Northam: Virginia should see peak COVID-19 cases from late April to late May, Hampton Convention Center ID’d as alternate care site

Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY/WRIC) — Virginia has reported 464 coronavirus cases since Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order Monday, putting the state’s total at 1,484. During Wednesday’s press briefing, the governor cautioned that Virginia could face a surge in cases in late April or May.

“I want Virginians to be realistic in their expectations. You need to know the truth, no sugar-coating,” Northam said. “I know this is hard. People are isolated, you’re worried and many of you are out of work. My strategy has always been to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

Northam echoed his previous remarks urging Virginians to prepare for the long haul that will last months, not weeks.

“While we continue to examine the available models about when Virginia’s cases will surge, we currently expect that will be sometime between late April and late May,” the governor said. “I am already thinking, and planning, on how we can land this plane on the backside of the curve. But for now, we are at the beginning of this virus and that is why it’s so important for Virginians to stay at home.”

State Health Commissioner Norm Oliver says there are 305 people currently hospitalized across Virginia, though the Virginia Department of Health still listed only 208 hospitalizations on their website as of Wednesday afternoon. Oliver says 145 of them are in the ICU and 108 are on ventilators.

The governor said that while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to search for a field hospital site in Richmond, they have settled on an ExxonMobil facility in Fairfax and another at the Hampton Convention Center.

“We’ve looked at where we see the greatest need and potential impact on hospital capacity so that’s how we’ve prioritized,” Carlos Hopkins, secretary of veterans and defense affairs, shared Wednesday. “The team is conducting assessments west of Richmond and will head out to Charlottesville and Roanoke next week.”

Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck said the city is ready to open up the convention center as needed.

“It hasn’t been finalized but there’s another walk-through that’s scheduled, at which point they will probably make a final decision,” he said.

With more than 344,000 square feet available, Tuck estimates 200 hospital beds could be housed at the center, though a final number hasn’t been determined.

“It was designed with the possibility of being an emergency shelter,” Tuck said

The state is preparing to use military hospitals, such as Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, for overflow patients.

“They’re also positioning themselves that in the event we need to ask for those additional resources they’re prepared to provide whatever services they can as well,” Hopkins said.

Northam said Virginia has received its third shipment of personal protective equipment, including face shields and masks, to help. Despite the shipment, Virginia’s Secretary of Health Dr. Daniel Carey says the state needs more equipment.

“There is no question that if PPE supplies aren’t dramatically increased in the weeks ahead we won’t be able to protect the current health care workers in their current setting let alone expanded capacity,” Carey explained.

Here are some highlights from Gov. Ralph Northam’s press conference Wednesday afternoon on the COVID-19 pandemic impacts on the Commonwealth.

  • Gov. Ralph Northam says his executive order for Virginians to stay at home is still in effect until June 10, unless the situation changes earlier. “And I hope it does,” Northam said. “That’s longer than other states. I want Virginians to be realistic in their expectations; you need to know the truth, no sugar coating,”
  • With that, Northam said Virginians should expect a peak in cases between late April and late May, according to models his team has been analyzing. “I am already thinking and planning how we can land this plane on the backside of the curve,” Northam added, but he emphasized how Virginia is only on the beginning of the upward curve of patients. “That is why it is so important for Virginians to stay at home. We don’t give the virus the chance to infect the next person, we slow it down … the CDC called social distancing a powerful weapon, so let’s use it.”
  • Gov. Northam said the Hampton Convention Center has been identified as an alternate care site to treat overflow coronavirus patients in the Hampton Roads area. The site was picked in coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for its central location in Hampton Roads and proximity to Sentara and Riverside hospitals, Northam said. Two other overflow sites, in Fairfax and the Richmond area, have also been chosen out of the 41 proposed sites.
  • Gov. Northam is encouraging people to vote via mail for local elections scheduled for May and congressional primaries set for June. “I consider elections to be a fundamental democratic event and voting to be an essential right,” Northam said. “We are continuing to work through the best options for how to hold these elections in this time of social distancing and public health concerns.”
  • Northam acknowledged Wednesday is Census Day and encouraged all Virginians to fill out their census. Virginia is currently 8th in the nation in response to the census.

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