RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said coronavirus cases are rising in Virginia but he is not planning on reinstating restrictions ahead of the holiday season.
The announcement comes on the same day that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced stricter guidelines in neighboring Maryland on indoor restaurant capacity, indoor gatherings and out-of-state travel.
For weeks, Gov. Northam has been raising concerns about increasing cases in rural Southwest Virginia, where at least one local health official has called for a reversion in the phased reopening process.
Meanwhile, the hospital system serving much of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia is reporting its highest number of inpatient COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. The influx is prompting Ballad Health to hire additional nurse, realign resources and, in some cases, push back elective surgeries.
Despite this, Northam stopped short of imposing new restrictions in Southwest Virginia, saying at the end of his remarks that he “probably wont” hold another press conference before Thanksgiving.
Instead, he detailed the launch of a new communications campaign designed to reinforce the basics of the state’s public health strategy: mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing. It also advises Southwest Virginia residents that if cases continue to climb ‘at an alarming rate,’ the region may not have the hospital beds to keep up.
While recent focus has been on Southwest Virginia, Northam emphasized on Tuesday that other areas cannot let their guard down. He noted that Central Virginia has also seen a “steady increase” in cases.
“Our message today is for every Virginian because we are one state, one commonwealth and no region is an island. We all need to step up our vigilance and precautions,” Northam said.
Especially going into the holiday season, Northam said Virginians should limit gatherings to small groups and wear masks. He said people should consider eating Thanksgiving dinner in a place with good ventilation or even outside if possible, since the virus spreads more easily indoors.
“There is no genetic immunity that prevent you from giving this virus to your mother, to your grandfather or any other loved ones in the house with you,” Northam said. “I’m not saying don’t celebrate Thanksgiving but, if you’re planning to gather with people outside of your household, think about ways to do it more safely.”
Also on Tuesday, Northam said new contracts will allow the state to do 7,000 more PCR tests daily by the end of this year. Additionally, Northam’s Administration is currently distributing shipments of rapid tests than can produce results in about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said he expects a COVID-19 vaccine to be approved before 2020 comes to a close after Pfizer announced preliminary results suggesting their vaccine was more than 90 percent effective.
“That is very, very encouraging but we should all remember that this isn’t the magic bullet,” Northam said.
Northam said that any approved vaccine would still take months to distribute. All the while, Dr. Oliver said some COVID-19 restrictions will remain in place.
- Nearly a year to the day after the Chinese city of Wuhan went into lockdown to contain a virus that had already escaped, President Joe Biden began putting into effect a new war plan for fighting the outbreak in the U.S., Germany topped 50,000 deaths, and Britain closed in on 100,000.
- Some Richmond Public Schools employees will have to wait just a little bit longer for their COVID-19 vaccination. RPS released a statement on Friday saying the Virginia Department of Health is pushing back appointments due to a national vaccine shortage.
- A petition demanding vaccinations for Chesterfield teachers returning to county classrooms has nearly 4,000 signatures. It's the latest move inside the battle between some county parents and the school board.
- Health officials predict a 2-3 month wait for Phase 1b completion, COVID-19 vaccine demand outweighing supplyVirginia health officials are working to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine while managing high demand. The state received 300,000 requests in one week but only around a third of that supply is available.
- Mayor Levar Stoney and Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke about how the federal government can help localities fight the COVID-19 outbreak during the United States Conference of Mayors' 89th annual Winter Meeting on Friday.
- Between 150 and 200 National Guard deployed to Washington, D.C., to provide security for President Joe Biden's inauguration have tested positive for the coronavirus, a U.S. official said on Friday.
- A bill — still alive in the Virginia House of Delegates — would allow parents or guardians the right to reject a Covid-19 vaccine for their child — based on their religious beliefs.
- From answering 9-1-1 calls and health department hotlines, to passing out meals to families in need — Henrico's school nurses have adapted to whatever is needed while schools are in virtual learning.
- Dr. Avula: localities receive vaccine allotments based on population, weekly vaccine shipments below demandDr. Danny Avula gave an update on Virginia's current vaccination efforts. Right now the state is distributing 105,000 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations each week, despite a much higher demand.
- Third stimulus check: GOP lawmaker wants $1,400 payment reserved for people who get COVID-19 vaccineOne lawmaker says he'll support $1,400 checks — but only for people who make the commitment and get the COVID-19 vaccine.