RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin has issued a new executive order to give Virginia hospitals and nursing homes flexibility to increase bed capacity and their staff as they face ongoing “staffing challenges.”

Youngkin’s order comes after the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) asked the governor to extend emergency flexibilities that were set to expire Monday.

“VHHA has requested this extension at a time when COVID-19 hospitalizations remain elevated and staffing challenges persist even though overall hospitalizations have declined since hitting record peaks last month,” said Julian Walker with the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.

The governor’s first order, rolled out on Jan. 20 with his “COVID-19 Action Plan,” was in line with measures Governor Ralph Northam announced at the end of his term. Youngkin’s new order also temporarily suspends regulations to give hospitals more flexibility to increase bed capacity, telemedicine and staff.

“The Governor has extended emergency flexibilities for hospitals by issuing Executive Order 16 and updating the COVID-19 Action Plan,” a Youngkin aide told 8News’ Autumn Childress. “There was no gap or delay in extending the emergency flexibilities.”

In Executive Order 16, which will expire on March 22 unless it’s amended or rescinded, Youngkin writes that hospitalizations and staffing shortages have placed “an unsustainable strain on our healthcare system and health care workforce.”

Youngkin’s emergency order allows nurses and other health care professionals outside of the state to practice in Virginia, expands overtime hours and availability for personal care workers and distributes the commonwealth’s supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The order also permits therapeutics to be distributed at Virginia hospitals that do not have on-site pharmacies.

VHHA has been tracking Virginia’s hospitalizations, ventilator usage and total available beds during the pandemic. Hospitalizations have trended down, with 1,270 COVID patients in the hospital as of Feb. 21, compared to 1,990 on Feb. 10.

On Monday, Bon Secours told 8News they are in critical need of nurses, surgical technicians and imaging professionals. Seven hospitals in the Richmond-area had job fairs over the weekend.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.