RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Governor Ralph Northam again encouraged Virginians to work together, as well as be kind to one another, during a press briefing Wednesday on matters related to the coronavirus in the commonwealth.
Gov. Northam began Wednesday’s briefing with talking about Virginia’s stockpile and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE). Northam says hospitals have adequate PPE, and since this started, the commonwealth has distributed 793,675 N95 masks, 1.3 million surgical masks, 3 million gloves, 285,031 gowns, 427,425 face shields, and 24,359 hand sanitizer containers.
Northam says Department of General Services is also on this task: Virginia is working with Amazon to ensure healthcare providers get purchasing priority. Meanwhile, FEMA is shipping directly to nursing homes.
Other matters mentioned during Wednesday’s briefing included:
- The governor says local health districts are coordinating supply needs among a variety of facilities. Northam suggests private providers exhaust their supply chains before requesting state supplies. However, he does not want any provider treating COVID-19 to go without PPE.
- Gov. Northam says the expansion of Medicaid access last year has proven vital during this time. According to the governor, more than 421,000 Virginians have enrolled for coverage and can get care they couldn’t before. Northam says thousands are now getting treated for underlying conditions that are known to cause complications with COVID-19.
- Northam announced he is forming a working group to examine ways to increase access to affordable health care among Virginians, especially vulnerable populations.
- The governor says those coping with substance abuse recovery are especially hit hard during the pandemic, and that first responders are answering more calls for this. Northam says we must continue to battle the opioid crisis.
- Gov. Northam says the Virginia Department of Elections has already started sourcing PPE for the June 23 primary election. Mail-in absentee ballots are available for request until June 16 to vote ahead of time.
- Asked which metrics Northam is looking at to determine moving on to Phase Two, the governor says hospital capacity and staffing is part of the data. Overall, CDC guidelines play a large role in Northam’s decisions.
- Northam says they are in daily communications with leaders in Northern Virginia over when that region can enter Phase One. No date has been set.
- The governor says federal funding is supporting testing efforts and contact tracing as they work to get all nursing home facilities evaluated.
- On tracing process, Dr. Norm Oliver says skilled case investigators interview ill person and discover who they contacted, and then determine if those who were exposed are doing well and self-quarantine. Additionally, names are not released to the public.
- Northam says they are working with agencies, lawmakers and media outlets to ensure people know when community testing will be held.
- The governor says they review data every day, so if they see trends in an area that suggests rising COVID-19, then they’ll respond with increased testing or a change in restrictions for those places.
- Northam does not have a specific time for Phase Two at this point. The governor anticipates he’ll give people a few days notice, but the earliest would be two weeks after Phase One (which began Friday, May 15).