Governor: Virginia has ordered $27M of masks, other PPE
Northam also advises Virginians to wear face coverings when in public
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday that the state has signed a $27 million contract with a Virginia-based logistics company to ship N95 masks and other personal protective equipment from Asia, with the first shipment arriving next week.
Northfield Medical Manufacturing LLC in Norfolk will manage the deliveries, Northam said.
However, even with multiple shipments of PPE expected, “we’re woefully short,” said Brian Moran, secretary of public safety and homeland security. “We’ve received a mere fraction of what was requested” from the national stockpile. Like other states, Virginia went to the private market to purchase protective gear, which is running short all over the nation in hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care facilities.
“We have been working with every angle to buy more PPE,” Northam said in his regular COVID-19 news conference Monday afternoon.
Although Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver acknowledged Monday that there aren’t enough testing kits available to test everyone, the state has more testing capacity as time goes on. Sentara Healthcare, U.Va. Health System, VCU Health and other hospital systems have developed in-house testing, along with the state and private laboratories, including a few new ones recently.
But Virginia has only 10 to 20 of the fastest tests — touted by President Trump — that work with the Abbott molecular point-of-care analyzer that can get results within 15 to 30 minutes.
“We need the ability to do that at volume,” said Dr. Daniel Carey, Virginia’s secretary of health and human services. Denise Toney, director of DCLS, explained that the reagents and cassettes needed to use the Abbott machine are “not widely available.”
Northam also said that the state is finalizing contracts for three alternative care facilities in the case of a surge in virus cases, with work starting this week to prepare the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, the Greater Richmond Convention Center and the Hampton Roads Convention Center for patients within the next six weeks.
The state also has sourced 1 million unused masks from the H1N1 epidemic in 2009 that the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association will recondition for use by health care personnel, the governor said. Meanwhile, the state’s Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services, which is conducting COVID-19 tests for the Virginia Department of Health, has begun assisting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collecting data on how the virus was spread and how it may mutate, contributing to a genetic fingerprint that could help produce an effective treatment or vaccine, Northam said.
The governor put on a cloth mask made by an inmate at a Virginia prison and said that he advises all Virginians to wear a cloth face covering when they go out in public, as the CDC has suggested, while noting that it is not as protective as medical-grade masks.
For the time being, Northam told Virginians to stay home, wash their hands and maintain six feet of distance from others. “I know it is difficult, but we will get through this together.”