RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As most of Virginia entered Phase One of the “Forward Virginia” plan, Governor Ralph Northam held a press conference to provide an update on testing and state revenue.
Gov. Northam addressed the controversy surrounding how Virginia counts and reports its coronavirus tests.
Northam said that from now on the Virginia Department of Health will be changing how they report their COVID-19 test counts. They will be separating the antibody, otherwise known as the serology test from the PRC test, which is the nasal swab test.
PRC testing determines if someone actively has the virus versus the antibody test that determines if someone has been infected in the past.
When the department of health separated the two tests, the antibody test made up 15,000 of the 184,000 total tests since February — about 9%, Northam said.
“When we take out the antibody tests, our trends remain the same” Northam added.
Northam said Virginia continues to see a downward trend in positive tests.
“It’s important to understand we are continuing to make significant progress on our testing,” Northam said.
Next week, Northam said 12 free clinics will be up and running. Hospital systems like George Mason will also start testing. The state lab is also supporting Virginia’s testing needs by sending thousands of test collection kits to health districts and community clinics across the commonwealth.
As Virginia moves into “Phase One,” Northam said that public health will remain the state’s primary concern.
On Thursday, Northam granted the requests from the City of Richmond and Appomack County to remain in “Phase Zero.” However, he said he realizes how this can affect Virginia’s economy.
State officials predict that Virginia will suffer a $1 billion loss by the end of June due to the coronavirus outbreak.
State Finance Secretary Aubrey Layne said that 60 percent of the ongoing revenues were up over the last month. He said sales tax remained stable with more people doing online shopping.
Layne also pointed out that Virginia’s shipyards have remained opened and federal government employees have continued to work. He also credited some of the state’s revenue during the pandemic to VA ABC stores staying open and making money.
According to Secretary Layne, 80 percent of Virginia’s revenues come from payroll withholding — which show that businesses in the commonwealth are still operating and paying the state.
What’s affected Virginia’s revenue the most has been Northam’s decision to delay tax payments. However, current numbers show that we have not seen a total shutdown of Virginia’s economy, Layne said.