Jun 9, 2020
Gov. Ralph Northam Virginia Press Conference Transcript June 9
Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a press conference on June 9. Northam announced that Virginia schools will reopen for the 2020-2021 school year.
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Ralph Northam : (00:00)
We’ll acknowledge the funeral of George Floyd, which is happening right now. [inaudible 00:00:06] silence to honor him. Thank you.
Ralph Northam : (00:16)
I hope that all of you are staying healthy and safe. I’ll speak to our COVID numbers in a few minutes, but overall, they are looking good. And I wanted to take this opportunity as we talk about the phases and as we talk about our excitement of getting our kids back into the classroom, getting our scholars back onto the college and university campuses, that we’re able to do what we’re doing because of you as Virginians that have listened to our guidelines, that have cooperated. And while I know many of us have made sacrifices together, all of you have been part of the solution. So on behalf of Virginia, I say, thank you.
Ralph Northam : (01:00)
And I also emphasize that we are working toward the new normal. We need to continue with the wearing of our facial protection and our social distancing, and our guidance with hygiene. So I thank all of you for that as we move forward.
Ralph Northam : (01:17)
Today, I’d like to talk to you about our guidance for schools in phase two and beyond as well as announce some exciting appointments. But, I’d like to begin with a meeting I had earlier today with leaders of our Police Chiefs Association.
Ralph Northam : (01:35)
We had a very frank discussion about the pain that so many Americans are feeling right now and the protest over policing in communities of color. We also talked about what steps need to be taken to ensure that we can move forward on policies that protect our communities and improving the way we handle other social issues, such as response to people in mental health crisis.
Ralph Northam : (02:04)
We had a very good conversation. I told them, “I know how hard everyone is working right now, and that we all share the goal of rebuilding trust within our communities.” We’ll need everyone at the table for that.
Ralph Northam : (02:21)
So while I spoke today with police chiefs, I intend to meet with other stakeholders, activists and many others. This is an opportunity for serious reform, and we have to be serious about how we do it. This includes listening and learning from wise and thoughtful people.
Ralph Northam : (02:46)
I also had a call this morning with chief justice, excuse me, Donald Lemons of our Virginia Supreme Court to thank him for putting a 21 day moratorium on evictions while we work to finalize our rent relief plan using federal funding. So thank you, Chief Justice Lemons for your leadership.
Ralph Northam : (03:07)
Now, I’d like to turn to some personnel appointments, starting with two gentlemen, one of whom could not be with us. He is very excited about his new position. And future judge, Jehmal Hudson is with us today.
Ralph Northam : (03:25)
So today, I am announcing that I’m appointing, Curtis Brown to the role of State Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Curtis has served as Chief Deputy Coordinator of VDEM and has extensive experience in emergency management. He is also an important part of our health equity work group, and is co-founder of the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management.
Ralph Northam : (03:53)
I am confident that he is the right person to lead that agency as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, this year’s hurricane season, which hopefully will be quiet and any other emergency that comes our way.
Ralph Northam : (04:10)
I’m also appointing Jehmal Hudson to fill a judicial vacancy at the State Corporation Commission. Mr. Hudson has served as Director of Government Affairs for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and has extensive experience working on the regulatory issues that frequently come before the SCC. His appointment was unanimously supported during session by Democrats and House Republicans.
Ralph Northam : (04:41)
I am confident Mr. Hudson is well suited to fulfill his duties at the SCC. So Jehmal, just congratulations and we welcome you. Thank you so much for your willingness to serve.
Ralph Northam : (04:54)
In addition, today, I’m making three new appointments to the Virginia Crime Commission. The panel studies public safety issues from policing to parole and its work shapes justice policy in our Commonwealth. I’m appointing the following members, Chief Larry Boone, who is chief of the Norfolk Police Department.
Ralph Northam : (05:17)
Chief Boone has worked throughout his career to forge relationships and build trust between citizens and law enforcement. He is a reformer. We saw that as he marched with demonstrators and carried a Black Lives Matter sign. Chief Boone created the Office of Community Relations successfully launching over 20 programs. He’s also a member of the Virginia African-American Advisory Board. As a Black police chief, serving a city with a 43% Black population, he will bring personal and professional experience that will provide an important perspective to the Crime Commission’s work.
Ralph Northam : (05:57)
I’m also appointing Larry Terry, the Director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. Dr. Terry has a long history of supporting returning citizens as they transition from correctional facilities back into the community through counseling, education planning and resource identification. He has experience working for organizations dedicated to restorative justice and second chances.
Ralph Northam : (06:28)
Dr. Terry recently participated in a paroling project with our office and the National Governors Association, as well as serving on a working dialogue with the Department of Corrections and parole board to identify housing opportunities for returning citizens. Dr. Terry is well-equipped to serve the Commonwealth in this capacity.
Ralph Northam : (06:50)
And third, I’m appointing Lori Haas of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. After Lori’s daughter was injured in the Virginia Tech shooting, Lori became very active in gun violence prevention work and has been an instrumental leader in Virginia and at the federal level, successfully helping to pass critical gun violence prevention laws. She is well known for her tremendous knowledge, passion and advocacy.
Ralph Northam : (07:23)
These are thoughtful people who Virginians can trust. I believe all three of them will provide important voices and expertise to the Crime Commission. And I thank them for their willingness to serve.
Ralph Northam : (07:37)
Now, I’d like to move to the coronavirus update. I know that recent events have overshadowed the pandemic, but it is still very much with us. That said, our health metrics are looking positive. The percent of positive tests over the past 14 days is trending downward. And statewide, it’s about 10% right now. Our hospitalizations for COVID are trending downward, particularly in the last week.
Ralph Northam : (08:09)
Our general hospital bed capacity is sufficient. Our hospitals also report enough PPE and we continue to work with other health settings to ensure that they have the PPE that they need.
Ralph Northam : (08:22)
We continue to increase our testing capacity and we are moving toward our goal of hiring contact tracers. For July, we’re aiming for 15 contact tracers for every 100,000 people, 1200. Right now, we have a total of 872 people statewide on our contact tracing team. That’s a combination of new hires and existing VDH staff and volunteers. So overall, our numbers look good.
Ralph Northam : (08:55)
Most of Virginia just entered phase two on Friday. Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond remained in phase one. But, the metrics from those areas also look positive and they can move into phase two as of this Friday, the 12th of June.
Ralph Northam : (09:14)
Now, I’d like to talk about our public schools K through 12. I know that parents are very interested in our plans for how to safely return children to our classrooms. As you recall, on March the 23rd, I closed all Virginia schools for the remainder of the academic year. Virginia was one of the first States to take this step. I believe that these closures have helped mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our communities over the last few months.
Ralph Northam : (09:46)
Since that time, our schools have risen to the occasion and found ways to continue providing instruction, keep students engaged in learning from afar, continue serving meals for children who otherwise would have gone hungry and support students and families through an immensely challenging time.
Ralph Northam : (10:07)
When we moved all of our schools to remote learning, we were clear that, that shutdown would extend for the remainder of the school year. This school year is over. Seniors have graduated, even though it has not been the celebration that our students and families would have wanted. But, we know parents want to know what to expect this summer and in the fall.
Ralph Northam : (10:32)
To be clear, all Virginia schools will open for students next year, but the school experience will look very different. These phases will allow in-person instruction, but slowly. We’ll start with small groups and we’ll allow each school division the flexibility that it needs to respond to the needs of its own locality.
Ralph Northam : (10:56)
I want to be clear that these phases provide our schools with options for consideration, not mandates to open their buildings for summer school. Rather, this phased approach provides some in-person instructional opportunities for divisions to consider throughout the summer and will help divisions to begin planning for the 2021 school year.
Ralph Northam : (11:20)
What this looks like on the ground is that to start with, most instruction is still virtual. In phase two, which most schools can enter right now, schools may offer in-person instruction for preschool through third graders and English language learners. They can also provide in-person instruction for students with disabilities. It also means school-based summer camps may operate with some restrictions.
Ralph Northam : (11:50)
For the future, phase three will allow schools to shift to in-person instruction for all students, but they will need to put physical distancing measures in place.
Ralph Northam : (12:02)
For example, schools may have to stagger schedules or adopt class schedules that blend in-person and remote learning. We’ll expect schools to have six feet between desks and workstations. There will be restrictions on mixing groups of students. Schools will have to stagger the use of communal spaces such as cafeterias, or close them. There should be remote learning and telework options for high risk students and staff.
Ralph Northam : (12:34)
There will be daily health screenings and wearing of face coverings by staff where physical distancing cannot be maintained. While our Executive Order 63 includes exceptions for face coverings in school settings, we will encourage students to wear face coverings as well, especially our older students.
Ralph Northam : (12:54)
Schools must submit plans to the Virginia Department of Education outlining how they’ll comply with these guidelines before entering phase two or phase three. School divisions also have flexibility to limit in-person instruction if needed. This approach to reopen in our schools protects and prioritizes the health and social, emotional, and physical wellbeing of students and staff as public health conditions evolve.
Ralph Northam : (13:27)
Now, I’ll ask our Superintendent of Schools, Dr. James Lane to speak about this guidance for our schools. And I would just want to remind all of you a significant amount of work, a significant amount of discussion with input from a lot of folks around the communities in Virginia has taken place, a lot of meetings. And so Dr. Lane, I just wanted to take the opportunity, again on the behalf of Virginia, to thank you for all of your great work. And I know that parents and students, and faculty, educators are all very excited to move forward. So thank you very much.
Ralph Northam : (14:02)
So all very excited to move forward. So thank you very much.
Dr. Lane: (14:07)
Thank you governor.
Dr. Lane: (14:10)
While we are here to announce Virginia’s return to school plan, I want to pause and recognize the broader situation. We find ourselves in as a city, a Commonwealth, and as a nation in this moment. We are having overdue and necessary, but difficult conversations about systemic and historic racism and its continuing presence in American 2020. Education as a system with its own racist history and present day challenges and as the agency responsible for schools, we remain committed to tackling these conversations and necessary policy changes to ensure that the color of a student’s skin doesn’t dictate the education opportunity that they have access to. We must eliminate achievement and opportunity gaps. We must have culturally relevant standards and practices, and I am committed to eradicating racism from our schools and communities. I’d like to now walk through the particulars of the phased reopening plan for all of Virginia’s K-12 public and private schools.
Dr. Lane: (15:11)
This plan gradually phases in opportunities for in-person instruction while prioritizing the health and safety of students and staff. Schools will open for all students next year, but as the governor said, instruction will look different. Virginia schools are required to deliver new instruction to students for the 2020, 2021 academic year and some of that will happen in-person and some of that will happen via remote learning. Virginia’s return to school plan aligns to the governor’s reopening phases within the four Virginia blueprint. It scales up opportunities for in-person instruction beginning, immediately. It focuses on the health, social, emotional, and physical wellbeing of our students and staff. And it prioritizes the needs of our most vulnerable learners for whom in-person instruction is most essential and remote learning was the most difficult. This approach is equity focused, but moves us to the end goal of safe in-person instruction for all students.
Dr. Lane: (16:12)
So to reiterate some of what the governor already shared in phase one, which begins immediately for everyone, but obviously many of our communities have moved on to phase two, special education and childcare for working families can be done in-person. We’ve heard from our community significant concerns about the needs of our students with disabilities and the need to get those students back into their services and programs immediately and so that’s allowed in all schools. We move to phase two where the programs for students with disabilities and childcare for working families is expanded upon with options for preschool through third grade students, English learners, and summer camps in school buildings. And again, we wanted to focus on getting education to our earliest learners because of the challenges that they were facing in the remote learning environment, while also making sure that we could keep them safe. In phase three, all students may begin to receive in-person instruction, but it must be accommodated within strict social distancing measures.
Dr. Lane: (17:13)
So this will likely require staggered schedules and innovative approaches to the way that students come to our buildings. And we are all looking forward to the day that we’re on beyond phase three resuming to a new normal and having all of our students in buildings every day. The phases provide maximum flexibility at any given time and apply to both public and private schools. It’s important to note that schools may be more limited in their in-person instructional offerings than the phase allows. So it allows flexibility for school divisions to put in more stringent measures as they need based on the conditions in their community. Before entering phase two and three, every school in Virginia must submit plans to the Department of Education, outlining their compliance with the VDH and CDC mitigation strategies. The Virginia Council for Private Education who’s here with us, will receive plans submitted by private schools accredited through the VCPU approved state recognized accrediting associations, but all of those health related plans will come to the DOE and we’ll work closely with VCPE on those for private schools.
Dr. Lane: (18:19)
Our public schools will also be required to submit a plan for providing new instruction for all students in the 2020, 2021 academic year, regardless of phase or their operational status of the school at the time. Most of the state has entered phase two. Richmond and Nova and others are still exceptions, but phase one is relevant for a few jurisdictions now and would be relevant if we move back to our more restrictive environment due to public health conditions, so we wanted to make sure you knew about phase one as well. But that means that most school divisions will move to phase two. So I’m going to go into a little bit more depth on each phase and then wrap up and turn it back to the governor.
Dr. Lane: (18:57)
In phase one, again, instruction is predominantly remote. However, exceptions will be made for schools to offer in-person instruction for students with disabilities. Schools may elect to provide extended school year services and school year special education services, including private placements with strict social distancing. Students will only attend such programs if the individualized education program team agrees it is appropriate and the parent consents. Then we move into phase two, where we still have predominantly remote instruction, but in addition to the phase one exceptions, schools may offer those in-person instruction for pre K through third grade students, English learners, and permit summer camps to operate in school settings. It’s important to note that in phase two large group gatherings are limited to 50 people based on the governor’s still existing executive order. In phase three, schools may shift to in-person instruction for all students, but with those physical distancing measures in place, staggered schedules, and alternative blended options for remote learning will be important for students.
Dr. Lane: (20:04)
In all phases, schools are expected to follow the CDC school guidance strategies for protecting the health of staff and students, cleaning and disinfecting, ensuring physical distancing, limiting the mixing of groups and students, and implementing mitigation strategies. But this also means that remote options must be made available for students and staff who have complicating health factors and who are safer at home. So all schools must have a plan for those students and staff as well. The physical distancing strategies include, but are not limited to, six foot physical distancing between desks, workstations, teachers and students, and students and other students, to the greatest extent possible. Restrictions on mixing groups of students or classes of students, the combination of those measures will likely necessitate staggered or unique schedules, closing or staggering the use of communal spaces, including cafeterias. So students may have to be served in their classroom. As the governor mentioned, daily health screenings of students and staff, the department will be providing guidance on those.
Dr. Lane: (21:05)
All schools must provide those remote learning exceptions and teleworking for students and staff who are at higher risk of severe illness. The use of cloth face coverings by staff is required when six foot social distancing cannot be maintained. For students, face coverings are encouraged, but not required as developmentally appropriate and especially in older students and in settings where students cannot maintain fiscal distancing. Again, this guidance applies to all of Virginia’s public and private schools. More detail will be available in the coming days. I will share the Department of Education has produced, Recover, Redesign, and Restart; this is nearly a 126 page guide that will go to our school divisions today and be posted online that schools can use to assist in their planning for opening schools under these phases. We believe that this document is comprehensive. It’s been informed by a diverse set of education stakeholders and schools should use it in their planning.
Dr. Lane: (22:07)
It was created with the guidance of numerous taskforces, dozens of teachers, principals, parents, educators, education leaders, superintendents that came together to make this possible from every corner of the Commonwealth. We are confident that this additional guidance will help schools as they develop plans. We know there will be lots and lots of questions on the school opening plans and so with that, I’ll turn it back to the governor. Also, posted today, from the governor will be the phase guidance for Virginia schools that shares everything that I’ve shared today in writing, along with a PowerPoint that can easily be accessed to provide that information. Thank you, governor. And I look forward to any questions.
Ralph Northam : (22:54)
Thank you again for all of that work. And I know all of our families and students and faculty are anxious to get back into our schools. And I think the main message out of this is that they’ll be back in school this fall. So that’s really exciting news I think for all Virginians. We’ve also had a number of folks ask about our guidance around youth sports in phase two. And growing up where I did, I just always enjoyed sports. I know that we encourage, especially as a physician, our students and children to be out active and playing and getting good exercise. So, this is also exciting and I was going to go through this with you, but our chief of staff is also a former athlete and also has two young children who love being outside and playing sports. So I’m going to yield to our chief of staff Clark, Mercer. Clark?
Clark Mercer: (24:00)
Well, thank you governor. And again, Clark Mercer, the governor’s chief of staff. And I want to thank folks from all across the Commonwealth for calling and putting the recommendations. There’s a lot of sports out there and every day, when you think you have everything figured out, someone calls with a new situation you haven’t thought of. So I wanted to go through our overarching guidelines for youth sports in phase two. And I will start by saying, it’s applying common sense, incidental versus accidental contact, and shared equipment. That’s really what we need to be thinking about when our kids are back out playing sports. Incidental contact is obviously accidental contact, temporary contact that you don’t plan on in a sport. And we understand you can’t play sports, a lot of them, without having incidental contact. Intentional contact, there’s some sports you just can’t play without intentionally coming across someone else and having sustained contact.
Clark Mercer: (24:53)
So that’s a guiding post for what we’re going to talk about. Also, shared equipment. We need to minimize and prohibit the use of shared equipment in phase two, but we will have our kids out playing sports and I’ll give a couple examples of incidental contact versus intentional. Karate classes, can my child go back to having indoor crowded classes? Yes. Can your child spar with another child and have intentional contact in those classes? No. We’ve had folks that run ice skating arenas. Can ice skating start again? Yes. Can we have ice dancing in the ice skating marinas? No. Baseball, when I was growing up, we all shared a helmet and we all shared baseball bats. That’s not common protocol now. You have your own bat, you have your own helmet, there’s not shared equipment in baseball. Certainly there is some incidental contact that we recognize. High school football folks should be training right now, getting ready.
Clark Mercer: (25:46)
I don’t know what will happen with the high school season down the road, but certainly quarterbacks can be thrown to receivers, receivers are wearing gloves. That’s common sense. We’re not doing tackle football in the middle of the summer anyway. There’s certainly some weight training, not using shared equipment. Some drills that line men can do that will accommodate the phase two guidelines. Soccer, I coached high school soccer for six years. There’s ways to train and structure your practices without having intentional contact. With shared equipment with soccer, it’s a very easy to structure practice to avoid, for example, having throw ins. You can restart from the ground. Obviously in competitive soccer, once we get gone with that, you can’t do that, but certainly for most of the training that we do across the Commonwealth, you don’t have to have everyone picking up the ball and throwing it in.
Clark Mercer: (26:33)
So that’s applying some of the common sense guidelines. In terms of capacity on our fields, indoor and outdoor, indoor is going to be less capacity. It’s 30% for an indoor field or 50 people, whichever is the lesser amount and that’s per field. So some of our sports complexes that are large and have a baseball diamond, a volleyball court and a soccer field, each room should have its own capacity limit and you’ll know how to structure that. Outdoors, it’s a 50% capacity or 50 people, whichever is less for youth sports. And this is, I think, I was on the phone a couple of days ago with a group of folks that coach baseball around the Commonwealth. For youth sports, we need our parents to be able to come, drop our kids off, and watch and for the children that they’re overseeing.
Clark Mercer: (27:18)
So there’s no limit. Our capacity for the youth sports for spectators, given that their parents are guardians, either watching their children or taking care of their children at the game. And common sense again, baseball, we’ve got the diamond, two dugouts, teams separated and fans on either side down the first and third base line, watching from the outfield, social distancing soccer, lacrosse, those sorts of things. You have fans typically two teams on either sideline, again, social distancing, leaving some space in between spectators with a high likelihood, at least in my household, that my son or daughter comes running over for more orange slices or to take a time out in the middle of the game and is hot and sweaty and perspiring, and obviously the 10 feet of distance that we’re.
Sweaty and perspiring, and obviously the 10 feet of distance that we’re trying to maintain in fitness classes, our gyms, athletics, recognizes that when you are exercising, those air particles move a little bit quicker and there’s more likelihood of spread. So, that’s the reason for 10 feet. But phase two, these are phases. They are not permanent. We will have a phase three in Virginia that the Governor will articulate the guidelines for, but you will be able to get your sons and daughters out practicing and playing this Friday. Let’s just do it in a smart way. Thank you.
Ralph Northam : (28:30)
Thank you, Paul. In closing, I want to remind Virginians that today at 5:00 PM is the last day to request an absentee ballot to vote in the June 23rd Congressional primaries. Elections matter, and I’d encourage voters to vote absentee by mail to the extent possible.
Ralph Northam : (28:58)
Now we’ll hear a health update from Dr. Norm Oliver, and then I’d be glad to take questions. Thank you. Dr. Oliver.
Dr. Oliver: (29:05)
Thank you, Governor. So, just quickly on the numbers for COVID-19 today. We currently, in the last reporting period, have recorded 487 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the Commonwealth to 51,738. We also recorded 19 new deaths, bringing the total deaths to 1,496. We posted over that last reporting period 7,260 new PCR tests. I need to notify you all that we have a large lab in central Virginia that has not been on electronic lab reporting with us, and there’s been a large backlog of manual lab reports from that lab.
Dr. Oliver: (30:05)
We have, over the last couple of weeks, arranged for them to now report electronically. So, over the next couple of days you will see a big jump in the number of tests that will be the result of these thousands of labs being put into our database. On the demographic breakdown of the number of cases for which we have race and ethnicity data available, we have 7,154 cases among African Americans, or about 20% of those cases. We have 311 deaths among African Americans, or about 23%. Among the LatinX population, the number of cases is 17,269. That’s about 50% of the cases for which we have race and ethnicity data. The deaths in that community, 145, which is about 11% of those that we have that information on.
Dr. Oliver: (31:18)
Thank you. Thank you, Governor.
Ralph Northam : (31:20)
Thank you, Dr. Oliver. Thank you. I’d be glad to take questions.
Speaker 4: (31:22)
I wonder if you could get us updated on the Lee statue litigation, and also can you talk about maybe not being able to be at that Injunction Hearing yesterday, and kind of your thoughts on that?
Ralph Northam : (31:33)
If you want, I’ll have Rita Davis, if you’d like to give him an update on our status of the Lee statue litigation. Thank you.
Rita Davis: (31:47)
Thank you, Governor. Rita Davis, counsel for the Governor. As I understand, the question is about an update on the Robert E. Lee monument litigation. As many of you may know, the Richmond Circuit Court entered a temporary injunction prohibiting the removal of the Robert E. Lee monument until June 18th.
Rita Davis: (32:08)
We expected that action. We prepared for that action. And we look forward to litigating that action successfully as the days may come, and any others. Let’s be clear about one major thing here, though this monument was cast in the image of General Robert E. Lee, the purpose of this monument was to recast Virginia’s history, to recast it to fit a narrative that minimized a devastating evil perpetrated on African Americans during the darkest part of our past.
Rita Davis: (32:50)
The Governor’s decision today to continue forward with trying to remove this monument takes us a step closer to reclaiming the truth of Virginia’s history, and to reclaim it for all Virginians. We look forward to defending that in court.
Speaker 4: (33:06)
On the Injunction Hearing yesterday, were you all not to have been noticed to be there?
Rita Davis: (33:11)
No, we were not notified of the Circuit Court’s intention to hold this hearing. Under law, there is not a requirement that the responding party receive notice of a Temporary Restraining Order Hearing. I will say that in the majority of the litigation filed against the Governor across the Commonwealth during this pandemic, we have been afforded that opportunity. But, we were not this time. Thank you. Thank you, Governor.
Question Moderator: (33:39)
Bill Atkinson with the Progress Index. All right, we will move to Jessica Jewell.
Bill Atkinson: (33:52)
I’m sorry. [inaudible 00:33:53]. I’m sorry.
Question Moderator: (33:52)
Oh, okay. All right. Go ahead.
Bill Atkinson: (33:54)
I apologize. I apologize. I had some technical issues on my end. This question is for Governor Northam or Dr. Lane. Are there any anticipated timeframes for the phases of the reopening of schools like there were during the general reopening of Virginia? Are there thinking it’s like to be maybe two to three weeks, or [inaudible 00:34:15]? Or will the phases be based on individual school systems? Also, what about the state’s poorer school systems who don’t have the revenues that larger systems have? What kind of assistance can be provided to them to help them get through these phases?
Ralph Northam : (34:33)
The question is about the phases of reopening our schools. The phases will be consistent with the phases that we’ve been talking about all along, except for northern Virginia, and Richmond right now, who will enter phase two on Friday. We are in phase two. Again, we will look at the data on the number of new cases, the percent positivity, the hospital beds, our PPE, testing capability, all of those things, as we move into phase three. But, a minimum of two weeks between phase two and phase three. Looking at the data, again we want to move forward safely and responsibly.
Ralph Northam : (35:13)
So, as soon as we can, we’ll let you know when we are going into phase three. The second part of the question was about resources. We have received relief from the federal government through the CARES Act. We are looking presently of how we can distribute that into our localities. Certainly, if there are school districts that need that help we would be glad to have that discussion with them and take that into consideration.
Governor, I just had a question for Dr. Lane, who mentioned the achievement gap. I’m just wondering if he had some new plan to close that gap? A lot of Virginia’s school systems have been battling the achievement gap for a number of years. Then on sidebar, as you have mentioned, you’re going to call the legislators back. I’m just wondering, what are your priorities upon calling them back? And when will you make that call, please?
Ralph Northam : (36:16)
Andre, I have to say three parts to your question. I’m going to just touch on two of them. As the last part of your question was when are we going to call the legislature back to Richmond, and what will our priorities be during that time. The date has not been set, but we look at doing a re-forecast probably in the next few weeks into July. This is a ballpark, but I anticipate calling the legislature back in early August for a number of reasons. The most important reason is our budget. As you know, we had to hit the pause button coming out of session this year because of COVID-19.
Ralph Northam : (37:06)
I think that we’ll have a much better idea in the upcoming weeks of what our revenue is going to be coming into Virginia. That will be certainly a top priority, but also Andre, with what’s going on with the protests and the police brutality that we’ve all been experiencing, there is ongoing discussion with legislators as to how we can turn our listening and learning into policy, how we can turn it into action. So, we are having those discussions, and I suspect that some of those issues, some of those pieces of legislation will be taken up in the special session, if that’s what the General Assembly agrees to. Then also, they will be continued in our upcoming session in January.
Ralph Northam : (37:58)
One of the things I wanted to just touch on before Dr. Lane comes up, we’ve talked about the Robert E. Lee statue that is a monument of divisiveness that needs to come down. There are other monuments of inequities that we desperately need to address as we move forward. One of those is access to education. One of the things that, as you know, we just shot another video yesterday for it, is my wife’s and my commitment and our administration’s commitment to early childhood education. That is really the tide that lifts all boats. While we’ve had to hit the pause button on our budget, it is one of my top priorities as we move forward to make sure that all of our children, because we know that the majority of the development of the brain takes place in the first couple of years, so we want all children, not just those that have the means, but all children, to have access to early childhood education.
Ralph Northam : (39:05)
I really think of all the things that we can do to help everybody start out with equality in life, it’s access to education. So, we’ll continue to make that a top priority. Dr. Lane, I will let you handle the rest of the question. Thank you.
Dr. Lane: (39:24)
Thank you, Governor. Thank you for the question. First, I’ll agree with the Governor that there is an achievement gap on the first day of kindergarten. If we’re going to ever eliminate the achievement gap permanently, we’re going to have to do more work in the space of early childhood, more access, higher quality programs. We’ve been working on that for some time.
Dr. Lane: (39:44)
In 2017, the Board of Education adopted a new accreditation system. As part of that accreditation system, for the first time, they held schools accountable for eliminating achievement gaps as part of the system. We’ve been reporting achievement gaps for nearly 20 years, but we’re only within the last two years at the point where we’re actually holding our schools accountable. As part of their school improvement plans when they enter into state technical assistance, working with them on that. Not that that hasn’t always been a part of the work, but now it’s a requirement of the work.
Dr. Lane: (40:14)
The Board has announced that they are going to open the standards of accreditation again this year, and begin to look at more ways that we can build equity into our system. We have a lot to do in the funding equity space. The Board made recommendations and promulgated new standards of quality, which was a longterm look into where we want to go to make sure we’re getting money to the schools that need them the most to make a difference for students. Ultimately, on top of those structures, we’re going to have to do a better job of putting culturally responsive teaching practices into trainings for our teachers, into the standards and the way that we approach them in building cultural competence for educators to make sure that every child sees themself in every classroom. We have phenomenal educators in Virginia that are doing this work already, and we’ll continue to build upon that. Thank you.
Ralph Northam : (41:06)
Before we take the next question, I misspoke about receiving your request and your absentee ballot. The deadline is not today at 5:00, it’s next Tuesday at 5:00. So, I just wanted to make that clear to everybody. Next question.
Question Moderator: (41:23)
Jessica Jewell with WSLS.
Jessica Jewell: (41:28)
Good afternoon. Governor, some parents are very concerned about how they’re going to be able to teach their kids from home and work again in the fall. Teachers are worried about how they’re going to be expected to be in the classroom five days a week with their own kids at home. Are you worried about large numbers of teachers leaving their jobs so they can stay at home with their kids? How can you address this? Then my second question is, how will these guidelines impact students on buses?
Ralph Northam : (41:55)
Do you want to address the bus issue? You can actually address both questions, if you want. Okay.
Dr. Lane: (42:02)
Thanks again, Governor.
Dr. Lane: (42:03)
Thanks again, governor. I’ll answer the question about buses and then go back to the information on working parents. And then, certainly Dr. Forlano can help on this as well. The guidance from the Virginia Department of Health does have six-foot social distancing required on buses and classrooms. Now, that isn’t to say that a school division couldn’t put in place other mitigation strategies, but the guidance from the Virginia Department of Health is based on six-foot social distancing because the research that we’ve looked at has supported that as the primary factor in reducing transmission. As it relates to working families, especially our teachers, we certainly consider this an important piece of the planning that all of our school divisions have to do. In earlier thoughts on this, as we were working within our task forces, we thought about creating capacities in the such that would drive the thinking. But ultimately, in partnership with the Department of Health, we based the plan on six-foot social distancing to provide the most flexibility that we could to our local school divisions while giving them an opportunity to plan for unique scenarios.
Dr. Lane: (43:14)
There may be school divisions that create plans where they can serve the children of teachers on a daily basis. It’s certainly going to take partnerships. I met today with a ton of members of the nonprofit community and the childcare community that can think about filling this gap. Childcare is open. And so, school divisions are going to have to think about unique ways to use space. But when you think about equity, it might take a strategy that requires students that have no access to childcare and no way to afford it. Additional opportunities in the school as long as the schools can maintain the six-foot social distancing while creating a hybrid program for most of the students in the school. So we began, about a week ago, having conversations with our superintendents about how they would do this. Many of our superintendents are reaching out to community partners, like I said, childcare, the why, nonprofits to help support this. But at the end of the day, what we want to make sure is, as we move our students into schools, we’re doing it in a safe manner, but in a partnership that allows us to make sure that working families have options for childcare. So thank you, governor.
Speaker 5: (44:30)
I was wondering if you could provide additional details on how CARES Act funding might be distributed to schools given that it can’t replace lost revenues. And also, this year was obviously historic, excuse me, in Virginia, raising funding for schools back to pre-recession levels. So, has there any been any thought to whether the state will be able to maintain that funding increase as agreed upon in the session?
Ralph Northam : (44:55)
I’ll ask Dr. Lane to come back up. But, the first part of your question about the CARES Act, again, that’s discussion that we’re having as we move forward. We will consider all of those requests as we move forward. If you wanted to answer the other part, thanks.
Dr. Lane: (45:16)
Thank you, governor. I’m not sure I can answer the second question on the General Assembly funding, but I will answer the question on the CARES Act. The CARES Act was distributed. There was $238 million that came to Virginia. 90% of those funds went directly to localities and the federal government mandated that we use the Title I formula. It is not Title I funding so it doesn’t have to be spent like Title I funding. It can be spent on their needs as it relates to relief from the coronavirus. But, we use the Title I formula to send those funds directly to localities. The other 10% of funds are in what we call a state set aside for state activities. There will be a press release on that in the near future.
Speaker 6: (46:05)
Hi. I just had a question about contact tracing. I was just wondering if the recent protests have affected that work and its questions, they’re asking people who tested positive for COVID has changed.
Ralph Northam : (46:25)
The question is about contact tracing and the recent protest. I think just to sum that up, we obviously are concerned when we see individuals that are protesting and that are not maintaining their social distance, not wearing facial protection. We obviously appreciate everybody’s right to protest, but we want it to be done safely. And so, we want everybody out there in Virginia to know that testing is available. We encourage protesters, if they feel that they’ve been in contact with other individuals, to go to our website to find out where the testing sites are in their communities and really to move forward with that test. As you know on Friday, I was at one of the community testing centers in Chesapeake. It’s a easy test to have done. I would just encourage all of you that have questions about whether you have been in contact, whether you have the virus, if you’re worried about it, if you have symptoms, et cetera, to really get out there and take advantage of these community testing sites and obtain the test in yourself.
Speaker 7: (47:40)
Governor, we know you’ve been going back to the statue, preparing the legality of that kind of a move for a year or more. But, this particular injection that was filed this week, did that catch you off guard you? Were you at all concerned that the judge would rule without the state being present? Do you know of any other suits that have been filed like this?
Ralph Northam : (48:02)
Do you want to answer that? Thank you, Gray. I’m going to let a lawyer answer your question.
Speaker 7: (48:07)
But, do you have a personal response to it though?
Ralph Northam : (48:09)
Well, my response is that we’ve been preparing for this for a year. This is a statue that is divisive. It needs to come down and we are on very legal, solid grounds to have it taken down. But, I will let our counsel address it in more detail if you’d like. Thank you.
Counsel Rita Davis: (48:31)
Thank you, governor. As the governor said, the Counsel’s Office has been preparing for this opportunity for over a year. We were well aware of the potential legal challenges. We are so, also, well aware of the governor’s authority to do this. The process that’s begun in Richmond Circuit Court is going to be a multi-stage process. The first step was a temporary restraining order entered yesterday. That is by no means the end of this issue. It is only the beginning. There will be several other stages of this process by which we will vigorously defend the governor’s authority to do this. At the end of the day, we fully expect that the circuit court and maybe even necessarily the Virginia Supreme Court will affirm that. Did I get all of your questions?
Speaker 7: (49:26)
Are there any other case filed so far?
Counsel Rita Davis: (49:27)
Well, not that we are aware of, but as we have seen with the Richmond Circuit Court, unfortunately we may not be aware of other injunctions that have been entered in other circuit courts. But as I stand here today, we are not aware of any other actions against the governor’s decision to take down the monument. Thank you.
Roger Watson with the Farmville Herald.
Roger Watson: (49:54)
Thank you, governor. Is it your belief that Confederate markers and statues in other towns across the state should also be removed from the same argument that you made and went out from the removal of the Lee statue in Richmond?
Ralph Northam : (50:05)
I believe if I heard his question, is it my belief that the other statues should be removed in different localities? Roger, if I heard your question correctly, I am in charge as governor with our administration and council of the Lee statue, which is owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia. If there are other statues, street names, military basis, we introduce and pass legislation this year. It was passed and it gives low localities the option of dealing with their monuments, Confederate monuments, names of roads, et cetera. So, it is my position that I will deal with what I have responsibility for, but I’m going to allow… That’s what the General Assembly agreed on, to allow the localities to make decisions about those that are in their regions.
Speaker 8: (51:07)
Governor, last week, the mayor of Richmond asked you for a curfew. You granted the curfew. And then yesterday, the Richmond Commonwealth’s attorney came out and said she’s going to waive incarceration for anyone who violated the curfew. We’ve heard from a lot of folks who say, “Well, what’s the point of a curfew then if there’s no consequences?” Since you granted it, what’s your take on that?
Ralph Northam : (51:27)
Well, I was asked by the mayor to apply a curfew which we agreed to. As far as the Commonwealth’s attorney’s position, that’s something that they’re going to need to speak to. I don’t have authority over that.
Speaker 8: (51:40)
Ralph Northam : (51:40)
Thank you all so much. Again, I appreciate you all being with us today. I think there’s some exciting things going on in Virginia with reopening of our schools, getting our kids back on the athletic fields. Again, we can only do this because we’ve been vigilant. We have followed the guidelines. I ask you all to continue to do that so that we can continue to move through these phases and eventually get out of the phases, get this health crisis behind us and move on, and get back to as new or normal lives as we can. So, I ask that of all Virginians. I appreciate your cooperation and we look forward to being with you on Thursday. Thank you.