Northam speaks about COVIDWISE app, rapid antigen testing, and continuing COVID-19 guidelines

Northam speaks about COVIDWISE app, rapid antigen testing, and continuing COVID-19 guidelines
Governor Northam holding a press briefing in Richmond (Source: VPM)

RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Governor Northam held a COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, August 5. He started by speaking about the impacts of Tropical Storm Isaias in Virginia. Northam said the damage from storm is still being assessed and he thanked crews for working hard.

Northam discussed COVIDWISE, a smart phone app that can send you alerts if someone you’ve been in contact with tests positive for COVID-19. Virginia is the first state in the country to use the app. Northam stressed the COVIDWISE app does NOT track or store personal information. Later in the briefing, when asked about the COVIDWISE app, Dr. Norm Oliver said the Virginia Department of Health does not share any data with it. “The app doesn’t know who you are or where you are. The app assigns people a random PIN,” he stated.

When asked how to get Virginians to download and use COVIDWISE app, Northam says he hopes college and universities encourage students to use it. Governor says it is a great tool. Dr. Oliver says having community leaders voicing their support of the app also helps.

RELATED LINK: Virginia first state to try pandemic app from Apple, Google

Northam discussed the six-state agreement for rapid antigen COVID-19 testing. Six states are entering formal discussions to purchase 500,000 rapid tests per state. The tests, made by U.S. manufacturers Becton Dickinson and Quidel, have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug administration and deliver results in 15-20 minutes. Virginia joins Maryland, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio in the interstate compact.

Northam says governors have had enough in regards to a lack of national leadership, so they had to work together to get the fast antigen tests. No time has been set yet on when those tests will arrive.

RELATED LINK: Virginia joins six-state agreement for rapid COVID-19 testing

Gov. Northam says Virginia Center for Health Innovation has launched a task force to look at payment models for physicians. He spoke of primary care physicians not being able to see as many patients due to the social distancing guidelines.

Governor Northam reiterated the guidelines established last week for the Hampton Roads area. The order stated that there will be no alcohol sales after 10 p.m., all restaurants must close by midnight, indoor dining is only allowed at 50% capacity including breweries and wineries, and public and private gatherings of more than 50 are prohibited.

Governor Northam said he is encouraged by the response he’s seen. He said that restaurant owners are following the rules or taking corrective action when notified.

Dr. Norm Oliver went through the numbers of cases in Virginia. Here are the Virginia Department of Health coronavirus statistics as of Wednesday, August 5:

  • The VDH reports a total of 95,049 COVID-19 cases in the commonwealth.
  • The number of newly reported cases since yesterday is 798.
  • Virginia’s death total from the virus is 2,274, 30 more than yesterday.
  • The total number of people tested is now 1,283,136, an increase of 11,962 since yesterday.
  • The total number of hospitalizations is 8,126, 41 more than yesterday.

When a reporter asked about a possible surge cases of COVID-19 in western Virginia, Northam said hospital capacity is “where we like it to be,” and the commonwealth is working with local health departments on matters of testing, tracing, etc.

When asked if they have a sense of why COVID-19 case numbers are trending up in correctional facilities, a Department of Corrections representative said it has conducted about 29,000 tests. He said some inmates have been tested multiple times. Currently there are a total of around 500 active cases, and they are attempting to quarantine accordingly.

Northam ended by reminding us to continue social distancing, washing your hands, and wear face coverings.

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