May 20, 2020

Ralph Northam Virginia COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 20

Ralph Northam Press Conference
RevBlogTranscriptsCOVID-19 Briefing & Press Conference TranscriptsRalph Northam Virginia COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 20

Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a coronavirus press conference on May 20. Northam said Virginia hit the 10,000 test mark today.


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Ralph Northam: (00:03)
Good afternoon. And I hope everybody is having a good Wednesday. First, I want to note that today’s briefing is being interpreted in the Spanish language on the Virginia Department of Emergency Management’s Facebook live stream. That started Monday, and we’ll keep that up, moving forward.

Ralph Northam: (00:22)
Secondly, our testing numbers yesterday were good. We had 9782 PCR tests and 426 antibody tests, bringing our total to over 10,000. While we’re not showing slides today, our percent positivity continues to trend downward, and you can see that data on the Department of Health website.

Ralph Northam: (00:50)
I want to make sure people understand there are a few different ways that one can get tested. One is to go to your provider or your local clinic. Another is the community testing events that the Department of Health has organized in targeted locations around the Commonwealth. While people who have symptoms are a priority, everyone is welcome at testing events, as long as there are tests available. With testing comes contact tracing. We have committed 58 million dollars of the federal dollars we’ve received through the Cares Act, to ramp up our contact tracing program. VDH is working to hire 200 new communicable disease investigators and 1000 contact tracers.

Ralph Northam: (01:44)
Now I’d like to turn to PPE. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have worked to build up the supply of PPE in Virginia. We are now at a place where our hospitals have an adequate supply. Our Virginia Emergency Support Team, we also call that VEST, unified command has been responsible for acquiring, tracking, and distributing PPE to users across the Commonwealth.

Ralph Northam: (02:14)
I just want to go over a couple of figures. As you know, we’ve been at this for a couple months, and we started with little to no supplies. So far, we have distributed 793,675 N95 masks, more than 1.3 million surgical masks, more than three million gloves, 285,031 gowns, 427,425 face shields, and 24,359 containers of hand sanitizer.

Ralph Northam: (02:59)
I want to explain how this public PPE is distributed. First, the priority for the public PPE stockpile is to support the state COVID response and testing. We have established a robust reporting and distribution network. Our local health departments coordinate PPE needs and reporting from community providers, such as urgent care facilities, freestanding clinics, federally qualified health centers and free clinics, hospice, and more. Our regional health care correlations coordinate closely with our acute care facilities, dialysis centers, and skilled nursing facilities. Our direction has been that healthcare providers should exhaust their private supply chains before requesting state assistance. But at the same time, we have been clear that no one treating COVID patients or supporting COVID-related activities like testing will go without PPE. So if a clinic are a nursing home or another provider needs help, we want to provide that help, but we also need them to use the private supply chain first.

Ralph Northam: (04:17)
There are several resources for that, and I want to highlight a few today to make sure that everyone knows about them. The Department of General Services, DGS, has established a rapid review process for vendors selling COVID-19 related supplies and services and maintains a list at I’m going to repeat that Virginia has also worked with Amazon to make sure that organizations on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, including health clinics, doctor’s offices, hospitals, and other providers, can get priority to purchase PPE. Additionally, FEMA is shipping some PPE directly to nursing homes. Each skilled nursing facility will receive two shipments from FEMA, each with a week’s worth of PPE. Again, I want to reiterate that if healthcare providers working to fight the COVID-19 pandemic need PPE, we will make sure they have it. They just need to please let us know.

Ralph Northam: (05:35)
Now I want to talk a bit about healthcare. Since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, there have been efforts to undermine it, but millions of Americans and thousands of Virginians have access to healthcare because of that law. Since the beginning of this administration, we have worked tirelessly to expand access to quality and affordable healthcare for Virginians. That is especially critical now, during this pandemic, when access to care is so vital. One of my top priorities, even before I took office, was to expand Medicaid eligibility. And we did just that. Since we expanded Medicaid access at the start of 2019, more than 421,000 Virginians… I want to repeat that. 421,000 Virginians have enrolled in coverage, and they now have access to healthcare that they didn’t have before that. And it is clear that there was a great need.

Ralph Northam: (06:48)
Medicaid expansion has allowed these individuals and families to access critical services, to treat medical conditions. That includes the underlying conditions that contribute to making COVID-19 so fatal. Since Virginia expanded Medicaid, more than 60,000 people have received treatment for high blood pressure, more than 33,000 were treated for diabetes, 14,000 for asthma, and nearly 10,000 treated for COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Access to affordable health treatment is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is amplifying economic, health, and social disparities. We should all be grateful for this expanded coverage, so that in this pandemic, those thousands of Virginians have access to the care that can keep them healthy. In fact, since we declared a state of emergency for Virginia in March of this year, almost 30,000 adult Virginians have enrolled in Medicaid through the expansion, and an additional 23,000 children have been enrolled in Medicaid. I’m glad that they have access to care, but I know we need to keep working to ensure all Virginians have that access.

Ralph Northam: (08:22)
That’s why I’m convening a new work group to continue identifying ways we can reduce cost and improve the quality of healthcare coverage for all Virginians, regardless of how they get health insurance. This group will build off the work of the market stability work group I established last year. That group made recommendations that we worked on this past session, including creation of a state-based health insurance exchange and establishing a reinsurance program in Virginia. Both are proven strategies to reduce your premiums.

Ralph Northam: (09:04)
Additionally, I wanted to commend the general assembly for working with our administration to ban balance billing in the Commonwealth. Now balance billing is when you see a provider who may not be in your insurance network, and you get a bill that has a lot higher than you expect it. That has been stopped in Virginia.

Ralph Northam: (09:29)
The pandemic highlights just how important it is for every Virginian to have access to care. Accordingly, I have vetoed three bills, Senate bills 235 and 861 and House bill 735. Those bills would address health insurance cost concerns for targeted segments of the population, but in doing so, would increase the cost of insurance for sicker Virginians in the marketplace. I appreciate the work of proponents of these bills and hope they will engage with the new work group to find more broad-based healthcare solutions for all Virginians.

Ralph Northam: (10:13)
Our department of medical assistance services has just received approval of an emergency waiver that will support streamlined access to care in Virginia. I also want to note that Medicaid members have access to addiction and recovery treatment services. This is a difficult time for all of us, but people who are in recovery from substance use disorder face particular challenges. We’ve heard from localities around the Commonwealth, that they’re seeing an increase in the number of drug overdoses in our communities.

Ralph Northam: (10:51)
In Roanoke County, for example, dispatchers have responded to twice as many fatal overdoses in the first five months of this year than they did in all of 2019. The Northern Shenandoah region has also seen a substantial increase in overdoses, both fatal and nonfatal, when compared to the same time last year.

Ralph Northam: (11:17)
As a physician, these reports are very, very concerning to me. While we fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot lose sight of ongoing public health emergencies, like the opioid and addiction epidemics. My executive leadership team on opioids and addiction continues their work, making sure people can get access to medication assisted treatment and to support harm reduction sites. In recent years, Medicaid has seen an increase in the number of health providers who can prescribe buprenorphine… This is going to be a hard one for you. Buprenorphine. Good job, which is frequently used-

Ralph Northam: (12:03)
… medication for Opioid Use Disorder. And that means access to medication-assisted treatment is more available for people seeking recovery during this health emergency. Anyone who needs treatment or emergency care should seek it. Our behavioral health resources continue to be available. There are services online, for example. Our Community Services Boards have moved some treatment services to telehealth. DMAS has new policies to encourage telehealth for Medicaid members, and that is helping increase access to treatment.

Ralph Northam: (12:42)
Additionally, there are recovery groups that are holding meetings by video or phone call. The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services website has a list of virtual recovery groups.

Ralph Northam: (12:57)
Yesterday, we held our first elections in the Commonwealth since the pandemic hit with elections for local offices. I am pleased to report that these elections went smoothly. I want to commend and thank our Secretary of Administration, Keyanna Conner for her leadership, as well as her staff and the Board of Elections.

Ralph Northam: (13:19)
They were well run, and we had many volunteers. We put precautionary and protective measures into place to ensure sanitation and social distancing for those who voted in person. Most Virginians listened to my message urging them to vote absentee by mail. In the May 2016 elections, just four years ago, we had fewer than 1700 absentee ballots. For yesterday’s elections, more than 55,000 voters returned absentee ballots across our Commonwealth. I’m proud of our elections workers and volunteers for conducting this election as safely as possible.

Ralph Northam: (14:05)
And I want to thank Virginians for using the absentee by mail process as an additional safeguard. We have primary elections coming up on June the 23rd. The Department of Elections has already begun sourcing PPE, and will continue to work with the Virginia Department of Health, the Medical Reserve Corps and General Registrars across the state to ensure a safe and smooth primary.

Ralph Northam: (14:31)
Again, voters can request an absentee ballot. The deadline to request that for the June primary is 5:00 PM on June the 16th. And again, I encourage as many Virginians as can, to please vote absentee.

Ralph Northam: (14:50)
And finally, tomorrow night members of our Health Equity work group will participate in a town hall discussion of COVID and health equity hosted by ABC here, in Richmond. Anyone around the state can watch that on at seven o’clock.

Ralph Northam: (15:10)
Now I’ll ask Virginia Health Commissioner, Dr. Norm Oliver to give a health update, and then we’ll be glad to take your questions. Dr. Oliver.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (15:17)
Thank you, Governor.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (15:20)
So very briefly on the numbers regarding COVID cases in the Commonwealth. Total cases now stand at 32,908. That’s 763 new cases in the last reporting period. Deaths now stand at 1074, which is an increase of 33 new deaths. Total tests stand at 235,199. As the Governor mentioned, in the last reporting period, we had 9,782 new PCR tests, the ones with the swabs.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (15:58)
And as far as the breakdown in demographics, a number of cases among African Americans stands at 5,082, which is about 23% of the cases for which we have racial and ethnic data. For the Latinx cases, they stand at 10,167, or 46% of the cases for which we have that data. African American deaths stand at 226, or about 24% of the deaths for which we have demographic information. And the Latinx deaths stand at 87, or about 10% of the deaths for which we have that information. Thank you.

Ralph Northam: (16:43)
Thanks, Dr. Oliver. I’d be glad to take your questions.

Cam: (16:50)
Governor, has President Trump approved your request to extend the Title 32 funding for the Virginia National Guard? And regarding too them, I don’t know if this would be for Secretary Hopkins, what precautions have been taken for those doing these point prevalence testing? Have any members taking part in this tested positive for COVID-19 themselves? And then one more with that, two weeks ago, they mentioned they were trying to get through a list of a hundred longterm care facilities throughout the states. Any update on where that stands, getting through that list of one hundred?

Ralph Northam: (17:19)
Thank you, Cam. Secretary Hopkins?

Secretary Hopkins: (17:22)
Yes, sir. Thank you, Governor. So with respect to your first question in terms of the National Guard and testing. And I believe you asked about positive test, or infections amongst the members? So the teams that are working with the testing in all of the facilities are themselves very well trained, and certainly are properly equipped in terms of PPE, and the information and the resources that they need to carry out that testing.

Secretary Hopkins: (17:54)
We have had members who have tested positive, but we’ve taken the same precautions as recommended by the Department of Health and making sure those members are quarantined and isolated from other members. And so those who are working in the field are negative, and have been asymptomatic prior to engaging in any training activities.

Secretary Hopkins: (18:14)
And I believe your last question with respect to the one hundred or so facilities to be tested, and I would defer to my VDH colleagues because the National Guard is a part of a larger testing effort. And so the goal is to test as many longterm care facilities as possible, of which the Guard is just one component of that overall testing pattern. So there is a process to make sure we test as many longterm care facilities as possible, of which the Guard is closely collaborating and integrated with the team at VDH to make sure that we’re available to do that testing.

Cam: (18:48)
How many members have tested positive?

Secretary Hopkins: (18:50)
We’ve had only four members test positive of over 120 members who’ve been participating in the activities for several weeks.

Cam: (18:58)
And Title [inaudible 00:19:00] ?

Secretary Hopkins: (19:00)
Your Title 32 funding question as to whether or not the president has extended it? We have not received notice as of yet that it has been extended. There have been requests from Virginia, and our CODEL, our congressional delegation is looking into that as well, as well as the Council of Governors, the National Guard Association of the U.S., and others have requested that extension. It’s extremely important for our National Guard to have that extension, to make sure that, as I indicated before, because they are so closely integrated in our testing efforts that having the full availability of our Guard force is important to make sure that we reach the goals that the Governor set for us. All right. Thank you.

Cam: (19:39)
Thank you, sir.

Speaker 1: (19:39)
[inaudible 00:19:40], WJLA.

Reporter 2 : (19:44)
Hey, Governor. You spoke a little bit about this when you were talking about access to healthcare, but can you update the Commonwealth about what your administration is doing to help minority communities get better access to coronavirus testing, as well as healthcare?

Ralph Northam: (19:59)
The question is what are we doing to help the lower socioeconomic areas of Virginia have access to healthcare, and access to testing. And on Monday, I think you saw a list of some of the sites around Virginia that we have ongoing testing in. I’ll bring another list on Friday because we want to make sure that everybody across Virginia knows when these tests are available, and certainly in what particular areas of Virginia.

Ralph Northam: (20:35)
And this has really been led by our Health Equity task group, which is overseen by our Equity Officer, Dr. Janice Underwood. So this is really going well, and this has been coordinated with Dr. Remley, and the Virginia Department of Health. But it is important to us, especially as we move forward, and now in Phase 1, and hopefully going into Phase 2 and 3, that we have adequate testing, and that testing is available for everybody.

Ralph Northam: (21:07)
So that’s one area. I think the other part of your question was what are we doing for access to health care. And one of the reasons that I talked about Medicaid expansion, over 400,000 Virginians that previously, prior to 2019, they didn’t have access to seeing a provider. They can now go. We’ve also worked with our free health clinics in Virginia.

Ralph Northam: (21:31)
So there are a lot of avenues. And certainly, if there is someone out there, if you or your family is out there and need to see a provider and don’t know where to go, please let us know. We can help to make sure… Because you’ve heard me say this before. Healthcare is a right. Everybody is going to have a day when they don’t feel well, or need to see a provider. And we want all Virginians to have access to quality and affordable care.

Speaker 1: (21:59)
Honing in on the State’s reopening plan. As restrictions loosen, I’m wondering if you’re referring to any specific metrics in your decision to either continue loosening restrictions, or tightening them up again. You know, I’m wondering if you’re looking at a certain rise in percent positivity rate, or an increase in hospitalizations and death numbers. Like, what specifically are you looking at when you make those decisions?

Ralph Northam: (22:23)
The question is what metrics are we following as we move through the phases, whether we move forward, hopefully, or whether we need to regress and go back to, to Phase zero. But they’re the same metrics, Kate, that we’ve used, they’re CDC guidelines. They were announced to the Governors across the country by our President a few weeks ago. And so those are the number of new cases, they’re the percent positivity, which we’ve shown those curves, and I’ll show them again on Friday, by the way. Looking the amount of PPE that we have, looking at our testing capabilities, and then especially something that’s really important I think to me and all Virginians, is our hospital capacity. Do we have that surge capacity that we need? Do we have the equipment, the ventilators that we need? And I’ve showed you that graph on previous press conferences. And do we have the staffing, the nurses and other healthcare providers?

Ralph Northam: (23:25)
So all of these things are important. And we follow these… I think people sometimes look at the data as one day to the next. We’re really looking at trends over the week or two. But certainly, to have trends that are heading in a good direction, or a positive direction for two weeks, that’s the criteria that the CDC and the President outlined for moving into Phase 1, and then moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2, then the Phase 3.

Speaker 1: (23:54)
Right. And I guess I’m just wondering… Has the state or the CDC set a specific threshold? So, you know, would a 10% increase over two weeks be-

Speaker 2: (24:03)
… acceptable, but a 15% wouldn’t so we’d have to draw back. Is there any specific metric like that?

Ralph Northam: (24:10)
We haven’t looked at a specific number, but I think again, it’s the trends and the combination of all of these metrics that we’re taking into account.

Speaker 3: (24:20)
Yeah. Next will be Greg Hambrick with InsideNova.

Greg Hambrik: (24:26)
Good afternoon, Governor. Up here in Northern Virginia, the Prince William board of county supervisors voted yesterday to seek permission for restaurants in that county to begin offering outdoor dining started this weekend under phase one guidelines. What is your response to that request and where are you going to draw the line at considering these kinds of specific requests as we go forward? And a related question, what is your timeline for announcing whether Northern Virginia could move into phase one on May 29th?

Ralph Northam: (24:59)
You had two questions. As far as the request from Loudon County. I have seen that and I’ve had a number of other requests across the Commonwealth about easing restrictions in certain towns, cities or in parts of the counties. And what we have done to try to make this as consistent as we can, is we put this floor in place. And we made it clear from the beginning that that’s a floor. Nobody’s going to go beneath the floor, certainly without our permission, but with the request and with the data that backs it up, they could raise the ceiling, if you will. And that’s exactly what Northern Virginia, that’s what Accomack County over on the Eastern shore and the city of Richmond have done. And so I listen to the request. I take everything into consideration, but as best we can, we’re trying to be consistent and maintain that floor before we move into phase two and then phase three.

Ralph Northam: (26:02)
The second part of the question was, when will Northern Virginia enter phase one? And we are in daily communication with the leaders you heard from them last week, when we made this decision to delay going into phase one. They are following the data. Just as we are. Just as I’m sure people in Northern Virginia and across Virginia are. And so we haven’t set any particular timeline. We will continue to follow that daily. We’ll be in communication with those leaders and when they are comfortable and when the data supports moving into phase one, we will do so.

Jackie: (26:46)
Yeah. I saw that the HHS is delivering more than 200 million in funding to Virginia to expand its testing capacity. So can you speak a little bit more about what that money will go towards? And do you think that that will make it financially feasible to test nursing homes and all of the staff and the residents in a recurring manner, as opposed to just once through?

Ralph Northam: (27:06)
Yeah. The question is the federal funding for COVID-19, that’s directed toward testing and tracing. And Jackie, I think you hit the nail on the head. They certainly are our top priority right now. And I think our largest challenge is the number of nursing homes and longterm care facilities. And so this funding is going to be very helpful in making sure that we have the testing supplies, that we have the individuals that can go in and administer the test, and also the tracing capabilities. So that if we see hotspots, if we have residents of these nursing homes, or staff, that we can help to isolate them and prevent the virus from spreading. So a significant amount of that funding that’s coming from the feds will be directed toward our nursing homes and longterm care facilities.

Jackie: (28:01)
Do you think though, that it will make it possible, with that pot of funds alone, to test them in a recurring manner?

Ralph Northam: (28:06)
Well, it’ll certainly make it a lot more possible. Someone asked the other day, what did we need from the federal level? And it’s two things. It’s resources, and that comes in monetary resources and flexibility. And so we have encouraged our congressional leadership, our congressmen, congresswomen and our senators that if they have a fourth… A relief act, to please provide resources and flexibility, that will allow us to use it as needed in the Commonwealth.

Speaker 3: (28:43)
David McGee, with the Bristol Herald Courier.

David Mgee: (28:48)
Yes. Thank you. Governor, I wanted to ask, if you could discuss a little bit about the process of how health department officials stay in contact, once a person has been diagnosed as Covid positive to track their progress, document recoveries, things like that. And is there any consideration to publishing that data on the state dashboard?

Ralph Northam: (29:06)
Yeah. The question is once an individual in Virginia has tested positive, how do we use our tracing capabilities to follow that individual and their wellbeing, and to make sure that they’re not being exposed to other individuals? You want to comment on that?

Dr. Norm Oliver: (29:21)

Ralph Northam: (29:21)
Thank you, doc.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (29:25)
Thank you for that question. In the normal process of doing contact tracing, what we do is, first, have very skilled case investigators. Communicable disease investigators who go and interview the person who actually is ill, and do that investigation, and discover through that process who that person has been in contact with. And then we proceed to find out whether or not those who’ve been exposed to someone who’s positive for COVID-19 are themselves doing well and put them in quarantine. So we isolate the person who is ill, and the people who have been in direct contact with that individual we put in a self quarantine.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (30:17)
And then we manage that. We track that. We talk to them and have communication to continue to see how they progress over the period of time in which they’re under quarantine, and direct them to medical care if that becomes necessary.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (30:35)
While these folks are under our observation, we do not release their names to the public. We of course, would release and encourage their names to be given to their healthcare providers so that they can be cared for, and ensure that they get that care. And the other thing that we do is we look to providing them with the sort of support services that they need in order to maintain themselves in isolation or quarantine. So if they are staying at home, for example, or in some other domicile in isolation or quarantine, we want to make sure that they get the food, medications and other services that they need.

Dr. Norm Oliver: (31:19)

Andre: (31:25)
Governor, for folks in central Virginia who see your list of cities that you are visiting and sharing PPE and other equipment. Can you go over the process, real quick, about how we can get those supplies in the Central Virginia, Lynchburg [inaudible 00:31:42] market? And then on sidebar as we move forward… Looking back, your decisions will probably be documented on a grand scheme at some point. What have you learned most about Virginians? And is there anything that you have done, or that the team has done, that you look back now and say, “I wish I had done that differently”?

Ralph Northam: (32:05)
[Andre 00:32:05] , I love your questions. And I’m going to do my best to answer. That the first is… And I appreciate this question because, in regards to how do we get the message out? And in this question to Central Virginia, with PPE, that we’re going to be in communities with testing. And that’s something that we have really worked on, especially in the last couple weeks. We are actually reaching out to our legislators. They are in contact with their constituents. We’re reaching out to our leaders, VACo, VML, local officials. And also asking for the help of the media and the press, whether it be on a radio station or the TV, to announce when we’re going to be in an area. Because it doesn’t do any good if we’re there and then nobody knows about it.

Ralph Northam: (33:06)
And so that’s something that we have actually put a lot of emphasis on, and I think that’s going well. There’s always room for improvement, but it’s very important that people know we’re going to be in their neighborhoods. That they can sign up. And also they know that we encourage anyone that’s having symptoms, obviously, to be tested. But if someone is living with a vulnerable loved one that is at risk and is concerned about that, we encourage them to come out and be tested as well. So as long as we have the supplies, we won’t turn anybody away. The second part of your question… Yes.

David Mgee: (33:47)
Just what is the process? Let’s say Lynchburg [inaudible 00:33:52] wants your team to come out and test?

Ralph Northam: (33:54)
Yes. The question is, if say a certain locality wants us to be in that in their area testing, they would notify us, Andre. We would work with our Virginia Department of Health. They’re working in conjunction with Dr. Remley. Who’s also working with our Secretary of Veterans Affairs, who oversees the guard. So all of that together… The requests would come in and then by all means, we will do everything that we can to get that area… To do the testing. And also if they need PPE, the same process. To let us know and we’ll help to get PPE to them.

Ralph Northam: (34:32)
The second part of your question was, what have I learned about Virginians? We have about eight and a half million Virginians that I oversee. And I have learned that we live in the best state in the best country.

Ralph Northam: (34:49)
I think what I’m so proud of, most proud of, is that at the beginning of this, we really encouraged Virginians to follow our guidelines, to flatten that curve so that we could maintain what equipment, what testing we had, so that we could maintain our surge capacity in Virginia. And they’ve allowed us to do that. And here we are, Andre. Now two months down the road from when this first started. And now we certainly are trying to do everything that we can to keep people from getting sick. To keep people from going into hospital. But our supplies are better. Our testing capabilities are better. Our hospitals are better equipped. So if someone contracts Covid-19 today versus two months ago, their outcome is going to be far better. And so I’m proud of Virginians for living during a very difficult time. Following our guidelines and just working together to put this health crisis behind us.

Andre: (35:52)
What was your [inaudible 00:35:55] Or have all your decisions kind of been on the money?

Ralph Northam: (35:58)
On the money, Andre. No, I appreciate the question.

Ralph Northam: (36:02)
You know, Andre, this is a, it’s a novel virus. We’ve learned something new every day. It’s probably, maybe not the best analogy, but this is like a novel, if you will. And every day has a chapter or two that’s new. And I only wish that I knew how that last chapter would read. And I don’t know that. And we don’t know that. And that’s why people need to be patient and continue to follow our guidelines. We look at data rather than dates. And that’s what we’ll continue to do as we move forward.

Speaker 5: (36:35)
Sherry Hamilton with the Gloucester Matthews Cadet Journal.

Sherry Hamilton: (36:42)
Hi, thank you, Governor. Businesses are reopening was strict provisions regarding the number of customers, cleaning, social distancing and all the other measures that you outlined. But I haven’t seen any guidelines developed regarding yard sales and outdoor flea markets. Am I just missing them?

Ralph Northam: (37:02)
Angela, do you want to… actually have Angela Navarro, the question was about yard sales. Angela, if you could comment on that. Thanks.

Angela Navarro: (37:14)
Yeah. Angela Navarro, Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade. So we worked with a number of business groups, our public health agencies to develop a comprehensive suite of guidelines that address various business sectors that were impacted under the previous executive orders. The governor has gone through those previously. They address retail, restaurants, fitness centers and the like. As it relates to some of these other areas, yard sales, flea markets, those sorts of things, if they’re not deemed brick and mortar retail, which most of those are not, then they would just need to meet the general guidelines that we’ve provided in the governor’s coronavirus website page on Forward Virginia. Those guidelines cover the same sorts of provisions around cleaning and disinfecting, ensuring that you’re cleaning common surfaces at least every two hours, wearing cloth face coverings, especially those who are working in areas where members of the public are frequenting your space. And ensuring that if you have individuals who are working for you, that you’re putting some protections in place for them.

Angela Navarro: (38:15)
So those guidelines apply for every single business sector across the Commonwealth, that could be a manufacturing operation or a yard sale or a flea market, or that sort of establishment. They’re recommendations, so they are things that we’re recommending that those individuals deploy. Thanks.

Speaker 5: (38:32)
We’ll do Greg and Mel, if you have a question and then we’ll wrap up.

Greg: (38:37)
Governor, I want to ask you a couple of things about the mechanism of moving forward as we’re slowly beginning to loosen up about managing that and how you keep it on track. Is there any special mechanism in place right now to keep an eye out for dangerous fluctuations in these metrics that you’re watching? If some part of the state begins get out of control, is there a mechanism in place to identify that and jump on that?

Ralph Northam: (39:05)
Let me take that question first. And Greg, there is. Every day we meet and we review the data. And as you have seen, we’re able to report by zip code now. We’re also looking, are there flare ups, hotspots in nursing homes? So the best way to prevent this escalating is to catch it when it first starts. And so if we see trends in a particular county, in a particular town, in a particular zip code, then we’re obviously going to take action whether it be more testing or whatever that we need to do to deal with that situation.

Greg: (39:50)
Have you had to do that yet?

Ralph Northam: (39:51)
Not yet. No. I mean, we, I haven’t had to make any changes other than what you’ve seen with the three areas that we’re delaying going into phase one, but we haven’t had to reverse anything yet.

Greg: (40:02)
And is there or should there be any public way to identify or shame places, if you want to put it that way, that aren’t following, that decide, “Okay, they’ve given me an inch. I’m just going to take a mile.” Should there be a public way to make that draw attention to that?

Ralph Northam: (40:19)
Well, we will continue to have these press conferences. And if there are areas that I have concern about that we feel for one reason or another are not heading in a good direction, then I’ll certainly direct that to them.

Mel: (40:34)
When will we see guidelines for businesses of the public related to phase two. And my other question [inaudible 00:04:42]. Yesterday, the employment commissioner said that people who were claiming unemployment due lack of childcare would no longer be able to do so after the school year ended. And I know that there’s some concerns among parents that childcare is still limited going into the summer. Is this something that you’re thinking about and might there be a recourse for those families?

Ralph Northam: (41:06)
Yeah. Megan, if you want to maybe address the second part of that question, Dr. Megan Healy. As far as phase two, I don’t have a specific time, Mel. Obviously we’re watching every day, the trends and now we’re, what, five days into phase one. So we’ll continue to watch in the next few days over the weekend. And then obviously with a few days notice, we will let people know whether we’re going to go into phase two because the earliest would be two weeks from when we went into phase one. But we, again, we’re following the different metrics that we’ve outlined previously. But I haven’t set a specific time to make that announcement yet.

Ralph Northam: (41:47)
We have a question about childcare.

Dr. Megan Healy: (41:51)
Yes. The questions about childcare and unemployment insurance benefits, and currently again, unemployment, our Virginia Employment Commission is run by the Federal Government and they oversee a lot of the rules and regulations that we have to follow. Currently, it is a reason to be unemployment if school is closed. And so we’re now we’re moving into that season when it’s the summer and schools don’t have to be open so they’re closed. We are working very closely with our, I think the guidelines from Virginia Department of Health, with our child development centers, daycares and day camps to figure out guidelines to have these options for childcare because I know it’s continuing to be an issue. And I know we’ve been working, we have conversations about this every single day. But we are currently, if that is an issue, if childcare is an issue, we do, because of federal law have to stop unemployment insurance benefits. But there’s a long appeals and adjudication process that we’re going to take very, very seriously for every individual case.

Mel: (42:48)
Do you have any sense of how many people are claiming unemployment insurance due to the lack of childcare that would [inaudible 00:42:54] on the system.

Dr. Megan Healy: (42:56)
That I can get back to you on that because that’s one of the questions because we’re still trying to figure out how much childcare we do we need when this happens. So we’re making sure that we are ready for our Virginia families.

Ralph Northam: (43:07)
Thank you, Megan. Well again, thank you all for being with us today and I just wanted to go back to what Andre asked and kind of leave you with a final message and perhaps an observation that I have seen around the country. And first of all, I just want to let everybody know that I understand we have been through very, very difficult times. Our lives have literally been turned upside down by COVID-19. I know a lot of you across our Commonwealth have made sacrifices. People have lost their jobs. As we’ve said, the access to healthcare, the testing, the PPE has been a challenge. The opioid and addiction crisis, just a lot of things are going on in Virginia right now. And I would just remind all of you that we’re going to get through this together.

Ralph Northam: (44:04)
And so an observation, and I’m sure you all have seen it. People right now are on edge. People are testy. We’ve seen reports, not so much in Virginia, but perhaps in other areas, one business actually shut down after they opened because people were being rude and abusive to the employees there. And that’s something that we all regret. And again, understanding that we’re all of us under stress, but remember the Virginia way. And I’m always talking to our legislators about this. We can all agree to disagree, but at the end of the day, we have to work together and do what’s in the best interests of Virginia.

Ralph Northam: (44:50)
And I don’t know about you, but I’m biased. I’m proud to be a Virginian. We live in the best state in the best country in the world. And in order to get through this, in order to get this health crisis behind us and then get this economic crisis behind us and get back on our feet and get people back to work and to as near normal as we can, we’re going to have to work together. So my message to you today is to be kind, to smile, to say, “Thank you,” to those around you, to help others that may need your help. That’s the way we’ll get through this together. So thank you for your cooperation. And I look forward to being with all of you on Friday. Thank you.

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