Governor Northam discusses increased cases in Southwest Virginia, COVIDWISE, and elections

Northam Press Briefing 9-15-20

RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Governor Ralph Northam delivered a COVID-19 briefing from Richmond Tuesday, covering a variety of topics.

  • The southwest Virginia region is seeing an uptick in COVID19 cases. Northam said it is concerning because the area has fewer hospitals and ICU beds.
  • He urged people to download COVIDWISE, the contact tracing app. More than 515,000 people have downloaded COVIDWISE app so far, which Northam says he is grateful for.
  • Gov. Northam said he is seeking a continuation of the moratorium on utility disconnection for another month. The moratorium is set to expire tomorrow.
  • Northam has authorized $42 million in CARES funding for personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing.
  • Northam reminded everyone in Virginia to respond to the 2020 Census.
  • Northam also urged everyone to get a flu shot.
  • September is suicide awareness month. Northam said that 17 veterans die by suicide every day in this country. He urges any veteran who is having difficulty to call the military and veterans crisis line at 1-800-273-8255.
  • Northam says he continues to talk with other governors on a multi-state collaboration on antigen testing.

Northam turned to discussing the election. He says the state has already received 790,000 requests for absentee ballots by mail. He said you can vote absentee safely and securely. Anyone can vote absentee, no reason is required as it has been in the past.

Absentee ballots will be sent out starting Sept. 18. You can request an absentee ballot by phone, or visit Vote.elections.virginia.gov. Ballots can be mailed back in or dropped off at a polling place. Check your local voter registrars office website for a list of drop off locations.

Northam says absentee ballots have prepaid postage and additional security measures. All absentee ballots will have a bar code so you can track your ballot.

Early in-person voting starts on Sept. 18 and ends Oct. 31. You can also vote on Election Day from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. CARES Act funding will be used for personal protective equipment at polling places.

Virginia law lets officials process ballots as they come in, not just on Election Day. He advised there may be a couple days before we know the outcome of the presidential election due to different counting processes among the states.

Dr. Norm Oliver delivered the health update. As of this morning, the Virginia Department of Health reports a total of 135,514 COVID-19 cases in the commonwealth, which is 943 newly reported cases since yesterday. The death total from the virus is at 2,839, 96 more than yesterday. The total number of hospitalizations increased by 44 to 10,337. The total number of people tested is 1,922,966, an increase of 12,719. The current 7-day positivity rate is 7.2%. Dr. Oliver says COVID-19 testing has been going well, and expects to continue to do a good job with it.

Northam says behavior is the challenge in this pandemic. He says it is not a whole lot to ask for Virginians to wear face masks, social distance, and wash their hands to help get COVID-19 under control.

Gov. Northam says some of President Trump’s recent rallies go against the grain of what science recommends to do to stop the spread of the coronavirus. He calls these actions frustrating.

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