Since the beginning of the month, we have heard the Governor speak about reopening the state soon. This Friday, May 15th, is still scheduled to be the beginning of Phase 1 of this plan. While I am happy to hear that our state’s overall condition has improved to allow this, I know Northern Virginia is currently not ready.
Yesterday, Board of Supervisor Chairs Wheeler (Prince William), Randall (Loudoun), McKay (Fairfax), Garvey (Arlington), and Mayor Wilson (Alexandria) sent a public letter to the Governor stating that Northern Virginia as a whole is not ready to begin Phase 1 this Friday. Governor Northam supports this decision and is ready to assist Northern Virginia while we continue to fight this pandemic. I applaud our leadership for making this very important and necessary decision.
While I know our community wants to make sure everyone stays safe and healthy during this difficult time, I know it is tough to continue isolating at home, especially when we hear other areas of the state and the country move towards reopening. I ask for your patience. At the end of the day, we have to keep all those who are vulnerable, as well as our amazing frontline health care workers and other essential workers, in mind before we can move forward. We must continue to stay at home, for the time being.
In the meantime, please continue to check on our friends, neighbors and family. Just because we are physically separated from each other doesn’t mean we have to be emotionally separated.
We must also do a wellness check on one another, especially our most vulnerable. Please remember, if you or someone you know is feeling depressed or suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, or the Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990.
If there is anything that I can do to help or if you know someone that is in need of help, do not hesitate to reach out to our office at 804-698-1051 or via email at DelHayala@house.virginia.gov.
The Governor's Update
The full press conference can be watched here. Please note that the Governor will be giving these press conferences every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (unless an urgent update requires the Governor to speak on an off press conference day), and they will take place at 2 pm. They will be broadcasted and archived on The Governor’s Facebook and VPM’s YouTube channel. Some of the highlights from today’s press conference are as followed:
There are now 25,070 cases of COVID-19 in Virginia.
The 7-day average of positive tests have been trending downward.
Virginia continues its streak of no hospitals experiencing any PPE difficulty.
Hospitals in Virginia continue to have enough bed space, and open beds, for patients.
As the Governor has mentioned before, the Phase 1 easing of restrictions are a floor, not a ceiling. Localities can request to delay easing restrictions if they feel they are not ready to open up. Northern Virginia localities, including Prince William, Loudoun, Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria, have sent a letter to the Governor expressing that they are not ready to open. Governor Northam supports Northern Virginia’s decision to delay Phase 1.
More information on this will be available further down this newsletter.
The Governor continues to prioritize addressing the higher than usually high number of COVID cases in underserved areas which is seen throughout the country. The Health Equity Task Force was established on the onset of the COVID-19 response in early March. The task force works to ensure health equity is applied to Virginia's decision making during this pandemic.
20,000 masks and 20,000 bottles of hand sanitizers have been made available to Richmond for its underserved neighborhoods. This Richmond pilot is the first of many initiatives the health equity task force aims to implement throughout the state.
In Petersburg, a number of residents have had their water shut off. To address this, Dr. Norm Oliver, the state’s Health Commissioner, issued a public health certification that prevents the City of Petersburg from shutting off water service to any occupied dwellings, and requires the city to restore service to 46 homes.
Early in the pandemic, the Governor closed DMV buildings throughout the state. This closure will last at least until next week. Online DMV services remain open.
Additional Data and Information
- According to the VDH website:Virginia has a total of 149,436 individuals tested.
- 25,070 persons have tested positive for COVID-19.
- 3,300 of those individuals have been hospitalized.
- 850 of those individuals have lost their lives to this virus.
- This virus has been shown to disproportionately affect the African American and Hispanic/Latino populations throughout the country. As such, Virginia has begun to collect race/ethnicity information. With the cases we 17,449 have racial data on: 4,119 are African Americans. With the 16,448 cases we have ethnicity data on: 6,894 are Hispanic or Latino.
Northern Virginia’s Current Status Regarding Phase 1
Earlier this month, the Governor released the criteria for the state to move to Phase 1 of reopening the state, with the caveat that localities can delay their reopening if they feel they have not met this criteria. On Sunday, May 10th, leaders from Northern Virginia localities sent a letter to the Governor stating they do not meet this criteria. To put this into perspective, on the same day the letter was sent, Northern Virginia accounted for 719 new positive tests (73% of all new tests), whereas the rest of Virginia accounted for 270 new positive tests (27% of all new tests). Based on a memo released by the top health officials in Northern Virginia, this is how we compare on each of the Governor’s criterias:
Downward trends of positive tests over a period of 14 days: We are currently unable to assess this. While Virginia as a whole may be moving downward, we cannot tell how Northern Virginia is faring. Northern Virginia health officials are currently awaiting this specific data from VDH.
Hospitalizations moving downward over 14 days: Based on our data we have not met this criteria.
Increased testing: We are unable to assess this. We only have Virginia’s whole number, not for our region specifically. VDH will provide this data soon.
Increased contact tracing: We have not met this criteria. We do not yet have the infrastructure to respond to every new case, trace and actively monitor their close contacts, and coordinate testing for symptomatic contacts.
Enough hospital beds and intensive care capacity: We are unable to assess this. Available critical care beds continue to decrease but still fall within normal operating capacity. Note: There is a 20% surge capacity that is not yet utilized.
Increasing and sustainable supply of PPE: We have not met this criteria. PPE for hospitals have been adequate currently, but PPE for outpatient facilities (private practices, long-term care facilities, and first responders) continues to be a challenge.
COVID-19 Executive Orders
Since the pandemic reached Virginia more than a month ago, the Governor has issued numerous executive orders to address it. Here is a brief explanation of each, as well as the links to the full Executive Orders.
Executive Order 51 was the first one, and it declared the state of emergency in Virginia due to COVID-19. This EO gave the Governor and the state government authority to preemptively address the pandemic.
Executive Order 52 increased hospital bed capacity throughout Virginia in response to threat COVID-19 presented. This allowed our hospitals to be ready for the amount of patients that would come in from COVID-19. This played a role into why our hospitals currently still have enough capacity to treat both COVID-19 and other patients.
Executive Order 53 declared the closure of businesses throughout the state that were not essential and gave guidance to the businesses that were essential (like grocery stores and pharmacies) on how they can operate safely during this time.
Executive Order 54 gave power to the Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission to request Title XII funding for our unemployed workers. This allowed our unemployment insurance program to boost its funding so it could cover a wider net of workers who have been affected by the pandemic.
Executive Order 55 is the Stay at Home order. This order detailed why individuals in Virginia can leave their home, and why they should stay at home for a majority of the time.
Executive Order 56 postponed the June 9th primary elections to June 23rd.
Executive Order 57 eased regulations on medical licenses so out of state doctors, residents, fourth year medical students, and other qualified individuals could treat Virginian patients without having to jump through many regulatory hurdles during this pandemic.
Executive Order 58 simplifies the process Medicaid recipients must follow to receive medical attention during this pandemic, as well as giving the Department of Medical Assistance Services more flexibility in making critical services more accessible to those who need it.
Executive Order 59 postpones the May 5th general and special elections to May 19th.
Link to all Executive Orders here.
COVID-19 Resource Page
I have a page on my website dedicated towards providing resources offered by the state, local government, and other entities, to those who need it. If you need assistance please visit the webpage now!
Additionally, there are other helpful, informative links that I would recommend you take a look at so you can stay up to date on this dynamic situation. You can visit the webpage here.
Prince William County Information Center
Here is further information on what our county will be doing during this time:
- Prince William County has instituted a text alert system for COVID-19. Those interested in receiving updates from the county via text can text COVIDPWC to 888777 for English or COVIDPWCES to 888777 for Spanish.
- Additionally, residents can call the county's information at (703) 794-4669, Monday-Friday, 8 am - 5 pm, for information regarding county government operations.
- Health questions related to COVID-19 can be addressed by the Prince William Health District's call center #: (703) 872-7759, 9 am - 5 pm, seven days a week.
- Prince William County Schools, along with all of Virginia’s schools, will be closed for the remaining academic year.
- School Age Child Care (SACC) will be closed from March 16 onward.
- PWCS and the County will provide packaged breakfasts and lunches at select locations throughout the county to anyone under the age of 18. For a complete list of all to-go food locations and additional information please click here.
- Online registration is now open for children who will enter kindergarten in the 2020-21 school year. Because of the COVID-19 shutdown, please note that the timeline for registration may take longer than usual. To register your child or for more information please click here.
Many of our community partners want you to know that they are with you in the fight and have free and helpful resources for you to use or be aware of. Please check out the below bulletins. Note: For state and local listings of resources as shared above, can be found here.
ERs Remain Open and Safe
Emergency physicians working on the frontline of this crisis continue to encourage everyone to practice social distancing and stay at home when possible. But, the doctors say, Virginians should not delay necessary medical care, especially if you think you are having an emergency.
In the last month, some emergency departments in Virginia and across the country have seen a reduction in patient volume of more than 30 percent (as an example, motor vehicle accidents — which account for a lot of ER visits — don't happen as often when there are no cars on the road).
“If you think you are having a medical emergency such as stroke, heart attack, trauma, or serious infection, come to the emergency department — or better yet, call 911,” says Bruce Lo, M.D., a Board member with the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians, which represents ER doctors throughout the Commonwealth. “Fear is leading many people to delay treatment for health issues that need to be addressed. Delaying treatment is dangerous, especially when it comes to signs of a heart attack or stroke.”
For more information, visit: https://www.vhha.com.
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In closing, I am here for you as is our Governor and our government agencies who are readily available to help during this tough time. It is important we prevent the spread for the safety of everyone, especially those who are most vulnerable. In addition, let's focus on caring for one another and beating this virus together.