Apr 13, 2020

Ralph Northam Virginia COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 13

Ralph Northam Virginia April 13
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsRalph Northam Virginia COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 13

Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a press conference today on coronavirus. Read the full transcript of his briefing updates.

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Governor Ralph Northam: (00:00)
Closing our K through 12 schools was a necessary step to protect public health, but I know it has had a profound educational and emotional impact on students, parents, and teachers.

Governor Ralph Northam: (00:16)
I want to thank all of our teachers for their extraordinary efforts to keep students connected with learning during this unprecedented public health crisis. I also want to thank our division superintendents for everything they are doing to operate their divisions safely and compassionately; and I want to thank the frontline staff and volunteers who are getting food to students in every single corner of our Commonwealth. Nothing can replace the exact experience of the classroom, but our teachers and division leaders are doing their best to adapt to the situation we now face.

Governor Ralph Northam: (00:57)
We also risk exacerbating inequities during a time like this when access to education can be uneven and unequal depending on family’s circumstances. Our school leaders all over the state are working hard to address these inequities head on. Today, I’m announcing that the state is making additional educational resources available to all of our teachers and students.

Governor Ralph Northam: (01:27)
First, we are expanding our existing online education platform called Virtual Virginia, to allow every teacher in the Commonwealth to host virtual classes. This enables every Virginia public school teacher to share lessons and activities with their students through June the 30th. And for students who don’t have internet access, and I know that there are a number of them across our Commonwealth, Virtual Virginia content can be loaded onto devices and used offline. By expanding the use of Virtual Virginia, we will support the efforts already underway by our teachers and help ensure that school closures don’t lead to a widening of achievement gaps.

Governor Ralph Northam: (02:15)
In addition, beginning today four Virginia public media stations have launched VATV Classroom. This will broadcast teacher-led classroom instruction aligned with the Commonwealth’s academic standards into homes across our state.

Governor Ralph Northam: (02:33)
And finally I want to highlight the release of a new guidance document for teachers in schools on high-quality, equitable instruction during this pandemic. Since the schools were closed, the Department of Education convened a continuity of learning task force with more than 120 teachers, administrators, and specialists to issue guidance on how schools can prevent the further widening of achievement gaps and meet the social and emotional needs of students while schools are closed. This guidance has been sent out to our schools. And to all of those that have worked so diligently on that, on behalf of our children and their families, I sincerely thank you.

Governor Ralph Northam: (03:18)
Now I’d like to provide an update on our nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Last Friday, I announced that Dr. Laurie Forlano is leading a task force to keep close tabs on how our long-term care facilities are fairing with this epidemic, and ensure they have what they need. In a moment, she will give you an example of how this task force is helping our facilities. Already we have identified resources to help. One of my budget amendments increases the rates paid to our nursing homes and long-term care facilities by an additional $20 per Medicaid recipient per day. This boost in funding will help these facilities address staffing issues during this epidemic.

Governor Ralph Northam: (04:06)
We’re also looking at how our Medical Reserve Corps can potentially help with staffing at our long-term care facilities. And I’ll remind all of you that we’ve had over 13,000 Virginians step up and volunteer for this health medical corps, and I thank you all for doing that as well.

Governor Ralph Northam: (04:25)
This weekend was the constitutional deadline for my administration to act on all the bills that the general assembly passed during the regular legislative session. We dealt with 1,291 bills, more than any other year in my memory; and we met that deadline Saturday night. One of those bills is our state budget. I proposed 144 amendments to the budget, 83 of them on a lot our freeze, new discretionary spending of $874.6 million in fiscal year 2021, and $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2022. Forty-nine amendments are language amendments that relax specific requirements and give greater flexibility to our agencies and institutions of higher education as they conduct business during COVID-19. Now yesterday was Easter Sunday, and I want to thank everyone who found a way to mark the day while adhering to social distancing. Thanks also to those that who adhered to our guidelines in our parks and on our beaches across Virginia. I know it can feel like we have already endured the restrictions brought by this epidemic for a long time, and we’re going to need to keep living this way for the near future. That is one lesson that the modeling showed us today. The key is for us to keep doing what we’re doing. Stay home, stay away from groups and wash your hands. Right now, distancing is our best tool to fight this.

Governor Ralph Northam: (06:19)
Now, I’ll turn it over to Virginia Commissioner of Health, Dr. Norm Oliver, for a health update and then we’ll hear from Dr. Laurie Forlano. After that, I’ll be happy to take questions. Thank you all.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (06:37)
The update, which you can see on the Virginia Department of Health’s webpage, shows that today we have a total number of cases of 5,747. That represents 473 new cases since the last 24-hour reporting period. The total deaths from COVID-19 now number 149 in the Commonwealth. That’s eight more deaths over the last 24-hour period.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (07:10)
As has been mentioned previously, we have a race and ethnicity data on about half of our cases and about half of the deaths. While this is something we are struggling mightily to improve in the coming weeks and months, I should also point out that Virginia is one of only about 12 states that even report race and ethnicity data, and all of the 12 that do so face the same problem with a missing data.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (07:47)
Of the cases that we do have race and ethnicity data on, that’s 3,121 cases, 921 of them are African American, for about 30%. Of the 149 deaths, we have race and ethnicity data on, again, about half of those, and 33 of those are African American, for about 22% of the deaths. Thank you.

Governor Ralph Northam: (08:16)
Thank you, Dr. Oliver. Dr. Forlano. Thank you.

Dr. Laurie Forlano: (08:22)
Hi, good afternoon. I wanted to elaborate a little bit on the work that’s taken place over the weekend in regards to the task force and a specific example that I think illustrates the value of having this task force in a organized, focused response.

Dr. Laurie Forlano: (08:38)
You’ll notice if you go to our website this morning or today, we’ve updated the dashboard. If you scroll all the way down, you’ll see updated outbreaks data. We break those down by type of facility, so you can see how many outbreaks are in say a longterm care facility versus a different of setting like a workplace. Of the 97 outbreaks that have been reported in Virginia to date, 53 of them have been in long-term care facilities. That’s data as of April 12th. Among those outbreaks, which you will see specifically stated on the website, at least 554 cases are in long-term care facility residents or staff, and 34 deaths.

Dr. Laurie Forlano: (09:20)
As I explained last week, that data from the outbreaks will be different than the data from our surveillance system. It’s not intended to be combined with our surveillance data, but I do think gives really good information on a trend. I hope that information will be helpful on our website.

Dr. Laurie Forlano: (09:41)
An example I’d like to highlight is this weekend we learned of an outbreak in a long-term care facility in a community and we quickly learned about it. They very promptly reported it. The local health district reached out almost immediately and we were able to assure some testing resources. The University of Virginia has offered testing kits and testing capacity [inaudible 00:10:04].

Dr. Laurie Forlano: (10:06)
We were able to coordinate with the local health district. They reached out to the regional healthcare coalition to obtain the necessary PPE. Staffing continues to be an issue in these outbreaks, and that was true here as well. We were able to mobilize some nursing staff to help supplement the staffing in that facility. There were a lot of really good things that happened over the weekend to help with a really acute situation.

Dr. Laurie Forlano: (10:34)
The task force, in general, will continue to work on higher level policy issues and strategies to ensure that we can sustain that kind of response in the future. Thanks.

Governor Ralph Northam: (10:47)
I’ll be glad to take your questions.

Speaker 1: (10:48)
We’ll start with [inaudible 00:10:50].

Speaker 2: (10:48)
The first question-

Speaker 3: (10:55)
The conference is now in talk mode. The conference is now in talk mode.

Speaker 2: (11:02)
The first question will be from [Megan Polly 00:11:03] with-

Speaker 4: (11:03)
Now in talk mode.

Speaker 5: (11:03)
The first question will be from Megan Pauly with VPM.

Megan Pauly: (11:06)
Hi, thanks. Governor Northam, the recent UVA model shows a spike in the summer if stay-at-home, stay-in-place orders are lifted. Do you plan to continue the stay-at-home order into the summer, and potentially fall?

Governor Ralph Northam: (11:28)
The question is that the model show that if we lift the stay-at-home order too soon, that there will be peaks later in the year, even into the summer months. My answer to this is that these are models, and they’re as good as the data that we put into those models, that data, obviously, changes every day. I, like you all, listened to the presentation at noon, and it is just very impressive. We have some very smart people working on this, but there are no known answers as of today. So we take this one day at a time.

Governor Ralph Northam: (12:08)
I think the question always comes up, and I would have it as well, if I were sitting at home listening to this, is when will our lives return to the way we knew them before this COVID-19? Just as soon as we can get people’s lives back to normal, we will, but we also have to do it safely. And we know right now that the social distancing is working, it has flattened that curve, as you see from some of the models. The capacity in our hospitals, they’re able to handle when we predict that surge will occur, so we need to continue everything that we’re doing right now.

Governor Ralph Northam: (12:45)
We literally look at this data every day, we look at the models every day, and I just want to let the Virginians know that as soon as we can ease the restrictions, when we can do that safely and get people back to their lives, I will do that. Thank you.

Speaker 6: (13:00)
To that end, we’ve gotten a lot of calls in the last few days from particularly barbers and hairdressers about when they may be able to reopen, because I believe an earlier order had a opening date in April, but then the executive order implied that it might be June 10th, and they’ve called and gotten mixed answers. Can you help clear that up?

Governor Ralph Northam: (13:22)
The question is, the executive order closes business of recreation and entertainment, non-essential businesses through April the 23rd, so the question is, will businesses be allowed to reopen after the 23rd, or we will be extending it? As of right now, we’re looking at our peak, being in the latter part of April, early part of May, so we will extend that order for people to not be going to businesses like, those businesses will be closed. I will have an announcement on Wednesday as far as when that date will be. I realize April 23rd is only a week and a half away, and I know the businesses need to know that, but it will be extended. I just don’t know for how long, but I’ll make that decision on Wednesday. Or I’ll make the announcement on Wednesday, I’ll put it that way. Thank you.

Speaker 5: (14:19)
The next question is from Greg Schneider with the Washington Post.

Greg Schneider: (14:24)
Governor, can you talk about the degree to which you’re working with the leadership in Maryland and the District of Columbia to coordinate how you reopen business and public functions?

Governor Ralph Northam: (14:38)
The question is from Greg Schneider at the Washington Post, how we’re working with our neighboring state and the city of Washington, D.C. to look at really a consistent way of easing these restrictions, and it is an excellent question. The scenario that we don’t want is for Virginia to do one thing and Maryland to do another thing, as far as when, for example, restaurants or bars would open. We’re only divided or separated by the Potomac River, and that’s the case with Washington D.C. as well.

Governor Ralph Northam: (15:11)
We also have North Carolina to our south, and so we are working very closely. I have great relationships with our neighbors to our south and our north, and as we ease these restrictions, we will, as best we can, work together and make it consistent, so there’s as little confusion as necessary.

Speaker 7: (15:34)
Hi, researchers from UVA said today that, of course, better testing data could help us understand what that true peak will be, and what the outlook is for this disease. Given that the state lab runs such few tests, can you talk about private testing in this state and any efforts underway to boost capacity in that regard?

Governor Ralph Northam: (15:56)
It’s a great question. The question is, as we look at these models and we make determinations on when we can ease the restrictions, certainly to have more efficient and effective testing with quicker turnaround times will be very helpful, and your question is excellent. That will be very important, and I’ll let Dr. Carey gives us an update on where we are with our testing. Thank you.

Daniel Carey: (16:22)
Thank you very much, Governor. The question is about testing, and we mentioned on Friday that we were really trying to assess, in every location that does tests in Virginia, and every ordering site in Virginia, and we are doing a survey through the Department of Health as to what is that capacity, how are we using that capacity, and how are we making sure that that capacity is growing? We are, internally have a task force that is working on that, and we’ll be able to report what those exact plans are in the future, as we look at expanding all of those elements.

Daniel Carey: (16:59)
We do not yet have, in the U.S., widespread serologic testing, the challenge in the other countries has been false positive and negative tests, they lack the sensitivity and specificity to provide useful information, and often, no information’s better than incorrect information. So we take this as a significant problem, and we are working daily to increase that. We’ll have plans to announce in days to come. Thanks.

Governor Ralph Northam: (17:31)
Mel, just to follow up on that, as you may remember, our testing, especially at some of our private labs, the turnaround was five to seven, sometimes even nine days, and it’s just unacceptable. So I’ve been in communication with, we have a number of hospitals, but some of the hospitals now, healthcare systems have in-house testing, and the turnaround is as short as 10 hours. So we’re not where we need to be as of today, but each day that gets better, and you’ve heard me talk about, to be able to have a turnaround time of 15 to 30 minutes, that’s really where we need to be, and we’ll need that information as we make these decisions to ease the the restrictions. But we’re getting there.

Speaker 5: (18:19)
Roger Watson with the Farmville Herald.

Roger Watson: (18:23)
Hello, thank you. We have heard from some convenient store clerk who are frustrated with having to help lottery customers and are wondering why the non-automatic games are continuing. Can you respond to this, please?

Governor Ralph Northam: (18:35)
I believe, if I heard your question correctly, your question is about games of skill, which we also refer to as the gray machines, and why they’re at least being proposed to continue to stay open or in place for another year. I believe that was the gist of the question. Just a little bit of history, my proposed budget, which I announced in December, was to tax the games of skill. We have approximately 15,000 of those machines in Virginia; the will of the general assembly was to close those games of skill down. That was four weeks ago, times have changed. Restaurants, convenience stores, some have already closed, others are just on the edge of closing, so I’ve had a lot of people communicate with our office and say “can we please keep those games of skill in operation for another year?”

Governor Ralph Northam: (19:40)
I think there’s willingness out there to be able to tax those, so that’s the decision that we have proposed. Obviously the general assembly will be back on April the 22nd, and determine whether they’re in favor of that or not. The revenue, estimated revenue from games of skill for a year, is probably between $125 and 150 million, and right now, as you know, our economy has changed significantly. So we have proposed that if these games of skills are allowed to remain for another year, that that revenue, the revenue from the taxing of these games of skills, would be put towards homelessness and sheltering, it would be put towards healthcare needs, for example, our nursing homes. And also, it would be put toward small businesses so that we’re able to help them do everything that they can to be up and running. But ultimately, that decision will be made on the 22nd of April by the general assembly.

Speaker 8: (20:49)
Thank you, Governor. In terms of the data for those African-Americans, ethnic groups, and the difficulty in getting that data, is there anything that you could do to prompt the labs to work maybe more aggressively to get this data in? Can you make it an order? And then on sidebar, the President talks about having enough PPEs, having enough equipment, tests, ventilators, and they’re even willing to help foreign countries with ventilators, but yet your administration, Dr. Carey, talks about not having enough equipment and tests. Where is the disconnect?

Governor Ralph Northam: (21:30)
Yes, great question. Let me answer the second part of your question first, and it refers to do we have enough PPE, do we have enough tests and equipment in Virginia, and perhaps there’s a disconnect or different messages that are coming out of Washington. I think you said that they’re saying that we have so much capability that we’re actually going to send some to other countries. That couldn’t be farther from the truth here in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and I certainly can’t speak for other governors, but I’m in touch with them several times a week, and they’re fighting the same battle-

Governor Ralph Northam: (22:03)
with them several times a week, and they’re fighting the same battle. We are fighting a biological war without the resources we need. And so, we’re working around the clock, literally, to purchase more PPE, to purchase more of the supplies that we need for testing. As we said previously, we’re nowhere near where we want to be with those supplies. And so, we continue to work every day. I talk about capacity at our hospitals. Right now, our bed capacity we feel is adequate. But as far as ventilators, as far as PPE, testing equipment and especially staffing, we have some challenges. So, we’re making preparation to deal with those different scenarios.

Speaker 9: (22:52)
Also, he said that 14 governors we’re talking to him and they were very pleased about the great job that they had done. Where you are a part of that governor group that he talked to [crosstalk 00:23:02]?

Governor Ralph Northam: (23:03)
I don’t believe I was one of those 14, no. Like I said, we have some challenges. And again, we’re working around the clock to get the supplies that we need. I’m going to maybe let Dr. Oliver address what we can do with our lab results and how we can get the best data and the important data to follow the equity issue. Thank you Dr.

Dr. Oliver: (23:25)
Thank you. The Virginia Department of Health will be working closely with our hospital partners and the makers of the electronic health records that they utilize because one of the reasons why we’re having the problems with getting the reporting on the lab results, so knowing the race and ethnicity of cases that are positive, has to do with the not getting it from the clinician. And oftentimes, as a practicing family physician prior to coming to the state government, when you order a lab in the electronic health record, it’s a click, right?

Dr. Oliver: (24:12)
You order that lab and then the system then generates that lab. So, we want to work with those EHRs and with the hospitals to ensure that all of the important demographic information about that lab requests goes along with it. If that information gets to the labs, then the labs give that information to us, that’s what’s happening. In addition, we’ll continue our education of clinicians around this so that clinicians can be more mindful about making sure that data gets to us. On the backside of all of this, I think we’ll also take a look at the processes around this in a retrospective way to find ways in which we can improve it. I think over the next several weeks we’ll see some improvements, and it’s through doing those sorts of activities.

Speaker 10: (25:11)
[inaudible 00:25:11] Sean Jones with the progress index. Shawn, are you on the line? Okay. The next question will be from Bruce Potter with InsideNoVa.

Bruce Potter: (25:28)
Hi governor. This question is in regards to the nursing homes and outbreak situations there. How is or is this information communicated to concerned family members who don’t have direct access to their family members in these centers? When they see 16 in Fairfax County, are family members aware of the outbreak situations in their nursing homes?

Governor Ralph Northam: (25:58)
Appreciate the question. The question is regarding nursing homes when a person’s loved one is either affected by the virus, sick with the virus, how is that information communicated with the family, and if you want to address that? That’s great.

Speaker 11: (26:17)
Hi, thanks for that question about family notification. I think that typically happens at the facility level. Obviously there’s going to be variation in practice there, but our local health departments and the task force will continue to recommend that facilities keep families informed with timely, accurate information. And we’re contemplating just how to empower them with the right communications tools, et cetera, and strategies to make sure that happens. So yes, we agree that’s important.

Speaker 10: (26:57)
[inaudible 00:26:57] can you just reiterate what those [inaudible 00:26:59]

Governor Ralph Northam: (26:58)
Yeah. The question is the Virginia model shows differences depending on what region of Virginia you’re in. The first thing, and I’ll turned this over perhaps to Dr. Kerry, but I want to make it clear that this virus doesn’t know any borders, it doesn’t know what county it’s in, what city it’s in. So, while it may seem simplistic to say, well, we’ll look at region by region. As consistent as we can be with our message and how we deal with all of Virginia I think is the best path forward. Dr. Kerry.

Dr. Kerry: (27:46)
The questions really the regional differences and what… I’m not a data scientist, but I spend a lot of time with the data scientists. And really the transmission is dependent a great deal on population density and proximity and the number of interactions of individuals. That’s why the social distancing is so powerful as a tool as the governor has outlined.

Dr. Kerry: (28:07)
If you look at the regional differences that I’ve seen in the presentations to me and those that occurred today, the areas that have the densest population tend to have the risk of the greatest surge, and we see that in the front end in the the crescent from Northern Virginia down through Richmond and over to Tidewater in that the Western part of the state, rural parts of the state are… The surge is not as steep and is slower. So as you… As the model, when you relax those countermeasures that the governor has deployed, you expect the reaction to be fastest in those that have the greatest population density. So, that principle occurs as you deal with the front end of an epidemic or pandemic, but it also affects what happens when you start to reverse those interventions. So, that’s where the major differences is as was shown today with the six different regions.

Dr. Kerry: (29:26)
The way that I interpret the data, along with the presentations the governor and I have received, is that social distancing is indeed a powerful tool that has slowed. And we, again, this is where the predictive uncertainty comes, whether it’s the end of April, early May or later in May that it looks like that it has had an impact, and I think that the data scientists from UVA made that case with their diagrams today. So, back to your original question of the regional differences. It really is based on density of population, but the principles are that we’re one state and we’ve got to look at what will work for all Virginia.

Governor Ralph Northam: (30:16)
Thank you Dan.

Speaker 10: (30:16)
[inaudible 00:30:16] with the Suffolk News-Herald. All right, then we will go to Luanne Rife with the Roanoke Times. Okay, we’ll try… Luanne, are you on? All right, we’ll try Max Thornberry with the Northern Virginia Daily.

Max Thornberry: (30:42)
Hi governor, thanks again for taking our questions. I’ve got a question about campgrounds that are closed. Obviously public campgrounds are close to overnight stays, but we have some people that own trailers, campers that they pay really [inaudible 00:31:02] taxes on that are on private lots inside public campgrounds and they can’t get to them, but they would be able to go there under social distracting guidelines. Is this the right step that the public campgrounds are taking, closing and not letting people get to their private lots?

Governor Ralph Northam: (31:18)
The question is about campgrounds on, and it sounded like campers that are in our public camp grounds. Is this the right direction to take? And let me just preface my answer by saying everybody has their own situation or a different situation, and we’re doing everything that we can to best deal with all of those. In the example of our state parks in Virginia, one of the challenges that we had quite frankly was that people were coming to these camp grounds, they were congregating in them and putting themselves, their families and others at risk. And so, none of these decisions have been made easily, but the decision was made in the case of our state parks to close them down to overnight and allow individuals to come in on a daily basis. As far as the private campgrounds, if an individual is in the camper for more than two weeks, then they’re allowed to stay in it. But as far as transients coming in for a day or two, we’ve put a stop to that until we feel it’s safe to reopen.

Speaker 10: (32:30)
[inaudible 00:32:30] one more.

Speaker 12: (32:32)
Yeah. President Trump said earlier today that reopening things and lifting social distancing measures [crosstalk 00:32:39]

Speaker 13: (32:40)
[inaudible 00:32:40] police officers and social workers have tested positive, and have had, by the nature of their jobs, widespread contact with the public.

Governor Ralph Northam: (32:55)
I didn’t catch the beginning of your question. I heard social workers and our police officers have had contact with individuals with-

Governor Ralph Northam: (33:03)
Or police officers have had contact with individuals with COVID-19. But can you please repeat the first part?

Speaker 14: (33:07)
Right. Agencies have refused to discuss what, if any efforts are undertaken to alert people they may have encountered. Can you explain what is required and perhaps what is optimal in tracing contact these types of employee government employees have had with the public?

Governor Ralph Northam: (33:35)
All right.

Speaker 15: (33:35)
I think I understand the question to be how do we handle public health and case investigations and contact investigations for workers like a social worker who may have contact with a COVID- 19 case. So we would, if the local health department becomes aware of a COVID-19 case, we interview that individual and we try to ascertain their contacts, where they’ve been in a certain period of time. And if a contact is for example a social worker who’s been in the home or near the home or interacting with the family, we would then do our best to notify those contacts. I will say due to the case volume, the ability for every local health department to do extensive contact tracing sometimes is a bit overwhelming. So it may take a little bit of time, but we do our best to notify high-risk contacts as a priority.

Kate: (34:40)
Yeah, I was just saying, so earlier today president Trump said that reopening things and lifting social distancing restrictions was a federal, not a state decision. And so I was wondering if A, you had a response to that, given that Virginia might not see a peak until late summer? And then also B, what you would do if federal restrictions were lifted before you were ready to do so in Virginia?

Governor Ralph Northam: (35:03)
Well, let me, the question is, when the decision to lift these guidelines is made, will that be a federal decision or a state decision? And I would just say Kate, from day one, I have tried to lead Virginia, do what’s in the best interest of Virginia. And we have made some very difficult decisions such as closing our schools, our businesses, stay at home orders could go on and on and so every state is different and I will make the decisions that are in the best interests of Virginia. And I’m sure, and I hope there are some guidelines from the national level, but as we move forward, we’ll continue to follow our models, talk to our epidemiologists, have input from our business community and collectively, and I guess I’m at the end of the chain, but we’ll be making those decisions as far as what’s best for Virginia, here in Virginia.

Speaker 16: (36:06)
Any updates on the construction at the additional care facilities?

Governor Ralph Northam: (36:10)
The question is about the construction at our alternative care facilities. And we are in contact with our CEOs from our hospitals on a daily basis. We have a number of options that are on the table to include expanding our capacity within the walls, our confines of a current hospital. We have options working with our national guard where we would put up mesh type of units, tents outside of hospitals. And then we have the option of building the three alternative sites, one in Northern Virginia, one in Richmond and one in Hampton Roads. And as I’ve said, this is a fluid situation. We have made arrangements for all of those options, but I haven’t decided to move forward at this stage with the alternative care facilities. But in the event that I need to make that decision, we have everything ready to go.

Speaker 17: (37:08)
Could you touch on the release of inmates for those who don’t seem to have the compassion that your administration may have talked about versus those who say this is the right thing to do. They deserve to be let out in light of this COVID-19. Some people feel as though they’re inmates and they broke the law. This is kind of what happens, if you will.

Governor Ralph Northam: (37:29)
Sure. I appreciate that question. And it’s regarding releasing inmates and we do have some plans in the works. It will require passage by the General Assembly when they come back on the 22nd. But if it’s okay, maybe let Secretary Moran just go into that in a little bit more detail. It’s a great question. Thank you.

Secretary Moran: (37:56)
Yes. As mentioned on Friday, the Governor has proposed budget language for the first time that allowing DOC to actually have some discretion with respect to who may be released. As you know on parole, we have a very few less, than 2,500 are even eligible for parole. And so there have been, we recognize that these are confined spaces, much like longterm care facilities, nursing homes. Special care needs to be paid to those in a confined setting. So the Governor has provided legislation that we would hope the legislature to act favorably on. It would apply to approximately 2000, a little less than 2000, inmates who have one year left, one year or less left on their sentence.

Secretary Moran: (38:45)
And DOC will review each and every one of those cases and determine whether or not they’re appropriate for public safety and their welfare. If I might just, Governor, if I just take a moment. We have the lowest recidivism rate in the nation, something that Governor and I have mentioned a number of times. We’re so proud of DOC, the reentry programs, they have rigorous, robust reentry programs in our facilities. And we have the lowest in the nation, recidivism rate for four straight years.

Secretary Moran: (39:15)
Now it’s because we create a plan for success. We make sure that an individual goes through reentry while incarcerated and then there is a plan for success when they’re released, which may require mental health services, substance abuse disorders, to treat the substance abuse disorders, housing, employment opportunities, all of which have been substantially disrupted right now. So we have heard from advocates, we’ve heard from family members, we need to approach this in a humane fashion, a responsible fashion and a smart fashion. That’s exactly what the governor’s budget language reflects in that we’ve looked at this, reviewed it and I think this is a part of the puzzle along with parole that we can achieve the health and safety of those who are incarcerated and also the health and safety of those who are released.

Governor Ralph Northam: (40:13)
Thank you all again for joining us today and to the press, the journalists that are here. It is just so, so important that we get accurate and updated information to Virginians. I want to thank you all for the job that you’re doing and also thanks for being part of the modeling session today that was at noon. Just to reiterate, I think the two messages that that came out of that were number one, that the social distancing, the frequent washing of our hands, the guidelines that we have put forth in Virginia are working. And so to all of you across the Commonwealth, I know this is a difficult time, but we’re moving in a positive direction. So I thank you for that.

Governor Ralph Northam: (40:57)
The second message was that if we stop what we’re doing too soon, that it is clear that we will have a second peak and that it could be worse than what we’re dealing with right now. So I appreciate your vigilance, your perseverance, and your obeying of the guidelines. We will have some further announcements, as we said on Wednesday, specifically regarding our businesses, our barbershops, salons, etc. So I hope everybody continues to do well and we will look forward to being with you again on Wednesday. Thank you all so much.

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