Va. to open temporary hospitals in NoVa, Richmond, Hampton Roads
Governor also directing state agencies to prepare for budget cuts.
With the COVID-19 crisis growing, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday that Virginia has selected three sites for overflow patient care: the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, the Greater Richmond Convention Center and the Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton.
The state government is completing contracts to use the facilities as temporary hospitals and is coordinating with the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the National Guard on the initiative. The facilities will require design and construction to be adjusted for medical care. “We expect these alternative care sites to be ready in about six weeks,” Northam said, noting that a surge in cases is likely to occur in Virginia in May.
The Dulles Expo Center can accommodate 315 acute-care beds or 510 non-acute hospital beds; the Greater Richmond Convention Center will be able to hold 432 acute-care beds or 758 non-acute beds; and the Hampton Roads Convention Center can handle 360 acute-care beds or 580 non-acute beds.
Virginia received a Major Disaster Declaration designation from the federal government Thursday, which will provide federal public assistance in areas of Virginia affected by the pandemic at a federal cost share of 75 percent. Additionally, it authorizes federal agencies to provide direct emergency assistance to Virginia and will allow the purchase of additional supplies and services needed to respond to the crisis, such as providing shelter for more than 1,500 homeless Virginians who rely in shelters that are unable to comply with social distancing, Northam said.
Speaking during a Friday news conference about the coronavirus pandemic, Northam also said that he has directed state agencies to eliminate all discretionary spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. And he has additionally instructed state agencies to prepare for budget cuts starting with the new fiscal year in July and has directed state budgeting experts to look at initiatives and “new commitments” that can be cut. Virginia Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne told legislators last week that Virginia can expect a $1 billion annual revenue shortfall for the next two years, due to the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout.
“We can expect to have significantly less revenue than even our most pessimistic forecasts” predict,” Northam said, noting that the state government is incurring extraordinary expenses to respond to the pandemic. “We have to rearrange our priorities. .. Virginia had a strong economy … before the pandemic. And when this pandemic is finished, we will again be strong.”