Northam: New task force to ensure nursing homes, long-term care facilities safe during COVID-19 pandemic

Northam: New task force to ensure nursing homes, long-term care facilities safe during COVID-19 pandemic
Governor Ralph Northam holding a press briefing in Richmond (Source: WVIR)

RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Governor Ralph Northam held a briefing on COVID-19 in the commonwealth Friday, April 10. He began the briefing by announcing that Canterbury Rehabilitation and Health Care in the Richmond-area is the largest outbreak at a long-term care facility in the country.

Deputy Health Commissioner Laurie Forlano later added there have been a total of 45 outbreaks at long-term care facilities in Virginia, with 525 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 32 deaths.

Northam announced at Friday’s briefing that he is creating a task force to ensure nursing homes and long-term care facilities have the resources and supplies needed to fight the spread of COVID-19. Forlano will be heading that task force, which will also track data and keep the public informed of developments.

Gov. Northam says Virginia’s hospitals need more personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff to help in the COVID-19 battle. He said 13,000 people have signed up to be medical volunteers, with about half having medical training. Folks without medical backgrounds are encouraged to volunteer, as well. Visit vamrc.org for more information.

When asked about reports of the federal government seizing PPE shipments from states, Northam says Virginia hasn’t had that issue.

Northam said he’s proposing an amendment to allow prisoners with one year or less on their sentence and are deemed not a risk to the public to be released sooner. The Virginia Department of Corrections is working to identify those individuals who meet the criteria. The governor is asking for legislators to take up the matter as soon as the General Assembly returns later this month.

Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran says about 2,000 inmates could be eligible for the proposed early release program, and that the program would not be permanent.

Responding to a question, the governor said the same guidelines for nursing homes are being applied to mental health facilities. When asked if the mental health patients would be released, Northam said those patients will stay at facilities.

When asked about the two ICE detention facilities in Virginia and the care of immigrants there, Moran says the state does not have jurisdiction there.

Northam said the Virginia Senate will meet at science museum in Richmond and the House of Delegates will meet outdoors under a tent during the General Assembly session set for April 22.

Virginia unemployment claims stand at 306,143 for the last three weeks. Northam said more than $57 million has been paid out already.

Gov. Northam says now is not the time to ease social distancing restrictions. “We need to continue to stay home, and stay safe,” Northam said. “Please stay home this weekend.”

Northam says he wants life to get back to normal for everyone and provide hope, but is a believer in telling the truth, and must use science and data to keep Virginians safe.

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