Gov. Ralph Northam press conference Friday

Gov. Ralph Northam speaks at a coronavirus press conference in Richmond on Friday, March 27.

Courtesy of Virginia Mercury

Asked whether he would implement a shelter-in-place order to reduce further spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by a new coronavirus, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam contended Friday that the mandate is just another description for what he had already done.

“We’re talking semantics here,” Northam said at a news briefing on Friday, March 27. “We’re talking about how to enforce this. I think if you go back and listen to my comments, not only from today but from previous days, I have said repeatedly, ‘Stay at home unless it’s essential that you go out.’ 

“That’s what we’ll continue to say, that’s what our guidelines will be,” he added. “If you look at whether this is a shelter-at-home, whether it’s a shutdown, whether it’s a lockdown, however you want to describe it, all states are giving the same directions, and that is to stay at home.”

But some residents and local leaders have called on Northam to implement additional restrictions as COVID-19 continues to spread across the commonwealth. As of Friday, there were 604 positive cases, 83 hospitalizations and 14 deaths in Virginia.

Efforts to track the transmission have been stymied by continued shortages of testing materials. Laurie Forlano, the deputy commissioner for population health at the Virginia Department of Health, said it would be accurate to consider the known number of cases as a fraction of the overall spread.

Earlier this week, city officials in Charlottesville  urged Northam to take stricter measures to contain the disease. In a letter on Tuesday, Mayor Nikuyah Walker, Fire Chief Andrew Baxter, and Police Chief RaShall Brackney specifically asked the governor to reconsider his latest executive order and issue a mandated stay-at-home order similar to ones in Louisiana, New York, and California.

Those orders allow residents to leave the house for essential errands such as grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, or even picking up takeout orders from restaurants. But residents are widely restricted from going to work, visiting friends and families, or standing more than six feet from another person in public spaces.

Northam has repeatedly called on Virginians to police their own behavior and stay home whenever necessary. “This will unfortunately be the case for weeks to come,” he said at Friday’s briefing. “This virus clearly spreads when people gather together. I can’t repeat myself enough: Virginians, please stay at home.”

But Northam’s executive orders, so far, have placed fewer restrictions on residents and businesses than those in other states. In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan has shut down all “nonessential businesses”, including brick-and-mortar stores that don’t offer food, medicine, household goods or alcohol. Outdoor recreation areas, including golf courses, are also closed.

In Virginia, Northam is allowing “nonessential” retail stores (with the exception of bars and restaurants) to remain open as long as they limit their capacity to 10 patrons. All places of “indoor public amusement” are closed under the governor’s latest executive order, but outdoor facilities, such as golf courses and driving ranges, can remain open.

Northam’s administration has become increasingly candid about the continued spread of coronavirus and the already strained capacity of Virginia’s health care system. In his strongest call on the federal government to date, Northam said Friday that it’s vital for President Donald Trump to take the lead on expanding the country’s access to testing equipment and personal protective gear for medical providers.

Northam participated in a call with the president and Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday along with other governors across the country. Governors on the call “repeatedly said that production and distribution of personal protective equipment must be managed at the federal level,” Northam told reporters.

“We’re all out there bidding literally against each other,” he said. “We’re bidding against our own hospitals, other states, and the federal government.”

State leaders have called on Trump to use the Defense Production Act — which he activated last week — to require manufacturers to produce personal protective equipment and sell it back to the federal government. On Friday, after talks initially appeared to break down, Trump announced that he would deploy the act and require General Motors to produce ventilators.

It’s unclear how many ventilators Virginia would receive if production increased. Currently, the state has roughly 2,000 ICU beds with accompanying ventilators, Health Secretary Dr. Daniel Carey said during Friday’s briefing. The respiratory machines are often needed to help coronavirus patients breathe in severe cases of the disease.

The state has also placed an order for 350 additional ventilators from the National Strategic Stockpile — a stash of medical equipment available to states and localities during public health emergencies — according to Alena Yarmosky, Northam’s press secretary. 

Officials say they’re still determining the full extent of potential COVID-19 spread. Carey hasn’t given a definite estimate of how many ventilators and hospital beds may be needed to treat coronavirus patients in Virginia. He and other health officials have said repeatedly that they don’t have forecasts for when the virus might peak.

Data from the Harvard Global Health Institute projects that Virginia may have 57,648 coronavirus patients requiring ICU care. In the first six months of the epidemic, the state is projected to need 3,843 ICU beds.

Meanwhile, doctors across Virginia are reporting shortages and rationing of personal protective equipment. Some providers, such as primary care doctors and nursing home facilities, have received little to no supplies from the state.

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.
0
0
0
0
0

Recommended for you

(3) comments

SaferNovaLand

Dear Governor Northam,

On Wednesday, March 25th, you issued another Public Health Emergency Order which directs all hospitals to stop performing elective surgeries or procedures, but the press release clarifies that the Order does not apply to “the full suite of family planning services and procedures”. That means abortions are explicitly not included in the stop order. HYPOCRISY.

Abortion facilities are using up valuable PPE (personal protective equipment) every time an abortion is performed.

Virginia’s doctors and nurses and other hospital staff need every one of these things if we are going to be prepared for possible outbreaks of more cases of Covid-19.

Gov. Northam, I call you to task for allowing abortion facilities to remain in operation at this time. Elective abortions are not essential health care at any time, certainly not now!

I am shocked that you would allow valuable resources for the safety of every Virginian to continue to be used by abortion money-makers still doing their DEADLY business while hospitals are desperately trying to SAVE LIVES!

InsideCommenter

The sick ideology, of controlling women and forcing personal cult beliefs on to others has reared its ugly head. Abortions are not an elective procedure in many cases, and can be the difference between life and death for some women. A new dawn has reached Virginia, and the perverted Republican ideology of forcing births is no longer an option.

RaiderRider

killing babies is wrong

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.