RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/WRIC) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and other state officials held another coronavirus press conference on Wednesday, in which Northam announced he was extending the closure of non-essential businesses in Virginia until May 8.
The order, Executive Order 53, also bans gatherings of 10 or more people.
Virginia health officials reported 195 COVID-19 deaths in the state as of Wednesday, an increase of 41 deaths from the total reported on Tuesday. According to the Virginia Department of Health, there are 6,500 cases and 1,048 people in the hospital.
Northam addressed the state’s effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, noting that social distancing guidelines have had an impact on flattening the curve in Virginia.
Highlights from the press conference below:
Extension of non-essential business closure
Northam is extending his closure of non-essential businesses in the commonwealth to May 8, two weeks past his original deadline of April 24. The order also bans gatherings of 10 or more people.
“When people say it’s time to stop what we’re doing and go back to normal, they’re wrong,” said Northam.
Northam says if we go back to the way things were before restrictions, things will get worse, but he understands Virginians are frustrated.
“People want to go out, they want to work, or to see their friends and families. They want to know when they can regain control of their lives as they once knew them.”
The stay-at-home order — which is Executive Order 55 and separate from the non-essential business order — for all Virginians is still in effect until June 10, and Northam says at this time he’s not extending that deadline. He said the best outcome would be ending the stay-at-home earlier. New models from the University of Virginia show Virginia’s peak in cases may come later than June, though.
Northam said we probably won’t go back to “normal” in the near future until we have a vaccine against COVID-19.
Childcare for essential workers
Gov. Northam says $70 million will be used to help daycare centers that are remaining open and to help schools open daycare for essential workers. Virginia First Lady Pam Northam says support is available for essential workers in need of childcare by calling 1-866-KIDS-TLC or going to http://vachildcare.org.
Clarification on reporting new cases/deaths
Virginia reported 41 new COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, its largest number in one day so far. State Health Commissioner Norm Oliver clarified that there is a reporting lag and Wednesday’s 41 reported deaths doesn’t mean all of those deaths occurred in a 24-hour period. “Many of those deaths were from a prior time.” Oliver says this may occur from time to time.
Northam says without getting into specifics, many of those of who’ve died had underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, renal failure and diabetes.
Northam clarified that Virginia’s tax deadline has been extended from May 1 to June 1, but it couldn’t stretch to the new federal tax deadline of July 15. He says that the budget cycle limits Virginia from doing so. “Unlike the national level, we can’t print money.”
Northam reiterated that Virginians should continue to wear masks and other facial protection if they’re out in public and around other people, and that they should expect to continue to have to wear them in the months ahead. (Some places are selling masks, but you can learn how to make one yourself here).
“As you saw in Monday’s modeling data, social distancing is working,” Northam said before announcing his decision to extend his executive order. “We saw that in the model UVA released on Monday and in other national models. The actions that we have taken as a state are having an effect.”
Despite the data from certain models, the governor urged Virginians to prepare for a new normal during Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing when he announced his decision to extend Executive Order 53.
“So when people say that it’s time to stop what we’re doing and get back to normal, they’re wrong,” Northam said. “Right now, the models and our hospitals expect that we’ll be able to handle the expected surge in patients. But if we let off the brakes and try to go back to the way things were, we’ll see another spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals.”
Northam warned that it is too early to let up on social distancing guidelines and to begin lifting closures on recreational facilities and personal care businesses.