With rising COVID-19 cases, Gov. Northam says Virginia not ready to reopen

Northam says Virginia will need abundant resources to screen, test and track the illness

Richmond, Va. – On Friday, Governor Ralph Northam said social distancing is working to flatten the curve in Virginia, but it’s still too early to lift restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Just like everybody, I want to get back to being as near normal as we can as soon as possible, but we have to be patient,” Northam said during Friday’s coronavirus briefing.

He said Virginia has to meet multiple criteria before state officials can start to look at the possibility of reopening the state. He said the first criterion that has to be met is a 14-day decrease in positive cases.

"We have not met that criteria," Northam said. "We're still seeing more cases each day, not fewer, so we are not there yet."

The Governor also said when the time comes to reopen, Virginia will need abundant resources for screening, testing and tracking COVID-19, as well as isolation options.

This comes as some in Virginia are getting restless under the Governor’s temporary stay-at-home order, which is scheduled to continue until June 10. Protesters gathered at the Virginia capitol on Thursday in opposition to the order. On Friday, President Donald Trump tweeted, “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.”

"As the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, I, along with this staff, is fighting a biological war," Northam said. "I do not have time to involve myself in Twitter wars. I will continue to do everything that I can to keep Virginians safe and save lives."

The Governor outlined more of the measures Virginia is putting in place to save lives, including getting more personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers, easing licensing restrictions for nurse practitioners as well as doctors licensed in other states, and allowing greater use of telehealth to beef up medical staffing during this crisis.

"This order will allow us to expand our work force, so that more trained medical professionals can step in and help meet the need," Northam said.

At least 45 people at a Richmond-area nursing home have died of COVID-19, prompting concerns about the health and safety of residents and staff at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Northam said Virginia is addressing staff shortages at those facilities and expanding testing criteria to include people who are about to be admitted to those facilities to keep the virus from spreading among some of the most vulnerable Virginians.

The Governor also said he is open to working with the governors of Maryland and North Carolina and the mayor of Washington D.C. to develop a regional plan to reopen.

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