May 4, 2020
Ralph Northam Virginia COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 4
Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a coronavirus press conference on May 4. He said Phase 1 of reopening Virginia could happen May 15.
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Ralph Northam: (00:00)
…cognitive care facilities and strengthen the testing system among other steps and everyone in Virginia made sacrifices, but everything you have done has truly made a difference. We’ve flattened the curve and our hospitals have not been overwhelmed. I am keenly aware that it has come with a tremendous cost. Now we can start to move into a new phase of our response, but at the same time, I want to make it very clear this virus is still here. It has not gone away and it will not go away until we have a vaccination and that may be hopefully at the end of this year or another year or two. All of our efforts have slowed its spread, but they have not cured the disease. We must figure out a path forward, but we must always be aware that this virus is still with us.
Ralph Northam: (01:07)
Even when we ease some restrictions, we must continue to behave more cautiously than before. We must not relax our vigilance or think that the risk has passed, especially for our most vulnerable populations, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. To be clear, we are not entering phase I today nor this week. Based on the data, I expect that we may be able to enter it as soon as next week. Today I’m going to outline what our phased approach of ease and restrictions will look like and when that will happen. We anticipate three phases. You’ll still be safer at home. Large gatherings are still a bad idea. It means continued social distancing, teleworking and face coverings, but it also means that we’re moving forward. Phase I includes guidelines for all businesses to enhance physical distancing, do more cleaning and disinfecting and promote workplace safety.
Ralph Northam: (02:26)
Let’s look at each of these. To promote physical distancing, company should establish policies to keep coworkers and customers physically separated with clear signs to communicate the rules. It means limited gatherings like conferences and trade shows and keeping those as short as possible when they do need to happen. And it may mean wearing face coverings at work. More cleaning and disinfecting means practicing routine cleaning and disinfection of hard surfaces. To protect our workers, it means setting schedules that allow for short breaks so workers can wash their hands frequently and making sure there’s a safe place for them to do so. And workplace safety is critical. Measures like these are important for all businesses. In addition, we will be publishing additional guidelines for specific industries including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care and grooming, as well as entertainment. But here’s the bottom line. You’ll be able to get your hair cut, but you’ll need an appointment and you’ll see new safety measures in the salon.
Ralph Northam: (03:50)
It means you can go out to eat again, but restaurants will use less of their seating so to spread people out more. Employees will wear face coverings and they’ll do more cleaning. Phase I means more retail establishments can be open, but they’ll have to operate at lower capacity. You can go to the gym, but with fewer people and more requirements for cleaning. Farmer’s markets, will have more flexibility with foot traffic and prepared foods. Our farmer’s markets are important as we really get into the growing season. We will accommodate the needs of churches and houses of worship to gather in person but social distancing still matters even at church. We anticipate phase I could last about three weeks consistent with CDC guidelines. Phase II and III would also last about three weeks each as long as our health data continues to support it.
Ralph Northam: (04:59)
In phase II, we’ll continue to ease restrictions if we see our numbers trend downward. Continued downward trend of our positive test, continued downward trend of our hospitalizations, stable capacity of hospital bed and intensive care, stable supply of PPE and continued robust testing and contact tracing. To move to phase III, we’re looking for no evidence of rebound for a sustained period of time. Let’s talk about timing. I will extend Executive Order 53 which is the order that restricted certain businesses and band gatherings of more than 10 people through next Thursday night, May the 14th. We will adjust the current stay at home order as well emphasizing safer at home rather than stay at home. That gives us an additional two weeks to watch the data and determine if we are meeting the metrics we need to see to enter phase I.
Ralph Northam: (06:13)
Now, I’d like to talk briefly about that data and what metrics we’re using to make these decisions. I’ve said from the beginning of this pandemic that our decisions will be made based on science and data. Earlier today we held a data briefing for the press and I think you saw how complex it is. I want to thank the press for being available for that briefing and also the individuals that prepared the briefing as well. I want to show the public some of what we’re looking at. We’re looking at the following measures taken together. As you can see, our cases continue to rise. This number will continue to go up in part because we are doing more testing, robust testing and tracing are critical to this entire effort. We get a better idea of the spread by looking at how many tests come up positive. On this side, the dark blue lines are the number of people tested. The light blue is… I believe we need to move to a different slide. There you go. No.
Speaker 1: (07:31)
I think that was correct.
Ralph Northam: (07:33)
Go back to the other one please. Yes, thank you. On this particular slide. The dark blue lines are the number of people tested. The light blue toward the bottom is the number of those tests that are positive and the yellow line represents the seven day average of the percent of tests that are positive. This slide also shows you the percent of those tests that come back positive. We want to see a downward trend in that percentage over 14 days. Also, we are planning to deploy 1,000 people to work as contact tracers. As you can see from this slide, we are increasing our testing capacity. Over the weekend, we tested more than 6,000 people per day. In mid April we were testing fewer than 3,000. We want to see a downward trend in the percent of cases that are hospitalized over 14 days and we are monitoring that we continue to have enough hospital bed and ICU capacity.
Ralph Northam: (08:48)
We’ll watch this especially closely over the next couple of weeks as hospitals have resumed elective surgeries. All of this depends on us having a good supply of PPE, which we now feel that we have. As you can see, every day we monitor a wide range of health data. We are evaluating that data constantly looking at metrics by day and by a rolling average. We’re using that determined to determine the spread of the virus, whether it seems to be stabilizing and whether our hospitals have the capacity to meet the need. I have another update on PPE. Last Friday, I announced that Virginia is receiving three PPE decontamination units from Battelle. The first of those is now up and running in Blacksburg and we anticipate the additional units will be in Richmond and Newport News this week.
Ralph Northam: (09:48)
I also want to thank our Virginia National Guard. They have been helping move supplies and doing logistics for the past two months and now they’re helping us do testing primarily in congregate settings. They tested 1,310 inmates at Sussex II Prison just yesterday and wrapped up a testing pilot program in Harrisonburg yesterday. No one should be alarmed by seeing the National Guard out and about in our communities. They are here to help us. I continue to be concerned about the rising number of cases in our poultry processing facilities, especially on the Eastern shore. The Eastern Shore Health District now reports more than 260 cases associated with the two plants in Accomack County. Since I joined Governors Hogan and Carney in sending a letter to the president just over a week ago, teams of specialists from the CDC have come to each of our three States to help.
Ralph Northam: (10:56)
This week, our local health district, the CDC and the poultry companies are working together to do testing of plant workers and members of the community. We are also still closely tracking cases in the Shenandoah Valley, which has a large number of plants, cases that have increased as well, but the increase is smaller and could be leveling off. Our focus right now remains on the Shore. We will continue to closely monitor the situation to ensure that the plants are instituting safety measures to protect workers’ health and that workers can access healthcare as needed.
Ralph Northam: (11:36)
Finally, today marks the start of two weeks, Teacher Appreciation Week and Virginia’s first resilience week. Our teachers always do wonderful work, but they have stepped up to meet enormous challenges as we turn to virtual education. I suspect that many parents who are now helping their children learn at home have gained an increase appreciation for our teachers. Resilience is how well we adapt to in the face of tragedy, trauma or other sources of stress. This week I encourage you to visit grscan.com. That’s grscan.com to find virtual events, trainings, activities for children and other resources. It’s a particularly good time to think about resilience because we all are dealing with some level of stress from COVID-19 and for some it is trauma. It is also important for our children to learn the skill so they’re better able to adapt to adverse situations as adults. I know Virginia is a resilient Commonwealth. I am proud of Virginians for how you are handling this situation and how people have stepped up to take care of themselves and other people at this time.
Ralph Northam: (13:03)
Now we’ll hear from Virginia health commissioner, Dr. Norm Oliver and then we’ll be glad to take your questions. Thank you. Dr. Oliver.
Dr. Norm Oliver: (13:11)
Thank you Governor. Good afternoon. I just want to get an update on the numbers and cases and some of the breakdown of those cases. We now have a total of 19,492 cases of COVID-19 across the Commonwealth. That represents 821 new cases in the last 24 hour period. Total deaths now number 684, that’s 24 new deaths in the last reporting period. We have a total number of tests that we have recorded of 122,788 and that number continues to rise.
Dr. Norm Oliver: (13:56)
Outbreaks in the state are at 239, the majority of those outbreaks are in longterm care facilities. And as before the percent of cases that are in communities of color continue to be disproportionately high. African-American cases is 3,469 out of the 13,433 for which we have raised some ethnicity data. And that’s about 26% and Latinx cases are 4,649 out of that same 13,433 for about 35% of that number. Deaths, African-American deaths number 157 out of the 585 for which we have race and ethnicity data for about 27% of the deaths. And for the Latinx community 40 deaths out of that same number for a percentage of about 7%. thank you.
Ralph Northam: (15:09)
Thanks Dr. Oliver. Yes.
Hi Governor, have you been coordinating with Governor Hogan and Mayor Bowzer about your plans to reopen I guess on the 15th?
Ralph Northam: (15:27)
The question is have we been coordinating with governor Hogan and Mayor Bowzer and also to our South is North Carolina and the answer is we have. Each state, Laura, has their own situation, their own challenges. As you know Maryland, Washington and specifically Northern Virginia are in very densely populated areas and so we do communicate. We’re probably not going to do everything on the exact day but we are working as close as we can. And as I’ve said in the past, we want to be as consistent as we can with our neighboring states and not allow for any more confusion than is absolutely possible.
Speaker 2: (16:16)
The question will be from Greg Hambrick with InsideNoVa.
Greg Hambrick: (16:21)
Governor as far as the timeline over the next two weeks as businesses are trying to prepare for eventually having the opportunity to reopen, do you expect that if you have to change that date from May 14th that businesses will know later this week, early next week, if that’s not going to be the beginning of phase one at the end of next week? Are you going to be able to let folks, that business owners and employees know in advance if there’s going to be a change to that date?
Ralph Northam: (16:55)
That’s a great question I appreciate, the question is if as we anticipate moving into phase one on May the 15th if things change will we be able to give some advanced notice. And certainly I would do everything that I can to give as much notice as possible. But I think as we look at the trends, especially with our number of cases and our percent positives as we look at our hospital capacity, as we look at our supply PPE, our ability to test, continue to monitor this as we move forward. I anticipate moving into phase one on the 15th which would be Friday, a week from this Friday.
Yeah. A couple of questions. I was wondering first, is there any one metric that you’re considering more heavily than others when making these decisions? And then I’ve also heard from doctors in the private settings that there are still a major shortage of swabs that’s precluding more widespread testing. Does the state have a plan to mitigate that and do you think that because of those limits you’re catching enough cases to really know and avoid a spike once businesses reopen?
Ralph Northam: (18:11)
Great question. It’s a two part question. The first part of the question was any particular metric that I follow and Kate, I appreciate the question. Every morning when I come to work, which is fairly early, I look at the number of new cases and I look at the number of deaths and that is very powerful. And we continue to see an increased number of positive cases and our deaths vary from 25 to 40 and that’s still something that we see every day. So that’s probably the most powerful piece of data to me. Every life is important, but when we see 25 to 40 additional deaths each day, that gets my attention in the morning. Obviously I think you all had access to all of the data that we use, the different curves, the percent positives, the number of new cases per day, the hospitalizations, the number of individuals that are in ICU, the number of ventilators that were being used.
Ralph Northam: (19:18)
All of these things are taken into account. But the answer to your question, the most powerful metric to me is it’s the number of deaths. And as your governor and certainly as a doctor I’m here to keep Virginians safe and also to prevent any deaths that we possibly can. As far as the swabs, we have put in an order through FEMA, we’re also working with the private labs, we’re working with the hospitals, with the universities and colleges. And while we don’t have as many swabs as we would like, we anticipate the number of swabs going up as the demand goes up. So as you’ve heard Dr. Remley talk, a week or so ago we were at 2000 tests a day. We’re now up to 6,000 plus or minus depending on what day it is and whether it’s the weekend. And our goal is to get to 10,000 tests a day and we’re confident. I mean there’s no guarantees, but we’re confident with our supply chain that we’ll have the swabs necessary to move to that goal.
Speaker 2: (20:35)
The next question will be from Alan Suderman with the Associated Press.
Alan Suderman: (20:41)
Hi governor, where are you in terms of opening some of the more rural parts? Earlier I know some Republicans have been very vocal about reopening in parts where there’s not a lot of cases.
Ralph Northam: (20:54)
The question I believe from Alan Suderman was regarding the regional approach and whether some areas of Virginia could be open prior to others. A couple of comments I would make Alan. We have had a great group of business leaders across Virginia, some of whom are from rural areas and the overwhelming advice coming from them is to do this as a Commonwealth rather than by region. Well, I’ll give you one example and I’ve told you this before. If we open certain areas of the Commonwealth and close others, people from the closed areas may travel, probably will travel to the open areas and not only bring new cases from hotspots if you will in Virginia, but also potentially bring in cases from other states. And so we don’t want that to happen. The other thing that we would be doing, we would be picking winners and losers in Virginia and something that has been very important to me as the governor is to see Virginia as a Commonwealth.
Ralph Northam: (22:12)
Perhaps some people have made more sacrifices than others, but we have all sacrificed and when we made the decision to close down, to have the stay at home order, I did this as a Commonwealth. And when we reopen, when we go into phase one, I want to do that as a Commonwealth as well. Because one of the things that I have seen which I commend Virginia, this has brought Virginians together. What I worry about if we do one region open rather than another, it just is a tremendous potential for more division. And the last thing that we need in this state, the last thing we need in this country right now is division. So for a number of reasons I have made the decision to go into phase one unless something drastically changes next Friday and we’ll do that together.
Speaker 3: (23:09)
This is a followup to that, will any of the restrictions on businesses and the guidelines they have to follow be tailored regionally? And a second question to that is just do you think we’ll reach 10,000 tests per day by May 14?
Ralph Northam: (23:27)
The two questions, [inaudible 00:23:29] it’s not fair to me when you all ask all these questions at one time, but we will do the best we can. The second part of this is how we’re doing on our goal of 10,000. I’m going to let Dr. Remley answer that one. But as far as the guidelines that we’re using regionally, they’re not going to be different. I won’t go into all the details but we’ve talked about going into phase one, whether that be a phase one A, phase one B and it gets very complicated in a hurry. So I’m doing everything that I can, our team is doing everything that we can to keep this as consistent and straightforward as we can as we move forward. Dr Remley thanks.
Dr. Remley: (24:17)
I think what I will say is we’re working very closely with the entire clinical community to make sure that it’s not just swabs, I know that wasn’t a question earlier, but it’s swabs, it’s PPE, it’s feeling comfortable that you understand how to get the test. It’s feeling comfortable to then know where the test goes and what you do with the results when that comes back. So this week we’ll have surveys that we’ve done with the free clinics, with the federally qualified health centers and with doctor’s offices around the state, through the medical society of Virginia to understand where those gaps are. In addition, on Friday we will have a webinar for all physicians to be able to understand what you can do for a patient clinically if you learn they have COVID so you can take better care of them.
Dr. Remley: (24:58)
But also to understand how to… Again, walking through how to test. If you don’t think your office is going to test where you can go to get tested, making sure all of those loops in the process are closed. And then also helping to make sure our doctors can sometimes be our first part of contact tracing. So if I’m a physician and I have a patient who has a positive COVID test and I call and talk to them, I’m not only going to talk to them about how they’re doing clinically, but I’m going to say, who else is in your home? Who have you been around for the last couple of weeks? Write it all down. It’s really important that you start to isolate.
Dr. Remley: (25:30)
So we start that public health intervention right at the time that doctor’s involved. And we’re trying to meet, we know for each of those groups we talk about the barriers are different and they change week to week. So we’re trying to meet doctors where they are, but also meet people where they are. So the opportunity to get tested is as diverse as it can be and that there’s no barriers for anybody who’s symptomatic, thinks they’re symptomatic with COVID or has had close contact with somebody that has COVID that they can find somewhere to be tested. And I’d encourage you all to go out and look at the website that’s on VDH. I think when we talked about it first it had close to-
Dr. Remley: (26:03)
… 100 sites. We now have over 160 and they’re all over the Commonwealth. So again, those are publicly available to anyone who comes forward to want to get tested.
[inaudible 00:26:17] is From Sherry Hamilton with the Gloucester Matthews Gazette-Journal.
Sherry Hamiliton : (26:21)
Thank you for taking my call governor. There appears to be some confusion about when campgrounds are allowed to resume their normal operations again, given today’s extension executive order 53 is going to allow them to open recreational facilities, to reopen on May 14th. While 55 prohibits overnight stays of less than 14 days through June 10th and we’ve heard that some campgrounds have opened this past Friday. In addition, I understand it’s up to local law enforcement to enforce the order, but I wonder who’s held responsible. Is it the campground or the camper?
Ralph Northam: (27:01)
The question is regarding campgrounds and I anticipated coming into this press conference and a lot of questions about what about this, what about that? We will certainly clarify those. guidelines as we’ve moved through this week. But our intentions and it will be with some guidelines, will be to reopen our campgrounds, both private campgrounds and also our state campgrounds. Again, we won’t have people stay in more than 14 days. There’ll be spacing guidelines. We have people on our business advisory that own campgrounds in Virginia and they have been very forthcoming and provided great recommendations. So I would say to the guidelines specifically for the campgrounds are the hair salons, are the bowling alleys. I know everybody has their own situation and I get that. I’m a business owner as well we want those answers. So those guidelines in the next few days will be forthcoming.
Ralph Northam: (28:11)
But the message today is that we will reopen Virginia next Friday. Another reason, another purpose for the week extension. We really want the businesses to be able to do everything they can to make sure consumers feel safe, that they feel comfortable coming back into these places of business. So again, I realized that it’s a week of extension, but I think it will really give us all time. It will allow us to provide the guidelines to these businesses and when we do open, which again hopefully will be next Friday, we’ll be able to do it as smoothly as possible and as safely as possible for all of Virginia.
As we look to this transition of reopening, obviously there’s a lot of people eager to get back to work, but I imagine there’s going to be some people who might be hesitant or even afraid based on their underlying condition or their age. So as we move forward into that reopening, what are the options for employees? Can those employees who aren’t ready to return to work still receive unemployment, for example?
Ralph Northam: (29:24)
Yes, a great question. Jackie and Dr. Megan Healy is our workforce development officer on my let her step up to the podium and address that question. Thanks Megan.
Megan Healy: (29:38)
Great. Thank you so much. So the question is about workplaces and if people are not ready to go back to work because they might be unsafe. So our top priority as the governor mentioned with this reopening plan is workplace safety. That we’ve talked to businesses and they’re very eager to work with a health department like CDC guidelines to make sure those workplaces are safe, not just for the consumer. But really importantly for the workers because they want them to show up. So we’re waiting for guidance on the unemployment insurance. Again, unemployment through the Virginia Employment Commission is really from the US Department of Labor and they give us guidance on what we can do. So we’re still waiting for what that might look like. What are their different eligibilities for unemployment and if what they need to do if they feel unsafe. So we should-
[inaudible 00:30:23] a sense of what [inaudible 00:04:23].
Megan Healy: (30:24)
Yes. We’ve kind of heard some guidance but not written about, if they’re unsafe, do they have to quit their job? And then usually a person goes through the adjudication process to repeal. So we stopped the benefits and then they can repeal through that process and then we’re looking for what’s considered good cause and what’s not.
There will be criteria laid out as in if you have an underlying condition, not just anybody can say, I don’t feel like going back to work.
Megan Healy: (30:49)
Yes, there’ll be criteria. Yeah. Because a lot of people would probably say that they might not want to go to work. So thank you.
The next question will be from Whitney Evans with BPM.
Whitney Evans: (31:05)
Hi governor. I was hoping you could tell us a little bit more about the process for hiring 1,000 more contact tracers who should be applying and how?
Ralph Northam: (31:18)
I’m not sure I heard the question. You heard it. Okay.
Dr. Norm Oliver: (31:25)
The question is the governor had mentioned in his remarks that we were going to be hiring 1,000 contact tracers. As we begin to reopen, one of the things that will happen is we will continue to see cases rise and reopening means that we have to take a very serious approach towards identifying new cases. Identifying anyone who’s been exposed to that new case and then isolating those folks, putting them in quarantine if necessary. To do that will require a new workforce. We’ve already begun hiring case identifiers in the health department. We will hire several hundred of them. We’re in the process of also beginning the setting up to hire some 1,000 contact traces that we believe will be necessary to effectively do that kind of containment strategy. We’re quite confident that we’ll be able to ramp this up quickly over the next week or two and be ready for doing serious, serious increase in the amount of contact tracing that we do.
Bill Atkinson with the Progress Index.
Bill Atkinson: (32:50)
Thank you Marissa. Governor, you mentioned earlier about the farmer’s markets reopening in phase one. Some markets as such as the one here in Petersburg have reopened to an extent already just basically realigning their business models through online ordering and curbside pickup and allowing walk up business as long as it maintains social distancing. Then when phase one begins be it May 14th or later, how closely do you anticipate the farmer’s markets and other more open air markets being regulated? Would that level be any different than other retail businesses and will the state be having regulators circulating along those markets or will the state be relying on self regulation and local law enforcement to maintain the order?
Ralph Northam: (33:32)
That’s a great question and growing up on a farm, there’s nothing more important than being able to get our products to consumers. So the farmer’s markets have been just a great avenue for doing that in Virginia. So we want to make sure that people have access to that as we go into phase one and I have the secretary of agriculture with us, Bettina Ring. Bettina, if you’d like to comment on that.
Bettina Ring: (34:04)
Thank you, governor. Just to elaborate on what the governor said, we realize how critical and how important our farmer’s markets are in Virginia. So we’re looking forward to being able to open things up a bit more. They’ve been fantastic and stepping up, integrating best practices and having one point of contact in many of those farmer’s markets. Now we will be able to allow browsing safely, ensuring that everyone’s wearing a mask and we have proposed guidelines that we’ll be finalizing as we move forward in the coming week. As the governor said, we’ll have more information to share. But we really are excited about the opportunity as our farmer’s markets are really starting to move into spring and summer, which is a really important time for our farmers as well as our markets across the state. Thank you for the question.
Speaker 6: (34:48)
Two part, I know you just said that you’re not down for those really, but first for some of the stopgap measures that you’ve put in place during this pandemic the one just springs to mind is allowing mixed drinks to be sold for pickup. How long do you consider those things to be continued to be allowed? Also, any response to the lawsuit from the Chincoteague church challenging your executive order and the DOJ filing that statement of interest.
Ralph Northam: (35:13)
The two questions, I’m going to take the first one, then I’m going to let someone that practices law handle the second one. As far as the mixed drinks, it’s a good question. How long we will continue to allow those that order from the restaurants for take out and delivery. I haven’t addressed that specifically with the ABC, but it’s certainly something that we can talk about. But just in general, as long as restaurants are not at their full capacity and having to rely on takeout and home delivery, I would anticipate that policy stay in effect throughout that time. So Rita, if you’d like to address the second part of the question was the case over on the eastern shore regarding the place of worship.
Rita Davis: (36:06)
Thank you governor.
Ralph Northam: (36:07)
Thank you Rita.
Rita Davis: (36:11)
Rita Davis, counsel to the governor, if I understand the question, is the administration’s response to the Chincoteague lawsuit? Many of you may know that the Lighthouse Fellowship Church sued the governor about a week ago alleging first amendment violations in the US constitution and acting on his executive actions 53 and 55. They sought a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order. On Friday the eastern district of Virginia denied those claims and a 30 page opinion. Since that time the plaintiffs have appealed and the Department of Justice has entered a statement of interest on behalf of the church. That statement of interest essentially says, while not questioning the governor’s underlying authority, it does suggest to the court that the emergency executive actions create some sort of disparity between religious institutions and secular businesses. While the administration applauds and encourages the Department of Justice for standing up Virginia civil liberties. We continue to believe that the governor’s authority was both prudent, necessary, and constitutional and we look forward to the fourth circuit affirming.
Speaker 7: (37:32)
Governor, when it comes to those who see you make these orders if you will, and they are frustrated, how would you respond to those who don’t understand that they think that you are, as your counsel mentioned, not following the constitution? Also, the president mentioned that he met with governors. Only one governor from Washington state said when he was on the phone with you all, said that one governor said that they needed any kind of supplies. You mentioned swabs and PPE. Do you have everything you need or were on that called with the president who said that, none of you governors except one asked for any additional items. Does Virginia really have everything that you need?
Ralph Northam: (38:17)
The second part of your question is, as far as supplies. I’m not going to go through the whole history of dealing with this pandemic. But we have since early in March, been fighting a biological war here in not only Virginia, but in this country and in this world. Having been in the army, while I was trained in biological war. I never experienced a biological war, but I was in a conflict. Essentially, what we’ve been asked to do as governors is to fight this war without any supplies. It’s like sending your army or your navy off with no weapons, no ammunition and so we started…
Ralph Northam: (39:03)
No weapons, no ammunition. And so we started from ground zero competing for PPE. You’ve heard us talk about that every day; competing for, believe it or not, the swabs to be able to do these tests. And so in the last couple of weeks, I commend what is going on in Washington because finally FEMA has stepped up and has communicated with governors, not only with supplies but also financial resources. As you know, we had the CARES act, so we’re in a much better place today regarding what’s coming from Washington. But we started basically two months behind because we had to really go out and do this on our own. So while I listen, I don’t always ask questions personally of the president, but I listen to the phone calls and also hear the other governors’ requests, and what the other governors are requesting is not unique to their state. It’s what we’re all dealing with. But I would commend the leadership in Washington over the last couple weeks because not only the financial resources but the PPE and the testing supplies that we need to increase our capacity have … They’ve been helpful in that regard.
Ralph Northam: (40:32)
I think the first part of your question was also interesting in how have my decisions affected Virginians. How have they affected businesses, and have they been constitutional? And starting with the constitutionality, everything that we do is based on our constitution. As you know, some of it has been questioned. We have prevailed in most cases. So we try to abide, do everything that we can to abide by our constitution. Also, my decisions are made to protect Virginians, to keep Virginians healthy and safe and to prevent deaths. I understand people have made sacrifices. I understand people are upset by our decisions, but I’m not standing up here to punish people. I’m standing up here representing 8.5 million Virginians and doing what’s in the best interest of them to keep them safe, to get this health crisis behind us, and to get our economy up and running again. That’s what I come to work to do every day and that’s what I’ll continue to do for the next year and a half as long as I’m governor.
Speaker 8: (41:55)
[inaudible 00:41:55] When you’re on the phone with the president, why not say, “Mr. President, we need more PPE. We need more swabs”?
Ralph Northam: (42:02)
We have, yes.
Speaker 9: (42:07)
Ralph Northam: (42:07)
Yes, thank you all again for being here. I think some really important information that goes out to Virginia today, and what I wanted to just comment in closing is anytime there’s a crisis, anytime there’s a tragedy, an unfortunate situation, we must as a society look at trying to bring some good from it. What is the silver lining to all this and how can we learn and how can we do better the next day? How can we prepare if this ever happens again? And so there are some really hopeful things going on. I just wanted to mention a few of them. I’m sure you are aware of some of them. Number one is that there are pharmaceutical companies, there are colleges and universities that are working just as fast as they can to find treatments for viral pimp pandemics like the one we’re experiencing. And as you all heard, remdesivir is an antiviral agent. Kind of like an antibiotic treats bacteria, an antiviral agent treats viruses. And so the studies that have been done thus far are very promising for remdesivir, and now the FDA has approved that. That is good news for people that contract COVID- 19.
Ralph Northam: (43:31)
The second part of the good news is that companies, researchers are working literally around the clock to find a vaccination for this and that’s really the silver bullet that will put this pandemic, that will put this health crisis behind us. And so whether that’s going to happen at the end of this year or it’s going to take another year and a half or whatever, we’re not sure about that. But just the fact that that our researchers are working as hard as they can to find this vaccination, that’s encouraging to me and it should be encouraging to all of you. The last thing I wanted to just mention is to thank all of those that, kind of back to your question, have made sacrifices during this pandemic. This hasn’t been easy on anybody and so I have seen our doctors, our nurses, our hospital staff. I have seen our first responders, our law enforcement, individuals that work at the grocery store. And what happens when these individuals are on the front line and going to work day in and day out without a day off, it provides for stress in their lives.
Ralph Northam: (44:49)
We lost a very prominent and just excellent emergency physician. She worked in New York city. She paid the ultimate sacrifice for what she was doing and she has deep, deep roots here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. And something that really touched me this weekend was when individuals reached out to me and said, “You know what? She was a wonderful person, a wonderful emergency room doctor, and how can we bring good from this?” And so we had a fairly lengthy discussion and it won’t end this weekend, but we’re going to work together and make sure that we have support systems here in Virginia for individuals like our first responders and our healthcare providers, because I think the perception is that the doctor or the nurse, they’re always strong and they don’t let the stress get to them. But I will tell you that we’re all human, and I think the example of the emergency room doctor is a great example of that.
Ralph Northam: (46:02)
So that means that we as a society need to find ways to come together and to find support groups and let these individuals know, “You know what? It’s okay if you have a bad day or you’re experiencing undue stress.” That we have help for you. So, just looking at all of the good things that are happening as we move forward with this pandemic is encouraging to me. And that’s what provides hope to me, and that’s what gets me up every day and wanting to do the job that I’m doing. So for all of you that have been part of the solution to this pandemic on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I say thank you. Keep up the good work. As long as we continue to work together, we’ll get through this. And as I have said so often, we came in as Virginians strong to COVID-19, and we will put this in our rear view mirror. We will come out of it even stronger. So thank you all, and we will look forward to being with you on Wednesday. Thank you.