Getting Virginia on the track forward
By: Rob Wittman
The federal government and Congress have acted swiftly to provide historic levels of resources to individuals, business and first responders. Recently, the White House unveiled its Guidelines for Opening Up America Again to help states and localities as they take steps to reopen our economy. The guidance also prioritizes protecting public health and allows states to move at their own pace.
Last week, Governor Ralph Northam unveiled the “Forward Virginia” blueprint to guide our Commonwealth to safely and responsibly reopen the economy and ease restrictions on the public. This blueprint was informed using guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and incorporated input from public health officials, state and local officials, and business leaders throughout Virginia.
In his presentation of the blueprint, Governor Northam outlined benchmarks to begin phase one of easing restrictions. These include a sustained 14-day downward trend in confirmed cases as a percentage of overall tests and reduced COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Phase one will include continued social distancing, teleworking, travel and public gathering limits, and recommended use of face coverings. The Commonwealth is developing two sets of guidance for this phase. The first set includes broad recommendations for all businesses, while the second set includes industry-specific guidance. These guidelines will be provided in early May.
Governor Northam’s Forward Virginia blueprint emphasizes the following priorities:
Testing and Tracing
The Commonwealth aims to test at least 10,000 people per day. Former Virginia Commissioner of Health and co-chair of Virginia’s Testing Work Group, Dr. Karen Remley outlined a plan to get to this goal. This expanded testing plan includes using contact tracers to assist local health departments in identifying individuals exposed to COVID-19 and helping them self-isolate.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Easing restrictions requires an ongoing stable PPE supply chain that is regularly replenished. Virginia has ordered 17.4 million N95 masks, 8.3 million surgical masks, 17.1 million gloves, 1.7 million gowns, and 1 million face shields. Last week, a shipment from Northfield Medical Manufacturing arrived, containing significant amounts of PPE. The equipment from this shipment will be distributed promptly.
Hospital Capacity and Staff
The ban on elective surgeries has now been lifted. He has also expanded the ability of physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners with at least two years of clinical experience to practice without a collaborative agreement. The Virginia Medical Reserves Corps (MRC) is recruiting and deploying volunteers to support local health departments, hospitals, and healthcare providers.
As more information on the Governor’s plan becomes available, I will be sure to pass on this information to you. I encourage you to share this information with your family, friends, and neighbors and encourage them to sign up for my informational emails. Information is key during these critical times, and together, we will come through them stronger than ever.