PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced a COVID plan on Thursday that encourages unvaccinated Virginians to get the COVID vaccine, while “discouraging mass testing for the purposes of pre-screening.”
He also announced an executive order, Executive Order 11, to help with staffing at Virginia’s hospitals and health care facilities, which are seeing record levels of COVID patients, including those on ventilators.
Youngkin’s office says the plan discourages asymptomatic individuals from testing in an effort to mitigate supply chain shortages. The plan will also “urge healthy individuals with mild symptoms to stay home and use discretion on testing.”
The governor’s directing the state health commissioner to issue new guidance to prioritize testing for:
- Students potentially exposed to COVID-19 who need to test to remain in school.
- Essential healthcare professional and other essential worker who need to be tested to return to work.
- Vulnerable citizens including those in nursing facilities and over the age of 65.
- Those with serious medical conditions and their caregivers.
- Those who need to be tested after consultation with a healthcare provider.
Asymptomatic people can still spread the highly contagious omicron however. Mass testing will still be available by appointment at places such as Military Circle Mall in Norfolk, and free rapid at-home tests from the federal government are being shipped out. You can order four free rapid tests in seconds at covidtests.gov.
The vaccination plan, which Youngkin is calling a “Marshall Plan for Virginia,” will devote more resources to encourage the nearly 1.6 million Virginians who are still unvaccinated to get the vaccine. Nearly 6 million Virginians, about 69% of the population, are fully vaccinated.
Data continues to show that the vast majority of people being hospitalized and dying of COVID are unvaccinated.
Youngkin has encouraged vaccinations in the past, but has spoken out against vaccination mandates. He and Attorney General Jason Miyares sued over President Biden’s vaccine mandates.
“Today’s announcements are designed to give Virginians the tools and resources needed to make the best decisions for their families, strengthen our hospital systems, and ensure a strong recovery as we encounter new challenges associated with the pandemic that has become part of our everyday life,” Youngkin said in a release.
The executive order is similar to the state of emergency declared on Jan. 10 by former Gov. Ralph Northam recently, which waived regulations to expand bed capacity and bring in health care professional from out of state.
The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association shared this statement on the order on Thursday.
“Through two years and five surges, Virginia hospitals and their staff have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, having treated and discharged more than 86,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, administered millions of vaccines doses, and conducted even more tests. In the past month, Virginia hospitals have encountered some of the most challenging circumstances seen since the pandemic began. A rapidly escalating surge has led to record-setting hospitalizations that are straining the capacity of the health care delivery system, its staff, and resources. Already weary frontline caregivers are being asked to do more even as the highly-transmissible Omicron variant has caused illness leading to staff shortages that make an existing health care staffing crisis even worse. An effective hospital response to this surge necessitates support from the public and partners in government to ensure continuity of operations so that patients can receive the care they need. That is why we sincerely thank Governor Glenn Youngkin for taking the important step of issuing an Executive Order to authorize hospitals and health care providers to meet the challenges they currently face. Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order is a welcome and necessary step to grant important flexibilities to frontline providers and Virginia hospitals as they continue to battle this pandemic surge.”
You can read the full plan here.