Northam talks testing options; says 55,000 Virginians voted absentee in Tuesday’s local elections


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/WRIC) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam held a press conference on Wednesday as Virginia reported 33 new deaths, including 13 in Tidewater and 6 on the Eastern Shore.

Northam said during Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing that Virginians have several ways to get tested for COVID-19 as the state inches closer to reaching 10,000 tests per day, a goal set by the governor earlier in the month.

Virginia conducts roughly 10,000 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests a day but state health officials said the health department’s site does not reflect those numbers at this time. In his remarks, the governor addressed the multiple options to get tested in Virginia, including the expansion of testing events.

“There are a few different ways that one can get tested,” Northam said. “One is to go to your provider or your local clinic. Another is the community testing events that the department of health is organizing in targeted locations around the commonwealth. While people who have symptoms are a priority, everyone is welcome at testing events as long as tests are available.”

According to the Virginia Department of Health, there are nearly 33,000 coronavirus cases and 1,074 deaths linked to the virus in the commonwealth.

Phase One of Northam’s “Forward Virginia” plan has already started in most of the state, with the exception of Northern Virginia, the city of Richmond and Accomack County on the Eastern Shore. Northam said the first weekend of reopening in Virginia was successful.

Northam says he’s encouraging everyone to be tested, especially symptomatic people and those who live with a symptomatic person. He says testing is being provided at health providers across the state, and at free community testing events in disadvantaged and harder-hit areas. For more information, click here.

More highlights from Northam’s press conference below:

Absentee ballots way up for May local elections

Northam says more than 55,000 Virginians voted via absentee ballots for Tuesday’s local elections. In comparison, fewer than 1,700 voted via absentee in the May 2016 local elections.

He’s encouraging all Virginians to vote via absentee for the upcoming June primary elections. The deadline is 5 p.m. on June 16. In-person voting will still be available.

Contact tracers and PPE

Hospitals have enough supplies of personal protective equipment, Northam says. He said the state’s stockpile’s priorities go to state testing sites, and then local health departments. Northam says the state won’t reject PPE requests from health care providers, but they must exhaust private supply chains first.

He says that FEMA is working on shipping supplies to Virginia’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities, where more than half of Virginia’s COVID-19 deaths have happened. He says the facilities will receive two shipments, with a week’s worth of PPE in each.

$58 million from the federal CARES Act has also been allocated to help with the state’s contract tracing efforts. Virginia is hiring 200 case investigators who will work with the 1,000 contact tracers. For more on the positions, click here.

New health care work group formed

Northam announced he’s created a work group to reduce cost and improve the quality of health care for Virginians during the pandemic.

“The pandemic highlights just how important it is for everyone to have access to care.”

Related: Virginia May 20 COVID-19 update: 33 new deaths reported statewide; 6 on Eastern Shore, 7 in rest of Tidewater

Watch the full press conference below:

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