Northam emphasizes new COVID-19 app for Virginia will not track users, gives Isaias update Wednesday

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RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam held a press conference on Wednesday to talk the commonwealth’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and tropical storm Isaias. The briefing included the announcement of Virginia’s new COVID-19 app created by Google and Apple. Northam wanted to make it clear that the app will not track users.

Highlights from the press conference:

Isaias death announced

Gov. Northam announced there was one tropical storm Isaias-related death in Virginia, in Lancaster County. However, Lancaster County Chief Deputy Bill Webb said he believes the man died of a medical emergency. A medical examiner will determine the manner of death.

Northam says that Dominion Energy called this one of the top 10 largest storms in terms of power outages.

There were 4 confirmed tornadoes yesterday and around 40 tornado warnings, according to Northam. There was notable property damage in Suffolk, Courtland, Lancaster and Gloucester.

The governor warns that this is just the first hurricane season storm this year and to be ready for more power outages and possible evacuations.

How’s Hampton Roads doing?

Northam says trends in new cases and percent of positive tests in Hampton Roads are “encouraging.” Cases are down slightly, with percent of positive tests down, but still hovering just above 10%. The state as a whole is just above 7%.

Read more about Hampton Roads’ recent numbers here.

New COVID-19 app won’t track you, Northam emphasizes

A new COVID-19 app created by Apple and Google was launched today, with Virginia being the first state to use the new technology. Northam emphasized the app will not track users. “It doesn’t track you at all, it doesn’t rely on GPS data or your personal information and while we want everyone to download it, it is voluntary.”

The app automatically notifies you if you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus, and the app uses “anonymous tokens via Bluetooth” and not GPS or personal information.

You can read more about the app and download it here.

New multi-state rapid testing pact

Northam says he’s excited about a new multi-state compact for rapid antigen testing, which will allow for results in about 15-20 minutes, instead of days.

“Quick tests will allow us to contain the virus and allow us to loosen our restrictions safely.”

When asked about the timing of trying to secure rapid antigen testing, Northam said lack of leadership from the White House led to the joint effort.

“We’ve been asked as governors to fight a biological war without supplies,” he said. “We’ve got to look at other means.”

The antigen test is already FDA-approved and is also performed via nasal swab – but it isn’t full proof.

According to the FDA, rapid antigen tests are very specific for the virus, but are not as sensitive as molecular PCR tests. While positive results from antigen tests are highly accurate, there is a higher chance of false negatives.

Even so, state officials said the tests can help curb the spread.

“The antigen tests are getting better and better,” said Daniel Carey, state Secretary of Health and Human Resources. “We are evaluating where that might fit in our overall strategy.”

Each state is hoping to purchase 500,000 tests.

PSA made in Norfolk to gain trust, encourage testing

Norfolk health officials went door knocking and made phone calls to more than 600 people in minority communities recently to encourage people to take advantage of free testing, but only a handful of people showed up, Northam says. Trust in medical care was pointed out as a major issue, so local faith leaders and others put together a video to encourage others to get tested. Officials believe the video helped in part to get more than 1,000 people to get tested.

No license suspensions in Hampton Roads since restrictions

Northam says it’s too soon to tell if new coronavirus restrictions in Hampton Roads are working to slow the spread in the region. He said there have no been license suspensions since these rules took effect.

WAVY’s Geena Arevalo will have more on today’s press conference coming up.

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