, and that is a big deal.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (15:35)
I want to remind everyone that we all have a responsibility in helping address COVID-19 in Virginia, the State and localities too. This money will help them do the things that we all want to see from rent assistance and eviction protection, to food security, to PPE and tools to help educate our children. With this distribution, localities now have many more funds to do important work and they are responsible for spending and distributing it to address COVID-19. Our team is putting accountability measures in place to make sure this gets done the right way. Part of accountability means everyone has a role in combating COVID-19, including local officials.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (16:26)
The Commonwealth has a major role as you know that I take it seriously. I want to just close by saying that we have a path forward. We can put this healthcare crisis pandemic behind us, but it’s going to take all of us. We need to take the politics out of it, stop the jabbing. As I said earlier, take some of the air out of a very tense balloon and get this behind us because we want our children to be back in school. We want our businesses to reopen, but we have to diminish the numbers of COVID-19 in our communities in order to do that. So I appreciate all of you for joining us today. I always thank you for listening and viewing and really being part of the solution. And I now like to turn this over to Dr. Norm Oliver, who will review the numbers. Dr. Oliver, thank you.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (17:29)
Good afternoon. Very quickly on the numbers, the number of new cases reported yesterday was 922. We’ve been averaging around 900 to a little more than a thousand, although a couple of days we were up around 1500. Number of tests recorded were 20,138 bringing our total tests up to 115,000, no, actually we’re over a million, I’m misreading it, 1,157,924 tests. We continue to, as the governor says, do lots of testing each day. Want to underscore the things that the governor said about the importance of wearing masks. We know that wearing masks will save lives and decrease the spread of this disease. Our office of environmental health services, through our local health departments, are strictly enforcing the guidelines around this, having suspended permits of a number of egregious violators in the Tidewater area. And we will continue to do that in cooperation with our colleagues in ABC and the agriculture consumer services.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (18:54)
I would also like to underscore the importance of taking our individual actions, as the governor has said, our wearing masks will protect others. Their wearing masks will protect us and we’ll protect each other. That way maintaining social distancing will save lives and I’ll leave it at that Governor. Thank you very much.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (19:16)
I’ll be glad to take your questions, Kate.

Kate: (19:21)
Yes. When we heard from Dr. Berkson earlier today, she mentioned that she had specific concerns about a regional reopening as opposed to a statewide reopening. I also spoke with researchers last week, who mentioned that I think about a third of Virginia’s local health districts are seeing an uptick in cases. So I was wondering if you could further explain why you think that this regional approach will be sufficient to curb case growth?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (19:46)
Yeah. The question about the regional approach and Kate, I would start by saying all options are on the table. And as you just saw, I look at the data every day and look at the specific regions and we’ve been using a set of metrics and we’re continuing to follow those. And I don’t know if I need to repeat those again, but certainly the percent positivities which are relatively stable in the four out of five regions as I showed. Our hospital capacity or amount of PPE, our testing, our ability to trace in those areas I think is at a good place. And so I do watch those everyday. I had that discussion with Dr. Berkson and that the best policy is to really stay ahead of the curve and if we see numbers trending up and I continue to do that every day.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (20:34)
Today and I’ve been working on this, as you know, probably over the weekend and made the final decision yesterday on what we would announce today. But our decision today is to really address what’s going on in Hampton Roads. We’ll continue the enforcement throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia, continue to follow the numbers. And if I see those trending in other areas, I will make decisions in that regard.

Kate: (21:01)
You mentioned your father, who’s in a nursing home and as we all kind of know now reopening nursing homes and containing the spread is really dependent on a large amount of testing. So I was wondering if someone could give us an update on where that stands in Virginia, whether we’re testing every single staff member and resident at facilities that still have active outbreaks.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (21:22)
Yes. Good question, Dr. [inaudible 00:09:24].

Speaker 1: (21:29)
Hi, thanks Kate. I think the question’s about whether we’re still testing where it’s deemed appropriate, the weekly serial testing?

Kate: (21:41)
[inaudible 00:21:41] all facilities?

Speaker 1: (21:43)
So there’s guidance around when that’s appropriate. So obviously it’s where there’s outbreaks happening after the initial baseline testing. So there was initial baseline testing conducted I think now probably in almost all [inaudible 00:21:59] nursing facilities. We are definitely facing some testing turnaround issues and we’re trying to work through those. So the facilities are doing their best to meet those weekly testing recommendations and we continue to work with them on that.

Kate: (22:16)
Facility specific task, or is the national guard assisting with serial testing?

Speaker 1: (22:20)
So the national guard was brought on board to do the, what we call baseline or the initial point prevalence surveys for the nursing facilities. And they also served several assisted living facilities as well. And we’re going to be bringing on some new teams to finish that out. So they are not doing the serial testing. They were brought on board for the initial baseline testing events.

Speaker 2: (22:50)
Governor, with the restrictions that are going to put on Hampton Roads now, are you concerned that this might affect the numbers in some of the surrounding districts [inaudible 00:00:23:06]?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (23:06)
The question is will this affect surrounding areas? And obviously that again, not to be a broken record, but I follow the numbers on a daily basis. And again, all options are on the table. And if I see the numbers increasing in surrounding areas, we will take action on that.

Speaker 3: (23:24)
Governor, for Hampton Roads, [inaudible 00:23:28] specific measures but when do you expect these restrictions to lift in this sort of hybrid phase that we’re now going into, 14 days of decline, like we’ve seen in the past and then should restaurants expect any kind of even more [inaudible 00:23:43]?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (23:43)
Well, I would answer your second question, all options are on the table and we’re going to do everything that we need to do to keep people safe and to keep the pandemic under control and really to try to get it in our rear view mirror. As far as how long these restrictions will be in place, we-

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (24:03)
… as how long these restrictions will be in place. We look at two to three weeks after we make a change in guidelines, so we know the incubation period is user-ran six to 10 days, but can be as long as 14 days, so we’ll need to follow the data at least over two weeks, I would say at a minimum. If we see the numbers starting to trend down, we’ll look at it and lift the guidelines as soon as we can. I would just reiterate, I want nothing more, and I think our administration wants nothing more than to open up our economy, to have our children back in schools, but we need to do it safely and responsibly and our people’s health and well-being is our number one priority and that’s what we will remain committed to.

Speaker 4: (24:46)
[inaudible 00:00:48].

Speaker 5: (24:52)
Governor, good afternoon. We reported last week that some residents are having to wait a week or more now to get COVID-19 test results back. You referenced raising that issue with Dr. Birx earlier today. I wonder if she was able to give you any reassurances or assistance, or if there’s anything that the state can do to speed up that turnaround time and make the testing more effective in terms of contact tracing and so forth.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (25:18)
It’s an excellent question. And yes, we did have significant discussion in the time that she spent here, but can you imagine going to see your provider, your doctor, having whatever symptoms and the doctor says, “I’m going to order a test, and by the way, the results will be back in 10 to 14 days?” I think we all find that it’s unacceptable. And so Dr. Birx and I had that discussion of when we talk about tracing with Dr. Oliver and his team, it makes it so much more difficult when you don’t have immediate results. And so we talked about reagents, and I don’t want to get into the weeds too much, but some of the supplies that we use, there has been an increased demand for testing around the country. And what has happened, some of the commercial labs like LabCorp and Quest have had increased demand, they don’t have a turnaround time as quickly as they used to. So a lot of things are contributing to that challenge.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (26:21)
I would say when we talk about what to look for in the future, they are working. When I say they, scientists are working on a quick turnaround, what we call antigen test, that’s on the spot. It’s like a strep throat test where you go in and see the provider. They take a swab and you know in 15 or 20 minutes what the results are. And so moving toward that type of technology and innovation will really help us to control the virus and also to do the tracing, let people know when they need to quarantine, et cetera.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (26:56)
Another issue that we talked about, and again, I apologize, I don’t want to get too much into the weeds, but on college campuses and then in some other areas, looking at what we call pooling testing, where you might sample five, 10 individuals and pool that together and do one test to just be able to follow the prevalence in different areas, for example in a dormitory on a college campus. We had a great discussion with Dr. Birx. I think that she validated a lot of the great work that we’re doing in Virginia. And one of the things that we recognized, there is a disconnect right now between what the health individuals are proposing and recommending and what our president is telling us, and that’s unfortunate. We are in the middle of what I have said before, a biological war, and we all need as Americans and as Virginians, we need to be working together, not receiving mixed messages.

Speaker 6: (28:20)
My question is also about testing. In the past we’ve talked about the need to use testing basically using positivity and [inaudible 00:28:21] and so should we [inaudible 00:28:21] scientists [inaudible 00:28:21] tests? What more could just [inaudible 00:28:21]

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (28:24)
I think there are a lot of options, [inaudible 00:04:25], and I think the question centers around how best to use our testing capabilities and capacity, and we’re doing everything that we can, it’s not a perfect situation by any means, but by going into areas like Hampton Roads, we’ve been having increased community sites, going into different neighborhoods, encouraging people to come out and test and really right now, [inaudible 00:04:50], there are some challenges with reagents, with some of the supplies, but for the most part, when we go into a particular area, our turnaround time, especially when we do it through our state lab, is much quicker. It’s more one to two days rather than seven to 10 days where the problem is occurring and not to mention any of these other testing sites, but some of the commercial sites that have retail areas that have stepped up and been part of the solution, and I appreciate that, are having a backlog because of just the increased demand, not only in Virginia, but in other states and that’s really affected the private labs.

Speaker 4: (29:25)
[inaudible 00:29:28].

Julian: (29:32)
Good afternoon, Governor? As you well know, Mayor Bowser is now requiring travelers from 27 high risk states to self-quarantine for 14 days when they get to the district. I’m wondering why you have not elected to follow suit as a way to reduce the spread, especially when you look at places like Virginia Beach, where there are probably a lot of travelers coming in and spreading the virus.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (29:53)
Great question, Julie. We are certainly considering, but in the meantime, encouraging individuals, when one leaves your place of residence and goes for example on vacation to a state where they have increased numbers, we are really encouraging when you come back to quarantine. And the reason for that is… And also to keep in mind that if you come back to a family where there are elderly, where there’re individuals with health situations, then we have to keep that in mind. And Julie, I haven’t taken that step yet, but I’m watching closely what’s going on in other states and also watching and listening to our tracers and following where these cases are coming from. So, as I’ve said before, all options are on the table and we will take this one step at a time.

Speaker 4: (30:53)
Greg.

Greg: (30:53)
Governor, did you convey to Dr. Birx any of your concerns about the president’s message or the leadership that you’re getting or coordination you’re getting from the federal government?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (31:02)
We, I think, kept those discussions, Greg, at a high level and I didn’t talk about that, but it was an observation that I made and again, she validated the great work that we’re doing in Virginia. And just to give an example, she advocated for wearing mask, she advocated for social distancing, for staying at home unless you need to be out, while the message from our president is to liberate Virginia and putting pressure on governors like myself to open up our states, to send our children back to school. So again, there’s a disconnect and when we’re all trying to deal with this and work together and have a good end result, it’s unfortunate.

Speaker 4: (31:51)
[inaudible 00:31:51] David, we give you the Bristol hair [inaudible 00:07:54].

David: (31:56)
Yes, thank you. Governor, I wanted to ask in light of your actions for Hampton roads, what thresholds might you be watching and for other parts of the state that you might consider a similar actions if people see increases in cases and things like that?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (32:09)
The question is, what metrics will we be following in other states? Let me give you a doctor’s analogy and something that I learned from one of my mentors, when we would make rounds during the day in the morning, we would go over the numbers and I would say, “Doctor, the numbers are within normal limits.” And he’d say, ” Yes, but Raph, the trends are going up and so you need to take action today to prevent tomorrow what may happen.” And so that’s really the way I am following this data. And if I see trends that are going up, even though the numbers are still within acceptable ranges, then we’ll take those actions. We want to do this as safely and as responsibly moving forward at the same time, we know that every time we make decisions, it affects people’s lives, it affects their livelihoods. And that’s why at the end of the day, the best solution is to all work together and to follow these guidelines that we talk about every day and put this health crisis behind us.

Speaker 7: (33:13)
Governor, two follow up questions. First of all, on testing, what actually is the range of turnaround time that’s happening? What’s that upper range that you’re hearing about from commercial labs? And then also, what is the actual prevalence of pool testing right now?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (33:29)
Great question. Dan, do you know this, for I could give a range ? Your turn around.

Dan: (33:34)
Well, I’d be glad to. We have a daily, certainly weekly contact with the testing community, commercial labs as part of the governor’s testing task force and what we heard most recently, Dr. Parham Jaberi, the Chief Deputy Commissioner of Health helps lead that effort is in that range of 48 to 72 hours at the longest from our state facilities, 48 hours often in our hospital-based and academic centers, but for the commercial labs that are exposed really to the national pressures, that can be extended, governor, out to the seven, eight, nine, 10 days is what we’ve been hearing back. And it really depends on the time that the swab is received, so the measurement is a little bit different, there’s no standing reporting, but it’s definitely in that range.

Dan: (34:33)
But all of those reagents, they’re spot shortages. And as labs try, and the governor shared this with Dr. Birx today, is we try to improve that, labs try to order additional high throughput machinery. Those are back-ordered as well. So again, there’s a national market for reagents, for new testing equipment, with laboratories in Virginia having those that equipment on back order. So again, we’re trying to deal with the national shortage, but that’s the range.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (35:04)
[crosstalk 00:35:04] Thank you, Dan. Jackie, let me just add something to [Dr. Carrie’s 00:00:35:07] comments as well. What is very concerning to me and I think should be to all of us is the inequity in testing. And I don’t think I have to say particular groups that are able to get tested, whether it be once a day or twice a day and get the results back that day. So why should that be happening and other individuals going to see their provider and having to wait 10 to 14 days? So that disconnect is very concerning as well. And then again, we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that all Virginians have access to testing that’s one is accurate, and that we get a result back in a reasonable amount of time, because again, it’s just unacceptable, and I say this as a provider, to have to wait seven, 10 days for test results. And again-

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (36:03)
… 7, 10 days for test results. And again, I don’t want to point fingers here, but this started back in February and there’s been no direction, no program nationally, and this is something that all states have had to do on their own. Governors have had to compete with each other, and it’s been a chaotic process, and one that I believe could have been avoided with better leadership.

Jackie: (36:26)
[inaudible 00:36:26] another question that was asked. Dr. Birx mentioned a specific threshold of 10% positivity for localities that she thinks especially need to roll back that phased reopening. So I know you said you’re kind of looking at the data in many respects, but is that 10% positivity threshold something that you are keeping an eye on specifically?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (36:46)
Certainly. You pick a number, 10%. It’s certainly something that we consider, but it’s more the trend. As you remember, Jackie, when we started this, our positivity rate was up over 20%. So while 10% is much better than 20%, we’d like to see it down at 5 or even lower than that. So there’s no particular number, and it’s more following the trend than a particular number.

Speaker 8: (37:12)
Patrick Larson, VBM.

Patrick Larson: (37:17)
Thank you. [inaudible 00:37:18] this came up in conversations today with Dr. Birx. I’m just wondering, as school systems announce reopening plans, some including in-person education, and as our understanding of COVID-19 changes, including the age groups that we’re seeing most affected, how is the state assessing the risk of kids returning to in-person schooling in the fall?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (37:40)
The question, I believe, if I heard it correctly, is how do the increasing numbers affect children returning to school this fall, to have learning in the school building itself. It affects it significantly. As I made the point earlier, if we’re going to have our children go back to school safely and responsibly, the numbers in the communities need to be down. One of the things that makes it so tricky is a lot of children that might contract COVID-19 don’t have any symptoms. So they can be in school with other children that may or may not have COVID-19, and then without symptoms, take that virus home to families. We heard from some of our legislators this morning when we met with Dr. Birx, a lot of these children live at home with their parents, grandparents, great grandparents. There’s a lot of different scenarios. So it’s a recipe for disaster if the numbers in the community are high, and we’re sending our children into school. It spreads.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (38:46)
I mean, a good example of this is what’s happened with one of our baseball teams. 14 or 15 individuals on one team after just four or five days of playing after the season started are now positive. So when you have individuals that are asymptomatic, you don’t know who they are, you have no way of tracing them, and you put them into a mix of other individuals, it can get out of hand very quickly.

Speaker 8: (39:15)
Andre.

Andre: (39:15)
I’ve got two questions, if I may. First, how would you respond to those who have concerns about protestors and rioters who are not following your guidelines? Not wearing masks, not social distancing, but yet nothing tends to happen to them per se.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (39:31)
Yes. Well, that question, Andre, I appreciate that. First of all, when we talk about protesting, we certainly condone peaceful protesting. We don’t condone individuals that are destructive and have been coming to Richmond for the intent of being destructive. So public safety is very important, and we will continue to enforce the laws. But to those that want to go out and protest peacefully, we would certainly encourage them to wear facial protection, and we have, and we would encourage them to keep their social distancing.

Andre: (40:06)
Secondly, following up on your comment about disparities amongst people of color.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (40:10)
Yes.

Andre: (40:11)
What can you do to reach these minority communities, people of color who don’t don’t even have a primary care doctor? Do you need to expand your team, or what’s the answer there?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (40:21)
So how do we reach out to the communities? We have a Health Equity Commission that we’ve talked about before. Dr. Janice Underwood, who’s our DEI officer, she oversees that. We have been making every effort that we can, especially in regions of Virginia where they have hotspots, to go in and do community testing, to have drives where we go in and distribute PPE, face masks.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (40:51)
Then the other thing, Andre, that I think is very important that we’re doing more of is public service announcements. Going into these localities, using the radios, social media, TV, whatever we can, to let people know that there is a higher incidence of COVID-19 in their area and how they can get help. Whether that be testing, seeing a provider, or more PPE. So, we are working on that on a daily basis.

Speaker 9: (41:19)
We’ll do one more on the phone, and then [inaudible 00:05:22].

Speaker 8: (41:23)
All right. Luanne Rife with The Roanoke Times.

Luanne Rife: (41:27)
Good afternoon, Governor. A lot of what you’ve done, you always seem to be appealing to people’s good nature in expecting that we all will do well in social distancing, and hygiene, and wearing safe cover. So what can you say to all of the naysayers out there on social media, who say the case counts are relatively low compared to 8.5 million people living in Virginia. And they say, “Governor, stop the fear mongering.” How would you respond to them?

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (42:01)
Well, that’s a good question. The question is, how do we respond to individuals that say that this is a hoax or that it’s not a big deal. I would say my answer would be, we’ve lost 2,000+ Virginians to COVID-19. So if you don’t think this is real, take some time and go sit down and talk to the family of one of these individuals that have lost their lives.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (42:31)
We have healthcare providers, for example, who are working around the clock in our emergency rooms, in our ICUs, who are covered up in PPE from the time they get to work until the time they leave. We have individuals that are working on the front lines that can’t go back to their homes because of the risk of spreading the virus to their loved ones. Talk to those people. Talk to them and listen to their story, and then see if you think this is real or not.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (43:05)
So one of the things that I’ve always said as a doctor is that we need to listen. And we do. So if there are individuals out there that don’t believe that this is a problem, then just listen to some of these individuals that have lost loved ones. Listen to individuals that have been on a ventilator in the ICU, and they have recovered. Listen to their story.

Speaker 8: (43:28)
Cam, last question.

Cam: (43:28)
Yeah. Dr. Birx mentioned recommending a mask mandate for any time you are outside in the public. Is what she was recommending different from what is currently in effect in Virginia, and something that you’re considering? And also talking about encouraging mask wearing for people in multi-generational households.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (43:48)
It’s a great question, Cam, and certainly something I’ve thought about a lot, and we’ve discussed a lot in it. The question is about when do we need to have a mask on. Certainly our guidelines and what we’re enforcing are when one is indoors. But it’s all about changing people’s behaviors, and realizing that this virus is here to stay for a while. So what I have done personally, and I can’t certainly speak for everybody else, but it’s kind of like putting your shoes and your socks on, and your shirt, before you walk out of the house. When you walk out of the house, put a mask on.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (44:24)
Now there are exceptions. For example, I like to run. I ran this past weekend, and it might not have been a good idea. Might not have been doctor’s orders, but it was 95 degrees, 100 degrees. Well, I was outdoors running, and I didn’t have a mask on. When I got back in the car, when I got back, again stopped running, and then I put it back on. So I think we have to use some common sense as we move forward. But as a general rule, I would say get used to wearing a mask. We know that it protects others, and others wearing masks protects us, and it’s just the right thing to do. And until we put this COVID-19 behind us, I think that has to be part of our daily routine.

Governor Ralph S. Northam: (45:10)
Thank you all again for being here. So stay safe, stay healthy. Take care of yourself, your family, your neighbors. And as I’ve said, we’re going to get through this together. So, keep up the good work. I don’t know that we have a press conference announced. I see my comms director. But I would like to, and I will consult with my comms director. But I think it’s important to be with the media, to be with the people of Virginia at least once a week. So we’ll try to set a date around a week from now. If we need to speak sooner, we will. But again, I appreciate everybody being part of this. It’s very important to get individuals in Virginia accurate and up-to-date information. So, thank you all.