May 8, 2020
Ralph Northam Virginia COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 8
Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia held a coronavirus press conference on May 8. Northam revealed plans for Phase One of reopening. Read the full news conference speech here.
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Ralph Northam: (00:00)
In the community, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. We are preparing to hire roughly 1000 contact tracers. We have approximately 325 contact tracers, through the Department of Health, right now. These additional tools, paired with health data metrics, are informing our decisions about what restrictions to ease, and when we can safely do that. I anticipate and hope, that phase one, will start on Friday, May the 15th. Obviously, if our trends change, we will adjust that date, as needed. While our tools to fight this virus have changed, our commitment has not. I want to reassure Virginians, we are not opening the flood gates here. We’re not flipping a light switch from closed to open. When the time is right, we will turn a dimmer switch, up just a notch. The reality is, that the virus, is still in our communities. And we need to continue our vigilance, and social distancing, hand-washing, and wearing a face protection, when we’re out and about.
Ralph Northam: (01:18)
Our Forward Virginia Plan, has three phases. Today, I’m going to give more details, on phase one. As you will see, this plan will slowly, and deliberately, ease some of the restrictions, but not all. We will move forward cautiously, with science, data, and safety, as our criteria. First, I want Virginians to see what health data, we’re looking at to make these determinations. This is our confirmed positive cases, by the date they were reported, to the Virginia Department of Health. You’ll see the blue bars represent the number of cases. And the yellow line, is the seven day moving average. While we’ve seen a slight dip in the past few days, largely, these numbers are going up. And that is what we expect, in part, because we are testing more people. But it’s also important to remember, that this virus, is still out there. The next graph shows us how many people are being tested each day in the blue bars.
Ralph Northam: (02:31)
The yellow line represents a seven day moving average of how many people we are testing. As you can see, both the number of tests, and the average of tests performed, have both largely been trending upward. There may be dips, where we have tested fewer people, on one day, but overall, this shows that we are doing more testing and we will continue, to do more testing in the future. The next slide, shows us how many of those tests came back positive. The dark blue graph is the number of people tested. The light blue at the bottom, is how many were positive. And the yellow line again, shows the average. I have said, that I want a 14 day downward trend in the percent of positivity, and that is what we are seeing on this chart. Again, looking at that yellow line, see over the last two plus weeks, that has been trending downward. And that’s a good thing.
Ralph Northam: (03:35)
The next slide, shows how many hospitals are reporting shortages of PPE. The blue bars, are the number of hospitals, and the yellow line, is the seven day moving average. This is trending downward, which is good news. It has been several days, since any hospital has reported shortages of PPE. And some exciting news, today. We, as you know, have ordered, PPE through several distributors. But yesterday, we had a large shipment, of PPE, arrive from overseas. It was a 747 transport plane that landed at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. And we have trucks, as we speak today, that have been loading that PPE, and are bringing it to Virginia. So that’s something that we’re very thankful and excited about. This next slide, is what we’re monitoring our hospital capacity. On this chart, the darkest blue at the bottom, of how many COVID patients, are in hospital beds. The medium blue, is how many other patients are in beds. And the light blue, is their staffed bed capacity. Now the yellow line, dotted line at the top, represents surge capacity. As you can see, our hospitals are currently reporting that they have capacity, and we’ll keep an eye on that, as elective surgeries continue to resume. The next chart, shows us how many people who have COVID, are hospitalized. The total number, is the dark blue bar, of hospitalizations. While the medium blue represents COVID patients in the ICU. And the light blue, toward the bottom, is COVID patients, who are on ventilators. The yellow line, is a seven day average, and as you can see, that remains essentially flat, and that’s a good sign. This next chart, as you can see, shows the rate at which our cases are doubling, has slowed now to 16 days. So those are the data metrics, that we’re watching.
Ralph Northam: (05:55)
Now, let’s talk about phase one. In many ways, it will look like, what we’ve been doing. We will still encourage anyone who can telework, to do so. The 25 person limit on gatherings, will remain. We encourage everyone to wear face coverings when they’re out and about, around other people, in the public. The stay at home order, will become a safer, at home order. That means that while there are a few more places to go, everyone, should still only go there as needed, and otherwise, stay home, as much as possible. People who are more at risk, due to age or health conditions, should also still, stay at home as much as possible. Everyone should keep up social distancing, staying six feet away from other people, outside of their home.
Ralph Northam: (06:53)
So here’s what phase one will mean, for the places that you go. Nonessential retail, has been limited to just 10 people inside, for two months. In phase one, we will slightly increase that to 50%, of the establishment’s capacity. Restaurants, breweries, and beverage services have been limited to takeout, curbside, and delivery. That will remain for phase one, but, if a restaurant or brewery, already has a permit for outdoor seating, we will allow service in that outdoor area, at 50% capacity. Entertainment, and public amusement venues, will remain closed in phase one. Gyms and fitness centers, have been closed. In phase one, we’ll allow outdoor classes, with limitations. Beaches, are currently open for only exercise, and fishing. That will remain the case, in phase one. Beaches at our state parks will remain open for exercise, and fishing only, consistent, with our public beaches. Looking forward, we are setting a high bar to ease beach restrictions. It will require a comprehensive, and sustainable plan for cleaning, social distancing, education, and enforcement.
Ralph Northam: (08:23)
Our faith communities play a special role in the lives of their members and in our communities. During the past two months, our places of worship, have had a 25 person limit, with drive-in services allowed, and encouraged. In phase one, drive-in services, may continue. And services may be held inside, at 50% capacity. Personal grooming services have been closed. They may open in phase one if they can adhere to strict social distancing, with face masks required, and appointments required.
Ralph Northam: (09:02)
So the good news today is, if all of this goes into effect, a week from today we can all get our haircut by our barber, or our hairstylist. Private campgrounds, have been closed. In phase one, they may open, with restrictions on distance, between campsites. State parks have been open for day use only. In phase one, we’ll slowly open for tent camping, RVs, and then, cabins. And that won’t happen immediately. I also want to remind Virginians that the 25 person limit, continues to apply in state parks. Some childcare centers, have been open, prioritizing children of working families. That will continue in phase one. Overnight summer camps will remain closed in phase one. And again the 25 person limit on gatherings will remain, and we strongly encourage teleworking for those able to do so. And wearing face coverings in public, to protect ourselves, and especially others.
Ralph Northam: (10:14)
Here you can see, all of this together. I know businesses will have many questions, about the details of how this pertains to them. And all of the guidelines will be posted on our website, virginia.gov. When we enter phase one, we expect it will last a minimum of two weeks, and it may last longer, depending on what the data shows. A decision to move into phase two will be based on health metrics, like we are using for phase one. I know some communities may choose to go more slowly, particularly in Northern Virginia, where they may not feel their communities are ready, to go to phase one just yet. I have said that phase one restrictions will be a floor, not a ceiling, and local government should consult with our administration, about stricter regulations.
Ralph Northam: (11:11)
I want to emphasize that the business operations listed, may open, if they meet the requirements. If they’re not able to meet these restrictions, they must remain closed. No business is required by the state, to be open. I remind businesses that any reopening, and a future economic recovery, will be consumer-driven. I thank businesses for their cooperation and encourage them, to take all the necessary measures, for Virginians to feel comfortable and safe. That means, taking precautions to protect everyone, including employees.
Ralph Northam: (11:51)
Now I’d like to speak to our workers across Virginia. I understand, that many workers at these businesses are eager, to get back to work. But I also understand, that there are workers who are afraid to go back right now. Because they, or their loved ones, have underlying health conditions, or are part of vulnerable populations. I want to assure those workers, we’re going to do everything possible, to protect you. The restrictions on business operations such as distancing and mask, are meant to protect workers, as much as customers. Yesterday, I spoke with our congressional delegation, and asked them to take steps so that the federal government, allows states more flexibility with unemployment benefits. I also want to assure Virginia’s workers, that if you feel your workplace is unsafe, because it is not following the rules, please report that to our Department of Labor and Industry, also referred to as DOLI, and that they will investigate. We’re also working to find every path forward for people, who cannot return to work because of their own underlying-
Ralph Northam: (13:03)
… health conditions or those of people that they live with. We will have more to say on this before entering phase one.
Ralph Northam: (13:12)
I want to reiterate that our next steps are informed by our health data. I also want Virginians to continue to be careful and cautious. This virus is still with us. It has not gone away. It has no cure and no vaccination to date. And we may be living with it for months or even years.
Ralph Northam: (13:35)
Our efforts have slowed the spread, but they have not cured the disease. I don’t want people to let their guard down. When we move into this phase of easing restrictions, it will be even more important for people to behave cautiously, especially our most vulnerable populations, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions. So please continue to be careful. Wash your hands, cover your face if you sneeze or cough, and stay six feet away from other people in public.
Ralph Northam: (14:13)
But at the same time, we know that there are things we can not put off. Medical care is one of those things. We put elective surgeries on hold for six weeks, but those have been allowed to resume now that we have a steadier PPE supply. And I want to encourage Virginians to take care of their health. If you need to see a doctor or provider, please go. While we need to be careful of the coronavirus, we should not let illnesses or injuries go untreated.
Ralph Northam: (14:47)
And as we talk about ramping up testing, I also want to remind Virginians that if you are ill or you have COVID symptoms, your doctor is able to determine if you need to be tested.
Ralph Northam: (14:59)
I’d like to welcome Dr. Clifford Deal, president of the Medical Society of Virginia, to talk more about the role that our providers are playing. Dr. Deal. Welcome and thank you.
Dr. Clifford Deal: (15:15)
Foremost, thank you to Governor Northam for having me here today and for your commitment to addressing this pandemic. Also thank you to all of the healthcare workers who continue to sacrifice and work tirelessly to fight COVID-19. As the president of the Medical Society of Virginia, I hear stories every day of the amazing work being done by Virginia’s physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and others. As we know, the next phase of addressing this pandemic is a commitment to increasing the availability and capacity for testing. The Medical Society is excited to partner with VDH to work together to assure health care providers across the Commonwealth can access the resources they need to test patients. We are lucky enough to have a physician as our governor. And as Governor Northam knows, when we empower physicians, we empower patients.
Dr. Clifford Deal: (16:07)
The Governor’s Office and VDH have consistently reached out to Virginia’s physician community for their expertise during this crisis. And the same applies here. How can a family doctor in Danville send a test to a lab? How can we get more swabs? What tests are approved or not approved? MSV is conducting a needs assessment of Virginia’s positions and trying to find out all the logistical barriers to move us forward. VDH will then take that information and provide answers as well as create educational and training opportunities for providers in the days and weeks ahead. Just today, MSV and Dr. Karen Remley, we had a webinar this morning for Virginia’s physicians across the Commonwealth to hear presentation on testing and get answers to some of their pressing questions.
Dr. Clifford Deal: (16:51)
As we continue this important work, I want to make clear one key fact for all Virginians. Your doctor’s office and hospitals are safe. Virginia’s physicians are trained to manage patient’s health, whether it be PPE, sanitation, or changes to the waiting room. We’re listening for guidance to the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health, and our own Medical Specialty Societies. Patients with underlying and emerging threatening medical conditions need to see a doctor. The first rule of medicine is first do no harm, and I want Virginia’s patients to know that their doctor’s office and hospitals are safe, and we are working to protect you. Again want to thank Governor Northam for having me here today. Moreover, I want to thank all of the Virginians for their resolve and commitment to one another during this time. It’s my job to talk mostly about physicians, but we all know that nurses, teachers, grocery clerks, mothers, fathers, and hundreds of others across the Commonwealth are working to manage this unprecedented time together. I promise all of you that Virginia’s physicians will not let you down as we will continue to work with VDH and the governor to help solve this crisis. Thank you.
Ralph Northam: (18:01)
Really appreciate it. Thank you, Dr. Deal.
Ralph Northam: (18:05)
Finally, I want to go back to our health data. I want Virginians to know we are watching the numbers very, very closely. We’re following CDC guidelines. And my top priority is your health. Every Virginian has played a role in getting us to where we are now. And everyone has a role to play when we take a step forward. Please continue to act with your own health and the health of others in mind. We are all in this together. What we do affects our neighbors and our community, not just ourselves.
Ralph Northam: (18:42)
Now I’d like to ask our Health Commissioner, Dr. Norm Oliver, to give a health update. And then we’ll be glad to take your questions. Dr. Oliver, thank you.
Dr. Norm Oliver: (18:50)
Thank you governor. A quick update on the numbers. They are posted on the VDH website. The total number of cases today now numbers 22,342 cases. That’s 772 new cases in a 24-hour reporting period. Total deaths are now at 812, which represents 43 new cases in that same time period. Total tests are at 143,220. And new tests in that reporting period are 6,662. I’ve been giving you updates, which you can also find on the website regarding the number of cases and deaths in African Americans and Latinx communities. African-American cases are at 3,831. That’s about 24% of the cases for which we have that demographic information. The deaths for African Americans is at 182, which is about 26% of the deaths for which we have that demographic information. For Latinx communities, the cases are at 5,857. That’s about 40% of the cases for which we have that ethnic demographic. Just as an aside, I don’t know exactly why that number is so high. I suspect it has a lot to do with the outbreaks in meat processing plants both on the Eastern shore and in central Shenandoah. Many of those workers are Latinx origin. Deaths among that same community stands at 52 which is about 8% of the deaths for which we have ethnic information.
Dr. Norm Oliver: (20:49)
Outbreaks stand at 260, more than half of those are in nursing homes. And as you’ve heard previously from this podium, we are planning a full court press on trying to get on top of those outbreaks through deploying National Guard and other resources to stay on top of those outbreaks. Thank you.
Ralph Northam: (21:11)
Thanks, Dr. Oliver.
Ralph Northam: (21:14)
We’ll be glad to take your questions.
Governor, can you talk about the enforcement of phase one? Who’s responsible for that, and what does that look like? Is it a warning, press?
Ralph Northam: (21:26)
It’s the same way that we’ve been forced the restrictions prior to phase one, Henry. And in our executive order we’ll give our law enforcement agents again what they’ve been trying to do. And I’ve spoken to a lot of them. It’s obviously we’re not out here to give citations. We’re not out here to punish people. But we also have to keep people safe as well. So I think they’ve been very good about giving people warnings, reminding, those types of things. But they do have the authority to write citations in the event that people are not obeying our guidelines.
Audience 2: (22:11)
Yes. If there was to be a surge in the number of cases in the future, could some of the restrictions be reinstated?
Ralph Northam: (22:19)
The question is if there’s a surge in some of the numbers in our data moving forward, could we bring back or continue some of the restrictions that were in place prior to moving into phase one? And the answer to that is absolutely yes. I have said from the beginning that this is a dynamic, fluid process. It literally changes, the data changes by the hour, by the day sometime. And we are following that data very, very closely. But should these numbers go in directions that we’re not comfortable with, then obviously we’ll be able to, or need to make adjustments in our restrictions.
Regarding that potentially putting back in restrictions, what are the benchmarks if you have set them of if it hits X that we will look at reinstituting in the restrictions. And then I know too, a part of it for Dr. Remley, if she’s somewhere in here, just when are we going to get to the 10,000 tests per day?
Ralph Northam: (23:19)
Yes, I’ll let Dr. Remley come and answer the second part. But what we’re doing, Cam, and I think that the first part of his question was what are those metrics that we’re following if we need to make changes in our recommendations. And they’re the same ones that we’ve been following all along. There are five of them. And I won’t reiterate all of those, but if we see that those are trending in different directions, then we’ll obviously make changes. But I think that answer to your question, there’s no specific number or no ledge at which we’ll reverse. It’s really a combination of all the data that we’ve been following. And that’s what we’ve done to in order to move into phase one. We followed that, and I’ve tried to use as best we can, data and science. And a lot of that has been provided by the CDC. Those are the guidelines that we’ve been following.
Ralph Northam: (24:21)
Oh yes. Thank you, Dr. Remley.
Dr. Remley: (24:25)
Thank you, Governor. I think, when are we going to get to 10,000? I can’t give you an exact day, but I would hope by the end of next week we will have, we know we have the lab capacity now in terms of laboratories that can do the tests that are done in Virginia. We need to continue to work on those other things we talked about, making sure patients know where they can go to get a test regardless of where they come from. So we’re working, had calls today again with drug stores to try and expand testing there. We’re working very closely with the free clinics, the federally qualified health centers. And as Dr. Deal said, with the physicians of Virginia who are in primary care and in other practices to make sure we get the right combination of testing supplies, PPE, and they know where to send those tests, and then when those results come back.
Dr. Remley: (25:11)
Every day there’s another new nuance to fix for a different group. And so that’s what we’re doing. And you can see if you look at the, it’s down now, we’re just slowly but surely moving our way up that curve towards 10,000. But I would hope, my hope, is that by the end of next week that’ll be a consistent number that we will be able to reach knowing that there will be days, weekend days sometimes, days when just because of the vagaries that you won’t hit that every single day. But you’ll also exceed that many days. So our goal is to make sure that every patient that has symptoms of COVID that wants to be tested has that opportunity to be tested. But just as importantly, the clinical community, including pharmacists, doctors, and all other clinicians that might do testing, have the right combination of supplies, PPE, and knowledge about how to test so that we can really maximize that effort. Thank you.
Ralph Northam: (26:03)
Thanks [inaudible 00:26:03].
Speaker 2: (26:09)
Speaker 3: (26:09)
Good afternoon governor. Thank you for taking my question. The new unemployment numbers came out today showing that the United States is at 14.7% unemployment. My question to you is what is your reaction to that and are Virginians getting the unemployment benefit and help that they need?
Ralph Northam: (26:29)
I want to let Dr. Megan Healy our workforce development. She can go into a little bit more detail. So Megan, thank you. Maybe, just talk about how many people have filed and we’re getting them their checks. Thanks.
Megan Healy: (26:43)
Yeah, thank you so much. And so since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve had over a half a million people file for unemployment in Virginia and that is a high number and we’ve had two different programs for unemployment. The usual unemployment program that we’ve always had. And then we’ve expanded eligibility for independent contractors, gig workers. And we’ve had over 70,000 independent contractors and gig workers move through our pandemic unemployment assistance program. So it’s very exciting.
Megan Healy: (27:10)
We’ve also increased the weekly benefit as well as expanded the time that someone can be on benefits. And so this week was the first time that released benefits to those gig workers, independent contractors as well as anyone who didn’t qualify for the basic unemployment. So I know that number seems very high, but many, many people are receiving their benefits and if they did not receive their benefits, we are ramping up staff to increase our appeals and our adjudication process.
Ralph Northam: (27:37)
Speaker 2: (27:38)
Speaker 4: (27:40)
Governor could you elaborate on your decision to keep the restrictions for the beaches, to exercise and fishing, especially with Memorial Day being about two weeks away, it sounds like these restrictions are still going to be in place for that. Meanwhile, Outer Banks kind of said that it will reopen to visitors on May 16th I believe. So if, you could just talk about your decision to get to that. And secondly you mentioned there’s a high bar for easing those restrictions. If you could elaborate on what kind of a high bar we’re looking at there.
Ralph Northam: (28:08)
Yes, and I think the question is about our beaches and first of all we want people to be able to return to our beaches. I think everybody has to realize that we are dealing with a new normal. And so we know that anytime people get together, gatherings of more than 10 people, for example, that, that’s when the risk of this spread occurs. And so we have been working with our municipalities, some of them, one in particular, Virginia Beach has put out a very comprehensive plan that talks about distancing. It talks about education enforcement and cleansing and preparation that goes into making sure that those things are in place at those beaches.
Ralph Northam: (28:56)
And so we’re working with the localities, we’re working with those plans, but the bottom line is consumers, they need to feel comfortable that when they go back out to the beach, whether they grab hold of a hand rail or go down the steps or are sitting with others or up on the boardwalk. They need to feel comfortable that they’re going to be safe and that they’re not going to contract the virus. So that’s really what we have been working toward. We don’t have a date in place yet.
Ralph Northam: (29:26)
Today, we’re talking about phase one and when phase one starts in which, I intend for that to be on Friday, May the 15th. Beaches will continue to be open for fishing and for exercising but not for other activities on the beach and so when we’re comfortable that the numbers are continuing to trend down, the data that we’re following and we’re comfortable that that comprehensive plan can be in place. Then we will allow to ease the restrictions on the beaches. Yes.
Speaker 2: (30:04)
Greg Hambrick with InsideNova.
Greg Hambrick: (30:04)
Hello governor, going back to the phase one restrictions on businesses. We’ve spoken to restaurants and gym owners who were hopeful that they were able to open their doors during this phase one. When I’m looking at these restrictions, you’re allowing a lot of people into retail stores at 50% capacity. You’re allowing churches to fill every other pew. Can you speak to why restaurants and gyms are still kept outside and not able to open their doors?
Ralph Northam: (30:32)
Yeah. The question is why the decision on restaurant to continue order out, home delivery and now to expand and be able to serve outdoors with 50% capacity restrictions. We have had a tremendous amount of discussion with our restaurant owners. A lot of their input we have listened to and taken into account and collectively we have made that decision. And so rather than re litigate that here, that’s the decision that we make. That’s what we feel is in the best interest of Virginians. That’s what will keep them as safe as possible and also keep the employees of those restaurants safe as well.
Ralph Northam: (31:17)
So as I said earlier, this is phase one. We anticipate phase one lasting for two maybe more weeks. But if we can continue to see these data, the numbers trend downward more in a positive direction. Then hopefully after two weeks we’ll be able to go into phase two and then that would allow individuals to come into restaurants, dine in. Again, probably with a 50% capacity table space at six feet. But for phase one we’re allowing outside dining only. Yes.
Can you explain more about why you’re relying on the percent positivity rate and that 14 day decline as opposed to other metrics like a 14 day decline in total cases in deaths? I mean I’ve heard from experts that, that rate is largely dependent on the number of people tested and is also more often used to compare outbreaks or assess who’s being tested. So I don’t quite understand why that’s become the metric to watch.
Ralph Northam: (32:21)
Yeah, that’s a great question. Kayden why are we relying on one piece of data more than others? And I don’t think it’s fair to say that we are, but what we are relying on are the CDC guidelines and it is explicit in the CDC guidelines that we are looking for 14 days of percent positive cases to trend down. And so that doesn’t mean we’re ignoring other models, other sets of data. But that’s certainly one that we’ve been able to follow day to day. And as you can see, I put other slides up on the up on the screen as well and we’re watching that but as far as moving forward with the criteria that the CDC put in place, that’s one of them. PPE, ability to test. Those are the things that they have outlined and that’s what we have been following and that’s what we’ve been using to make our decision when we can move to phase one.
Speaker 2: (33:18)
Sherry Hamilton, with Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal.
Sherry Hamilton: (33:21)
Yes. Governor, thanks for taking my call. People with traumatic brain and spinal injuries and with mental health issues and other problems who are in longterm care facilities benefit greatly from visits by family members. Is there any way to allow them to perhaps to go home to stay with family members without losing their beds until regular visitation is once again in place. And I have a second question very quick one. Do you have any statistics on the number of people who’ve died from COVID-19 who were healthy prior to their illness with no underlying conditions.
Ralph Northam: (33:56)
Okay. I’m going to let Dr. Forlano and at least take number one and I’ll see if she’s comfortable with number two as well. Thanks Laura.
Dr. Forlano: (34:05)
Hi. I think I understand the first question to be regarding residents of longterm care facilities and their family members wanting to visit them and if we were seeing any easing of those visitation restrictions, if that’s the question. I think at this time those visitation restrictions … Although we understand that’s very difficult for a family, we do think it’s important for the safety and wellbeing of the people and the staff that are in those facilities. So those restrictions remain in place at this time. What’s was the second question? I can’t recall the second question.
Ralph Northam: (34:47)
I think it’s about those who were previously healthy [crosstalk 00:34:52].
Dr. Forlano: (34:51)
Oh right, do we have information on the cases reported what proportion of them were in people without underlying health conditions? I’d have to look into that. I don’t know if we’re going to have the data that’s available to make that determination because we wouldn’t always know from a case report. For example, if an individual had diabetes or high blood pressure. But I can look into that with the surveillance team.
Ralph Northam: (35:19)
Thanks Laura. I think, it’s fair to say that obviously individuals with preexisting medical conditions, whether it be problems with their lungs such as asthma or COPD or heart conditions are at increased risk and have poorer outcomes if they contract COVID-19 in those that were otherwise healthy. Another point that I want to make, because this is something that I thought about when we had the outbreaks in the nursing homes and longterm care facilities. And I think, the question or ask, those that that had traumatic brain injuries or other types of mental illnesses, would they be better going home with their families where they had more contact with their families?
Ralph Northam: (36:04)
And the point that I think we need to make from a medical perspective is that a lot of these individuals are in a nursing home because they require the 24 hour care that just can’t be given at home. And so while it sounds good to say, well, let’s move this patient from the nursing home, for example, to home. That’s not always possible. So when that has been possible, we have certainly tried to do that, but in a lot of cases it’s not possible.
Speaker 2: (36:31)
[inaudible 00:36:34] talked about there’s mounting pressure for Virginia to name longterm care facilities with outbreaks. And I know that we heard from Secretary Carey on this last time, but there is a bill that is in circulation to change Virginia code to allow that information to be released and some talk of a special session. So wanting to hear from you on that. Are you are you going to support that?
Ralph Northam: (36:55)
Jackie, it’s a great question. The question is, is that there’s a bill on the table, if you will, from our legislators that could be introduced during special session. That will change the code to allow nursing homes, longterm care facilities to release more information. And not to give a long winded or complicated answer, but a lot of these pieces of legislation, I’m asked about that often do I support it? And it’s not always as straightforward as you might imagine. So a piece of legislation will come through, let’s say the Senate, it will be vetted through the committee and then on the floor of the Senate and then it will go to the House and go through the same process.
Ralph Northam: (37:39)
So what starts as one piece of legislation may look totally different by the time it gets through that vetting process and gets to my desk. And so it’s difficult for me to say, that oh yeah, that’s something that I would definitely sign if it gets to my desk. But I will say that I support transparency and I think if there are ways that we can all work together, work with the Virginia Department of Health, work with our nursing homes and ask those questions. How can we get more transparency? How can we let the public, how we can we let loved ones know what’s going on within these nursing homes and longterm care offices. I would certainly support that. That’s a long winded answer to your question. So yes, I’m open to that, but the proof is in the pudding, as they say.
Ralph Northam: (38:28)
So let’s talk about it. Let’s vet it and also realize that these things are in the code for the reason. Someone put that in the code. And I suspect a lot of it had to do with privacy issues in this case. So how can we move forward with more transparency yet protect people’s privacy. That’s the process. But if that bill, if that’s something that we can work on during special session, I’m very open to that.
Speaker 2: (38:55)
Our last question will be from Yasmine Jumaa with VPM.
Yasmine Jumaa: (39:03)
Governor, you said repeatedly that in order to move forward with phase one that the number of hospitalizations have to go down for a period of 14 days. But the VDH measures report that positive or pending COVID-19 hospitalizations are at their peak since April 14th. Have you changed your mind about that? Or how are you facing this metric?
Ralph Northam: (39:23)
The question is hospitalizations, are they going up, down? And I think it’s important to go back and look at the trends. And so, if we look at our hospitalizations, especially with COVID patients, and especially covert patients who are in the ICU and need to be on a ventilator, that has remained flat. There may be days when there are a few more hospitalizations or days when it goes down. A lot of the increase in hospitalizations is due, remember a week or so ago, we lifted restrictions on elective surgery. So, there are going to be more hospitalizations for that. So, mainly looking at COVID-19 patients, ICU beds, and ventilators. And that has remained flat over the last few weeks.
Speaker 6: (40:10)
Governor, for those-
Yasmine Jumaa: (40:10)
Sorry. The key measures page from VDH says that number of patients who were hospitalized with a positive or pending COVID-19 test were at an all time high yesterday, just in the last, I guess, right under a month, since April.
Ralph Northam: (40:33)
Again, and your question was, they were at an all time high. Yep.
Speaker 6: (40:38)
Let’s say we move forward, and things start to open, and people get a sense of getting back to their normal lives.
Ralph Northam: (40:44)
Speaker 6: (40:44)
But then, we get some spikes, and they have to go back, and you have to shut the state down. There are those out there who say, we’re never going back. Once I get a chance to get started again, resume my life, there’s no way they’re going to go back. This could be very traumatic.
Ralph Northam: (41:00)
Yes. And the question is, it will be very difficult, once we ease restrictions, to go back to those restrictions.
Speaker 6: (41:08)
Ralph Northam: (41:09)
And I’m sorry?
Speaker 6: (41:10)
Ralph Northam: (41:11)
Yes. And I certainly agree with you. But what’s important to know is that we are following trends. And our trends are headed in a good direction. So, that’s number one. The other thing that I think is important for people to realize, this is not like we’re flipping a switch and saying it’s time for everybody to go back to their lives as they knew them before COVID-19. And we tried to use that analogy, and I think it’s a fairly good analogy, rather than flipping a switch, we’re taking a dimmer switch. And we’re just turning up the intensity as we can and as the numbers will allow. And so, that’s what we’re doing. And the reason we’re doing that, because to your point, it will be difficult to go back to more restrictions. And especially for our businesses.
Ralph Northam: (42:04)
I mean, we have this business task force. And what I’ve heard from a lot of them is, please, please, please take this slowly. Because, if you allow us to reopen and go back to close to where we were before and we have to reverse the direction, we are at risk of going out of business and never recovering. And so, that’s why we’re trying to do this by using the data and doing it as slowly as we can. But also, with the hope that, when it’s safe and that’s what it’s about, it’s about people’s health and wellbeing. And, as soon as we can do that safely, we want people, we want businesses to reopen, to get back to our lives as we knew them prior to COVID-19.
One more on the phone, and then one more. The last question will be from Bill [inaudible 00:42:58] with the [inaudible 00:42:57].
Thank you, Marissa. For governor as you know, Congressman McEachin is proposing tying future federal aid to state and local governments onto reinstating utility services, including delinquent customers. And we all know ground zero for that request is Petersburg and the running battle over the reestablishing the connections for the delinquent customers here. And while the FCC regulates the investor owned utilities, such as Virginia American Water and Hopewell, they really co say over the municipality owned water utilities, such as here in Petersburg and in Danville. My question is, if the McEachin caveat does get attached to the legislation, my question is, what is your reaction to that? And do you think such a caveat would mean that the state would actually had to get more involved into a locality’s business?
Ralph Northam: (43:54)
The question is about utilities being disconnected, discontinued from people’s homes. And I think all of you, if you haven’t, need to see what happened in Petersburg when utilities, particularly water, was cut off from individuals. And so, without getting into the details of how we keep that from happening, it shouldn’t happen. I mean, that’s the bottom line. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. We’re asking people to use good hygiene, to wash their hands frequently. I mean, how can you do that if you don’t have running water in your house? So, we as a society, whether it be Congress or the general assembly, but we shouldn’t allow that. We should find that, and I do, it’s unacceptable. And we have intervened on behalf of these individuals. But that should never happen to Virginians. It should never happen to Americans. And so, we need to work together to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. It’s totally unacceptable.
Now, last question.
Speaker 7: (45:05)
You said the different localities could request stricter restrictions.
Ralph Northam: (45:09)
Speaker 7: (45:09)
Have you received any specific detailed requests from localities in Northern Virginia? I know Richmond also has more cases than other parts of the state. And at what point will we find out which restrictions you approved and what the rules are in different localities?
Ralph Northam: (45:25)
No. I appreciate the question. The question is, we have put this floor of restrictions as we move into phase one. And, yes. We have had daily, sometimes more times than one in a day communication. And my chief of staff, Clark Mercer, has been part of those conversations as well. So, I’m going to let him kind of review our discussions and where we are moving forward. Clark.
Clark Mercer: (45:54)
Thank you governor. And the question was about different areas of the state approach and phase one differently. And want to be clear what that means and what that does not mean. The governor has articulated a set of rules and regulations that everyone from Abingdon to Alexandria will have to abide by to enter phase one.
Clark Mercer: (46:12)
The question is when all areas of the Commonwealth enter phase one. And we have heard from Northern Virginia, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, which is a collection of governments, the counties, the towns, and the cities in Northern Virginia. We were on the phone earlier with the three largest counties in Northern Virginia, Prince William, Louden, and Fairfax, discussing whether they feel that Northern Virginia has met the six criteria that the governor went over, as well as the rest of Virginia has. And, when we look at Northern Virginia as a region, while they are looking good with those metrics, they are not looking as good at this point in time as the rest of Virginia. And we acknowledge that. And what we ask those region, and I suspect those elected officials and managers are watching this press conference, to review what phase one is and what it is not. It’s a very measured approach that I think is responsible.
Clark Mercer: (47:03)
And, to the earlier question, we want there to be a phase two and a phase three. In order for there to be a phase two and a phase three, you have to show progress in between each phase. So, it’s a very measured approach. But, if those entities as a region say, hey, we would like to delay entering phase one by two weeks, for example, which would be May 29th, I think the governor would be open to doing that.
Clark Mercer: (47:25)
Also, the governor spoke with Mayor Bowser and Governor Hogan. And I’m in touch with their offices as well. And we’ve been in touch with the chiefs of staffs and governors in Tennessee, and Kentucky, and West Virginia, in North Carolina, and in Delaware as well, trying to get a beat on what all these states are doing. But, if Northern Virginia as a region wants to take this a little slower, they can.
Clark Mercer: (47:45)
However, I do not think the governor would support and we’re not encouraging one county to play by one set of rules. So, allow 50% of inside dining, and the county next to it only allow outdoor dining, and the county next to that only allow takeout. That is not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about when a region, specifically Northern Virginia, enters phase one, I believe the governor will be open to having that discussion over the weekend and would have an update for you early next week. But we did ask for those jurisdictions to take a look at what phase one is. Because it’s, as the governor articulated, a very measured walk into reopening. Thank you.
Speaker 7: (48:22)
Have you heard from other regions, Richmond, Eastern Shore? I know that there are higher incidences of COVID-19 there. Have you?
Clark Mercer: (48:31)
We hear from every region, and every jurisdiction, just about every business owner in the Commonwealth on a daily basis, hundreds of calls and emails. Some jurisdictions have different take on COVID than others. But, as a region and speaking with one voice, I would say Northern Virginia has more or less coalesced in terms of wanting to move together as a region. And it’s important that, if a region decides to do that, that they do that. Right? You don’t want Fairfax city to do one thing and the county that surrounds it, Fairfax, are doing another thing. So, it’s important that they act as a region. Richmond has a number of diverse counties surrounding it. And usually they have a number of diverse opinions about how they should move forward on an issue. In terms of regions we’ve heard from Northern Virginia. Thank you.
Ralph Northam: (49:16)
Thanks. Well, in closing, I just wanted to offer a couple of thank yous, first to you all in Virginia for following our guidelines, for putting us where we are today, for helping to bend that curve, to help our hospital capacity to be where it needs to be. As I’ve said, every time I’ve been in front of you, I know this has been difficult and a lot of you have made tremendous sacrifices. And so, on behalf of Virginia I say, thank you. We are in this together. And we’ll get through this together.
Ralph Northam: (49:49)
I also want to thank our staff, especially the secretary of commerce and his workers. They have just, as you might imagine, put a tremendous amount of work into this. There’s been a tremendous amount of communication, as Clark just said. Yes, we do hear from a lot of different people on a daily basis. So, I appreciate their work.
Ralph Northam: (50:12)
But I also appreciate the businesses for your understanding. I know, as a business owner, there is nothing more than you wanting to get back to where you were prior to COVID-19. And so, the input that we have received through the task group has just been tremendous. And so, I thank you for all that you’ve done.
Ralph Northam: (50:34)
And finally to Virginians and who I would call the consumers, those of you that want to get back into the businesses, that want to go back into the barbershop, or the hardware store, or wherever. Start thinking about, and maybe you already have, what it’s going to take. What worries you? How do you need to be reassured? What will make you comfortable going back into that place of business? That’s what we need to hear as we work through these guidelines, as we work through turning that dimmer switch up just as much as we can every day, every week. So, if you will, that’s your homework for the weekend. I hope that all of you have a safe and peaceful weekend. And we will look forward to being with you on Monday. Thank you all very much.