Northam provides update on COVIDWISE app downloads, announces 790,000 requests for absentee ballots already


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/WRIC) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam held a coronavirus response press conference Tuesday, during which he discussed the latest COVID-19 health data for the commonwealth.

“Our percent positivitiy is at 6.8 percent,” Northam said. “Which has been decreasing for 12 days now and that is good news.”

Previously, Northam said he had concerns about the increasing positivity rate in the eastern region of Virginia. Northam said placing restrictions on this part of Virginia worked “quite well.”

Last week, Northam eased special coronavirus restrictions implemented in the Hampton Roads region late July. The area joined the rest of Virginia in phase three.

“Ultimately, it is our behavior that will get this pandemic behind us,” said Northam.

Northam shared that more than half a million people have downloaded COVID-WISE, the state’s app that notifies people if they’ve been near a confirmed case. Northam estimates that’s roughly 12percent of adults between the ages of 18 to 65. He says he’s grateful to the people who downloaded the app, but at the end of the day, things like wearing a mask, social distancing and washing our hands will get us through the pandemic.

Northam also said the state has authorized $42 million from the CARES Act for personal protective equipment distribution.

The State Corporation Commission approved the governor’s request to extend the moratorium on utility disconnections through Oct. 5. Northam says his goal is to give the General Assembly time to work through his proposed budget.

He also spoke at length about the upcoming election. Northam said the state is expecting a high number of absentee voting this year. In fact, the number of requested absentee ballots has already surpassed the total absentee ballots submitted four years ago.

“I want Virginians to know that your vote is safe and it will count,” said Northam. “Every absentee envelope is required to have an intelligent mail bar-code and an election mail insignia. This is a critical security tool. The insignia tells the Postal Service that this piece of mail is a ballot.”

Absentee ballots will start going out on Friday, which is the same day early in-person voting begins in the Commonwealth.

Previous coverage below

Virginia continues to report about 1,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, just below its peak levels, though hospitalizations have been trending down overall. Virginia ranks around the middle for states in cases per 100,000 people, and near the bottom for testing per capita.

96 new backlogged deaths were also reported Tuesday, with many deaths recorded before this week. Death reporting mostly lags the actual date a COVID-19 patient died.

Last week, Northam lifted extra restrictions that were put in place on Hampton Roads after a surge in late July. Those included cutting off alcohol sales at 10 p.m. and a 50 person limit on gatherings.

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