RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Governor Ralph Northam held a press conference Tuesday, October 13, his first since he and his wife, Pam, tested positive for COVID-19. He discussed the recent potential kidnapping revealed by the FBI, his experience with COVID-19, the status of COVID-19 in Virginia and legislation he signed now that he’s back to work.
The group that plotted to kidnap Michigan’s Governor also talked about a similar plan involving Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. An FBI agent shared that information during a court hearing in Michigan Tuesday. The hearing centered on reviewing evidence against five members of that anti-government group.
The talk of targeting Governor Northam occurred during a June meeting of anti-government groups in Ohio. Northam says he was never notified of any potential threat.
“I do want to emphasize that the first lady and I are safe thanks to measures taken by the executive protection unit, which is staffed by an extensively trained team of Virginia State Police personnel and the Virginia division of Capital Police” Northam said Tuesday.
After more than two weeks in isolation because of coronavirus, Northam returned to the office Monday ready to work in spite of the distraction.
“I will let you know I will not work under a cloud of intimidation” Northam said. “That’s not who I am. I was elected to serve the Commonwealth of Virginia and that’s what I plan to do”.
Northam says he’s concerned with the rhetoric about elected officials. The White House released a statement accusing him and Michigan’s governor for unnecessarily blaming the president for encouraging violence. Referring to President Trump’s tweet in April when he closed businesses and schools at the outset of the outbreak, the governor said words matter.
“When language is used like ‘Liberate Virginia’, they find meaning in these words and thus things happen, and that’s regrettable,” Northam said. “These threats and this rhetoric is not coming from another country. It’s coming from Washington. That I regret and it needs to stop”.
Voter Registration and Bill Signings
Gov. Northam says options are being explored to extend the voter registration deadline due to a fiber cut that impacted data circuits and virtual private network connectivity for several commonwealth agencies. He says he does not have the power to do that, it has to be a court order.
Gov. Northam says early in-person voting has reached roughly 550,000 as of Monday, Oct. 12.
Northam said he was back in the office this morning and signed two pieces of legislation. First, he signed a bill that makes Juneteenth a state holiday. Second, he signed legislation giving immunity from civil liability to home health workers.
The governor opened the news conference by thanking everyone for the well-wishes they received. He said he was in isolation for 18 days, and it has been several days since his last symptoms. Northam said both he and his wife, Pam, are cleared to go back to work. He credits mask wearing as helping to reducing the number of COVID-19 cases among staff members.
He says Virginians are making smart choices with social distancing and mask wearing, and he thanked everyone. He said he’s proud of Virginia’s COVID-19 numbers. Gov. Northam says percent positivity is below 5%. The Virginia Dept. of Health website has not updated today with new data. He says now is not the time to get complacent. We’re going into a tough time with winter approaching and limiting outdoor activities.
He again thanked everyone for the well wishes. Northam says it is disheartening to see people being cavalier about the coronavirus. He urged people to take this virus seriously, follow public health guidelines, continue to wash hands frequently, keep social distancing, and avoid crowds. He said we’re in this together and we must protect ourselves and others. Gov. Northam says when people gather together and don’t wear masks or social distance, that is when the coronavirus spreads.
Dr. Norm Oliver spoke about the COVID-19 cases in Virginia. He said Virginia had an increase of 1,235 cases for a total of 160,805. There have been 11 new deaths reported, and testing average is roughly 15,000 per day.
Gov. Northam says transparency with COVID-19 testing is important. Dr. Norm Oliver says a new data portal with info on outbreaks at schools will be available soon.
When asked about easing state restrictions, Gov. Northam says he is cautiously optimistic, but he needs to see the percent positivity trend going down.