May 6, 2020
Ralph Northam Virginia COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 6
Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a coronavirus press conference on May 6. He said he will unveil ‘phase one’ reopening guidelines Friday.
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Ralph Northam: (00:15)
Well, good afternoon and thanks again for joining us today. Today I want to reiterate some of our data points and then talk about testing and how our Virginia National Guard is helping. Tomorrow, believe it or not, marks two months since Virginia had its first positive COVID case. In those eight weeks, our lives and our world have changed a great deal. We’re now at a place where we can think about our next steps. On Monday, we extended our current restrictions by a week and broadly outlined our forward Virginia plan. That is our phased approach to restricted operations for businesses and limited gatherings that we will implement in phases over time based on data and science. We will provide more detailed guidance on those phases and restrictions on Friday.
Ralph Northam: (01:12)
We continue to work with businesses and workers to ensure that there is confidence in the next steps when we take them. We’re also working with our localities. I know that across Virginia, our localities are being affected in very different ways. I want everybody to understand when we do detail what phase one’s restrictions look like, we regard that as the floor. If local governments based on the situation in their own localities feel that they need to maintain additional restrictions on gatherings, or business operations. We will allow that and we will work with the localities. So we are talking to localities including in Northern Virginia to discuss those issues.
Ralph Northam: (02:02)
I want to emphasize that we are closely monitoring the health metrics as we proceed and decisions that we make are dictated by that data. A few weeks ago I said we needed two weeks of declining numbers to move forward with phase one. That is based on CDC guidelines. We are seeing that and I hope we will be able to enter phase one next Friday, the 15th of May, but we will continue to closely monitor the data to make that decision as we do with all of our decisions.
Ralph Northam: (02:37)
As a reminder, here’s what we’re measuring. We’re looking at the percent of tests that are positive. We want that to be steady or a downward trend and we are seeing that. We’re looking at hospitalizations due to COVID-19. That is stable. We’re looking at our hospital’s capacity of beds and of ventilators and that also remains stable. We want to have an increase in and sustainable supply of PPE and for the last few days no hospitals have reported having difficulty getting PPE. And finally we want to have an increase in ability to test and trace. We’re significantly increased in our testing and we plan to hire over 1000 contact tracers.
Ralph Northam: (03:29)
Health is and will continue to be our first priority. Our next steps depend on our testing, tracking and ability to quarantine. So I want to highlight some of those efforts. On the Eastern Shore, we continue to be concerned about cases in the poultry plants. Our Health Department is working with the CDC team as we speak. The two companies are conducting large scale testing for plant workers and we should get those results in a few days. The Health Department is going to be testing in the Eastern Shore community as well in the coming days. To increase testing, we don’t just need kits. That’s certainly an important part of it, but we need the people to perform those tests and to send them to the labs. For that, we’ve been partnering with our Virginia National Guard. The guard provides the manpower and the logistical expertise. Recently the guard has helped with 12 testing events in communities like right here in Richmond and over on the Eastern Shore and in congregate settings like Sussex to prison.
Ralph Northam: (04:42)
Under the federal Title 32 status. The federal government is helping pay for this assistance. We have this status through the end of May but it is clear we’ll continue to need this help. So today I’m asking the president to extend this authorization. The national guard regularly provides assistance in emergencies and this is the greatest emergency that we have seen in many years. I’m grateful for the service of our national guard members. They are our neighbors and they are also our friends. Today, we’re pleased to have with us Major General Timothy Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, to explain more about our guards activities around COVID-19 and our communities. And again, before he takes the podium, these are men and women that are serving us so proudly here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. And so if you see one out in the neighborhood out in your communities, please thank them for all that they’re doing. Major General Williams, welcome.
Timothy Williams: (05:54)
Thank you governor. Ladies and gentlemen. Good afternoon. I’m Major General Tim Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia and I’m here today representing the more than 9,000 Virginia National Guard soldiers, airmen, members of the defense force and our state and federal employees. Before I get into the update and how our personnel are supporting the Virginia COVID response, I’d like to provide an overview of our organization. The Virginia National Guard is a unique dual status force with a federal mission to provide a combat reserve for the US Army and the US Air Force to fight our nation’s wars and a state mission to provide a response force that answers the call of the governor to defend the commonwealth. We trace our lineage to the very founding of our commonwealth in 1607.
Timothy Williams: (06:42)
We are a community based force with readiness centers and training, aviation and maintenance facilities in more than 50 communities across the state. Here’s a quick snapshot of our federal missions. Nearly 1,500 soldiers and airmen served on federal active duty in the last 24 months in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations across the globe. Our units conducted a wide variety of missions including F-22 fighter jet, air dominance, cyber, partnership building, sustainment security, rotary and fixed wing flight operations.
Timothy Williams: (07:17)
These 1,500 personnel joined more than 15,000 soldiers and airmen who have mobilized for Homeland Security missions, combat operations, and peacekeeping and stabilization missions since September 11th, 2001. Here at home, since 2001 we have mobilized more than 13,600 soldiers, airmen and members of the VDF to respond to hurricanes, winter storms, flooding and other severe weather events across the commonwealth as well as in neighboring states like Louisiana and the US Virgin Islands. And now our personnel are working diligently to support local, state and federal efforts to mitigate the impacts of the coronavirus. While this is not currently the largest call up of our personnel, it is certainly one of the longest. Today we have approximately 570 personnel actively working or ready to support Virginia’s COVID response. Our mission is to provide additional capabilities and expand capacity for lead agencies like the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management who established the priorities and assigned the localities where we work. Our top priority is providing additional capacity for COVID test sample collection and mask test fitting at longterm care and correctional facilities, which are some of our most vulnerable population.
Timothy Williams: (08:43)
We also have personnel transporting test kits at different locations across the state as well as providing material handling support and commodity distribution and planning. When the governor declared a state of emergency, we immediately began assisting with operations, logistics and medical planning in multiple VDEM regions across the state and those planning efforts continue. So far, our personnel had performed more than 22,000 hours of planning augmentation about 100 Virginia National Guard soldiers and airmen with extensive experience with the proper employment of PPE and operations involving hazardous materials and health protection protocols receive training from VDH and are supporting COVID sample collection in N95 respirator mask fit testing.
Timothy Williams: (09:33)
At multiple locations across the state. We have collected samples from more than 2,700 people using provided kits and conducted mask kit fit tests for nearly 450 staff members at longterm care facilities as well as delivering more than 730 sample collection kits. This week we have personnel supporting testing in the Central and Northern Virginia areas. We will deploy personnel to support the Eastern Shore Health District in conducting drive-through testing on Friday and Saturday with the ability to test up to a 1,000 people a day. Virginia National Guard personnel will collect samples for the test kits and the Health Department will provide health protection information, while supporting the testing effort is our top priority. We have personnel on duty and helping in a number of other ways.
Timothy Williams: (10:23)
Our soldiers are supporting food bank and operations by assisting with preparing food boxes in the warehouses as well as helping with food distribution and supply deliveries in Fredericksburg and the Roanoke New River Valley areas. We have assisted with the distribution of approximately 50,000 pounds of food in our local communities. Across the 7 VDEM regions, we have personnel assisting with material handling operations to get the much needed supply packages on trucks for delivery. Guard personnel have handled more than 500 pallets and assisted with distribution of more than 200,000 N95 masks, 150,000 surgical masks, 69,000 pairs of surgical gloves and 720 bottles of hand sanitizer.
Timothy Williams: (11:10)
All of these missions are a result of our ongoing coordination with VDEM and our operations are part of the coordinated multi-agency state team. VDEM provides our taskings based on the capabilities requested by localities. So that we ensure we have a coordinated state response. Localities should send any requests for assistance through their local emergency managers. As in the case in everything that we do, we wouldn’t be able to conduct our missions without the support of our families, employers in our communities. With Military Spouse Appreciation Day coming up on Friday. It’s important to recognize how much we rely on our loved ones when we are away from home on missions for long periods of time. Most of our personnel on duty right now have full time jobs other than the national guard. And our employers are great patriots for their patience, flexibility and unwavering commitment. Now more than ever, we all need to come together and work as a team and I thank them for all the important contributions they are making.
Timothy Williams: (12:17)
And finally, I’m extremely proud of the great work from our personnel supporting Virginia’s COVID response. And I know we are putting their skills, experience and knowledge to good work. We will continue to work with localities and our state agency partners supporting all efforts to move Virginia forward. Thank you.
Ralph Northam: (12:36)
Thank you so much general, we appreciate it.
Timothy Williams: (12:37)
Ralph Northam: (12:43)
As you can see, the national guard just does amazing work and whether it’s helping with this COVID-19 pandemic or fighting conflicts around the world or hurricane relief, they’re always there for us. And so General Williamson, to all of your guard members on behalf of Virginia, we’re so thankful and you make us very proud. So we appreciate that. And for those of you that like to fly your college or university colors, Major General Williams is a proud graduate of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. So welcome. Thank you.
Ralph Northam: (13:21)
Now I’d like to highlight a few other things. I want to thank Virginia’s hospitals for stepping up to help our longterm care facilities. When we allowed elective surgeries to resume last week, we also discussed how our hospitals could help address the virus in longterm care facilities. Today the Virginia hospital and healthcare association has done just that. Announcing that they will assist facilities with several issues including staffing, testing, and PPE. I want to thank them for their commitment to being an ongoing longterm partner in combating this virus and to help in these longterm care facilities.
Ralph Northam: (14:03)
– In combating this virus and to help in these longterm care facilities. On another note, our health equity working group has organized a donation of 15,000 masks and hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer for neighborhoods with high risk populations. This follows extensive community testing in RVA and Harrisonburg where we are working with the cities to distribute kits with masks and hand sanitizer. Our work group also provided educational materials about the virus translated into different languages most spoken in those communities and has worked with city officials on health equity training. And finally, today is Nurses Appreciation Day. My favorite nurse was my mother. She trained at Johns Hopkins University and while raising my brother and me, she continued to work as a nurse in our local hospital. So, as a doctor, I know that no medical facility could function without our wonderful nurses. They are the bedrock of our health system and I’m grateful to every nurse in Virginia for everything that they do. So now we will have our health commissioner, Dr. Norm Oliver, speak and go through some of our data. Dr. Oliver, welcome.
Dr. Norm Oliver: (15:27)
Thank you, governor. As those of you in the press probably know already and viewers may know if you’ve gone to the website, we have not updated the data from yesterday. We had a technical problem in doing so. Our team is working very hard right now to ensure that we can get this data up as quickly as possible and we expect to have that posted later on today. Thank you.
Ralph Northam: (15:54)
Thanks, Dr. Oliver.
Ralph Northam: (15:56)
We’d be glad to take your questions.
Speaker 2: (16:00)
Governor, regarding your announcement that the phase one restrictions at the state level will be the floor and you’re going to let localities do a more severe restrictions if they so choose. You had been talking about the need to have a uniformity and these restrictions with the other states and that businesses express worries if you did a regional reopening, a hotspot, people could come to their open businesses. So, can you explain that thought process of allowing, I guess, this regional approach?
Ralph Northam: (16:28)
Sure. And the question is about the floor that we talked about that will occur when we go into phase one, the restrictions that will be throughout Virginia and understanding that this is a floor and if there are areas that feel that they need to intensify, if you will, those restrictions for a period of time, if there are hot zones, and I think two good examples, Cam, of that around the Eastern shore right now.
Ralph Northam: (16:55)
If you look at all of the localities in Virginia, and there perhaps 133 of them, they’re in the top 10 in numbers of individuals that are affected by COVID-19. Northern Virginia obviously has higher numbers than other areas of the state. And I was in a call yesterday with Governor Hogan and Mayor Bowzer from Washington DC. Governor Hogan from the state of Maryland. And we realized that the greater Washington area is an area that we need to pay particular attention to. So, we’ve also been talking to our local leaders in places like Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William County. And so we’re still a week and a half away from the 15th but as we get closer, if they have concerns and want to raise that floor, if you will, for another week to whatever they think is necessary, we’ll work with them on that.
Speaker 3: (18:29)
[inaudible 00:18:29] happening because of COVID-19. Are you still planning on suspending those payments or will those payments still have to be made during this event?
Ralph Northam: (18:43)
That’s a good question. I have Secretary Moran here and I’ll let you address that, secretary Moran.
Secretary Brian Moran: (18:49)
Thank you, governor. I believe the question has to do with child support payments within the Bon AIr Correctional Facility. Child support payments are required. I think it has to … After that question was asked several weeks ago, we pursued it. Apparently somebody doesn’t … Wondering how to put this. Somebody doesn’t want to pay their child support because the school that’s within Bon Air was closed. But I was not able to find any statutory authority to suspend those payments.
Secretary Brian Moran: (19:20)
You’re still required to pay them unless the court were determined to suspend them. So, I’m sorry I don’t have a better answer. But just because the Yvonne Miller School that’s closed in Bon Air, that doesn’t suspend the obligation to pay child support is my understanding.
Secretary Brian Moran: (19:37)
But this does give me a chance to governor with DJJ. Frank Green from the RTD wrote an article today highlighting the fact that of the 29 who tested positive 27 returned to the room, are residents at DJJ. And we have not had any positive tests in several days now, almost two weeks. So, I want to thank Valerie Boyd and her team, Joyce Holman and others at Bon Air … And we’ve also reduced the population to the lowest in history as Frank Green pointed out in his article.
Secretary Brian Moran: (20:11)
So, extraordinary steps and measures have been taken at Bon Air to ensure the safety of our residents at the Bon Air facility and our correctional officers at those facilities. Thank you.
Ralph Northam: (20:23)
Thank you, secretary.
Speaker 4: (20:26)
Yeah. Last week we were told that the state had signed contracts with three different private labs to boost testing by 3,000 a day. But in a call with folks at DCLS and VDH this morning, it sounded like only one of those might actually have been signed. Can we get an update on that and what those contracts are for?
Ralph Northam: (20:46)
Sure. Okay. The question is about contracts for testing and I’m going to let Dr. Remley … Welcome, Dr. Remley.
Dr. Remley: (20:56)
Thank you, governor. Yes. Friday afternoon without a contract we were able to work closely. VDEM worked with the company online. We’re able to get emergency supplies over. We have the two other companies that are Virginia based that they’re in the process of doing the final stages of the contracts, but they’re already providing the test kits. It’s up to 5,000 a week.
Dr. Remley: (21:18)
Those kits are used in combination with all of the public health lab capacity we have through DCLS, UVA, VCU and Virginia Tech. What we do is imagine a very logistical piece of work to make sure that there’s never an opportunity, if somebody needs to be tested, whether it be at a community testing site, at a longterm care facility, at a prison or anywhere else we need to do priority testing, we want to make sure we always have the testing available to do that in a timely fashion. So, these contracts allow us to have that extra capacity to use as we go through these difficult weeks, knowing that each week will be a little bit different than the one before.
Speaker 4: (21:58)
[inaudible 00:21:58] the labs are sending Virginia test kits, but we are not sending samples to those labs?
Dr. Remley: (22:03)
No. If we use those labs, they send us the kids, the kids stay at the VDEM warehouse. The VDEM warehouse then determines, working with VDH leadership, when to use those kits and where they’re deployed. So, they’ve been used by the guard just this week. And then other times we may be using the DCLS kits because they’re ready to go. And so it’s really an effort every day of where do the kits match up with where the work is that needs to be done around the state because we know it’s not just the guard, it’s local health departments, it’s working in communities where testing is occurring.
Speaker 5: (22:38)
[inaudible 00:22:38] CBS 19 in Charlottesville.
Speaker 6: (22:41)
Hi. Thank you, governor. At least six inmates were transferred from the Dillon Correctional Center to Sussex Two on Monday night, I’m told with no warning, at least one of those inmates had been held in quarantine for a COVID-19 infection. My question is, has the DOP’s policy on trans [inaudible 00:23:00] inmates between facilities during the pandemic changed and why were these inmates transferred?
Ralph Northam: (23:06)
I’ll let Secretary Moran address that question. Thanks, Brian.
Secretary Brian Moran: (23:09)
Secretary Brian Moran: (23:10)
The question has to do with a transfer of a number of inmates from one correctional facility to another correctional facility. We have not changed our policy at all. Any transfer’s limited to a necessity. And in the case that the question refers to, that was necessary for safety and security purposes. And so that transfer was made.
Speaker 6: (23:36)
Speaker 7: (23:44)
Just trying to get some update on the testing in the minority communities. How are we coming? And also could I put a personal bid in for Lynchburg, Roanoke, and Portsmouth, and Norfolk.
Speaker 7: (23:56)
And then on sidebar, governor, just wondering, I’ve interviewed many of your administrators and staff members after these conferences and they all talk about working six to seven days a week. Just wondering how would you really doing, governor? How were you taking all of this? Are you frustrated that this has come upon your watch? How are you really holding up?
Ralph Northam: (24:18)
I appreciate that question. First of all, the first question was about our testing in rural areas, our underserved areas and as you just heard from General Williams, we’re deploying the national guard to go to some of those areas. They’re over on the Eastern shore as we speak today. They have a schedule and we work through VDEM, our department of emergency management, on guiding them where we need that particular testing. Obviously the department of health, a lot of different people that are involved on where we do testing.
Ralph Northam: (24:54)
So as you know, we’ve been in several sites here in Richmond and that went very well. But what we’ll do as we move forward is we’ll continue to outreach and to go to every community, but especially underserved communities. Some other issues that have come up. We take for granted some time that everyone has transportation, but there are obviously individuals that don’t have that. So, we’re looking at ways to reach out whether we take a test kit to their home or whether we help them with transportation through VDEM, we have that opportunity to do.
Ralph Northam: (25:34)
Also we’re looking at are our home health nurses, deploying them to be able to test for the patients that they oversee. So, this again, you’ve heard us talk about this a lot, the evolution of this testing process that we started with just a couple of tests after March the Seventh, and now we’re testing six to 7,000 and we want to continue to expand that up to 10,000 but to really, not only to get to the areas that we know are at risk, but also at random testing, so we can follow the prevalence of this as it evolves in Virginia.
Ralph Northam: (26:13)
So again, Dr. Remley has been in charge of expanding that process, but I think each day is better and we’ll continue to do everything that we can to make sure that everybody that needs a test or wants a test in Virginia has that opportunity.
Ralph Northam: (26:29)
The second part of your question, how am I doing? I’m doing fine. And just to put things in perspective, this is a biological war that we’re fighting. And as I said the other day, I spent a number of years in the United States army as a physician. We trained for biological war. I never experienced that when I was a doctor in the army. But I did experience a different conflict and that was Desert Storm. And during that time, I took care of wounded soldiers at Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany, which was the first triage out of the desert. And for probably about a month and a half, we were taking 30 to 45 casualties a day.
Ralph Northam: (27:18)
And it was tough work. Similar to what I think doctors and nurses and healthcare providers are experiencing in our hospitals now. And so while it was tough, it was also perhaps training for this. One day just blended into the next and you weren’t sure when it was going to end, but it did end and we got through it. And so I take my job very seriously and I appreciate you asking about our staff because I promise you, if you asked any of these individuals out here, they wouldn’t be able to tell you when their last day off was. They are working seven days a week around the clock, no complaints, and doing great work. So, I appreciate the question, but I would reassure-
Ralph Northam: (28:03)
So, I just would … I appreciate the question, but I would reassure Virginia that we have a great team up here and they’re here to do everything in the best interest for the health and wellbeing of Virginians. And together, we’re going to get through this.
[inaudible 00:28:18]. Tracy Agnew with the Suffolk News-Herald is next up.
Tracy Agnew: (28:23)
Thank you. Regarding the outbreak from the Eastern shore, you mentioned earlier the testing of employees, but what other recommendations has the CDC team made to the outbreak sites on the Eastern shore and how and when are these recommendations going to be implemented? And there have also been questions about any provisions or financial assistance for employees to self-isolate away from their household member that may be available.
Ralph Northam: (28:47)
That’s a good question. And while I’m from the Eastern shore, and as you might imagine, have been monitoring this very closely. There’s a nursing home, there’s a convenience store that’s had an outbreak. And so, we’re looking not only at the meat processing plants over there, but also how we test our community members. Dr. [Alan 00:29:05], if you wanted to elaborate. Thank you.
Dr. Alan: (29:09)
Thank you, Governor. As the Governor mentioned, the outbreak on the Eastern shore goes beyond meat processing plants, although the majority of cases are in the two poultry plants there. If you think of those plants, which together have about 3,000 employees, as a cruise ship. What’s happening in that community is every day a cruise ship with hundreds of COVID-19 patients disembarks into the community. And because of that, we’re very concerned about community spread throughout the rest of the Eastern shore. In addition, there’s an outbreak in one of the nursing homes there. So we have been working very diligently with our contact tracers looking to try to contain the spread of disease there as best as we can. We’ve had the support of the CDC. And the question was, what sorts of recommendations the CDC has made, along with our own epidemiologists here in Virginia?
Dr. Alan: (30:17)
And what we want to try to do is, as was outlined by the Governor on Monday with the recommendations that businesses will be looking at, we want to try to increase as much as possible physical distancing within the plants, as well as social distancing within the plants. And the recommendations all revolve around things like that. Plant management has been very cooperative in this, putting up separations like plexiglass between the workers. And when they can’t be more than six feet apart, providing them with masks. Altering and staggering break times, so you decrease the opportunity for large groups of people getting together. We’ve talked with plant management about ensuring paid sick leave so that someone who is identified as having COVID-19 and needs to be isolated and quarantined, can do so.
Dr. Alan: (31:17)
The plants have arranged for hotel space for workers who need to be quarantined so that they can go without going back to their housing, which in many cases is highly densely populated housing quarters. And so, we don’t want them to go back to that kind of situation. We’ve had, as I said, good cooperation. We believe that the Guards’ presence this coming weekend on Friday and Saturday will really ratchet up our ability to help contain the spread there. If we are able to test … We’re looking at somewhere around 1,500, something like that, tests. It will really help us a lot. And that’s community-based testing. The companies are testing the employees. We’re planning on testing the surrounding communities. So all of those steps are being taken to try to contain this in the Eastern shore.
Ralph Northam: (32:15)
Thanks, Dr. Alan.
[inaudible 00:04:17]. So two things. One, you mentioned you’re seeing the President to extend this Title 32 status. What’s at stake without that federal assistance with the National Guard? How could that impact the state’s response? And then also, it was mentioned earlier on this call with VDH that there’s 100 longterm care facilities in this queue to be tested by the National Guard and you’re probably only going to be able to get through about two or three every day. So is there a way to increase that effort so that you’re able to get through these facilities faster and even add more to the queue, including correctional facilities?
Ralph Northam: (32:54)
To get this, let me talk to the second question. I might get Dr. [Remley 00:32:57] to elaborate a bit, but we do have a number of longterm care facilities and nursing homes and the National Guard is helping with that. But that’s not the only means of testing at those areas. So, that doesn’t mean that just the National Guard is testing, for example, our nursing homes. So, we’ll be using other means, whether it be private testing, whether it be the Department of Health to do those tests. And is there anything else you’d like to add to that?
Dr. Remley: (33:28)
Thank you, Governor. I think it’s very different. You have to think about if you’re in a longterm care facility, it’s up to the facility. The people who run the facility decide how they want to be tested and when they want to be tested. They need to communicate with their staff about it. They need to communicate with the loved ones, the people who are in the facility to explain what’s going to happen. They have to make plans about how they will be able to do that appropriately.
Dr. Remley: (33:51)
And so, all of that takes more time than setting up a community testing in the Eastern shore, which you can do pretty quickly. So if you looked at the solutions, and I would say Dr. [Forlano’s 00:34:02] over here, and very involved in all of this, it looks different for many different types of facilities. Some facilities say, “Teach me how to test and I’d like to do it myself.” And so, I would turn … Dr. Forlano, I don’t know if you want to add anything more to that? Because this is what she’s living and breathing every day.
Dr. Forlano: (34:17)
I think you captured it.
Dr. Remley: (34:18)
Dr. Forlano: (34:19)
Dr. Remley: (34:19)
Ralph Northam: (34:21)
Thanks for sharing. And your first question about Title 32 I’m going to let our Secretary of Veterans Affairs address that.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs: (34:28)
Thank you, sir. Thank you, Governor. And the question is to, what would Virginia do if the extension was not granted for Title 32 status? So, I will go back to the remarks I made a few weeks ago. So, even before we received the Title 32 status, members of the National Guard had been activated in a state active duty status. And so, while we believe the request will be granted and it’s important to Virginia and our response, if the Title 32 extension were not granted, the members of the National Guard would still be available to respond and they would still carry out those duties, those missions that we asked them to participate in.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs: (35:02)
[crosstalk 00:07:03]- … It would not change the response at all. The cost burden would fall to the state, as opposed to the federal government. And that’s the difference between a state active duty status and a Title 32 status. So while we would not receive that federal reimbursement, the state would still fund the National Guard because of the importance of the response effort.
Our states not rolling in dough, though. Does that matter? Why does that matter that the state would have to pay for it?
Secretary of Veterans Affairs: (35:29)
Well, cost always matters. I’m not going to steal Secretary [Lane’s 00:35:32] thunder here, but there are funds in place in the budget that we can access for purposes of the National Guard and its response. So funding always matters, but we have taken provisions and precautions to ensure that we have the necessary funds to continue that response. But certainly our priority is the Title 32 status.
Just to the bigger point of funding. How much money was received from the federal government for the COVID-19 response? How much has been spent so far?
Ralph Northam: (36:00)
Actually, if you want some exact numbers, I’m going to let Secretary Lane come up and address that. The question was, how much federal funding have we received for COVID-19? Thanks, [Alban 00:00:36:12].
Secretary Lane: (36:13)
Yeah, thank you Governor. So there are approximately 50 different income streams that are related to the cares or the federal stimulus funds that have come to the Commonwealth of Virginia and they include all the different disciplines in terms of direct funding that have been impacted by this virus. That amounts to, when you include the amount of … For instance, the PPP, the payroll protection plans. That’s about $15 billion, and the largest part of that is the PPP, are almost non-billion dollars. So another $6 billion roughly has come through the state of Virginia. I think your question probably most significantly relates to the direct dollars received by the state on behalf of itself and localities and that is approximately $3.1 billion that we have received.
Secretary Lane: (37:05)
Of course, there are very significant and restrictive terms that it has to be used for. It cannot be used to replace, for instance, lost revenues, which many localities would like to do. That is not, unfortunately, an applicable use of that. So the Governor has been in the process, working with his team, on how we’re going to allocate those dollars. There’ll be guidance going out to the cabinet and his agencies heads this week. And then of course, we’ll get guidance out to the localities on how those monies will be distributed.
Secretary Lane: (37:38)
I need to make one point, and that is that the monies received by the state, while the Governor fully intends to give some to localities, that there’s not a mandate that it go to localities. It is a mandate that it’s used for the response by the state and localities related to this virus. And so, we fully intend to get an allocation out to the localities. But again, it will have to be certified that they have to be used in compliance with the federal guidelines and the state is ultimately responsible. So I think that probably answers your question on the amount of funds.
I should’ve clarified. Regarding specific to testing, I’m sorry. And how [crosstalk 00:10:16]-
Secretary Lane: (38:16)
Okay. So, there are different parts of this act also. In fact, the recent part, I guess part three, so to speak, of that was $25 billion was set aside directly for testing and we don’t know how much of that is going to come to the state as of yet. I know Dr. [Carey’s 00:38:34] already received some monies that came through. I signed a brief earlier today, about $14 million, that was from another grant that went particularly through. In addition to that, that 3.1 billion that I spoke of, that it’s at our discretion, allowable use for that is testing and contact tracing.
Secretary Lane: (38:52)
And I would expect that would be a pretty significant amount of the monies that we’re going to use because that is key, as the Governor said, to both the health crisis but also this economic crisis that we’re facing on the other side. So I know Dr. Carey’s team is entertaining the cost of what that’s going to be. I assume it will be significant and will go on for a period of time, but those monies that we have set aside, that is certainly an applicable use for that. Thank [crosstalk 00:39:17] you.
Ralph Northam: (39:18)
Thank you, Secretary Lane.
[crosstalk 00:39:19] Next up is [Luanne Rice 00:11:21] with [Roundup 00:39:22] Time.
Hi. Yeah, this is Amy [inaudible 00:39:28] from the Roundup Time.
I wanted to ask if … Why the state can’t publish outbreaks by localities rather than health district so it can be more specific as to the number of cases and deaths tied to each outbreak? And in the same vein as outbreaks, you have said the EDH can’t identify nursing homes with COVID cases, [inaudible 00:39:53] part of the state code. A number of legislators on both sides of the aisle have disagreed with your interpretation of the code. If the legislature were to approve legislation at the anticipated special session, if they were to change the code for the purpose of clarity so they could identify nursing homes, would you support that?
Ralph Northam: (40:13)
[inaudible 00:40:13] want to address that?
Speaker 8: (40:19)
Ralph Northam: (40:19)
Speaker 8: (40:21)
Sure, I can take it. Thank you, Governor. The question really was about, I guess, both sides of the aisle had expressed interest in changing the law that the Attorney General’s Office, in support of the Department of Health in the past, have said that, just like individuals have rights to their personal health information, that nursing homes also have that right. And it’s in support of that notion in the code that has led to our current practice. So, that is still in place. And I think you cited that in the press that both sides of the aisle had expressed that interest in changing the code. And I think that the … I won’t speak for the Governor, but you’re open … I’ll let you speak, Governor, for yourself. Excuse me.
Ralph Northam: (41:17)
No, you’re doing fine. What’s the next question?
Governor, in terms of contact tracing, I’ve seen other states talk about hiring maybe 10,000 people or more. I know you guys talked about even hiring 1,500. You have a couple-
Ralph Northam: (41:34)
… hundred on staff right now. Do we have enough? Is the plan to hire more down the road? What do you guys see?
Ralph Northam: (41:39)
Do you want to talk about where we are [crosstalk 00:41:42] with our hiring process? Thanks.
Dr. Alan: (41:44)
The National Association of City and County Health Officials and other noted public health agencies and academics have said that … And Harvard in their study around contact tracing, pointed out that you need anywhere between 15 to 30-
Dr. Alan: (42:03)
… pointed out that you need anywhere between 15 to 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 in your population, and that’s how we came up with this number. We are going to have a core group of a couple hundred to 300 more highly trained folks who can do case identification and that sort of thing, and then another thousand contact tracers. And that would put us at that lower end of that 15 per 100,000. And we are prepared to ramp up as necessary. But that’s where we came up with that figure.
Ralph Northam: (42:37)
Henry, just to follow up. Thank you, Dr. Oliver. As we transition into phase one, that’s been one of the factors that is going to be so important. We’ve talked about PPE, we’ve talked about the ability to test, but really, the ability to track and trace where there are flare ups, where there are hotspots, so that we can help those areas. It’s really something that we will be depending on as we move forward.
Ralph Northam: (43:04)
And so as Dr. Oliver said, we’re in the process of ramping up that workforce. If we need less at some point, then we can deal with that. If we need more, we’ll obviously hire as many people as we need to, to do the job adequately. And again, it’s all about keeping people safe throughout Virginia.
Speaker 9: (43:26)
Roger Watson with the Farmville Herald.
Roger Watson: (43:28)
Thank you. Concerning the outbreak at the Dillwyn Correctional Center, what precautions are being taken by the staff there to help lessen community spread from the outbreak with inmates?
Ralph Northam: (43:47)
Thank you. Secretary Moran?
Brian Moran: (43:47)
Question is with respect to one of our facilities, in particular Dillwyn. And what we are doing is much of what you’ve heard today, is that we are doing more point prevalence testing. Because we need to know, we need to early detect those who have the virus. And so we’ve done Deerfield last week. Today, we’re doing Buckingham with the help of the guard, and Laurie Forlano’s group, VDH. And we’re doing Buckingham today and Dillwyn at the end of the week. We’re going to test everyone, because we know this virus can be spread while someone is asymptomatic.
Brian Moran: (44:23)
So early on in this, we were testing symptomatic inmates and correctional officers. And since that time, we’ve been able to work, and as the PPE has increased, testing kits have become more available. And so I just really appreciate the effort of VDH and the guard to allow point prevalence testing at our correctional facilities, because only through early detection will it enable the Department of Corrections personnel to enforce and take the measures with respect to quarantine and isolation that are necessary to ensure the safety and health of those we have in custody, in addition to the safety and health of our correctional officers.
Speaker 10: (45:03)
I understand that you’re trying to hire 1000 more contact tracers. I was told this morning by VDH that the state doesn’t know how many we currently employ. Can you talk about how you’ll know when we’ve hired a sufficient number, and if that number needs to be changed, given the lack of clarity as to what that work force looks like right now?
Dr. Alan: (45:28)
Thank you. So the question is, how will we know when we’ve hired enough contact tracers, given the fact that it’s a little unclear exactly how many we have currently. The lack of clarity comes from the distribution of our workforce across the state. We have 35 districts. We have 129 local health departments. Each of those departments are facing a different level of cases in their jurisdiction, and they ramp up and down according to what’s happening in their locality. So at any given point, I couldn’t just tell you exactly how many people are working on contact tracing in Louisa, unless I called up the Louisa Health Department and ask them who’s working on it that day.
Dr. Alan: (46:17)
I do know, however, that it’s in the hundreds. It’s probably two to three hundred people who are doing that kind of work. And we also know that we need about 1,300 or so, in order to hit that 15 per 100,000 population. We can definitely figure out exactly how many people we hire as we ramp up, because that’s going to be a special effort requiring working with our workforce director and others to really make sure that we hire people appropriately across the Commonwealth, ensuring that we have them in rural areas, in black and brown communities, that the workforce represents the people that they are working with in those communities, and other things. So we will know when we’ve hired that number.
Dr. Alan: (47:11)
And then we will be tracking the metrics that we’ve told you about, and that will give us an idea of whether or not we have enough people on board for tamping down any increased incidence in the disease. And that’s our end point. Because boxing in the spread of the disease is the whole purpose of the contact tracing, and if we’re not boxing it in, then we need to do more.
Speaker 10: (47:39)
Contact tracing is so important. Would you be willing to keep us posted during these briefings as to how many tracers you’ve hired and how close you are to that 1,300 number?
Dr. Alan: (47:46)
The question is, since contact tracing is so important, will we be keeping you and the public posted on how we’re doing on that? And the answer is yes.
Governor, I know you were planning to talk to Governor Hogan and Mayor Bowser yesterday, and I wondered what reaction, if any, they had to your announcement that you’re looking at entering phase one on the 15th.
Ralph Northam: (48:15)
The question is, in my conversation yesterday with Mayor Bowser from Washington and Governor Hogan, what was there a reaction or response to our plans to, if the data continues to track in a positive way, our plans to go into phase one on Friday, May the 15th.
Ralph Northam: (48:38)
We have a great relationship, Laura, with our neighboring leaders. We all have different situations. We all have unique challenges. I’ll give you an example. Governor Hogan in Maryland has Ocean City, which is where the beaches are. We have Virginia Beach. And so we talked a lot about that. How can we move together, forward together? Obviously, Maryland, Washington, and the greater Washington area are very dense. Just as they’re watching their numbers, we’re watching our numbers. And so one of the points of our conversation was that, as we move forward, that things aren’t really written in stone, that there has to be flexibility. If, for example, the numbers were to rise more than we feel comfortable with in Northern Virginia, as I talked about earlier, we will allow them to raise that floor.
Ralph Northam: (49:38)
So the conversations are always very cordial. We talk about working together, but also understanding that we live in different areas. Obviously, Virginia is so diverse geographically, versus Washington DC, and they understand that. So we have a great relationship, and we’ll continue to communicate probably once or twice a week. And again, as I’ve said, do everything that we can to be as consistent as we can moving forward.
Ralph Northam: (50:05)
Alan Suderman from the Associated Press, welcome.
Alan Suderman: (50:08)
Thank you. I have a number of questions.
Ralph Northam: (50:11)
You get one.
Alan Suderman: (50:15)
Who’s going to have the final say on the local restrictions, like in Northern Virginia? Say Arlington wants to X, and Alexandria wants to do Y.
Ralph Northam: (50:24)
Alan Suderman: (50:25)
How would you ensure [crosstalk 00:50:28]-
Ralph Northam: (50:27)
Just hold on, Alan, one at a time. I know you haven’t been here for a while, but I take one question at a time, so I appreciate your cooperation. But I will have the final say. We obviously work closely with our localities. I’m actually having a meeting, a teleconference, tomorrow with our leaders in Northern Virginia, just to discuss where they are, what their comfort level is, how we move together. But it will be how we can help them, whether it be Northern Virginia, Eastern Shore, Southwest, we’ll discuss those recommendations or requests that they have, and then I’ll have the final say. What’s your second question?
Alan Suderman: (51:09)
There’s quite a few, a number of people outside, honking their horn-
Ralph Northam: (51:13)
Alan Suderman: (51:14)
… [crosstalk 00:51:14]. What’s your message to the people who are out expressing their anger that [inaudible 00:51:19]?
Ralph Northam: (51:19)
My message is, to Virginia, is that we just heard a great presentation from our National Guard. We have hundreds of National Guardsmen and women doing their job in Virginia. Today, as I said, is National Nurses Day. It’s also Teacher Appreciation Day. So my message is, I want to thank, on behalf of Virginia, the folks that are stepping up every day to be part of the solution, to protect the health and well-being of Virginians, to get this health crisis behind us so we can move on and get our economy back up and running again.
Speaker 9: (51:57)
Ralph Northam: (51:58)
Yes. I’d just like to close by saying, we talked about nurses, we talked about the National Guard, and please thank them. But it’s also Teacher Appreciation Week. And I, along with probably everybody in this room and those of you watching, would not be where we are if it hadn’t been for outstanding teachers that we had when we were coming along. So they have really stepped up during this pandemic. As you know, our children are out of school, but that has not stopped them from reaching out to children, their families, making sure that they continue to receive their education, making sure that they continue to receive the nutrition, making sure individuals with disabilities are taken care of. I can’t say enough about what our teachers are doing across the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Ralph Northam: (52:44)
So if you have the opportunity, whether you have one that lives in your household, or whether it’s a neighbor, or whether it’s a teacher of your children, please reach out to them this week and thank them, and let them know how much we appreciate them for all that they do. I appreciate all of you being here today. As we said, on Friday we will talk in more detail about our plans, when hopefully we can enter phase one, and I think answer a lot of questions for our businesses. And really, our main goal as we go into phase one is to make sure that our consumers are comfortable going back into our places of businesses across Virginia. And our businesses have really stepped up and want to make sure that that’s the case. So we look forward to being with you on Friday. Thank you so much.