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Coronavirus Update 4.29.2020

I write today with another update as we continue to adapt our daily lives during this unprecedented time. A graphic from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) regarding the cases of coronavirus is below -- it is updated here every day.

Helpful Links and Phone Numbers

  • I encourage you to tune in to the Governor's 2 pm briefings at facebook.com/GovernorVA on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
     
  • For general information on the coronavirus, you can call VDH at (877) ASK-VDH3 or (877) 275-8343.
     
  • For updates from Arlington County regarding the virus, click here or call (703) 228-7999. For information from Fairfax County, click here.
     
  • For updates from Arlington County Public Schools, click here. Click here for daily updates from Fairfax County Public Schools.
     
  • To apply for unemployment insurance, click here or call (866) 832-2363.
    • Please note that due to passage of the CARES Act, many workers -- like the self-employed, independent contractors, and gig economy workers -- who were not eligible under traditional unemployment insurance may be eligible under a new federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

Timeline for Reopening

  • All Virginians are eager for the coronavirus outbreak to be over, to feel safe again, and for life to return to normal -- whatever that may look like. Governor Northam and his cabinet have consistently expressed their hope to lift coronavirus-related restrictions as soon as possible, noting that a number of benchmarks must be met in order for Virginia to reopen in a safe and responsible manner.
     
  • We must ensure that we do not move so quickly that we are hit with a second wave of the deadly virus.
     
  • Governor Northam last week unveiled his “Forward Virginia” blueprint to help guide the Commonwealth on when to begin easing public health restrictions. Click here to read more.
     
  • The Northam Administration is adhering to CDC guidelines regarding recommendations for reopening states. There are three phases as outlined by the White House.
     
  • The Governor's "Forward Virginia" plan includes the following requirements that must be met before we enter Phase One of the CDC proposal:
    • A downward trajectory of in the percentage of positive tests over 14 days.
       
    • A decrease in hospitalizations over 14 days.
       
    • A sufficient number of hospital beds and intensive care capacity.
       
    • An increasing and sustainable supply of PPE.
       
  • I am hopeful that we will see numbers of cases and deaths trend downward as soon as possible. In the meantime, I encourage you to wear a face mask in public, maintain good social distance, and wash your hands frequently.
     
  • All of these steps have helped to prevent an overwhelming surge in the virus' spread thus far, and we must remain vigilant.

Testing

  • If there is one thing that Virginia seems to be far behind on, it is testing. The Governor and his staff are working around the clock to address this pressing challenge and more testing capacity is necessary before we consider reopening.
     
  • At the beginning of the outbreak when testing capacity was particularly low, the VDH focused available testing on the highest priority patients, including people with severe cases, people exposed to directly confirmed cases, and health care workers. Additionally, tests had to be sent to the CDC in Atlanta for analysis.
     
  • Now, the state lab can conduct up to 400 tests per day and universities, private labs, and local in-house hospital labs are helping with testing.
     
  • VDH recently updated its testing guidance to expand who is eligible for testing, and testing has increased by 41 percent in the past week.
     
  • Governor Northam said that Virginia received a shipment on Tuesday of 200,000 more test swabs from FEMA to help boost testing.
     
  • With increased testing will likely come an increase in the reported number of new cases.
     
  • Click here to find a testing site near you.

Working Groups

  • Governor Northam has established a number of task forces and working groups over the last month, including the following:
    • Testing Task Force: led by former Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Remley and State Epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake, this task force seeks to calculate how many coronavirus tests are needed per day in Virginia and how those tests will be obtained as we look to eventually loosen stay-at-home restrictions. Testing has increased to 4,000 per day, but Governor Northam said that the goal is to administer 10,000 tests per day.
       
    • Long Term Care and Assisted Living Facility Task Force: headed by Virginia Deputy Health Commissioner Laurie Forlano, this panel's agenda includes plans to expand the availability and guidance for testing to track COVID-19 within long term care and assisted living facilities, procure and distribute protective medical gear to facilities that need it, and find money to help all facilities hire and keep critical staff.
       
    • COVID-19 Business Task Force: this working group will help Virginia shape the phased reopening by bringing together business leaders from across the Commonwealth. Click here for a list of members.

Medical Procedures

  • Governor's Northam's Public Health Emergency Two Order suspending elective and dental surgeries will expire tomorrow at midnight.
     
  • The Governor stated today that Virginia has enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line responders to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • It was announced on Monday that Virginia will receive 800,000 gloves and 300,000 surgical masks as part of a $27 million contract to procure PPE. Virginia is expecting to also receive 14,000 test swabs and additional cloth masks for critical infrastructure workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
     
  • The recent and sharp decline in vaccinations rates has alarmed many Virginia pediatricians -- adolescent vaccination rates are down 76 percent, for example. I encourage anyone with children who are due routine vaccines to schedule them soon to protect them from preventable diseases like the measles in the future.

Behavioral Health

  • These are stressful, unprecedented times for all of us, and many Virginians are suffering from behavioral health issues as a result. Although we most frequently consider the coronavirus outbreak through the lens of physical health, the emotional and psychological effects are significant and cannot be ignored.
     
  • I sincerely hope that you will seek help if you need it -- if you or someone you know is feeling depressed or suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, or the Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990.
     
  • Governor Northam announced on Monday that Virginia has received a $2 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to start addressing the behavioral health impacts of COVID-19.
    • Grant money will fund Virginia's 40 community service boards (CSBs) and the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, and will help our CSBs continue to provide outpatient treatment for behavioral health and substance use via telehealth.
       
    • It will also help provide medication-assisted treatment for opioid addictions, along with recovery services and recovery housing.
       
    • Funding also will go toward supporting healthcare workers who may need behavioral health treatment.

Medicaid

  • Governor Northam signed Executive Order 58 last week to make it easier for Medicaid recipients to access medical care amid the current public health crisis. Click here for more information.
     
  • To enroll in the Medicaid program, click here.

Elections

  • June primaries, originally scheduled for June 9th, 2020, will be held on June 23rd. The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is June 16th at 5 pm. Ballots must be received by 7 pm on June 23rd.
     
  • If you plan to vote in the June primaries, you can vote absentee by mail by selecting 2A, the "My disability or illness” reason code.
     
  • Attorney General Mark Herring announced that Virginians submitting absentee ballots in the June primary will not be required to have a witness sign the envelope if they "believe they may not safely have a witness present while completing their ballot."
     
  • Arlington Democrats will hold a vote-by-mail caucus to select the two candidates for Arlington School Board who will receive the Democratic endorsement in 2020. Ballot requests must be received by May 7th. Click here for more information.
     
  • There will be a special election on July 7th to fill the Arlington County Board seat formerly held by Erik Gutshall, who tragically passed away on April 16th after a battle with brain cancer. Because there is not enough time to hold a primary before the special election, Democrats will choose a nominee via a “closed virtual caucus.” Stay tuned as this situation is still developing.

Miscellaneous

  • The Supreme Court of Virginia has extended its Order of Judicial Emergency for all district and circuit courts until May 17.
     
  • Construction has been paused for the building of alternative care sites in the Fairfax County, City of Richmond, and Hampton Roads areas. Current data indicates that Virginia has sufficient hospital bed capacity to address our expected needs during the coronavirus outbreak. The Governor announced that he may revisit this decision if future data shows the need for additional hospital beds.
     
  • The Virginia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is seeking more volunteers -- members the MRC provide support for the expected surge in hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout the Commonwealth. A medical background is not needed to participate. Click here for more information.
     
  • The Governor announced today that Virginia has secured relief options for more than 200,000 Virginians with privately held student loans. The payment relief stems from a new initiative by the Commonwealth and a number of other states to work with major private student loan servicers to expand on protections for federal student loan borrowers through the CARES Act. Click here for more information.

I will continue to update you as relevant information becomes available. Stay safe and healthy.