Apr 10, 2020

Governor Ralph Northam Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 10

Ralph Northam May
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsGovernor Ralph Northam Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 10

Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a press conference on coronavirus today, April 10. He signed several new gun control bills into law and abortion protections (Women’s Reproductive Health Protection Act) into law for Virginia.

 

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Ralph Northam: (00:14)
Well. Good afternoon and again, thanks for joining us today. Today we have updates on the status of our nursing homes, unemployment and people in the Department of Corrections. We know there are concerns about the spread of the virus in nursing homes. Here in Richmond, the Canterbury Nursing Home is tragically dealing with one of the largest concentrations of deaths in a longterm care facility in our country. Our nursing homes and longterm care facilities are facing the same challenges as every part of the country. They need testing and PPE. And the staff are overworked.

Ralph Northam: (00:57)
The people who live in longterm care facilities are already vulnerable to sickness. And now because of social distancing, they can’t even see their loved ones. But these are our parents and grandparents. We have a special obligation to protect them in addition to our responsibility to protect public health. So today I’m giving Dr Laurie Forlano a larger role in leading our efforts to help our nursing homes and longterm care facilities, mitigate the cases they have, excuse me, and prevent further outbreaks. You all know Dr Forlano. She is the deputy commissioner for public health at our department of health. She is also leading our Covid-19 mitigation strategy. Dr Forlano will lead a task force made up of several secretariat’s and agencies and it will focus on three tasks.

Ralph Northam: (02:02)
First, she will work with our secretary of finance to ensure that our nursing homes and longterm care facilities have the resources they need to fight this virus. Second, she will work with the facilities to strengthen their staffing and to increase infection control measures. This includes making sure our nursing homes have the testing, the PPE, and the cleaning supplies that they need. As we all know, testing and PPE in particular are a problem across the country. She will make sure Virginia’s longterm care facilities continue to be a priority.

Ralph Northam: (02:43)
And third, she will make sure that the public and the facilities are getting the information and data they need about where this virus is appearing. The task force will track data on a number of cases in Virginia that are in longterm care facilities, the number of deaths in those facilities and outbreak data. Dr Forlano will share more on that data in just a few minutes. Dr Forlano will ensure that we are doing everything possible to help these facilities and that we have an open line of communication with them. Our longterm care facilities are home to people who are most vulnerable to this virus, which can be particularly hard on people who are older, or who have other health conditions. Every person in assisted living and longterm care is someone’s parent or loved one. It is vital that we protect them. Dr Forlano and this task force will help us do just that and she will report back to you regularly.

Ralph Northam: (03:52)
Today I also want to announce that we are using more avenues to recruit additional medical volunteers and our medical reserve corps. Hospital CEOs are telling me that what they expect to need the most is first PPE, then more staff to take care of people and support the medical professionals. Our volunteer medical reserve corps now has 13,000 people signed up to volunteer. About half of those people have medical training. We will work with our colleges and medical schools to reach out to students, especially those who are enrolled in health and medical degree programs. Training is also available for Virginians who to want to learn basic medical skills to volunteer and current health professionals who want to get more skills including skills to work in ICUs or to use ventilators can also get that training. We’re particularly encouraging nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students to apply. As a doctor myself, I know that nurses are the lifeblood of any medical setting.

Ralph Northam: (05:07)
We also need nonmedical volunteers for support roles in logistics, communication, technology and other areas. We welcome everyone who can help. This is a chance for Virginians to come together and do good for our community. To volunteer, please visit VAMRC. org. I’ll repeat that. Please visit VAMRC.org. And on behalf of Virginia we thank you.

Ralph Northam: (05:42)
We’re concerned for everyone in congregate settings including those in our Department of Corrections. I’m proposing an amendment to the state budget that would give the department of corrections authority to release offenders who have one year or less left in their sentences. They must have demonstrated good behavior and not be a threat to public safety. The DOC at their discretion will release prisoners who do not pose a threat to society or the safety of others. The general assembly will vote on this when they return for the reconvene session on April the 22nd. Between now and then, DOC will do the work of planning how these individuals may safely be released. Reentry planning typically happens over the course of months. We’re asking our DOC to do that in a matter of weeks.

Ralph Northam: (06:43)
Reentry planning includes ensuring the release person has somewhere to go and has the medications they need for three months. In this situation, we know there are fewer economic resources available and fewer rehabilitation and treatment centers taking on new clients. Advocates in community organizations always play an important role in supporting people when they return to the community. That role is even more critical now and I ask that they continue to offer all services possible to help people who are released.

Ralph Northam: (07:21)
This health crisis has led to an economic crisis. Our strategy is clear, fix the health crisis first, then the economic crisis. Thousands of Virginia workers are now out of a job. In the last week of March, 114,000 people applied for unemployment benefits. As I said then, that number was large, but it would seems small all too soon and I was right. Last week we had 147,369 initial unemployment claims. That means we’ve had 306,143 unemployment claims in the past three weeks. That’s more than the same weeks for 2018, 2019 and 2020 combined. Last week alone, the Virginia Employment Commission has issued more than 191,000 payments totaling more than $57 million. Next week we will launch the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program which will boost weekly payments to those who have filed for unemployment. This is an additional $600 a week which should be a great help to folks trying to figure out how to pay the rent or buy food. This program allows us to provide unemployment assistance to people who didn’t previously qualify such as gig workers, temporary workers and self-employed people. It’s important to note you still have to fill out the state unemployment application to receive that assistance.

Ralph Northam: (09:09)
We have some 75,000 Virginia workers who were previously denied unemployment assistance, many of whom held the types of jobs that do qualify under this federal program. The VEC will be reaching out to these workers and will update its application website in the next week so that it can collect additional information to process claims.

Ralph Northam: (09:32)
We are putting every resource we can into supporting the volume of unemployment claims we’re receiving. The VEC is hiring more staff, hiring a private call center and upgrading the claims website. We know that people are dependent on this financial support and we are committed to making sure every claim is processed. As we deal with the pandemic, my administration has also worked to deal with the 1,291 bills passed by the general assembly. My deadline is midnight tomorrow night and I will meet that deadline. Today we announced that I have signed landmark gun safety legislation as well as the Women’s Reproductive Health Protection Act. By tomorrow night, I will have acted on all the legislation before me.

Ralph Northam: (10:27)
I want to end on a hopeful note. Yesterday, Virginia Commonwealth University announced that they have come up with a way to clean the N95 masks that are in such short supply in our hospitals. They’re using UV radiation to decontaminate and clean masks so that they can be reused. VCU is not the only hospital system or university to explore this method, but we’re proud to have them innovating in this way right here in Virginia. And I hope that other hospital systems will reach out to VCU for information.

Ralph Northam: (11:03)
That other hospital systems will reach out to VCU for information on how to do the same thing. These masks protect our frontline healthcare workers and being able to clean and reuse them could be a game changer for our doctors, nurses, and hospitals. And finally we’ve all seen reports that social distancing seems to be working. I hope this is the case, but social distancing will not continue to work if we stop doing it.

Ralph Northam: (11:31)
Now I’ve had some folks call me and say, “Ralph, we see that the curves are flattening. Isn’t it time to ease the restrictions?” And that is absolutely the wrong thing to do right now. And as a doctor, I thought I might give you an example or an analogy from my previous work. It’s like perhaps someone came in with a new diagnosis of cancer, which is never good. And after making the diagnosis, we sit down and talk about the treatment plan, and the treatment plan is a very bitter pill, a very bitter medicine to take. But we can also say that if you follow our guidelines and take this medicine, we can together cure your cancer. And so that patient may start taking that medicine for three or four weeks and start feeling better. Their numbers look better, their x-rays look better, their cancer is going away. And the knee jerk or the temptation is to say, “Doc, I think it’s time for me to stop taking my medicine.” Well, we know that that’s the wrong thing to do because if you stop taking your medicine at that point, the cancer will return and sometimes be even worse.

Ralph Northam: (12:52)
So we’re in that period right now where we see hope, we see promise, but this is not the time to back off from our guidelines. This is no time to let our guard down. We need to continue to stay home and to stay safe. That’s especially true this weekend when we expect nice weather across much of Virginia and when many people would normally be celebrating Easter together. Please stay home this weekend. The social distancing, the guidelines that we have provided, they’re working now. I’ll ask Dr. Forlano to speak and then after that we’ll be glad to take questions. Dr. Forlano, thank you.

Dr. Forlano: (13:37)
Hi, good afternoon. As we continue to fight the virus together, it’s clear that, while we’ve taken a lot of steps across the Commonwealth to protect residents of nursing homes and staff that works in nursing homes, we need to offer them more help. So as the governor said, residents that live in these facilities are often among the most vulnerable to the virus due to their age or health conditions they might have. And on top of that, social distancing is pretty difficult to achieve in a congregate care living situation or facility. And we also know that staff that work in these facilities often work in multiple facilities.

Dr. Forlano: (14:21)
I do want to take a note to just acknowledge those staff and the healthcare providers that work in those facilities. Even on the best of days, they provide compassionate care to the people we love the most, our parents, our grandparents, and right now they’re doing that under incredibly challenging circumstances. So acknowledging that we’re very committed to making sure these facilities continue to get the funding they need and the supplies they need to protect the people that live there and to protect themselves and their staff. We also want to ensure open communication between our local health departments and these facilities in a given area.

Dr. Forlano: (15:04)
The task force that I’ll be honored to work with are also committed to ensuring that facilities and the public have the most up-to-date information possible. This includes data on the proportion of facilities that have had a positive case among residents or staff, and sadly we will also be providing data on deaths in longterm care facilities. Some outbreak data is already available on our website. I will provide a couple data points right now.

Dr. Forlano: (15:33)
As of today, we have counted 45 outbreaks in longterm care facilities out of a total of 82 total outbreaks in the Commonwealth. That’s about 55% and in addition, as of today in our outbreak database, we have 525 reported cases. That represents approximately 10% of all cases and 32 deaths were about 25% of reported deaths among residents and staff.

Dr. Forlano: (16:05)
I do want to explain a little bit the number there. That 525 comes from an outbreaks database system, which is different than our disease surveillance system that produces the case counts that you see on the website every day. We are working to build out some functionality in the disease surveillance system so we can pull this data from that. That’s going to take a little bit of time. So in the interim, we’re pulling data from this outbreak system, so the numbers may not always match, but we have pretty good confidence in that number that I’m providing today. We’re building additional tools to track these data and those will be available probably late next week or early the following week.

Dr. Forlano: (16:49)
The task force will help ensure that we’re coordinating with our facilities to get them the help and the supplies and information they need to protect the people that live there. And I look forward to working with a lot of colleagues and partners in that work. Thanks.

Ralph Northam: (17:06)
We’ll be glad to answer your questions.

Speaker 1: (17:12)
[inaudible 00:17:12] programs you have. Do you have a number of how many inmates would be potentially eligible for that, and also when would that go into effect? Would that be July one would be the earliest or [inaudible 00:17:23]

Ralph Northam: (17:23)
Great question. It would go into effect immediately with an emergency clause, if the legislatures agree to that. So they will need to vote on that, on April the 22nd. As far as the numbers that are eligible, I’m going to let our secretary of public safety, Brian Moran address that. Brian?

Brian Moran: (17:40)
Thank you, Governor. Yes, the question with respect to this really extraordinary action by the governor, this is a first time ever tried providing authority to the Department of Corrections to make these decisions. That does not already exist. We anticipate the legislature acting favorably on this proposal. It would become effective immediately, and it would last for the duration of the governor’s executive order. It would apply to approximately just less than 2000 inmates that have one year or less remaining on their sentence. And that sometimes fluctuates a little bit depending on who’s released because we release approximately a thousand prisoners per month based on their release dates.

Speaker 3: (18:33)
Good afternoon, Governor. Thank you. As you said earlier, the legislature is set to reconvene in Richmond on April 22nd, which could land during the worst stretch of the coronavirus. That’s less than two weeks from now. Does this kind of large gathering concern you, and should the legislature consider other ways to implement remote voting as other states are doing?

Ralph Northam: (18:53)
The question is the legislature is scheduled to return on April the 22nd, and does this raise concerns regarding their health? Absolutely, and we want them and and their staffs to be healthy. The House of Delegates has made arrangements to meet outdoors underneath a tent, and I believe that, as I last heard, the Senate will be meeting in the Science Museum on Broad Street. So they are taking into account the dangers of this virus, the seriousness of it, but they’re making arrangements to keep themselves safe to promote the social distancing, that six feet apart each other, that we need to maintain as we fight this pandemic.

Kate: (19:44)
There’s been national reports of the federal government seizing orders of equipment from hospitals and states, and I was wondering if you could speak more specifically as to whether that’s happening in Virginia. I’ve also heard from nurse practitioners who are concerned that current restrictions requiring many to still have supervision by physicians is making them less flexible in responding to hard hit areas. Are there any plans to waive those requirements?

Ralph Northam: (20:11)
Two questions, Kate. The first is equipment, PPE, ventilators, et cetera being taken from our healthcare facilities by FEMA. I have heard those reports from other states. We have checked with our CEOs and to date, we haven’t had that issue in Virginia.

Ralph Northam: (20:33)
Regarding the relationship between nurse practitioners, PAs, and their providers, the physicians, I would be interested in hearing from those individuals, as would our secretary of health, Dr. Carey. We’ll be glad to work with them if there are challenges out there with the current relationship as it is. We’ll be glad to discuss that, but as I said the other day, I think a question was asked about that, the relationship that we have now between our PAs, nurse practitioners, and physicians I think is working well and will continue to work within that model.

Speaker 2: (21:09)
[inaudible 00:21:12].

Speaker 4: (21:18)
Do we have Alan on the line? Okay. The next will be from Mallory Noe-Payne, WVTF radio.

Mallory Noe-Payne: (21:27)
Good afternoon. I’m going to ask about immigrants being held at the two ICE detention facilities in Virginia. Advocates are concerned that the hundreds of detainees are at risk, especially if at the private facility in Farmville where there was an outbreak of mumps this summer. The Legal Aid Justice Center has asked the administration to inspect both facilities to make sure testing is available, proper sanitation. Is the administration planning to do any of those things? What steps is the administration taking to ensure that immigrants in both facilities are kept healthy?

Ralph Northam: (22:03)
Let our-

Reporter: (22:03)
… immigrants in both facilities are kept healthy.

Ralph Northam: (22:03)
Let our secretary of public safety address that. Brian?

Brian Moran: (22:10)
Question is with respect to ICE facilities. We actually have two ICE facilities in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We do not, make clear, that the state does not have jurisdiction over those facilities. When we’ve heard reports, we have shared those with our congressional delegation as well as Department of Homeland Security, and inquired as to the care of those individuals that are in the custody and again, they’re not under our jurisdiction. We’ll continue to pursue that and take whatever actions necessary to ensure the safety of those residents of those facilities.

Reporter: (22:47)
Governor, had many reports of law enforcement action to enforce the bans and restrictions around the state? Has there been much need for enforcement like that?

Ralph Northam: (22:57)
The question is: Has law enforcement needed to get involved in enforcing our guidelines across the Commonwealth? We have been in daily contact with our state police, our sheriffs and deputies, our officers at DGIF VMRC on land and water, and there have been some reminders, Greg, to break up gatherings when they’ve seen them. I think the individuals, when they’ve been reminded, from what I’ve heard have cooperated, and I don’t know of any citations that have been written. I think I’m correct in saying that.

Marissa: (23:38)
Max Thornberry, Northern Virginia Daily.

Max Thornberry: (23:46)
Hi, Governor. I’ve got a question about one specific juvenile justice facility, in particular, but maybe this could be applicable to more. The Bon Air Juvenile Justice facility, they have two staff and one resident that has tested positive for COVID-19. At this facility, and in others, when there is a confirmed case, will everyone there be tested to see how wide the spread is in those facilities? And if that is going to happen, what’s the timeline for that testing?

Ralph Northam: (24:18)
The question is about our department of juvenile justice and one of our facilities at Bon Air and some positive test results. And again, I’m going to let doc… Oh, excuse me, Secretary Moran, address that.

Brian Moran: (24:30)
Sure, [inaudible 00:24:31]. Thank you, Governor. And the question with respect to Bon Air facility, we’ve… Over the years, we’ve actually reduced our population of residents in a juvenile category to one facility in the Commonwealth, And that is the Bon Air facility. We now have approximately 205 residents. We actually have had positives. I think, Max, you mentioned one. It’s actually more than that, unfortunately, So we have done widespread testing, and we’re following Virginia Department of Health’s guidance.

Brian Moran: (25:03)
Unfortunately, at Bon Air, we have seven units, and so it was built for a capacity of over 500 kids, and we have only 205, as I mentioned. So we’re able to isolate them and use quarantine methods pursuant to the CDC guidelines. And so, we have seven units, as I say, and we’re spreading them out to make sure that there is not the interaction, but it’s unfortunate, and we’re doing everything we can. And of course, Valerie Boykin is our wonderful director, and the whole DJJ staff doing everything they can to ensure the health and safety of the residents of the Bon Air facility.

Reporter: (25:42)
Governor, I have a couple of question, if I may. I know we talked about it last Wednesday, but do you know if anything has been done in terms of possibly opening some of the community centers in stressed areas, African American communities, for testing and information?

Reporter: (25:57)
And then secondly, the president talks about he, being a glass half-full kind of guy, and he talks about wanting to open the country. Well, he’s praised for that, and then he’s criticized, saying that he may send a sense of false clarity, if you will. How do you rationalize that style of leadership for people who say the governor is not showing hope?

Ralph Northam: (26:24)
It’s a good question, the two questions, and I’m going to let our secretary of health answer the first one, but I will address the second one. There is nobody out there that wants us to get back to our life-as-normal more than me, but we also have to deal with reality, and I think there’s a difference in leadership styles between aspiration to say, “Well, we’re going to do this, and we’re going to do that,” but not backing it up with science. I’m a doctor, as you know. I understand the importance of keeping people healthy, and so I’m looking at the data, and there’s a lot of data, and I’ll make a comment about our models in just a bit.

Ralph Northam: (27:09)
I’m looking at the number of individuals that are in our nursing home right now that are… their health is at risk. I’m looking at the number of admissions to our hospitals, especially the number of ICU admissions. I’m looking at the number of these COVID-19 patients that are now on a ventilator. And so, while I would like to be aspirational… And I would always want to provide people hope because I will tell you that once you take someone’s hope away, you have taken away their will to live, and so I’m a big believer in hope, but I’m also a big believer in telling the truth and letting people know what we’re up against. This is a biological war that we’re fighting here, in this country, and we need to take it seriously, and we need to, as best we can, use the science and the data when we provide these guidelines because at the end of the day, my job, as your governor, is to keep Virginians safe, and that’s what I’ll continue to do. Doctor Carey?

Doctor Carey: (28:19)
Thank you, Governor. The question is: Have we, since Wednesday, set up community center-based testing programs? And the short answer is no. The longer answer is that we need to develop testing capacity greater than we have now. There’s a national shortage. It’s not that we don’t want to test more people; it’s that we’re having trouble testing our folks in our nursing homes adequately, in our hospitals, who could have COVID-19 but are persons under investigation, and the delay in testing to results is far too long. So yes, as we develop more testing capacity, we will want to reach out into the community, reach out into detection from a public health perspective, do surveillance, and develop a real model of this disease.

Doctor Carey: (29:09)
We do test about 2500 to 4000. Those are the numbers of results we get each day. And depending on where they were tested, in a hospital that may have a 24-hour turnaround, or the state lab, and they have a 24-hour turnaround, or it may be seven or eight days if it’s a commercial lab. Our number one job is to increase the capacity and the rapidity of testing. We mentioned the other day that we have received from FEMA 15 devices from Abbott that can do testing within 15 minutes, but not the adequate supplies to do really any significant testing at all. So I think your point is well-taken that, as we develop capacity, we will need to develop those plans to best use those for both communities that are at high risk, for vulnerable populations, as well as for better public health understanding as the governor alluded to, so we will know, from a evidence-based perspective, how to reverse and get back to normal life in the appropriate, safest, and most responsible way.

Reporter: (30:17)
And with what Doctor Carey was talking about, I was going to ask about testing capacity. I know Governor Hogan announced today that they’ve made an investment with you, then, to ramp up to potentially 20000 tests per day. I know national reports have Virginia Shore near the bottom of the per capita testing. What avenues are you all exploring, that you, maybe, haven’t already discussed with us about increasing that testing [crosstalk 00:30:43]?

Doctor Carey: (30:44)
Great question. I think one, it is both the quantity and the delay in testing. So actually, immediately following this session, we have brought together, actually, McKinsey, a consulting group. How can we get better in Virginia? What are the lessons that, in my conversations with other states, whether it’s Michigan, Maryland, or North Carolina… They’re doing very much, what those states are doing. What can we do better? How can Virginia be the leader in testing? And we don’t know those answers, but we are aggressively seeking those answers, so great question.

Marissa: (31:18)
[inaudible 00:31:18]. Okay, the next is from Bill Atkinson with the Progress Index.

Bill Atkinson: (31:25)
Thank you, Marissa. Governor, you mentioned earlier about the releasing of some of the inmates to help out with the social distancing protocols and what have you. What about at the state’s mental health facilities, like here at central state in Petersburg? What guidance is being offered to those facilities in terms of social distancing, patient moving restrictions? I know that central state has had one confirmed COVID case among a worker, but nothing among the patients. So what sort of guidance is the state offering the mental health facilities to dealing with this outbreak?

Ralph Northam: (32:00)
The question is our mental health facilities, so where those with psychiatric illnesses or a house, what are we doing to take care of them? We are essentially using the same guidelines that we’re using in our nursing homes, and I think the… Again, going back to our penitentiaries, that the temptation would be at our nursing homes to say, “Well, let’s get these individuals out of those facilities.”

Ralph Northam: (32:26)
But in the case of the mental health facilities, there’s really not a good option other than where they are. That’s the safest place they can be with a roof over their head, with good nutrition, and with people that care for them on a day to day basis. So, they will stay at those facilities, but we will use the same criteria that we use at our nursing homes with isolation, with testing, with PPE that’s needed to make sure that we take care of their health and wellbeing.

Marissa: (32:59)
The next question is from Greg Hambrick with Inside Nova.

Greg Hambrick: (33:01)
Governor-

Elaine: (33:01)
Greg Hambrick with InsideNoVa.

Greg Hambrick: (33:03)
Governor, we’ve noticed anecdotally in the public that folks are wearing their face masks about half the time. There are a lot of people not wearing face masks when they’re out at the grocery store, when they’re out in public. Other places in the country are shifting to a mandatory policy for face coverings. Is that something that you’d be considering here in the state?

Ralph Northam: (33:28)
The question is will we consider making the wearing of face protection mandatory. There was some reluctance even to move in that direction initially because we had such a shortage of face protection for our first responders, hospital caregivers, et cetera. What has happened over the weeks, is that we now have ways that we can make facial protection. The Department of Corrections has made thousands of these. We can take a bandana and fold it and use rubber bands. We do encourage now, individuals when they’re out and about, especially when they’re around other people to wear this facial protection, not only to protect themselves but also to protect others. But to date, we have not made that mandatory. It’s just a strong suggestion and an encouragement, and I want to just again commend Virginians. You’re doing the right thing and we appreciate you being part of the solution. So as long as we can continue to work together, as long as we can continue to see that the social distances is working, that the curves are flattening, we’ll continue with our present guidelines.

Elaine: (34:40)
[inaudible 00:01:41].

Speaker 6: (34:42)
Why aren’t deaths reported by locality, and is that something that you all will commit to do going forward?

Speaker 7: (34:49)
Do you want me to deal with it?

Ralph Northam: (34:53)
[inaudible 00:01:52].

Speaker 7: (34:55)
Thank you. So the question is why aren’t the deaths reported by locality. We report the deaths by region and we also now are rearranging our dashboard so that we can report those deaths by the health district itself. So they’ll be a much smaller geographic area than the seven regions in the state, which is how we’ve been reporting it up till now. I think that should be online fairly soon and will give people a more granular view of both the incidents and the deaths from COVID-19.

Speaker 7: (35:34)
The general reason for restricting at all of the reporting of disease is to protect the confidentiality of the individuals. These numbers are relatively small when you get down to a very small local area, and if a patient wants, or their family decides that they’re going to release that information and gets out, that’s one thing, but for us to do it without their consent is not something that we do.

Speaker 8: (36:22)
Governor what are some options about work release programs [inaudible 00:03:20]. What is the status on those statewide [inaudible 00:36:27]. Are you concerned at all about that back and forth?

Ralph Northam: (36:34)
Secretary Moran. The question is about work release in Virginia.

Brian Moran: (36:39)
Work release, prior to COVID that was something, obviously we promoted it. It was a wonderful opportunity for inmates to get out and do jobs, preparing them for release. We have stopped work release programs in the department of corrections so we’ll follow up if there’s a particular location, a sheriff’s program out of a jail that’s still using it. I would frankly be surprised because my communications with the sheriffs, they understand this, they’re observing the governor’s order to restrict as much as possible any movement outside the facility. So be happy to follow up. But we would discourage at this time any work release. That would introduce somebody back into the community that there’d be more movement, more supervision, and it could only be followed if strict social distancing was following, and that would be difficult under those circumstances.

Ralph Northam: (37:30)
Thank you Brian.

Elaine: (37:30)
[inaudible 00:37:32].

Speaker 9: (37:34)
Yes, thank you Governor. I know you’ve mentioned several of the bills that you have signed and I wanted to inquire about the status of the casino bill, if you put pen to paper yet.

Ralph Northam: (37:46)
The question is the casino bills. That is a piece of legislation that there has been a lot of discussion on. I have this afternoon and tomorrow to continue my work, so I would say on that particular bill I haven’t signed anything, but stay tuned and tomorrow night at midnight you will know our final decision.

Speaker 10: (38:16)
Governor, I know you said you were going to talk about the modeling from the VA and also to that end, I believe you said by today the work should start on the convention center and other alternative care sites to prepare for when that is. Can you just update on those two, if you don’t mind?

Ralph Northam: (38:31)
Let me answer your second question first. That is our alternative care facilities. We have been in daily discussion with our corp of engineers and also with our hospital CEOs. As I have said all along, we are preparing for all different scenarios. So all of those options are still on the table and at the end of the day, my priority or my goal and my job will be to make sure that that our hospitals, that our healthcare providers are able to take care of those that are sick with COVID-19. I can assure Virginia that we’re ready.

Ralph Northam: (39:09)
The first question was about modeling. Let me go ahead and… are there other questions, [Elaine 00:39:15] or is that…

Elaine: (39:16)
No, I think that’s it.

Ralph Northam: (39:17)
Yeah. Okay. Well I’ll go ahead and finish up on that note. We watch the data every day. This has been such a dynamic process, and there are a number of models that we follow. I think you all would be interested to see the contrast of those models and the challenges with looking at this particular model or another model. So what we would like to do is bring in the data specialists with those models on Monday and have those available for the press so that we can allow you to see what we see, and also to be able to ask questions to the data experts. We will be between now and Monday, making arrangements for a time and a place to do that. But hopefully you all can look forward to that.

Ralph Northam: (40:09)
In closing, again back to your question on hope, and I want to give all Virginians hope that we’re going to get through this together. What we, what you are doing out there across the Commonwealth is working right now. I’ve talked about how we’re going to land this plane. I’ve used that as an analogy, and I just wanted all Virginians to know that we are working every day and night to follow this data and to be able to make that decision of when to ease these guidelines and how to do that. That plan is being talked about and worked on every day.

Ralph Northam: (40:51)
Then the second part of this is our economic crisis. As I have said all along, in order to get the economic crisis addressed, we’ve got to get the health crisis behind us and we’re working on that. We also have plans that we’re working on every day to really how to jumpstart this economy, how to get businesses, especially our small businesses back where they were before this all happened. How we can get Virginians back to work as quickly as we can.

Ralph Northam: (41:21)
A lot of good work is going on, and I just wanted to let you know that we’re working hard every day on how we can land that plane, and we plan to do it successfully. As I have reminded Virginians, we’re the number one state in this great country of ours in which to do business. We also want to make sure that we’re the number one state for our workers. We went into this crisis, COVID-19, in a very strong position, and we’re going to get through this together, and we’re going to come out of it just as strong or maybe even stronger. Keep that in mind over the weekend, and in the meantime, I hope everybody has a safe and peaceful weekend, and we will look forward to being with you on Monday. Thank you all so much.