ROANOKE, Va. – In his first trip since taking office, Governor Glenn Youngkin paid a visit to Roanoke on Thursday, touring Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital before announcing that he signed an executive order putting his COVID-19 Action Plan into place.
The plan has three main sections: vaccination, expanded health care and testing.
With Nearly 1.6 million Virginians unvaccinated against COVID-19, the governor is looking to put more resources toward vaccine education, host more than 100 vaccine events across Virginia, have mobile vaccine units go out in rural areas and he plans to talk with other governors about their successes with regard to vaccination.
As part of his plan, Youngkin made it clear he wants to give people choices when it comes to vaccination, not issue mandates.
“As your governor I will not mandate the vaccine. But as your neighbor and as your friend I am strongly encouraging you to please get it,” said Youngkin.
As part of his plan, he signed Executive Order No. 11, which will give heath care providers flexibility and support to battle staffing shortages caused by the pandemic.
The governor’s plan lists eight such ways he plans to do that:
- Creating appropriate exemptions to scope of practice requirements to allow health care providers to care for patients in this difficult time
- Allowing hospitals and nursing homes to rapidly expand bed capacity by temporarily waiving regulations
- Expanding flexibility, overtime hours, and availability for personal care workers
- Providing flexibility for licensed out-of-state nurses and health care professionals to practice in Virginia
- Redirecting resources to assist with the access and availability of therapeutics and expanding the number of providers available to offer oral therapeutics, including allowing therapeutics to be distributed at hospitals without onsite pharmacies
- Ensure appropriate reimbursement for innovative treatment solutions for individuals, including telemedicine, including safe at home programs that allow individuals with mild symptoms to receive care remotely
- Deploying the Commonwealth’s supply of personal protective equipment
- Encouraging blood donation and providing support to the Red Cross to support emergency and planned surgeries
Carilion CEO and President Nancy Agee said this will help relieve the burden on staff.
“Our staff are in a word, weary. Exhausted,” said Agee. “We have more patients with COVID in the hospital than we’ve had any time during the pandemic. So while some people are sort of trying to move on, our staff are working incredibly hard.”
The final piece of the action plan is to prioritize testing guidelines to mitigate supply-chain shortages for COVID-19 tests. Youngkin will be discouraging mass testing for the purposes of pre-screening, discourage asymptomatic individuals from testing, and urge healthy individuals with mild symptoms to stay home and use discretion on testing.
As part of this phase of his plan, the governor has directed the State Health Commissioner to issue new guidelines that prioritize rapid tests for six key categories:
- Students potentially exposed to COVID-19 who need to test to remain in school
- Essential health care professionals and other essential workers who need to be tested to return to work
- Vulnerable citizens including those in nursing facilities and over the age of 65
- Those with serious medical conditions and their caregivers
- Those who need to be tested after consultation with a healthcare provider
- Expand availability to individuals as test supplies increase
During his trip to Roanoke, Youngkin also toured a new VDH testing site and the Communty Vaccination Center at Valley View Mall. Roanoke City & Alleghany Health District Director Dr. Cynthia Morrow spoke about the governor’s visit.
“It’s really about working together to make sure that the limited supply we do have goes to the right people and decompresses our emergency departments and our urgent care centers,” said Morrow.
“These are the kinds of decisions that we have to make right now and I think they’re the right ones,” said Youngkin.