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Gov. Northam issues emergency order to expand hospital capacity amid COVID-19 surge

The order will last for 30 days

In his last days in office, Gov. Ralph Northam issued an emergency COVID-19 declaration.

As Virginia experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases, Gov. Ralph Northam has issued an emergency order to help hospitals.

His limited 30-day order will do the following:

  • Expand the number of available hospital beds
  • Increase staffing capacity at hospitals and nursing homes
  • Allow public health agencies greater flexibility in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

Northam said that the small window of the order is based on modeling that suggests the virus will peak in the next few weeks.

[Virginia sees 15,463 new coronavirus cases Monday, 118,036 new cases in the last week]

“Health care workers and hospitals are exhausted, and they are again facing increasing numbers of patients, affecting their ability to provide care,” said Northam in a news release. “These steps will help ease the strain, giving medical professionals more flexibility to care for people. Ultimately, the best thing everyone can do for our hospitals and their staff is to get vaccinated.”

Currently, across Virginia, more than 3,500 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the governor’s office.

This emergency order allows the State Health Commissioner to waive normal bed licensing requirements, allows hospitals to increase their licensed bed capacity, and mandates increased coordination between hospitals and local Medical Services Agencies.

To help with staffing, the order allows providers with an active out-of-state license to practice in Virginia; authorizes experienced Physician Assistants to practice without a written supervisory agreement; increases provider-to-patient ratios; and provides certain liability protections to health care workers who act in good faith to protect patients.

The order also increases flexibility in the transfer of patients to state-operated psychiatric hospitals, which have seen dangerously-high census levels since the pandemic began.

Those interested can click here to read the order, Executive Order 84, in its entirety.

About the Author:

Jeff Williamson arrived at WSLS 10 in March 2016.