May 15, 2020
Ralph Northam Virginia COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 15
Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a coronavirus press conference on May 15. Virginia is entering Phase 1 of reopening.
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Ralph Northam: (00:01)
The important thing for all of us to understand is that when we take out the antibody test, our trends remain the same. I’d like to show you what I mean. On this slide, you can see what our trends look like with all tests included, both the PCR and antibody test. The positivity rate with all tests is 13.4%. And on this slide, you’ll see what the trend looks like with only PCR test looking only at the PCR test, we have a 15% positivity rate statewide. As you can see the curves look very similar and we continue to see a downward trend in positive test. You also see that counting only PCR tests, our testing numbers are still going up. VDH is reporting, we’ll keep the PCR test and the serology test separate moving forward. Virginia state epidemiologists, Dr. Lilian Peake is here, if anyone has more questions during the question and answer period.
Ralph Northam: (01:19)
It’s important to understand that we are continuing to make significant progress on our testing. I’d like to show you a few examples. As you see on April the 21st, we had done testing at 58 sites three weeks later, as of may the 14th, we’ve had 215 public testing sites, and we have 52 more that are lined up. These testing sites range from hospitals to federally qualified health centers and free clinics to pharmacies and health departments. For example, we’re planning testing at 12 free clinics and 75 federally qualified health centers, which serve people who are uninsured or otherwise have limited access to healthcare. Hospital systems like George Mason are conducting testing at their clinics.
Ralph Northam: (02:20)
And our state lab is helping to support testing with collection kits. They’ve sent 500 to the health wagon in Wise to support testing in Southwest Virginia. The state lab has sent thousands of collection kits out to local health districts and community clinics to support point prevalence testing. Today phase one for much of Virginia begins. That means a slight easing of restrictions. Earlier this week, I approved a request from several jurisdictions in Northern Virginia to delay phase one because their case counts, hospitalizations and other measures were higher than in other areas of the state.
Ralph Northam: (03:09)
Yesterday, I granted a similar request from Richmond mayor, Levar Stoney and the Accomack County Board of Supervisors. Our primary concern throughout this situation has been public health. We also recognize that has major implications on everyone who is not working and for our state budget. We knew that, and yesterday we announced the first monthly revenue report in which we really see the impact of this situation is having on our economy. For April Virginia’s revenue collections were down 26%. That is about $700 million less than we would normally collect. Our prediction is that we’ll see about a one billion loss by the end of June. Last month, we worked with the general assembly to set aside new spending that we had planned for the next budget year. While we access the effects the pandemic is having on our finances, we’ll continue that work going forward. I’d like secretary of finance, Aubrey Layne, to briefly explain the revenue situation to you all. Aubrey we thank you for being here.
Aubrey Layne: (04:29)
Thank you, governor. As the governor mentioned, we did experience about a $700 million decrease in revenues for the month, but economic activity in the Commonwealth held up well, approximately 80% of our revenues come from payroll withholding, and that was up 4% for the month, meaning that we had quite a few businesses still operating and paying their employees. I think a lot of that has to do with the strength of the economy. You’ve heard the governor mentioned before we went into this, we also have a strong reliance on defense spending, those have remained open those shipyards. Certainly the federal government has remained open. We have a lot of employees of the federal government that are here. So while we have been impacted, we did not see a total shutdown of the economic activity again, with 60% of our revenues, ongoing revenues up about 4%.
Aubrey Layne: (05:25)
About 20% of our revenues come from sales taxes and they were even for the month, reflecting the move away from in store purchases now to online and that was strong again during the month. It also reflected a switch from food sales taxes being paid in restaurants to grocery stores as we saw quite a bit of activity at the large grocers, excuse me. And on top of that, I think it also reflects the fact that our ABC stores open as those sales were up substantially during the month relating to the general fund.
Aubrey Layne: (06:03)
So as you can see, even though economic activity was impacted by the coronavirus and the shutdown of businesses, also economic activity continues on in the Commonwealth. And I do expect that as the governor said to impact this the next couple of months or into the future. But again, our strong base is going into has helped mitigate this. Now where the loss came from for the month was for the governor’s decision to delay the tax filing payment for last year’s taxes from May 1st to June 1st, we would have normally received quite a bit of money in the end of April for payments due May 1st.
Aubrey Layne: (06:43)
And now they’ll come in at the end of May and if due June 1st and some in June. So we had approximately 260,000 individuals and companies pay us this year compared to 540,000 last year during the month. So we do expect to see this going forward, picking up in the month of May and in the month of June. Now that’s when we’ll know exactly where we stand, but the good news is, as the governor mentioned, we had projected to be down about a billion dollars for the quarter and it looks like we are trending right on that and we’ll see how that goes the next couple of months. And while that’s important is because I think it’s very prophetic that today is the first day that we begin phase one, because now we’ll see how the economy is going to respond as we open up.
Aubrey Layne: (07:33)
So between now and the end of June, we’ll have 45 to 60 days to see how that goes. We’ll see how the tax payments come in. And then by the time we need to reforecast our revenues, we’ll have some data points that we can use to give us a realistic view of going forward. You’ve heard the governor talk about before doing a reforecast, when all this uncertainty would make not a lot of sense. We’ll have some of that certainty as we go forward. And that’s when you’ll expect us to see the reforecast or revenues. Just a quick comment also, the governor asked me to talk about stimulus funds. As you know, I’ve mentioned before the Commonwealth has received over $6 billion in stimulus funds related to some four different relief acts and 61 or so different revenue streams. Of course, the one that gets the most publicity is the 3.1 billion and we received for the CARES Act.
Aubrey Layne: (08:29)
And so we’ve had some activity around that I’d like to share with you on may the 12th, we issued instructions to localities around the Commonwealth, that we would be distributing approximately $650 million to be used for direct costs related to the virus. They’re expected to be distributed here by the 1st of June, we’re waiting on the certifications to come back. And we’ve also already appropriated or obligated about $121 million under the purview of [BDEM 00:09:03] for the purchase of PP&E and included in that is also $42.3 million for testing.
Aubrey Layne: (09:11)
Now that doesn’t include testing the national guards done in some of our private labs. And of course this is going to be an ongoing expenditure, but we’ve already obligated about 121 million in that over and above that before we knew we were going to get stimulus funds, we had $58 million set aside and the general fund to cover these costs we’ll use stimulus funds to cover those. So altogether we’ve obligated about $878 million out of the 3.1 million that we’ve been given so far. And on Monday the 18th, we’ll be receiving other requests from all our agencies and we going through the process of how we’re going to allocate the rest of the money. So that’s an update of both where our revenues are, where we’re headed and the stimulus funds. Thank you.
Ralph Northam: (09:56)
[crosstalk 00:09:56] secretary, thank you. Thank you, secretary Layne. We continue to work on other areas of response to this pandemic. For example, as some businesses expand their operations under phase one, we know there will be employees who have concerns about how their workplace is following our guidelines. The health department and other state agencies regulate businesses, and they have the authority to investigate complaints and shut down a business that isn’t compliant. Workers who feel that their workplace is unsafe, can also report a complaint to the department of labor and industry. You’ve heard us talk about that before DLI is what we prefer to that as, and they will investigate and enforce worker protection rules. I also know that there are workers who are afraid to go back to work because of medical reasons. Every state is dealing with this issue because we are restricted by federal guidelines on unemployment. For example, I spoke last week with our congressional delegation and ask them to help me push for the flexibility that we need here in Virginia.
Ralph Northam: (11:13)
In the meantime, we are strictly enforcing the workforce safety guidelines. I’ve also directed our chief workforce advisor, Dr. Megan Healy, to provide relief through the unemployment adjudication process. If you can show that your workplace is not being safe, let’s see how we can work with you to make sure that you get the support that you need and that you deserve. I want to wrap up with a reminder that many localities have local elections next Tuesday may the 19th. I have strongly encouraged Virginians to vote absentee by mailing in their ballots. And I encourage everybody between now and May the 19th to please do so if you have an absentee ballot. As we move forward in phase one, I want to again remind Virginians that easing restrictions does not mean we can behave as we used to. Everyone still needs to stay home as much as possible.
Ralph Northam: (12:18)
As you know, we’ve gone from a stay at home to a safer at home. You still need to wash your hands and stay physically apart from others, large gatherings of more than 10 people are still not a good idea. And I strongly encourage everyone to wear face coverings in public to protect themselves and to protect other people. This virus is still very much with us and no one should let their guard down. Now I’ll ask Virginia’s health commissioner, Dr. Norm Oliver to speak and then we’ll be glad to take your questions, Dr. Oliver, thank you.
Dr. Norm Oliver: (12:57)
Thank you, governor. The Virginia Department of-
Dr. Norm Oliver: (13:03)
… Health’s mission is to protect the health and wellbeing of all Virginians. Given the health inequities experienced by communities of color, rural populations, and other marginalized and vulnerable people, we do this work in such a way as to reduce and hopefully eliminate such health inequities. As we go forward with our move into phase one and ramping up of our contact tracing or identification of people who might’ve been exposed to COVID-19, this will be very much the lens through which we will do this work.
Dr. Norm Oliver: (13:44)
We now have about 4,000 applications for our contact tracers. We’re in conversation with our local health department district directors to determine and finalize the distribution of the contact tracers and other staff, based on the case counts in their districts and the district’s own needs, in terms of what they have in existing staff, as well as the populations that they serve. So, for example, needing Spanish-speaking contact tracers or people who can speak Haitian Creole or other needs. We’re also finalizing the onboarding plan for the thousand or so contact tracers that we’re hiring, in terms of training, background, investigations, and so on.
Dr. Norm Oliver: (14:33)
As to our numbers, the total cases now stand at 28,672. New cases reported in the last period are 859. Total deaths are 977, and that represents 22 new deaths in the last reporting period. Cases among African Americans is 4,586 or about 23% of the cases. Deaths in the African American population, 207, which is about 24%. For Latinx community, cases were 8,466. That’s 44% of the cases. And, the deaths in that community, 76, or about 10% of the cases.
Dr. Norm Oliver: (15:26)
I’ll stop there and leave some time for questions. Thank you, Governor.
Ralph Northam: (15:30)
Yeah. Governor, you were here on Monday when your chief of staff defended the practice of co-reporting test results at length. I’m wondering why you didn’t say something about your concerns then, and when you found out that the practice was going on, and relate it to this. At this point, we’ve seen a number of dating reporting problems from VDH, from co-reporting this data, to changes in methodology, to even one error that made it look like a child had died. So, I’m wondering, have you thought that the data reporting from your department has been satisfactory, or would you like to have seen it done better?
Ralph Northam: (16:10)
Your question is regarding the collection of data in Virginia. We had a press conference on Monday. We talked about the number of tests that we had done on that day. I became aware on Monday that the two tests, as I explained earlier in my comments, were aggregated, that we were using those together. They’re both tests that we use today. The antibody test, which is not as accurate … The specificity and sensitivity of the test continues to be improved on. The FDA hasn’t approved a lot of those tests. But, as we move forward to see if someone has had the virus in the past, it’ll actually be very important.
Ralph Northam: (16:53)
As far as the reporting and looking at the positivity rate, I became aware of that on Monday. I took issue with the way it was being reported. I went to the VDH and said that I think these need to be disaggregated. That was done. I take ownership of that, and that’s what leaders do.
And then, otherwise, do you think that the data reporting has been satisfactory by the department?
Ralph Northam: (17:23)
We’re making improvements every day, Kate. I’m proud of my team. We’ve been in this pandemic for two months. We’re working around the clock, and we will continue to do everything that we can to keep Virginians safe.
Speaker 2: (17:36)
On the phone … [inaudible 00:17:37] WVTF radio.
Yes. Thank you, Governor. My question is for Secretary Moran. We have had 210 people infected with COVID at the Dillwyn Correctional Center. I’m wondering what went wrong there, whether prison administrators there and throughout the system have been told to communicate truthfully with inmates about the outbreak, and how long you’re prepared to keep inmates locked down.
Brian Moran: (18:09)
The question has to do with one of our many correctional facilities, in particular, Dillwyn. I would respond to the question … The reason we know there are so many positive cases at Dillwyn … I believe reporting is 241. I’d have to verify that, but I’ll take your word for it.
Brian Moran: (18:26)
210 … is because we’ve conducted point prevalence testing. As I mentioned Wednesday, we are so pleased we’re able to do point prevalence testing at as many facilities as possible. We’ve done Deerfield, Buckingham, Dillwyn … The list goes on. We actually have several scheduled again next week. I think Haynesville and Green Rock and others … So, that is just extremely important for DOC to have that information so that they can take the necessary steps, in addition to what they’re already doing to ensure quarantine.
Brian Moran: (19:05)
And, Sandy, since you’ve asked about the Department of Corrections, I want to highlight the fact that a lawsuit that was filed against us for cruel and unusual punishment has been dismissed, and the settlement agreement, I’m very pleased with. In fact, it essentially memorializes much of what DOC is already doing to ensure the health and safety of their staff and all 30, 000 inmates that they have custody of … all the hygiene, the soap, the personal protective equipment they’re distributing.
Brian Moran: (19:39)
They’ve gone to extraordinary steps, following CDC guidelines, and the court agreed. Frankly, the only thing we’ve taken from the court settlement that we had not been doing was to release the number of inmates released on a daily basis. In front of that, it’d been a topic of much discussion. We were anxious to provide you all more information because I think DOC’s doing a phenomenal job with their early release program. And so, that number now is reflected on the website, the daily release numbers.
Brian Moran: (20:11)
So, thank you for the question, and thank you-
Well, you haven’t answered any of my questions. What went wrong at Dillwyn? Have administrators been told to communicate with inmates truthfully? And, how long are you prepared to keep inmates locked down?
Brian Moran: (20:27)
The reporter asked a question that, apparently, she takes issue with some of my responses. I would suggest to you nothing went wrong at Dillwyn. DOC is following CDC guidelines as the court actually has confirmed. They’ll continue to follow those guidelines rigidly, to ensure the safety of their inmates. The lockdown, which you reference in the question … A lockdown just means you keep units separated so that there is no intermingling of units. That provides DOC officials the opportunity to keep them separate and diminish the opportunity to spread the virus. So, we’ll continue to do what’s in the best interest of all of our correctional officers and those that are in our custody.
Governor, you said you don’t want a piecemeal of restrictions from county to county and place to place. Also, as we said many times, we’re dealing with a virus that knows no boundaries here. So, from a public health perspective, how effective really is it to have one county on the Eastern Shore, as well as Richmond, staying closed when the surrounding areas are not? And, what do you say to people who say that a regional embrace should’ve been embraced sooner?
Ralph Northam: (21:40)
The question is about the regional approach, why some localities have been allowed to delay entering phase one. And, I think you’ve already heard northern Virginia, the Eastern Shore, Accomack County, which has a unique situation with the chicken processing plants, as well as a couple nursing homes, and then here in Richmond.
Ralph Northam: (22:04)
Jackie, I would answer your question just a step back a bit. I have said all along that this is a fluid situation. It changes literally by the hour. I would just offer you a comment as a doctor. Things change. A diagnosis might be made one day. The patient may come in a day or a week later. Things have changed, and we have to reassess. We have to reevaluate, and we change our diagnosis, and we change our plans. That’s the way we move forward.
Ralph Northam: (22:35)
As we have looked at the data, as we have entered phase one, there are obviously several areas, several regions in Virginia, that numbers are not as promising as other parts of the state. And so, at their request, as you heard on Wednesday, we had the leadership from northern Virginia. They submitted a letter asking for permission to delay entering phase one. We had the same from the mayor, Mayor Stoney, from Richmond yesterday, and also from the board of supervisors on the Eastern Shore.
Ralph Northam: (23:10)
So, I listened. They’re local leaders. They know that area better than, certainly, anybody else, and I granted their request.
Speaker 2: (23:19)
[inaudible 00:23:19] from Greg Hambrick with Inside Nova.
Greg Hambrick: (23:26)
Governor, really bouncing off that idea of the local leaders knowing best, three supervisors in western Loudoun County have sent a letter to your office earlier this week, asking to be treated separately from the eastern portions of the county that are more suburban and urban, as opposed to their rural area in western Loudoun County. Can you speak to whether your office is interested in helping these rural parts of these counties?
Ralph Northam: (23:59)
The question is, the western part of Loudoun County asked permission for their portion of the county to be able to enter phase one with the rest of Loudoun County now. I’ve also had requests from the Eastern Shore, where we established that the county would delay, whether towns … And, if you think through this, we want to be as straightforward and as consistent as we can. But, if you do something that carves up counties or pick certain towns and not … I mean, it would just get totally out of hand.
Ralph Northam: (24:38)
While I’m sure the decisions that I make are difficult for some individuals to understand, we have tried to be consistent. We’ve tried to be fair. Most importantly, we’ve concentrated on public safety. At the end of the day, we want Virginians to be safe, as well as their families. So, that’s the decision that we made.
Ralph Northam: (25:01)
We anticipate that our numbers will continue to improve, especially if we continue to follow the guidelines so that at the appropriate time, northern Virginia, the county of Accomack, and the city of Richmond can enter phase one. We also anticipate that if we continue to make progress, that we’ll be able to move from phase one to phase two and then to phase three. So, we’re taking this in a step-wise fashion. We’re doing it with safety, and we’re doing it with responsibility.
Speaker 3: (25:36)
This isn’t a question, but I would just say that our story on antibody tests was in the Sunday paper. My question is actually also about the regional approach. Richmond requested data that was first published on the VDH website today, to make the decision about whether to reopen. I just wonder, do you think that there are localities that maybe, now that they’re seeing the data, could’ve also reasonably requested an extension? And, for people who are in those localities that are moving up …
Speaker 3: (26:03)
And for people who are in those localities that are moving on to phase one, can they feel confident with the data that was just shared today that their locality would have also gone into phase one?
Ralph Northam: (26:12)
No, I would say that we’re certainly open to discussion. We have been as transparent as we can with the data. We’ve also had, I mean, I can’t tell you how many video conferences and phone calls I’ve had with leadership from VML and VACO and our mayors and our state senators and delegates as well as our federal leaders. So we’ve had an ongoing discussion. If there are areas, as we move forward, that don’t feel comfortable with the trends that they’re seeing, then we’re open minded and willing to have those discussions.
Ralph Northam: (26:50)
I will tell you, and I think you’ve done a good job with the data and statistics, one of the challenges, Mel, so I would say kind of to be a little bit cautious is that when you’re looking at the aggregate of Virginia and looking at the positivity rates, those trends, they’re much more accurate when you look at the entire state together because you’ve got larger numbers. And so if you go into a locality, just pick one, and you’re just picking out that data from the entire set, it makes it a little bit more challenging. But again, I understand that. Our epidemiologists understand it. And I can just tell you that we have been in almost constant communication with individuals, leaders across Virginia, and we will continue to be to work and get through this together.
Speaker 3: (27:44)
Okay. And with the data, how did you make the decision about Richmond, in particular? If you could just elaborate on that a little bit more.
Ralph Northam: (27:52)
Well, we talked to our epidemiologists, we talked to our folks at the Virginia Department of Health, we talked to Mayor Levar Stoney, and putting all of that information together. And at their request yesterday, we made the decision to grant their request for delay of two weeks.
Speaker 5: (28:13)
The next question is from Bill Atkinson at the Progress-Index.
Bill Atkinson: (28:18)
Thank you. Good afternoon. This question is for both the Governor and Dr. Oliver. Dr. Oliver, have you made your decision yet about Petersburg’s request to withdraw the water reconnection certification? And can you comment on your discussions with the city earlier this week? And Governor, the city maintains it’s being singled out by the state over something that they were working on internally. They claim the whole involvement by the state in the water issue is a political ploy instigated by Delegate Aird based on a complaint by one constituent that she took and quote “ran to the governor’s office with it,” unquote, without properly vetting the issue. Do you care to comment on the state’s response and Petersburg’s reactions?
Ralph Northam: (28:57)
Yes. I didn’t hear all of your words in the second part of the question. Hopefully Dr. Oliver heard on the first part. But I think your question was whether someone filed a complaint to my office and that we reacted to that without being vetted. That’s not the way that the process occurred. Actually, one of the delegates who represents that area notified me that there were individuals, there were households, in the city of Petersburg that were without running water. And my knee jerk response without vetting or anything else was to say that we are in a pandemic, we are encouraging people to maintain good hygiene, to wash their hands frequently. And so one way or the other, we have to come together as a society with local leaders and make sure that everybody has access to running water. And so that decision was very easy for me to make. I talked to our Commissioner of Health, Dr. Oliver, and he took the next step and made sure that people in Petersburg had running water.
Dr. Norm Oliver: (30:11)
The question addressed to me was whether or not I had made a decision about the city of Petersburg’s request to rescind the certification I issued mandating that they turn on the water connections for a number of homes in the city. I had a opportunity to have a discussion with the administration, the Mayor, City Manager of Petersburg. We had a good conversation in which they outlined a number of steps they had taken to turn on water connections. We talked about a possible path forward. We’re working on that. I haven’t yet made a decision on that, but I hope to do so very shortly.
Speaker 6: (30:56)
The Sheriff of Culpeper County has said that he will not enforce the rules that you set for the businesses that are being allowed to reopen like face masks for wait staff, things like that. What’s your response to that? And then just more broadly, what role do you see for law enforcement in the enforcement of that order? Because I did see that there’s a misdemeanor penalty potential there.
Ralph Northam: (31:23)
Yes. The question is if law enforcement agents choose not to enforce our laws, I would just say I don’t think that’s a good idea and we’ll deal with that.
Speaker 6: (31:33)
Do you think it’s important? Do you see a role for law enforcement in the enforcement of this? Is that going to be an important part of phase one?
Ralph Northam: (31:42)
Speaker 5: (31:45)
Next up is David McGee with the Bristol Herald Courier.
David McGee: (31:50)
Yes. Thank you, Governor. I wanted to ask about the election. What guidance, if any, has the state given to local registrars to minimize exposure to voters and poll workers on Tuesday?
Ralph Northam: (32:02)
So I appreciate the question. I appreciate all your questions. So I hope you realize that. The question was what are we doing to protect our poll workers at our polling places on Tuesday? First of all, I have encouraged Virginians that can to vote absentee. Regarding the poll workers, we have used our Volunteer Medical Corps to have people, as well as our National Guard to have people staff our polling places that are younger, that have less risk factors for if they contract the virus. So also making sure that they have the PPE, the personal protective equipment, at the polling places. So we’re taking all measures that we can, social distancing, cleanliness, cleaning the machines. All of these types of things have been taken into account.
Ralph Northam: (33:01)
And we have done everything that we can to make voting as safe as it can be. As I’ve said before, someone shouldn’t have to choose between their health and voting. This was a reason that I suggested and recommended that the May election be moved to November. The House of Delegates agreed and supported that, the Senate didn’t. So here we are. I have, as Governor, been able to postpone that election, which was initially on May 5th, for two weeks. That’s the authority that I have, but I can’t postpone it any longer than that. But in addition to that, we’ve done everything that we can to make it safe. So I appreciate people abiding by our guidelines and I also appreciate people voting. That’s what makes our democracy strong.
Speaker 5: (33:53)
On the Richmond exemptions, should people [inaudible 00:33:59]? Are you worried this is going to cause some confusion over the next two weeks or so?
Ralph Northam: (34:04)
The question is should people not leave the city and not come into the city? I don’t think anything, as far as staying in phase zero, has changed. Obviously, it’s still stay at home. It’s not safer at home in Richmond. But aside from that, life will go on. If someone has to leave for an essential purpose, they will be allowed to do that. So I appreciate your question. If there’s confusion, hopefully that will be kept to a minimum. I think most people know where the boundaries are of the city of Richmond, but I just encouraged whether people are leaving, coming, whatever they’re doing, to maintain the guidelines that we have proposed, the social distancing, the hand washing. And please encourage everybody to wear protective face equipment.
Speaker 5: (34:56)
Next is Roberto Roldan with VPM.
Roberto Roldan: (35:02)
Yes. Governor, you letter to Virginia’s Congressional Delegation offering to test all immigrant detainees at Caroline and Farmville detention centers. You say in the letter that this requires permission from the federal government. While these are federal detainees, these are still local and regional jails. So my question is why do you need permission from the federal government to do this testing? And do you not have the same authority over these facilities as other local and regional jails?
Ralph Northam: (35:30)
Yeah. The question is the state’s authority to go into a federal facility. And I’m going to let Secretary Moran address that.
Secretary Moran: (35:40)
Thank you, Governor. The reporter asserts that these are local and regional jails holding these immigrants pursuant to ICE detainers. Fact is they are not state or regional jails, they are not controlled by state or regional jail. Therefore, they’re not a state facility or even a local facility. They are operated by the federal government, ICE. So we do not have the authority to do what the Governor has asked the Congressional Delegation to do. And that’s why he’s asked them to intervene on their behalf.
Ralph Northam: (36:13)
And thank you, Brian. And just to follow up, we do need federal permission to go into those facilities, but we have volunteered our services and our supplies because we feel strongly that these individuals and their staff should be tested. So from the state perspective, we’re willing to do that.
Speaker 7: (36:32)
Governor, back to the Richmond decision and the more local data, the percent positivity. I know it’s showing the health district right now, but Richmond said they had made their request yesterday because they’ve requested that local breakdown. Were they the only locality that got that percent positivity breakdown prior to the start of phase one? If so, why was this not, I guess, provided to all localities so they could see, leading into phase one, if they could have made that request?
Ralph Northam: (37:00)
Sure. I’ll let Dr. Carey address that. Thanks, Dan.
Dr. Dan Carey: (37:03)
Thank you, Governor. The question is as the city of Richmond had asked for that data, did other localities also not have access to that data? The facts are that that was a part of the website that’s being constantly improved and updated. And that functionality, the ability to look at those data sets, whether it be positivity, the number of tests by day, you could go to the, for example, the zip code data was an improvement. And each week, we’re looking to improve the diversity and granularity of data. And that was, this week was our moving to have that data available on a locality and health district basis, which you see now functional today. And that was part of our improvement. Dr. Peake and the data team have been designing that to, again, add functionality.
Dr. Dan Carey: (38:07)
This is not a stagnant environment. This is a truly a novel condition. The metrics are principled, but also we’re developing those around the country to find out how we best measure this. And we fell on those measures. And it was important to have those first on the state level and then to make them available by localities. So it turned out that they asked us for that. So in the midst of constructing the entire site to allow that available for everyone, we said, “Hey, please, the city of Richmond really wants that data. Let’s construct it as quickly as we can with the individual datasets while the entire tool was not yet finished.” And that was finished between Wednesday and yesterday. And now you see it in full functionality. So it really had to do with the question that was asked, when it was asked, and-
Dr. Dan Carey: (39:03)
… our desire to provide the information for that locality, as accurately as we possibly could. And they were the only locality that made that request. And that today, that information is available.
And just to clarify governor, you had said that a locality now sees what their local percent positivity is, and they’re like, “We don’t like the way it’s going.” You might consider talking with them about going back into phase zero.
Ralph Northam: (39:30)
We’re certainly open to that discussion. To date I haven’t had anybody that says they’d like to go back into phase zero. But we’re to be determined.
Can I get a second question for my friends at TKR?
Ralph Northam: (39:43)
Thank you for Brendan Ponton. Apparently Virginia Beach had given an indication that there might be changes to beach restrictions, especially with Memorial day, is that … Any truth to that? Or is that going to be staying at the fitness and fishing only exemptions?
Ralph Northam: (39:59)
The question is, what about our beaches? And we are actively having discussions with the localities. I was on a video conference a couple of hours ago with the city of Virginia Beach and their leaders. We’ve also been in touch with the leaders in Norfolk, for example, they have significant number of beaches, Hampton, the Eastern shore, and other areas where there are smaller beaches. And so, Virginia Beach with our secretary of natural resources and their staff, are working on a very comprehensive plan for Virginia Beach.
Ralph Northam: (40:35)
We’ll continue to work on that through the weekend, it’s been very collaborative, and I’m prepared to make an announcement probably on Monday regarding our beaches around the Commonwealth of Virginia. And in anticipation to your question of Memorial Day weekend. Cam, the most important thing and why I’m so proud of the city of Virginia Beach, and the approach that they’re taking is, to do it safely. And that’s what all of us agree on. We understand it’s Memorial weekend, we understand what’s going on with our economy in Virginia, but the top priority for all of us, is to do it safely, and to make sure that the beach goers will feel comfortable coming back to our beaches.
Speaker 9: (41:35)
[ inaudible 00:00:41:26].
Speaker 10: (41:36)
Alan Suderman with the Associated Press.
Alan Suderman: (41:36)
Good afternoon. Governor if a county that has zero cases formerly requested to go into phase two for other parts of the state, would you allow that? And if not, why not?
Ralph Northam: (41:50)
Alan, thank you for the question. The question was, if counties that have zero cases desire to go into phase two earlier than others, we’ll certainly … I’m open for that discussion, but I haven’t made any decisions in that regard yet.
Speaker 9: (42:08)
Yeah, [inaudible 00:42:04].
Governor, as you may know, the Legislative Black Caucus met this week and they’re quite opposed to moving into phase one. They made the statement that, “We do not want Virginians outside of Northern Virginia, to be economic guinea pigs.” They’re concerned about restrictions on churches, childcare, worker safety, black businesses, testing data for ethnic and racial groups that are still not fully in, and minority unemployment. You’ve proudly talked about your work with your equity and inclusion diversity taskforce, but they have these concerns. So where’s the disconnect? And what would you say to this legislative black body?
Ralph Northam: (42:49)
Yeah the question was from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, a letter that I received, I believe it was on Wednesday actually. It was just right after this press conference and addressing the concerns that you just raised. And first of all, I’d say Andre, I have a great relationship with the Black Caucus, and I really do appreciate their input, and I listen to their input. And they raised a number of concerns, and I’ll just address a couple of those. But, the first was the PPE. Do we have enough PPE and in communities of color to make sure that people were safe?
Ralph Northam: (43:24)
And we have a health equity task force led by Dr. Janice Underwood, and we have actually been out in the community, Harrisonburg, here in Richmond, with a lot of volunteers handing out PPE. So that continues to improve on a daily basis. Testing was also something that was very important to the Black Caucus. And just as we’ve done with the PPE, we have ramped up our abilities to test, we are going out into communities. There have been several communities that we’ve tested right here in Richmond. We’ll continue to expand that through Virginia as we move forward. So, that’s improving on a daily basis. Another issue, which is very important to, especially my wife and also me, is childcare. And, wanting to make sure that when our workers return to their place of business, that their children have a place that’s safe and affordable. We have worked very hard as you know, on early childhood education, and also on childcare throughout Virginia. And part of the Cares Act is $68 million that we’re putting toward childcare to make sure that these families have somewhere safe for their children to be. So, yes, I take their input, and their concerns very seriously.
Ralph Northam: (44:51)
I also will say that, I follow the data, and work on these areas of inequities as we move forward, and I’ll continue to work with the Black Caucus and work throughout Virginia, to make sure that that people are safe, that they feel safe, and that they can continue with their lives. And one last thing I will mention to Andre that’s part of that, and was addressed in their letters is, what about the workers that are on the front lines that may not feel comfortable going back? And I addressed that earlier in my comments, but that’s an important issue.
Ralph Northam: (45:25)
And certainly if they’re individuals that have health issues, or have someone else that lives in their house that have health issues and they don’t feel comfortable, we have the means, we’re working with our chief workforce officer to work through some of those challenges. So I appreciated the letter, their correspondence, and I think we’re working together to address a lot of those challenges.
Speaker 9: (45:50)
Do they not know about your taskforce, the equity taskforce?
Ralph Northam: (45:55)
I can’t speak for them Andre but, if they’re listening today, we have a health equity task force that’s doing wonderful work across the Commonwealth, and would encourage them to be part of that, a part of our efforts as we move forward. So thank you for the question, and thanks to all of you for listening today. As we have said, today is a big step for us moving into phase one. And I just wanted to remind all of you, in order to continue in phase one, and then hopefully get into phase two, and then phase three, and then finally put this healthcare issue behind us, we’re all in this together.
Ralph Northam: (46:39)
We all have a responsibility and we need to continue to do the things that we’ve been doing all along. The social and physical distancing, the hand washing, the wearing of facial protection. If we all work together, we can head in a great direction. And I think if you look at some of these curves, you see that the number of cases are trending down. Our hospital capacity is in a good place. The amount of PPE, the amount of testing, all of these things are headed in a good direction but, we have to be vigilant, and we have to keep working together to make sure that we continue to work in a positive direction.
Ralph Northam: (47:18)
Because to Cam’s question earlier, the last thing that we need, the last thing we need as a health issue, the last thing that we needed as an economic issue, is to have to go back to where we’ve been. So let’s work together, and let’s not let that happen. So, have a good weekend, and we will look forward to being with you on Monday. Thank you.
Ralph Northam: (47:37)