COVID-19 Update - October 28, 2020

I hope you and yours are doing well. As we continue to fight against this pandemic, I wanted to give you some positive news.

While it is troubling to see much of the country experience a surge in cases, Virginia is one of a handful of states where cases have remained steady and relatively low. This is a testament to the sacrifice we Virginians have given to ensure this pandemic’s dire effects are mitigated. 

Halloween is just around the corner. While in most years, Halloween is a time for gatherings, trick or treating, and other fun festivities, especially for our kids, this year we must be aware of social distancing and other proper health protocols. Please be careful, and avoid things that could risk the health of you, your family, and others around you. I wish we could celebrate Halloween like we usually do, but we must make this sacrifice this year. I will look forward to seeing everyone hopefully in person and in their costumes next year!

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 176,754 cases of COVID-19 in Virginia.
  • Even though cases are rising throughout the country, Virginia remains among one of few states where case counts have stayed low.
  • With that said, some regions are experiencing a risk of higher cases. Southwest Virginia (and Eastern Tennessee) hospitals are warning that they are seeing an increase of more COVID-19 patients. 
  • The percent positivity rate of cases in Virginia has remained steady around 5%.
    • However, the Southwestern region of Virginia is seeing a roughly 8%-9% percent positivity rate, a cause for concern. Health officials are taking action and the Governor encourages everyone to follow safe health protocols.
  • The Eastern and Northern regions of Virginia, while experiencing higher cases earlier this year, have remained steady in recent weeks.
  • The National Guard continues to assist with testing throughout the Commonwealth, and remain on standby should they need to be deployed to conduct quick and efficient testing in the case of an outbreak. 
  • The Governor is announcing the expansion of Rebuild Virginia, a program that helps with providing grants to small businesses and nonprofits. $30 billion in CARES Act funding will go to this program.
  • The Governor has signed multiple bills related to COVID relief and racial injustice reform. With the passage of one such bill, Virginia is now only the 3rd state in the country to ban no-knock warrants.
  • Just yesterday, a circuit court judge ruled that Governor Northam can remove the Robert E. Lee statue which is located in the center of Richmond, the capital city.
  • The Governor is monitoring and will address the situation at the Virginia Military Institute regarding the accusations of racism made by multiple students.

 

COVID-19 Data and Information

  • According to the VDH website:
    • 176,754 persons have tested positive for COVID-19.

    • 12,384 of those individuals have been hospitalized.

    • 3,616 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 cases we have racial and ethnicity data on, 34,680 are African Americans and 39,020 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. Even though it was certainly hard work, we are proud to have passed a solid budget. 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 General Assembly:

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

All of the special sessions and our committee hearings are 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.

The last day to vote early in person is this Saturday, October 31st. 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