COVID-19 Update - October 13, 2020

It’s been about a month since the Governor gave a COVID-19 update.

In that time, Virginia has trended towards a good direction. We have made great strides, but we can’t let up now. Now is not the time to be complacent, we must continue to practice social distancing measures and proper health safety protocols. We’ll get through this pandemic, but we need to do it together!

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. When these COVID-19 press conferences are called, they will be broadcasted and archived on The Governor’s Facebook and YouTube channel. Some of the highlights from today’s press conference are as followed:

  • There are now 159,570 cases of COVID-19 in Virginia.
  • With regards to the statistics of COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth, they have been trending towards a good direction. Virginia’s percent positivity is now under 5%.
  • The Governor encourages everyone to continue to practice proper social distancing protocols so numbers do not trend back up.
  • Contact tracing has been a vital instrument in combatting the pandemic. The current process of contact tracing in Virginia include: identifying the individual’s positive test date and/or onset of symptoms, figuring out individuals they have had more than 15 minutes of 6 feet of closer contact with the positively tested individual, and notifying these individuals so they can go into a 14 day quarantine.
    • ​After the Governor tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month, contact tracing identified 65 individuals the Governor made contact with that may have been exposed. All of these individuals have either tested negative or cleared the 14 day quarantine with no issues.
  • ​The Governor has already signed a few bills that passed the General Assembly’s special session, such as the bill that would make Juneteenth a state holiday. Additionally, he signed a bill that would provide immunity from civil liability for home health workers, hospice workers, and others who are treating COVID patients. While it will provide important protections to these workers, it doesn’t negate gross negligence, patients will continue to be protected in these instances.
  • Priorities identified by the General Assembly and the Governor will be given more funding include: 
    • ​More than $220 million in federal CARES funding will go to K-12 schools. 
    • $30 million in CARES funding will fast track local broadband projects. 
    • $12 million in CARES funding will expand the current rent and mortgage relief program.
    • $50 million will go towards hazard pay for home health workers in addition to funding for the vaccination program, and for childcare providers. 
  • Today is the deadline to register to vote. While the online website to register to vote has experienced technical difficulties, technicians are currently working to bring it back up. 
    • While the deadline cannot be changed by the Governor, he is encouraging the Courts to take any necessary action to alleviate the issues that have come from today’s website difficulties.
  • As of yesterday, more than 550,000 Virginians have already voted early in person. This is equal to ¼ of the total voter turnout in 2016.

 

COVID-19 Data and Information

  • According to the VDH website:
    • 159,570 persons have tested positive for COVID-19.

    • 11,553 of those individuals have been hospitalized.

    • 3,361 of those individuals have lost their lives to this virus. 

  • This virus has been shown to disproportionately affect the African American and Hispanic/Latino population throughout the country. As such, Virginia has begun to collect race/ethnicity information. With the 158,258 cases we have racial and ethnicity data on, 31,683 are African Americans and 36,358 are Hispanic or Latino. 

 

Special Session

2020 has thrown a lot at us, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the exposure and need for true racial and criminal justice reform. Since the General Assembly gavelled out from our normal session in early March, we’ve seen so much suffering and hardship. We’ve been touched by the pain felt by so many across our Commonwealth and country. Now, we take action. During this special session, we will begin the process of healing.

Our General Assembly’s special session has made great progress. Both the House and the Senate have passed their versions of the budget, and both versions are currently being reviewed by the other body. While the revenue coming to the state this year has experienced a close to a $2.8 billion shortfall, our budget will currently still be able to provide funding to very necessary items such as:

  • $254 million for emergency housing, rent, eviction legal aid and utility relief.
  • $28.4 million directed towards policing and social justice reform, such as giving the Attorney General resources to investigate law enforcement agencies for unconstitutional practices like using excess force.
  • $200 million in federal funding for school reopening costs, in addition to $119 million in federal funding and $80 million in state funding for higher education institutions.

Some of the bills that have passed both the House and and Senate and are currently waiting for the Governor’s signature include:

  • HB 5046 - clarifies certain Code provisions related to telemedicine services and require the Department of Medical Assistance Services to continue reimbursing providers for Medicaid-covered telemedicine until July 1, 2021.
  • HB 5115 - extends eviction and foreclosure continuance periods in court proceedings to more Virginians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • HB 5098 - makes it a hate crime to make a false 9-1-1 call on the basis of race.

There are numerous bills that have passed both bodies of the General Assembly, but are currently in Conference to correct some differences in the versions that passed each house. This includes my bill:

  • HB 5068 - prohibits creditors from garnishing, or seizing, emergency relief payments (like stimulus checks) from Virginians.

Once our Conference reports are completed and both bodies have acted on all the outstanding bills, the special session will conclude and the bills that have passed the General Assembly will go to the Governor's desk for his signature.

All of the special sessions and our committee hearings will be live-streamed and archived here.

 

Elections in Virginia in 2020

This year has brought challenges to all facets of our daily lives. Since the pandemic has begun, our Department of Elections has been hard at work to ensure we can exercise our right and duty to vote in November. Additionally, a number of bills passed during this year’s session, including the 45-day period of excuse free absentee voting and making Election Day a holiday, will help in this mission.

Voters are encouraged to mail in their ballots this year. If you would like to vote absentee by mail, please go here. Absentee ballots will begin going out to voters’ homes on September 18th.

It is important to note that ballots postmarked before the 7 pm closing time for polling locations on Election Day will be counted, so long as they arrive before noon on the Friday after Election Day. Because of the expected increase in mail-in ballots this year, voters are encouraged to send in their ballots as soon as they can after they receive them by mail.

VPAP has put together a detailed webpage on the recent tweaks to the vote-by-mail procedure, I would recommend you take a look at it 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.

Ve aquí para español.

 

Comcast Updates

Comcast has recently announced that they will extend the free internet service to low-income customers they have been giving through the rest of 2020 as well as keeping their free public WiFi hotspots open through the end of the year. Please check out the following press releases from Comcast for more information:

Internet Essentials 60 days of free Internet service extended through 2020

Comcast extends free public WiFi access to everyone for the remainder of 2020

Comcast has partnered with Prince William County Schools to provide free internet service to low-income students that currently do not have internet at home. Comcast Internet Essentials, which is currently available for low-income families for $9.95 a month, will be covered by Prince William County for low-income students. It is anticipated that this program will cover thousands of students throughout the County.

To learn more about Comcast’s Internet Essentials program available for eligible low-income households, please go here.

 

My Contact Information

Email to: delhayala@house.virginia.gov, or call my office at: (804) 698-1051.

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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.

 

Sincerely,

Hala Ayala