RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Governor Ralph Northam held a press briefing in Richmond Wednesday, May 13.
Gov. Northam began Wednesday’s press briefing with the announcement that DMV offices will open 11 customer service centers in seven of eight regions starting Monday, May 17. Limited services in-person are by appointment only. DMV offices in the Northern Virginia area will remain closed.
Northam reminded everyone that Phase One will begin Friday, May 15, for most of the commonwealth, as testing for the Coronavirus continues to increase. The governor says the same health and testing metrics will be used to determine when Virginia can enter Phases Two and Three of reopening plans. Each phase is expected to last between two to four weeks. The Governor’s office has posted detailed recommendations for both Phase One and the Forward Virginia plan online.
Northam says Phase One represents a small step forward, but officials will remain vigilant and monitor data continuously. He urges everyone to continue social distancing and wearings face coverings.
Other matters discussed at the press briefing included:
- The governor says Northern Virginia localities have taken all the necessary steps to delay Phase One openings for two weeks (May 29). A majority of positive COVID-19 cases in the commonwealth are in this region (which represents about 30% of Virginia’s total population), although they are trending down.
- Some of those leaders joined Wednesday’s news conference virtually to speak about the delay. Mayor of Falls Church David Tarter chairs the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, representing 13 jurisdictions. He says they are meeting twice daily to ensure safety as they discuss a unified response. Leaders from Fairfax and Arlington reiterated the belief that it is most responsible to wait to enter Phase One until the metrics show a further downward trend of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and availability of necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). They want to reopen the economy as soon as they can, but safety is a priority.
- No other region or locality has requested a delay with entering Phase One, according to Northam.
- Governor Northam says parents in need of childcare in order to return to work can call 866-KIDS-TLC to find available services.
- Northam announced $650 million from the CARES Act funding is headed to local governments to pay for response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Additional federal dollars will support increased testing and contact tracing.
- The governor says the Virginia Department of Health is working with staffing companies to speed up process of hiring additional contact tracers. The department recently announced it is looking to hire 1,300 people, and Dr. Norm Oliver says roughly 3,000 applications are been reviewed.
- Gov. Northam says all of the long-term care facilities in Virginia, approximately 260, will have testing done for residents and staff, but a timeline is not set. They are doing it as quickly as possible, but even if all facilities are tested in the next several weeks, it is possible some nursing homes will need to be retested as part of an ongoing process.
- Asked about anticipated potential surge to follow reopening, Gov. Northam says data modeling suggests officials have the testing, PPE, and hospital capacity to handle an increase in coronavirus cases. Northam added that they are preparing for months and years down the road, assuming treatment and vaccine will take a long time to have ready for use.
- Asked about the health crisis verses an economic crisis, Gov. Northam says until the health crisis is behind us, the economy can never recover. Health and safety will be the focus, although the economy does play a part.
Gov. Northam concluded Wednesday’s briefing with a logistical update: Coronavirus briefings will shift to Tuesday and Thursday following the Memorial Day holiday. Other briefings will be scheduled if needed.