Apr 17, 2020

Ralph Northam Virginia COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 17

Virginia Briefing April 17
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsRalph Northam Virginia COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 17

Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a press conference on April 17 on coronavirus. Read the full transcript of his briefing updates.

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Ralph Northam: (00:00)
It’s Friday, and that’s a good thing. Today we have updates on PPE, medical staffing, testing, nursing homes and jail populations. First, I just spoke with Governor Larry Hogan in Maryland and Muriel Bowser in D.C. And we are all dealing with similar challenges, and we discuss how we can continue to coordinate our plans as we move forward in a regional fashion. Yesterday, I was on the phone with President Trump to discuss the White House guidelines for how we, as States, move forward. Those guidelines are consistent with everything we in Virginia had been doing and will continue to do, a phase approach based on science and data. The first phase of those guidelines requires positive tests to be on a downward trend for 14 days. We have not met that criteria. We are still seeing more cases each day, not fewer, so we are not there yet.

Ralph Northam: (01:11)
In fact, we saw 600 new cases today, an increase of about 8%. But as we prepare for when that day does come, we are making plans so we have screening, testing, tracking and isolation options. We need resources for testing supplies, for the workforce to do the tracking, apps to help with this work and more. I’m happy to report that we received 1.6 billion. I’ll repeat that, $1.6 billion in federal stimulus funds, and we will use that for the COVID-19 response and to aid our local governments. We also have approval from FEMA to provide hotel accommodations for our first responders and essential personnel working to combat the COVID-19 epidemic. I want to remind Virginians, even though we continue to see cases go up, that doesn’t mean that social distancing is not working because it is. The point of social distancing is to slow the spread, not eliminate it entirely.

Ralph Northam: (02:29)
We’ll continue to see cases that are new, and unfortunately we will continue to see deaths from this pandemic. But our actions are keeping those cases to a level that our hospitals can manage. Our hospitals continue to need more personal protective equipment. So, it’s good news that our first shipment of PPE, procured through a contract with Northfield, has arrived in Virginia and is being distributed. This includes more than 24,000 N95 mask, as well as gloves and gowns. We expect more shipments from this order in the coming weeks. The national supply chain issues around PPE remain a problem. We’re trying to work around those by diversifying our sources, so we have multiple different ways to get PPE. I’m proud of the innovative ways our healthcare providers are coming up with to stretch their PPE supply, such as decontaminating mask with ultraviolet lights. We’re also working to help our hospitals and longterm care facilities ensure they have the staffing they need to take care of their communities.

Ralph Northam: (03:46)
Today, I signed executive order 57. It eases licensing restrictions on some medical professionals like nurse practitioners and doctors who are licensed in other States, and it allows more use of telehealth. We’ll let nurse practitioners with two years of experience practice without having a practice agreement with a physician. We will allow out-of-state doctors and other healthcare practitioners to practice in certain Virginia facilities. We also allow out-of-state doctors to keep seeing their existing patients who are Virginia residents, which is important in our border communities. As a doctor, I know this pandemic is placing extraordinary demands on our doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, PAs and other staff. This order will allow us to expand our workforce so that more trained medical professionals can step in and help meet the need. It is also critical that we are meeting the staffing and support needs of our longterm care facilities.

Ralph Northam: (04:59)
The health of people living and working in our nursing homes and longterm care facilities remains a concern and a priority. We are waiving regulatory rules around staffing to ensure that facilities can recruit staff and volunteers more quickly. We’re connecting our medical reserve corps volunteers with longterm care facilities that are seeing staff shortages to help fill that need. We’ll also reach out to local health systems that have furloughed staff to encourage them to help. The National Guard can help train staff on how to best use PPE. And I want to highlight some changes to ensure we are doing more testing in longterm care facilities. We are expanding our testing criteria to include people who are about to be admitted into congregate settings like longterm care facilities. This is an important safety measure to help prevent the virus from being brought into these facilities. We will work to make sure that any nursing home or longterm care facility experiencing a breakout can test every resident in the facility as well as the staff.

Ralph Northam: (06:14)
I’m grateful to VCU and UVA for partnering with us to do these tests for our facilities as resources allow. The state lab will also help provide testing supplies. All of these steps will help support our nursing homes and longterm care facilities, which are struggling to keep their residents and staff safe. As we work to protect people in congregate settings, we know local and regional jails are also at risk. That’s why several weeks ago our administration encouraged local authorities to avoid sending people to jail when possible. If someone has committed a misdemeanor but isn’t a threat to public safety, it is better to use alternatives to jail, such as home electronic monitoring or issuing a summons. Our local public safety agencies have stepped up. Since early March, our local jail population has been reduced 17% because they are choosing alternatives to incarceration. We’ve also seen a 67% decrease in the number of people entering our jails on misdemeanor charges.

Ralph Northam: (07:28)
In late February we saw about 10,000 people entering regional or local jails over a two week period. Now, it’s just over 4,000. All of this has been done with public safety in mind. My administration is talking to local and regional public safety officials on weekly conference calls. I trust local stakeholders to continue making decisions that are right for their communities. Now, I’d like to move to jobs. We had more than 106,000 additional unemployment claims last week and more than 410,000 in the past month. That’s a lower number than the previous week, but it also doesn’t include all of the people who are newly eligible for unemployment under the federal pandemic unemployment assistance. Those are largely temporary workers, gig workers and people who are self employed. We have payroll records for about 80% of people, but when we don’t, we have to ask additional documentation. The portal for that will go live tonight.

Ralph Northam: (08:37)
I know how many people need that assistance as soon as possible. We will be able to provide back pay for those whose applications have taken longer to process. We have added call centers in Grundy and Newport News. We’ve added 50 new employees at the employment commission headquarters and a private call center should be up and running next week.

Ralph Northam: (09:02)
I want to thank everyone at our employment commission for their hard work, and I want to thank all the people on the front lines for the work that they’re doing, including the public safety, telecommunications professionals taking the 9-1-1 calls. That isn’t easy work, but they’re getting people the help that they need. I understand that this has taken a serious toll on many people and their livelihoods. I assure you, I want to get back to a place where all businesses can be open. And we will get there, but we have to do it with deliberation, using science, data and testing to make sure that we do it safely. Otherwise, cases will spike, we’ll be right back where we started, and all the sacrifices people have already made will have been for nothing. Now, Virginia Health Commissioner, Dr. Norm Oliver will give the health update and then we would be glad to address your questions. Dr. Oliver, thank you.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (10:06)
Thank you governor. Good afternoon. The case count that we posted on our website this morning at 9 a.am. shows that the total cases now stand at 7,491 cases across the Commonwealth. And as the governor mentioned, that’s an increase in the last 24 hour period of 602 cases. The total deaths now number 231, and that’s an increase in the last 24 hour period of 23 new deaths. There was an uptick in the cases in Central Shenandoah health district that is owing to an outbreak in a nursing home there, and those numbers are associated with this uptick.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (11:04)
The numbers, with respect to racial stratification, I wanted to first say that we’ve had some improvement in the collection of race and ethnicity data. You may recall a couple of weeks ago we talked about the fact that we had a lot of missing data on that front. The missing racial and ethnic data on our cases is now down to just 37%, and on the deaths only 10% of that data has missing data on race and ethnicity. Out of the cases where we do have that data, the number of African American cases is 1,401, which is 30% of the deaths of those for whom we have the race and ethnicity data. And the number of deaths for African-Americans is 71, which is 34% of those deaths for whom we have race and ethnicity data. Thank you.

Speaker 2: (12:28)
Yes. The question is for Governor Northam. House speaker Eileen Filler-Corn says she’s exploring remote voting as an option for future sessions of the general assembly, and I’m just interested to know what the governor thinks of this idea to try to keep social distancing in place as we enter into the reconvene session next week?

Ralph Northam: (12:47)
The question regards remote voting for our legislators. And as you all know, they’re coming back into what we call reconvene session on April the 22, and the speaker of the house Eileen Filler-Corn has looked at that option. We also have-

Ralph Northam: (13:03)
… possibility of coming back into a session, either July, August, September, depending on when we’re able to re-forecast and depending on what this pandemic does. They may need to continue to abide by the social distancing and certainly, don’t want to congregate a large number of people in a space and we want to keep everybody healthy. So I think the option of looking at remote voting as we move forward, to use that type of technology, is something that I’m certainly open to and I commend Speaker Filler-Corn for pursuing that.

Kate: (13:44)
Here. Governor, I was wondering if you can address why your health department during the global pandemic is continuing to define individual facilities and companies as patients and refusing to release information about COVID-19 outbreaks there. I mean, at the human level, we’re talking about people who can’t find information, at their workplaces or at homes where their parents are staying. So I’m wondering why that can’t be revised.

Ralph Northam: (14:13)
Okay. Eileen, would you like to explain to them?

Speaker 3: (14:18)
It’s a statuary requirement. The question is why is it that we do not release granular information on individuals and on facilities? And the Virginia Code treats the facilities, it says that I cannot release data on individuals or on people who make reports on individuals. So I couldn’t release information from a doctor or a facility without their agreement.

Kate: (14:51)
[inaudible 00:14:51] level, could you not do an emergency order revising that? I mean, Ohio for instance, has individual facilities with outbreaks, and I know this has become a growing concern for the public and for journalists.

Speaker 3: (15:04)
The question’s can I or someone else do an emergency order? They would override the code? Is that what you’re asking?

Kate: (15:11)
[inaudible 00:02:11].

Speaker 3: (15:13)
I would leave that to the Governor’s council to figure out.

Ralph Northam: (15:17)
Kate, I think your question is a good question, but in order to override the code, we obviously need the legislators to do that.

Speaker 4: (15:27)
Greg Snyder with The Washington Post.

Greg Snyder: (15:32)
Governor Northam, as you know, there’s been a little bit of a pushback around the State against some of your orders on social distancing and shutting down businesses in. And earlier today, President Trump tweeted to liberate Virginia. I wonder if you have any response to that from the President urging people to push back like that?

Ralph Northam: (15:52)
Greg, I appreciate the question. The question was about a tweet coming from our President to liberate Virginia. I would just simply say that as the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I along with this staff is fighting a biological war. I do not have time to involve myself in Twitter wars. I will continue to make sure that I do everything that I can to keep Virginians safe and to save lives.

Speaker 5: (16:23)
[inaudible 00:16:23] President has issued the new guidance on re-opening states and he said the governors can tailor that approach, but it seems to be geared around robust testing and contact tracing and surveillance. But you said yourself, we were still on a short supply for PPE, for staff or even testing kits. So can you give us an idea of what you’re envisioning for that kind of surveillance and longterm tracking once we start to see a decline and move into some of those phases?

Ralph Northam: (16:52)
The question is regarding the guidelines that were given yesterday by the CDC and when can we ease restrictions, and how to do that and what those criteria are. First of all, if one looks, and it’s online, so it’s very transparent, if you look at those CDC guidelines from yesterday, the first criteria for getting even into phase one is to have 14 days of declining cases. And as you’ve heard the data today, we had 602 new cases, which is an increase of about 8%, not a decrease. So we’re not close to that. And, as I’ve said all along, we follow that data each day, every hour. And so we’ll continue to do that.

Ralph Northam: (17:44)
Secondly, we need adequate testing. We need to be able to test. We need to be able to track and we need to be able to isolate individuals, looking at hotspots, knowing the trend of this pandemic and what this virus is doing. We are working to improve that on a daily basis. But one of the things that I may add to that is that we have no national guidance on testing. Every governor, and I was on a call just a little while ago with Governor Hogan, every governor is having to establish our testing protocol and our supplies on our own. So while that improves every day, we’re not there yet.

Ralph Northam: (18:25)
We need to know that we have the adequate PPE. You hear us talking about that every day. We just received a shipment. Do we have enough PPE to say that if there’s a flare up or if that curve sharpens that we have those supplies necessary, not only for the hospitals but our first responders, our nursing homes? We’re not there yet either. And finally, the staffing, and I commend the folks across Virginia that have volunteered to be part of that medical corps, but that’s an issue as well. So all of these things that are outlined in those guidelines, in the criteria to even get into phase one, and we’re not there yet.

Ralph Northam: (19:04)
Once we are… Just like everybody, I want to get back to being as near normal as we can as soon as possible, but we have to be patient. And I would just reiterate and reassure Virginians that the guidelines that we have put forth that you are following, they’re working. They’re keeping that curve as flat as we can and allowing our hospitals to have the capacity that they need in order to take care of sick patients, if and when that surge comes.

Speaker 4: (19:35)
The next question is from Sarah Rankin with The Associated Press.

Sarah Rankin: (19:43)
Good afternoon. Hi, Governor. I wanted to ask when we do get to the point that some of the issues you just mentioned are resolved, do you expect that Maryland, DC and Virginia will be in coordination about when we start reopening, start phase one and was there discussion along those lines in the call today?

Ralph Northam: (20:02)
Yes. The question is when we get to the point where we can ease some of the restrictions, will Maryland, DC, Virginia, and I would also include our neighbor to the south, North Carolina, be in coordination. Absolutely, we will be. And I think I’ve given a couple of examples in the past of why that’s so important, but the cooperation with the Maryland Governor, the Mayor of DC and the Governor of North Carolina, I couldn’t ask for anymore. And it’s just been a good system that we’re working through together, as I said. We share some of the same challenges and we will do everything that we can to be in coordination and be consistent, so it will be as straightforward as possible for everybody in this region.

Speaker 6: (20:48)
Governor, you’ve mentioned the importance of following state code the last few minutes and this question’s in regard to the Vincent Martin parole. There’s a code that says, 53.1-155, victim’s families have 45 days to respond to the parole board’s decision. He’s supposed to be let out April 30th, that gives them 14 days. Why wasn’t the code followed for this particular case?

Ralph Northam: (21:15)
That’s a decision that the parole board made. I can look into that. I’m not aware of those details. But I’m sure that that was a tough decision that the parole board made. As you know, it was a four to one vote and that’s all I can say about that. So as far as the days, I know from what I’ve heard that the families have been notified, but as far as the timing of that, I’m not sure about, but I’ll look into it for you.

Speaker 6: (21:43)
[inaudible 00:21:43] the families are… Their last gasp of hope is you to possibly rescind this. Is there any chance of that happening?

Ralph Northam: (21:51)
Well, I will be glad to look at it, but I haven’t dealt with it in a lot of detail thus far as you might imagine. And the topic of today is we’ve had a rather full plate with this pandemic and so, but I’ll be glad to look into that.

Speaker 4: (22:07)
[inaudible 00:22:07] with NBC4.

Julia: (22:11)
Good afternoon, Governor. Obviously, a key to any future reopening plans is knowing who has had the virus, and in Virginia, we know who has recovered coming out of hospitals. But in Maryland to help with that, they’ve created a registry now, so that those who’ve recovered at home can report if they had the illness and many of them probably didn’t get tested. Why isn’t Virginia doing more right now to gather that kind of recovery data? Or is that something that you plan to put in place soon?

Ralph Northam: (22:39)
Yeah. The question is a registry of how we can follow individuals that have either had the virus and recovered or who have symptoms. And Julia, I appreciate the question and we are in almost constant communication and I have more meetings this afternoon and tomorrow to look at apps, to use the technology, as I alluded to earlier, how to deal with that. So I think it’s fair to say, again, in communication with our surrounding states and Washington, that we’re doing a lot of the same things and we certainly share a lot of the same challenges.

Speaker 3: (23:12)
Governor, if I may.

Ralph Northam: (23:13)

Speaker 3: (23:16)
The other thing that you should know and answer to that question is that a number of our academic partners are helping out in this regard. The University of Virginia has set up a registry around COVID-19 and that’s a through a multi-institution collaboration between UVA, Virginia Tech, EVMS, Inova Hospital Systems in Northern Virginia and one other who I’m blanking on right now. In addition, there is another coalition of academic institutions that is proposing to establish a COVID-19 registry as well. So in addition to the things that the Governor just mentioned as far as initiatives that we’re taking there, there’s actual registries that are being set up.

Ralph Northam: (24:12)
If I could just too follow up on your question regarding the parole board’s decision, I’m going to let our Secretary of Public Safety offer some thoughts on that as well. Secretary Moran.

Secretary Brian Moran: (24:23)
Thank you, Governor. And we do express our sympathies to the Connors family, Chief Smith and RPD, the entire law enforcement community, their brothers and sisters. So I know it brings up a lot of the pain and anguish they experienced 40 years ago. We’ll say, with respect to the parole board’s decision, we did ask whether or not, when this came to our attention, that was the process followed and they assured us that it was. This wasn’t expedited in any way, not with COVID-related cases, which we have talked to them about.

Secretary Brian Moran: (24:58)
Second, was the victim’s family contacted? Was their input solicited? Was it received and was it considered? And I have been assured that that was indeed done. With respect to the code section you refer to, they do have 45 days, which is appropriate. They were communicated with and their input was received during that 45 day period. So that was told. I mean, there was no reason to wait any longer since that communication occurred.

Secretary Brian Moran: (25:29)
Third, as the Governor mentioned, we require a super majority in a case of this seriousness, a murder case. And so it did receive four affirmative votes out of five. And lastly, because it is a such a difficult case, I did request the Board Chair to provide more details with respect to the decision making process and why the parole board made this decision. And that is posted on vpb.virginia.gov.

Secretary Brian Moran: (26:03)
So, appreciate the question and, of course, the family has our sympathy.

Speaker 7: (26:05)
And one follow up. I wasn’t in on the conversation that the family had with Adrianne Bennett, but I was led to believe by the sister of Michael Connors they weren’t allowed much to speak. It was kind of like, “Here it is, deal with it, let’s move on.”

Speaker 7: (26:20)
And they told that to me. They told that Jeff Katz on the radio, so I don’t have any reason to believe that this is a different story they’re telling folks, but that would seem to me that’s not an appropriate way to handle things by basically telling a victim’s family, “Well, it’s already a done deal and we’re going to move on with this.”

Secretary Brian Moran: (26:40)
None of us other than those direct conversation were on that call. I will say Chair Bennett has served this Commonwealth. She really has been a terrific Chair. She’s very conscientious. So I don’t know what transpired on that call. I will say there were subsequent communications, both written and oral. So all of that was considered by the board.

Speaker 8: (27:10)
Thank you. We need to [inaudible 00:27:11] now.

Speaker 9: (27:11)
Yeah, I think you said testing is going to be critical for us moving forward. Since we are testing fewer, not more people, is there an update on when we might revise the state’s testing guidelines? I think he said on Wednesday that that was something you were talking about?

Ralph Northam: (27:25)
Who …? Yes.

Speaker 10: (27:29)

Ralph Northam: (27:29)
Thank you, Chair.

Speaker 10: (27:30)
Hi, there. The question is when we’ll be revising our testing criteria? So very soon. If not posted today, it will be posted on early next week, Monday, and highlights of that include items that have already been mentioned pertinent to the long term care facilities, including testing people about to enter a congregate setting, for example. And some other groups will also be incorporated into that new testing criteria and that should be posted pretty soon.

Dr. Carey: (28:05)
And I’ll just add one quick addition that the question was around the testing going down, not up. I think it was over 2,400 tests were posted yesterday to today. So again, our goal is not to quibble about is that level or staying slightly higher or lower. We want to get to significantly higher amounts in the thousands more per day to accomplish the missions that the governor has outlined.

Dr. Carey: (28:31)
So it’s exploring how to do that when there’s still, just like there’s a PPE shortage, getting new machines from manufacturers so that our academic centers can produce more labs per day. We’re scouring the country looking for that equipment and helping our institutions increase testing. We just haven’t been successful because of the national shortage, but we realize that we need to get significantly higher testing to accomplish the missions that the governor has indicated have to be done.

Speaker 9: (29:00)
Do you have an update on those surveys on private testing providers that you talked about earlier this week?

Dr. Carey: (29:08)
We can get you that information. Not off hand. Not in my notes today, but we can get you that.

Speaker 8: (29:15)
Next up is Sandy Hausman with WVTF Radio.

Sandy Hausman: (29:19)
Yes, Governor, I’d like you to answer this question if you can. I know our jails have been releasing prisoners, but I’d like to focus on state prisons, where we now have 87 inmates and staff infected. Knowing that people with certain chronic conditions are at high risk for death if they get COVID, have you considered conditional pardons for them?

Sandy Hausman: (29:39)
And we’re already hearing reports that state prisoners have been paroled but they are not being released because there’s no housing for them. So I’m wondering what you’re able to do about that.

Ralph Northam: (29:51)
Well, I know you asked me to address the question and I would be glad to, but I have someone that I think has more information than I do regarding that, so-

Sandy Hausman: (29:59)
But you’re the only one who can pardon. I want to hear from you.

Ralph Northam: (30:01)
So I’m going to let Secretary Moran address what we’ve done. And I will tell you that we have, I think, addressed a lot of these particular questions, one of which is our recidivism rate. Virginia is proud that for four years we have had the lowest recidivism rate in the country. And one of the reasons for that is because we do a lot of preparation before our inmates are released. And that includes making sure that they have a roof over their head, making sure that they have workforce training so that they can enter the workforce, making sure that they have access to adequate health care, and also making sure that they’re not a danger to society.

Ralph Northam: (30:50)
And so while the comments I hear that we should be letting more individuals out of our prisons, we have to take all of these things into consideration and we also need to make sure that we keep our society safe as well.

Ralph Northam: (31:06)
So Secretary Moran, anything in addition you’d like to add?

Secretary Brian Moran: (31:11)
Well, Governor, I think you answered appropriately. I will say you’ve also given yet another tool with respect to addressing this issue. And that is the budget language the Governor has proposed for the legislature approval next Wednesday, is to provide Department of Corrections the ability to review those with less than one year on their sentence.

Secretary Brian Moran: (31:38)
But in the question the reporter asked, those who have given conditional pardons, they don’t have any place to go. So what are you going to do about that? That really kind of reinforces the position we have taken that we’re not going to irresponsibly release people without a successful home plan, someplace to go.

Secretary Brian Moran: (31:58)
As we’ve stated before, the services have been disrupted, mental health, substance abuse, housing, as well as employment. So what was a reentry plan that would be developed and successful to produce the lowest in the nation recidivism rate no longer exists. But we’re using what tools we have, and that’s parole in a safe manner. So we’re addressing this very humanely, very responsibly, the Governor’s budget amendment as well as the conditional pardon. But a sweeping use of the Governor’s clemency power, well, I think there’s some legal challenges, but it would be very difficult to achieve in a responsible fashion.

Speaker 8: (32:46)

Speaker 7: (32:46)
Regarding PPE for the hospitals if they need it, I know you extended Executive Order 53 earlier this week. Is there any thought to extending, I believe it was public health emergency order to ending or stopping elective surgeries in order to maintain the staffing and PPE? And additionally, regarding you saying how working with Maryland, DC, and North Carolina opening in coordination, does that mean we’re, I guess, tethered to the state that is least prepared to start the reopen?

Ralph Northam: (33:20)
I’m not sure if I understand the second part of your-.

Speaker 8: (33:22)
Well, if North Carolina says, “We’re not quite ready to reopen on May 15th,” to pick a date, does that mean Virginia is going to have to wait until North Carolina says, “Okay, we’re ready,” as a region to move forward with phase one?

Ralph Northam: (33:34)
It’s a great question. So the second part of your question is coordinating with with other States, and if that’s addressing just businesses in general, we plan to as best we can to coordinate that.

Ralph Northam: (33:50)
I think another question that I’m not sure you were asking is what about the hospitals? And we are blessed to have very good hospitals in Virginia. Maryland is as well and is DC and North Carolina. And so one of the things that we talked about today is, as we lift those restrictions on elective surgeries, we want to be consistent because what we don’t want to happen is, if we do it sooner in one state than the other, then individuals will go to other states to have their surgery done. So you probably understand that concept. So we are going to try to coordinate that as as as best we can.

Ralph Northam: (34:28)
I think the first part of your question was regarding PPE and the the order through the commissioner of health to stop elective surgeries. And we are in constant communication with our hospital CEOs, our health care associations. And as soon as we can do it safely, as soon as we have the PPE that’s needed, the testing capabilities, we really want to get our hospitals open again. We’re not quite there but we’re getting closer every day.

Ralph Northam: (35:01)
And why is that important? Because when we talk about elective surgeries, things like prostate cancer, things like breast cancer that don’t need to be done emergently, but they need to be done as soon as we can. So we want to be able to move forward with that.

Ralph Northam: (35:21)
And the other thing, and this is a financial reality, while our hospitals are doing everything they can, and I really appreciate their cooperation, to prepare for that surge. Their census is actually down so that elective surgery is their bread and butter, if you will. That’s how they keep the lights on in their facilities. So the sooner that we can get them back up and running, the better for everybody. And we’ll do that just as soon as we can. And, again, there’s been great cooperation, and the Secretary of Health and I, we’re in almost daily communication with our hospital CEOs to be able to make that decision and to do it at a time when it’s safe.

Speaker 7: (35:59)
So extension or no?

Ralph Northam: (36:00)
We haven’t made any decision yet to extend the date.

Ralph Northam: (36:04)

Speaker 8: (36:05)
Next question will be from Peter Vieth with Virginia Lawyers Weekly.

Peter Vieth: (36:10)
Governor Northam, medical providers in Virginia have asked you for an executive order expanding the liability immunity of providers who treat patients during the disaster. I understand that Virginia trial lawyers are in agreement with the most recently submitted proposal. Do you see a need for additional liability protection for the health care community and do you plan to sign such an order?

Ralph Northam: (36:36)
I appreciate the question and I may follow up after Dr. Carey, but I’m going to let Dr. Carey address that. Thank you, Dan.

Dr. Carey: (36:44)
Sure thing, Governor. The question was really about the request by providers and with support from the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association for the governor to enact some particular order to give additional liability protection to the providers during the emergency.

Dr. Carey: (37:07)
And the important thing for us to remember is that, when the Governor declares an emergency, additional protections are put into place, and Virginia law provides that, except in cases of gross negligence or willful misconduct, a health care provider who responds during the disaster to the disaster by delivering health care is protected from liability in case of injury or wrongful death.

Dr. Carey: (37:35)
So there is significant protection at the time that the emergency order under current law. So providers have made requests to the Governor to explore additional protections, and those are being reviewed for the governor by counsel and they’re currently under advisement. But there is significant change during a time of emergency at baseline.

Speaker 11: (37:59)
Great. Yeah, I’m wondering, it’s on testing, where our testing criteria is at in terms of including health care workers [inaudible 00:38:10] other requirements and moving through the phases as we have discussed. And then also I know that now physicians are diagnosing people COVID who haven’t necessarily been tested. So how is that taken into account when we’re looking at that 14 day decline? Will only confirmed tests be included in that?

Ralph Northam: (38:32)
Did you want …?

Speaker 10: (38:36)
Hi. So I think I heard two questions. The first is around testing criteria and health care workers?

Speaker 11: (38:41)

Speaker 10: (38:42)
So health care workers have been part of our testing criteria for some time now and will continue to be. So I think that’s-

Speaker 11: (38:53)
So every health care worker [inaudible 00:38:53] be tested?

Speaker 10: (38:53)
Symptomatic health care workers, health care workers that are part of an outbreak situation or cluster setting, have been part of our testing criteria for some-

Speaker 10: (39:03)
… time now.

Speaker 13: (39:04)
Okay. And then in regards to the physician guidelines [crosstalk 00:39:07]

Speaker 10: (39:08)
Right, thanks for that question. And I think that came up last time earlier this week. So what I have learned since is that we continue to receive those reports on clinical diagnoses, and we’re very grateful to the providers that are reporting that information to us. And I think earlier this month as of April 5th, there was a national case definition established for what we would call, probable cases. And our team is retrospectively looking at data. So as of April 8th, I believe they are looking back to cases as of April 5th, which is the date that the definition was established. And so we will be including probable and confirmed cases. So those clinical diagnoses will be captured.

Ralph Northam: (40:03)
Thank you.

Speaker 14: (40:03)
And then we’re going to do one more from the phone, and then we have another…

Speaker 17: (40:03)
Next up is Max Thornberry with the Northern Virginia Daily.

Max Thornberry: (40:07)
Hi, governor. I’ve got a question about the post peak landscape in Virginia. We’re not sure how safe it’s going to be even after the peak until we have a vaccine. What steps are being taken to address medications that will help treat Coronavirus patients? Not necessarily cure them, but treat them to make it safer for people. And do we have any progress on tests to see who has already had the virus?

Ralph Northam: (40:38)
Two questions, let me answer the second one first. As far as testing that’s available to look and see if anybody has had the virus, and we look at antibody testing versus PCR testing. The antibody tests look at IgG, IgM to see if someone’s had it, how long, et cetera. That test is becoming more available each day, but we certainly don’t have it to a point where it’s accessible to the extent where we could follow trends in Virginia. So we haven’t gotten to that point yet. And the first part of the question, if you could just repeat that.

Max Thornberry: (41:21)
Yeah. I’m wondering if there is any progress on medications.

Ralph Northam: (41:26)
Thank you.

Max Thornberry: (41:26)
That will help to treat COVID-19 patients so that we would have something in an interim in between someone getting sick and being able to actually have a vaccine, which we know is still a year, a year and a half out.

Ralph Northam: (41:41)
Yes. The question is regarding medications that would treat the Coronavirus while we’re waiting for a vaccination that has been dated at maybe a year, a year and a half. There are clinical trials going on all around the country. Some of them are actually from our universities. VCU is doing clinical trials as is UVA, and there’ll be maybe some others that I’m not aware of. But to date, I haven’t heard any reports of a particular medication that is successful. But those trials are ongoing and we certainly are following those and would welcome any new medications that would be successful in treating this virus.

Speaker 15: (42:25)
Thank you, governor. As you may know, just yesterday, some Virginians we’re right outside your backyard if you will, protesting. When we talked to some of them, they were of the opinion that they would rather take their chances, die from COVID-19 rather than stay at home isolated and out of work. Could you respond to some of those folks? And then on sidebar, Wednesday we talked about your statement as far as we need to work together to fight this biological war. And I asked you if you had reached out to your Republican counterpart, and I meant within the state and I got a lot of calls and emails saying that they had reached out to you and had agreed to that David had three different emails saying that they had reached out to you and hadn’t heard back. They even had three different emails and dates that they had sent you, and I’m wondering why aren’t they hearing from you to work together.

Ralph Northam: (43:12)
Well, I continue to hear from my Republican colleagues and democratic colleagues. I take all of those suggestions, I appreciate their input, as I’ve said all along. If I haven’t been as good as I should in returning their calls or emails, I’ll take that responsibility. But it’s not that I’m ignoring what they’re saying. So we are taking input, looking at data from various sources and using that to make decisions on a day-to-day basis. And that’s what I’ll continue to do. And it’s about keeping Virginians as safe as I can. Your first part of your question was about the protesters, and I believe there were 50 or so protesters yesterday. And perhaps you said in your statement, and I didn’t hear their remarks, but they were defiant as far as not wanting to follow our guidelines.

Ralph Northam: (44:04)
And my only response to that would be is that they’re putting themselves at risk, but perhaps as importantly, they’re putting all of us at risk. They’re putting our healthcare providers… And I know they don’t have access to the hospitals, but turn the TV on and look at our heroes. Look at the men and women that are fighting this biological war every day. I’ve seen them pull their mask off. I’ve seen the pain and the agony they’re going through. I’ve seen and I’ve been in the trenches myself, the risks that they’re putting themselves and their families at. And I would just say that we all should be part of the solution. And so while we all have the right to protest, while we’re fighting this biological war, I would say, let’s join the team. Let’s do everything that we can to put this pandemic, put this health crisis in a rear view mirror so that we can get our economy back up and running and return to our normal lives again.

Speaker 14: (45:09)
Marie, last session.

Speaker 16: (45:10)
Governor, you mentioned some relaxed guidelines around criteria for doctors and nurses to practice here in the state. Are you looking at any certain kind of number for people who are going to help in our hospitals? And so do you have an expectation of how many and do you have an ultimate goal?

Ralph Northam: (45:31)
Sure. Great question. And as you know, I have requested through our volunteer medical Corps, 30,000 individuals where we are well over 15,000 and again, I commend all of those that have stepped up. As far as the number of individuals, for example, pulmonologists or a respiratory therapist or whoever that we would need to come in. We will keep a registry and in the event we need to increase our staff. Or for example, if there’s a surge or if some of our other staff is sick or can’t work, then that registry will be available. And again, that’s all through cooperation from our neighboring States. And we’ll certainly provide the same cooperation with them if that is needed.

Speaker 14: (46:22)
Thank you. [inaudible 00:46:23]

Ralph Northam: (46:22)
Yes. Well, thank you all again so much. And as I said at the beginning of my comments, it’s Friday and that’s a good thing. So I hope you all find a way to spend some time, be with your families, but most importantly, please be safe. Please continue to follow our guidelines, the social distancing, the washing of your hands, the wearing of facial protection when you’re out and about, if you have to leave for essential reasons. And we just really thank you. I thank you on behalf of Virginia, as I’ve always said, we live in the best state, in the best country in the world. And you’re doing a good job and I’m proud of you and we’re going to get through this together. So have a great weekend. Thank you. (silence).

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