Northam issues order to expand state health care workforce
Governor also responds to Trump's tweet to "Liberate Virginia."
With an estimated 30,000 medical workers needed in the event of a surge of COVID-19 cases in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam has issued an executive order aimed at making it easier for nurse practitioners, fourth-year medical students, residents, interns and out-of-state doctors to assist hospitals and long-term care facilities with providing care for patients.
“While we are seeing promising signs in our ongoing fight against COVID-19, we must continue to prepare for all scenarios, and that includes making sure we have to the necessary staff to confront a potential medical surge,” Northam said of the order, which also allows for expanded telehealth care options. “This pandemic is placing extraordinary demands on our doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners, and these policies will enable us to expand our health care workforce so more trained medical professionals can step in and help.”
Speaking during an April 17 news briefing, Northam said that Virginia has received $1.6 billion in federal stimulus funds, which will be used for Virginia’s COVID-19 response and to aid local governments. Virginia also received approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for hotel accommodations for first responders and essential workers combating the coronavirus pandemic.
Additionally, Virginia has received its first shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the state government’s $27 million contract with Norfolk-based Northfield Medical Manufacturing, receiving more than 24,000 N95 masks as well as protective gloves and gowns. “We expect more shipments from this order in the coming weeks,” Northam said. “The national supply chain issues around PPE remain a problem. We’re trying to work around those by diversifying our sources, so we have multiple different ways to get PPE. I’m proud of the innovative ways our health care providers are coming up with to stretch their PPE supplies, such as decontaminating masks with ultraviolet lights.”
Discussing recent federal guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FEMA on reopening America, the governor noted that the CDC’s first criteria for a phased return to normal life would include 14 consecutive days of declining COVID-19 cases. However, Virginia has just had two back-to-back record-setting days for new confirmed cases, seeing 602 cases in the last 24 hours, an increase of about 8%.
Virginia’s decisions to ease restrictions will be based on “science and data,” said Northam, noting that planning for reopening the commonwealth also will include developing the capability to screen, test, track and isolate people in order to contain the virus. The state is working to establish and improve processes for that, the governor said, as well as sourcing enough PPE for frontline medical workers and first responders. However, Northam said, “We have no national guidance on testing. … Every governor is having to establish our testing protocols and [procuring] our supplies on our own . … While that improves every day, we’re not there yet.”
Northam also responded to a question about U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s April 17 tweet reading, “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” The tweet was one of a few identical messages Trump sent Friday, aimed at fueling protests against Democratic governors in Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia.
Northam replied, “I do not have time to involve myself in Twitter wars. I will continue to do everything I can to keep Virginia safe and save lives.”
LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 17, 2020
About 24 protesters assembled at the Virginia State Capitol on Thursday, some of them believing COVID-19 to be a hoax, and called on Northam to reopen businesses and end his shelter-in-place order for Virginia, which is in place until June 10. Virginia Republicans, including state Sen. Amanda Chase of Chesterfield County, have been calling for Northam to end the pandemic shutdown by early May.