May 26, 2020
5/26 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update
39,342 new positive cases (298,270 total tests) and 1,236 deaths
The Governor addressed weekend media reports and pictures showing him without a face mask and in close proximity to the public. He said he was unprepared for the close encounters and that his point was to be there to meet with City officials, law enforcement and beach ambassadors, not to mingle with the public. The Governor has not been tested for coronavirus but will visit a Community Testing Site soon to show people how easy the process is for everyone.
The Governor complimented Virginia Beach on the way it handled the reopening the beaches. The Governor may allow other beach cities to reopen this weekend. If cities like Norfolk and Hampton give the Governor a solid reopening plan, he may allow them to reopening their beaches too.
NOVA, Accomack, and Richmond –
The health data and metrics for these regions are moving in the right direction. The goal is for northern Virginia and Accomack County to move into Phase I this Friday. The Administration will closely monitor the situation and the Governor will have more information on when these areas will move into Phase I later in the week. The Mayor of Richmond would like to have a modified Phase I reopening – keeping some businesses closed. The Governor is in discussions with the Mayor and will make an announcement in the next few days.
Phase II –
As we get closer to Friday, the Governor will determine when Virginia will enter Phase II.
Mandatory Masks –
Starting this Friday, everyone will have to wear a mask when inside any public building. The exceptions are: if you are eating/drinking in a restaurant, children under the age of 10 (though he believes all children 3+ should wear a mask whenever possible), if you are exercising, or have a medical condition. The Governor’s office is working to provide masks to vulnerable populations. Enforcement will be done by health officials – not law enforcement and the Administration does not want criminal penalties. The Administration will discuss civil penalties or special authority for the Governor with the General Assembly leaders as they prepare for the upcoming special session (July/August). The Governor is not ready to discuss how he will handle masks for students in K-12 and higher ed.
DOLI: New Emergency Temporary Standards –
The Governor has directed the VA Dept of Labor and Industry to develop new emergency temporary standards to deal with workplace safety. These will impact all employers, are meant to protect workers, and will contain penalties. DOLI can also enforce the Governor’s mask mandate in private businesses. These regulations can be made permanent through General Assembly actions this fall. Again, the Governor and his team stressed that employees who feel unsafe should 1) discuss with their employer and 2) file a complaint with the VA DOLI.
May 15, 2020
5/15 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update
28,672 positive cases, 195,682 total tests, 3,657 hospitalizations, 977 deaths
VDH is working to eliminate healthy equity issues. As Virginia reopens and VDH begins tracing, equity will be at the forefront of their efforts. So far, VDH has received over 4000 applications for contract tracing positions. The Agency is also finalizing on-boarding plans for the new hires.
Phase I Reopening –
Today starts Phase I, a slight reduction in limitations, for most areas of Virginia. Not included are Northern Virginia, City of Richmond, and Accomack County. State revenue numbers are reflecting the downturn in the economy. The Governor continues to stress that people need to stay home as much as possible. No gathers of more than 10 people and face masks are strongly encouraged. When pressed by reporters, the Governor defended his decisions regarding which areas can reopen and how the Administration responded to requests from jurisdictions. The Administration continues to discuss beach openings with jurisdictions interested in reopening by Memorial Day and the Governor hopes to make an announcement on Monday.
April Revenue Reports –
This month’s revenue collects were down by approximately $700 million. The state budget impacts have been less severe due, in large part, to federal jobs and spending in Virginia. Additionally, sales tax revenue remained consistent as spending shifted. Much of the revenue loss came from the Governor’s decision to delay state tax payments. The current reopening plan will give the Administration much needed data to work through the state budget planning. Virginia has received over $6 billion in federal relief. Of that, $650 million will help localities cover their COVID-19 related costs and is expected to be distributed around June 1st. Another $121 million has been used to purchase PPE and testing supplies.
Worker Protections –
The DOLI will be investigating workplace complaints and issuing guidance to help protect workplace safety. The Administration is looking to provide financial relief through state funds.
The Governor responded to concerns over how Virginia was collecting and reporting test data, primarily combining the antibody tests results with the positive testing data. The State will not combine the results moving forward.
May 13, 2020
5/13 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update
26,746 total cases, 180,084 total tests, and 927 deaths.
Phase I –
Phase I will begin for all areas of the Commonwealth, except NOVA, on Friday, May 15th. The reopening includes limitations and restrictions for non-essential retail, restaurants, gyms, and personal grooming businesses. Detailed guidance is available here. During Phase I, childcare centers will prioritize the children of parents who must work. The state is promoting 866-KIDSTLC for parents in search of childcare. As Virginia reopens, it is possible that there will be a spike in cases so the Administration is preparing for a possible future surge. The Governor will use a “stick” if needed to get people and businesses to comply. He will empower agencies and law enforcement to go into businesses to enforce the guidelines.
Northern Virginia Delayed Opening –
The majority of Virginia’s positive cases are in NOVA. Several elected officials from northern Virginia spoke during the Governor’s press conference. The local leaders are concerned that their region is not ready and want the data, not the date, to determine their regional reopening.
Local Government Funding –
The Governor is sending $650 million, available through the CARES Act, to local governments to cover the costs of their COVID-19 responses.
DMV Reopening –
Eleven customer service centers in seven regions will begin re-opening on Monday, May 18th. These locations will only provide services for actions that are required to be done in-person (ex. original license, title, etc.) Services will be done by appointment only and customers will wait in their vehicles until it is their turn.
Pharmacies and retailers will start expanding testing availability. The Administration is using CARES Act funding to pay for more testing and to increase their contract tracing workforce. The VA Dept. of Health is processing 3,000 applications for the 1,300 positions. Based upon recommendations from Harvard University, VDH is planning to have at least 15 contact tracers per 100,000 people. The number could increase to as high as 30 tracers per 100,000. The White House recommends testing all long term care residents and staff in the next two weeks. Virginia has approximately 260 long term care facilitates. The goal is to test all of the facilities but, it is not likely to happen within the next two week window.
May 12, 2020
Funeral service workers say lack of communication can put them at risk with COVID
May 11, 2020
5/11 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update
25,070 positive cases in Virginia. To date, 167,758 total tests have been administered and 853 have died from COVID-19.
Northern Virginia’s Regional Case for Reopening –
Phase I restrictions are a floor and regions may ask to move more slowly or have more restrictions. The Governor has daily communications with elected officials in northern Virginia. The leaders of several northern Virginia localities sent a joint letter to Governor Northam to formally asked to move at a slower rate into Phase I. Those leaders believe that the region does not meet the necessary metrics for “reopening” the regional economy. The area has more positive cases than any other area of the state and the Governor will work with them on a slower reopening schedule.
Testing and Health Equity Efforts –
Testing has continued to increase across the Commonwealth. Several community events were held over the weekend. The Administration, the Health Equity Task Force and Health Equity Working Group are working to provide access to increase testing, culturally appropriate educational materials, disease awareness guidance, and distribution of PPEs to underserved, at-risk, and minority communities throughout Virginia. Governor hopes to work with the retail community to increase community testing. News of this effort will be announced later in the week.
Testing and Tracing –
The Commonwealth is close to executing contracts for contact tracing and expect to hire a large number of “tracers” to help with the contact investigations. There are some concerns about having enough contact tracing personnel in NOVA if they reopen on Friday. The Department of Health is increasing their testing of long term care facilities too. No requests for testing have been denied.
Access to Running Water –
Some residents of Petersburg lost water service during the pandemic outbreak. The Health Commissioner issued an order forcing the City of Petersburg to reconnect service to 46 homes. No other jurisdictions may disconnect water service due to a failure to pay.
All in-person offerings will be closed for, at least, another week. Online options remain available.
More than 50 localities have upcoming local elections. Tomorrow, May 12th, is the last day to request an absentee ballot by mail. The Governor encourages all Virginians with local elections to request an absentee ballot.
Virginia Employment Commission –
The Agency has increased the number of employees, the number of call centers, and online capabilities to meet the growing demands. The Administration encourages applicants to take advantage of the online and call center options.
Employment Matters –
If the overtime is directly connected to COVID-19, it may be an eligible expense that is covered by federal funding. Most employers and employees are covered under workers compensation coverage. The legislature will have to determine if presumption under workers compensation will cover COVID-19 infections. There are increasing number of concerns from employees who have been offered their jobs back but they are 1) concerned about their safety, 2) do not have adequate and safe childcare options, or 3) they are making more income through unemployment payments.
May 11, 2020
Funeral Homes Fall Under the Governor’s Phase 1, Places of Worship
Dear VFDA Members:
The Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade confirmed that funeral homes fall under the Governor’s Phase 1, places of worship.
“The Guidelines for Religious Services should apply to funeral homes to the extent that there is a religious component to the funeral. Executive Order 61 is now posted, so you should consult that text as well as the Guidelines for Religious Services regarding how you may operate.”
CLICK HERE FOR EO-61
Those funeral homes that wish to remain on the more restrictive guidelines may do so.
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