RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/WRIC) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam held a coronavirus briefing on Wednesday afternoon.
It was his first briefing in two weeks, and second since he tested positive for the coronavirus about a month ago.
Northam said Virginia is lucky that while case counts are trending upwards in some regions, the state is not seeing large increases of coronavirus cases. Statewide, Virginia has the nation’s 10th-lowest rate of COVID-19 spread.
BELOW: Watch the full coronavirus briefing.
“I am so proud of how Virginians have stepped up during this pandemic,” Northam said.
Virginia’s virus metrics have been mostly stable for the last two weeks, and the commonwealth is one of few states where cases are steady overall and under a daily average of 15 cases per 100,000 residents. Cases and hospitalizations are rising sharply overall across the nation, especially in the Midwest.
Northam said statewide the percent positivity remains at 5.1%.
Northam highlighted Virginia’s different regions and said that many Virginia residents cross state lines and what happens in other regions affects the state.
“While our numbers look good overall, we have to consider the differences across regions of the state and we have to slide Virginia into the bigger national picture,” Northam said.
The governor said he is concerned about the percent positive tests in Southwest Virginia. It’s nearly eight percent — about double the rate of other regions. He said that’s driven by small family gatherings.
“Our public health experts are clear, the spread in southwest is driven in part by small family gatherings,” Northam said.
Northam also warned that Ballad Health is seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients. Northam said the healthcare facility is being impacted by an influx in cases on the Tennessee-Virginia border.
According to WAVY sister station WJHL, Ballad Health reported Tuesday it had 169 hospitalized COVID patients — an all-time high for the system. Of those, 33 were in intensive care and 15 were on ventilators, increases of five ICU patients and two ventilator patients from Monday.
Coronavirus cases in Virginia have been increasing this week by up to 1,000 or more cases daily. Currently, the state has 176,754 COVID-19 cases and 3,616 deaths. 16 new deaths were reported in the last period.
“We are all tired of not having social get togethers, not going to see sports or shows, not having the regular interactions that we count on in our lives, Northam said. “Most people are doing the right thing and they are tired of seeing other folks disregard the rules, health and safety of other people.”
With Halloween this weekend, Northam said that people should take precautions and make good choices.
“Some favorite Halloween activities are not cut out for social distancing,” Northam said. “Big crowds are a bad idea.”
He said to help small businesses and nonprofits, $30 million in CARES Act dollars will be added to the Rebuild Virginia grant program. The expansion starts today. He also talked about helping with jobs.
“In the coming days, we’ll be introducing a new workforce training program that’s aimed at folks who have been laid off get skills for new jobs,” said Northam.
Northam also spoke about new legislation relating to police and criminal justice reform.
“Today, Virginia becomes one of three states that bans no-knock warrants. These reforms also reduce militarization of police equipment, standardize law enforcement training requirements, and strengthen the process to decertify officers when needed,” he said.
He also told Virginians to think of Election Day as “Election Week.”
Meanwhile, Election Day is just six days away. Virginians who have not returned their absentee ballot yet via mail are asked to drop them off at your local registrar/satellite voting location to make sure they arrive on time. A new Christopher Newport University poll released Wednesday shows Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is up 12 points on President Donald Trump in Virginia, 53% to 41%.
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