News/Press Releases March 24-29, 2020

 

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March 27, 2020

3/27 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update

UPDATED NUMBERS –
604 TOTAL cases. 144 new cases since Thursday. 14 deaths total. While the majority of cases are individuals 50+ years in age, 93 of the 604 cases are in the range of 20-29 years of age.

President Trump coming to Norfolk to see the Navy Hospital Ship Comfort leave for NYC.

Support for Those in Need –
If you need help with food or other social services related issue, please Call 211 to get connect to the State’s Social Services Safety Net.

PPEs and Testing Supplies –
Virginia asking for a National Testing Site to help with the unique testing demands in VA, MD, and Washington DC metro area. The region has population density which includes a very large percentage of “essential” personnel. To meet these very unique and urgent needs, the Washington DC Metropolitan area needs a National Testing Site that can effectively and efficiently get testing materials in and quickly process results. Additionally, Governor Northam joins other Governors ask for a national solution to the growing PPE supply chain demands. These Governors asked the President to use the Defense Production Act to increase supplies and streamline effective distribution.

Sec of Health is working with the state’s emergency management teams, Dept of Health, and Hospital Association are edit old emergency plans to deal with the flu to figure out how to manage increases in spread and hospitalizations. Best way to decrease demands on hospitals is for ALL VIRGINIANS to stay at home and socially isolate.

For companies with PPEs available, please consider donating them to the cause. You can find out more information about donations at www.virginia.gov/covid19supplies

National Guard –
Virginia’s National Guard is ready to support Virginia’s growing needs. Virginia has requested additional funds (under Title 32) to support the National Guard.

State Budget Review and CARES Act –
The recently passed State Budget has a lot of pay raises and new spending. The Governor’s team is looking at the new federal resources coming to Virginia plus the financial impact of the COVID-19 on revenue estimates before making recommendations on the State Budget going forward. Under the CARES Act, Virginia expects to get a great deal of support. A preliminary reading of the bill has approximately $3.3 billion coming to Virginia. Of that, $1.8 billion directly to the state to deal with COVID-19 related issues and expenses, and $1.5 billion in direct aid to Virginia’s counties, cities, and towns. Larger localities (like Fairfax) are eligible for additional resources from the federal government.

Road Construction Projects –
The Federal Government and nearly every state in the nation has determined that construction and maintenance of roads and highways is an essential service. Many of VDOT employees are telecommuting. Others are working under very strict guidelines to ensure social distancing, increased cleaning, and safety at every step.

State and Private Parks and Campgrounds –
Starting today – No overnight stays.

Closures and Shut Downs –
Governor Northam monitors and evaluates daily. Modifications may come.


March 26, 2020

Testing for COVID-19 due to Occupational Exposures

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) has received requests to complete occupational exposure COVID-19 testing on decedents. The OCME does not test decedents for COVID-19 unless testing is necessary to determine the cause of death. Furthermore, the OCME would need to have jurisdiction of the case to be able to investigate the death. This memo provides additional information for Health Directors, First Responders and Funeral Services.

Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the OCME office at 804.786.3174


March 25, 2020

3/25 VA Gov Northam COVID-10 Update

Going forward, the Governor will hold briefings every other day. Next one set for Friday, March 27th at 2pm.

UPDATED NUMBERS:
101 new cases making the total 391 cases, 12 deaths. Two of the newest deaths were residents in a long term care facility (Henrico). The state is trying to get information to long term care facilities to help them improve infection control and protect residents.

The spike in cases is due to more testing and community spread. Increased number of reports are from private labs. Takes longer for private labs to turn around testing and reporting (6-8 days). Health systems are opening their own labs. UVA Hospital System is an example of one. Hospital systems and state lab can run the tests much faster than the private sector. Virginia doesn’t have data as to when the peak may occur. Working to have more information soon.

Capacity –
VA will be making better use of the Virginia Medical Reserve Corp which has over 8000 volunteers ready, with over 1500 of those volunteers signing up in the last few weeks. Virginia is concerned that needs will be great and the Governor is asking for medical students and trained individuals who are interested in helping meet Virginia’s capacity challenges, to please visit www.vamrc.org.

Today Governor will sign an Executive Order directing medical providers to stop all elective medical procedures until further notice so as to make available more workforce and PPEs.

Spoke with the Army Corp of Engineers to access several locations for field hospitals, should the need arise.

Closures –
State parks are day use only and all indoor facilities are closing.

SNAP Benefits –
Family’s First Coronavirus Relief Act increases SNAP Benefits for all eligible and will go into effect tonight and stay in effect for the next 2 months.

Quarantine for Visitors to VA –
If someone is coming from NY Tristate area, Virginia wants them to quarantine for a 14 day window.

Federal Relief Package –
Secretary of Finance Aubrey Lane gave a brief overview of the latest federal relief package. More information will be coming out with far greater detail.
It is a $2 Trillion Relief Package. This package plus the Federal Reserve actions will help Virginia and businesses fight against the negative economic impact from COVID-19.
Direct payments to individuals $250 billion, with $1200/person and $2400/family (income based)
Unemployment Resources – adds $250 billion so that state can add $600 per week per individual for up to 4 months.
$130 billion in aid to hospitals
$350 billion in loans and aid to small business which may be turned into grants.
$500 billion in loans to large businesses to address specific issues from the impacted of COVID-19
$150 billion in state and local aid
In addition, transportation, agriculture and food security, housing, student loan relief is included.
This stimulus package affords Virginia the opportunity to base businesses decisions on medical health, best practices. Resources can help people stay home and safe.

Liberty University –
Rumors that school is inviting students back to campus. The Governor strongly opposes and asks that the school rethink the decision and act in the best interests of students, staff, and Lynchburg community. Governor does not have the authority to force the school to close.

Transportation –
In VA, we have 16 toll facilities (4 are owned by VA). 8 of the 16 are completely electronic. Administration is working to move the remaining 8 to completely electronic. Some toll facilities will take longer to get online. Also, trying to limit the need for person-to-person interactions, increasing sanitizing and cleaning at each work station, and giving protective gear to employees to further shield them.


March 25, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY PASSES LAW TO ALLOW FREE DEATH CERTIFICATE FOR VETERANS

Virginia Funeral Directors Association works with Delegate Terry Kilgore to continue its efforts on behalf of Virginia’s Veterans and their families

March 9, 2020 Richmond, Virginia.

HB 479, expands the list of parties eligible to request a free certified copy of a veteran’s death certificate by including any funeral director or funeral service licensee who provides funeral services for the veteran, if so requested by the surviving spouse of the veteran.

The bill, patroned by Delegate Terry Kilgore, (R) of Scott; Wise; and Norton, states: “Whenever any veteran or his survivor requires a certified copy of a vital record to obtain service-connected benefits, one copy of such record shall be provided directly to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs upon their request and one copy shall be provided to the veteran or his surviving spouse, upon request. Upon request of the surviving spouse of a veteran, the funeral director or funeral service licensee providing funeral services for the veteran may obtain one certified copy of the death certificate for service-connected benefits. No charge shall be imposed upon a veteran or his survivor for a copy related to obtaining service-connected benefits.”

“We are very pleased to have worked with Delegate Kilgore to provide this benefit to veterans and their families throughout the Commonwealth,” stated Jay McIntyre, Legislative Chairperson of the Virginia Funeral Directors Association. The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously. Once signed by the Governor it will become law July 1, 2020.

In November 2019, the Virginia Funeral Directors Association (VFDA) reported that the Expeditionary Warfare School of Marine Corps University donated 100 handmade urns to VFDA for distribution and use for indigent veterans in Virginia. “VFDA is proud to continue our efforts to honor veterans here in Virginia,” said Jerry Andrews, President of VFDA. (Information on who to contact for the urns can be found here.)

The VFDA is the oldest association for funeral service professionals in the Commonwealth, established nearly 133 years ago on September 20, 1887. The VFDA’s mission is to serve its members by providing and promoting programs and services to enhance member’s ability to conduct their individual businesses successfully with integrity and through collective action to promote the extension and preservation of the profession; to serve the consumer by advancing the professional competency and economic welfare of its membership; by representing funeral service at all levels of government; and by enhancing the public’s understanding of the value of the funeral and the role of the funeral service practitioner.


March 25, 2020

Clarifying DHS Critical Infrastructure Worker Guidance

Like all emergencies, a strong response is most successful when locally-executed, state-managed and federally-supported. Each state’s governor is responsible for response activities in their state, which include establishing curfews, deploying the National Guard (if needed), and employing any other restrictions or safety measures they deem necessary for the health and welfare of their citizens.

Many members have asked: What are the state implications regarding the guidance issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that named funeral professionals as critical infrastructure workers? Essentially, it’s a recommendation to the state, not a mandate, based on the idea that a national response is best managed at the state level. And, why the VFDA contacted our governor about making the DHS guidance mandatory.

To help funeral homes better understand the DHS guidance and what it means for them, the NFDA created the following article: http://www.nfda.org/News/IntheNews/NFDANews?ID=4948

The NFDA also created an article explaining the efforts to turn this federal guidance into a mandate: http://www.nfda.org/News/IntheNews/NFDANews?ID=4949


March 25, 2020

VFDA Joins Forces with NFDA, 50 Affiliated Funeral Service Partners to Request Essential Worker
Executive Order

RICHMOND, Virginia — The Virginia Funeral Directors Association (VFDA) has joined 32 national and state funeral service associations and 20 funeral service corporations and suppliers to request an executive order from the President of the United States to identify deathcare workers as essential critical infrastructure workers.

This designation would ensure workers in this field would have priority access to personal protective equipment (PPE), exemption from quarantine
orders, and priority for testing and vaccines when available.

“This is the latest step in continuing to provide dignified and dedicated funeral services to the families in our communities while protecting our deathcare professionals,” said Gerald L. Andrews, president of the VFDA. “We’re proud to partner with these organizations and corporations as we work to secure this designation.”

In a March 20, 2020, letter to President Donald J. Trump, participating associations stated: “…it is our members who serve on the frontlines — dealing with deaths from other causes; quarantine and illness within their own families and staff; and additional COVID-19 deaths, which might overload their capabilities. This vital role places deathcare professionals at an extremely high risk for exposure to sources of COVID-19 as they care for and prepare the deceased for burial or cremation.”

Requests have also been sent to congressional leaders and the United States Department of Health and Human Services. For more information on this request or any other resources available to VFDA member firms, please visit www.vfda.net.


March 24, 2020

3/24 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update

After tomorrow’s press conference, Governor is moving updates to every other day.

UPDATE:
290 confirmed cases, 7 deaths statewide. Arlington, Fairfax, and Peninsula Health Districts have the highest numbers. State doesn’t have a breakdown of which positive cases are in healthcare workers.

Executive Order Guidance –
The EO goes into effect TONIGHT AT MIDNIGHT and will last for AT LEAST 30 DAYS. Any businesses or individuals with questions area sked to email business@virginia.gov.
For those businesses that remain open and have employees that cannot telecommute, employees may have concerns about their safety in their working environment. If employers aren’t addressing concerns, employees can call state Dept. of Labor.

PPEs –
Virginia has received the first shipment from the National Stockpile and have distributed all of it. VA will get our second shipment next week. Receiving donations of PPEs from lots of industries and manufacturing lines are changing to produce masks. Maryland, DC, and Virginia will share resources to meet all of the region’s needs.

President’s comments on opening country by Easter –
Governor will use science, data, and consultation with experts to care for Virginians. This will take several months, not weeks. If Virginians comply with the health suggestions, the months will be limited. Focus needs to remain on flattening the curve. Governor’s team takes part in White House calls.

Elective Surgeries/Hospital Capacities –
National guidance given to all health systems asking them to reducing and eliminating elective surgeries and it uses PPE supplies. Most VA providers are responding well. If things aren’t adequately handled, Governor has the authority to address it. Sec of Health is accessing the capacity limits for all hospitals and how to best flex to meet the needs.

PLEASE STAY HOME unless it is necessary to leave. When out, PLEASE PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING.


March 24, 2020

Good afternoon,

Please see the below update of information from the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers, which has been posted to the Board’s website.

Update from the Virginia Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers
IMPORTANT – Updated information – Gatherings of Individuals (March 24, 2020)
Since the information previously provided by the Board regarding gatherings of individuals at funerals, Governor Ralph S. Northam has issued Executive Order Fifty-Three (2020), which imposes the following restriction:

1. Effective 11:59 p.m., Tuesday, March 24, 2020 until 11:59 p.m., Thursday, April 23, 2020, all public and private in person gatherings of 10 or more individuals are prohibited.

The Governor’s Order does not reference or create an exception for funeral gatherings.
Licensees should follow the directives of the Governor during this time of emergency and use their best professional judgment when considering the implications of the virus and gatherings of individuals.

Where licensees have questions about the virus and ways to protect oneself and others, licensees are encouraged to review information from the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

In addition, here are the Frequently Asked Questions related to the Governor’s Executive Order.

Thank you all for your assistance during this time of uncertainty,

Corie E. Tillman Wolf, J.D.
Executive Director
Boards of Funeral Directors and Embalmers,
Physical Therapy, and Long-Term Care Administrators


March 23, 2020

Please see below the “Recommendations of the Virginia Funeral Directors Association to Facilitate the Transfer of Deceased Patients from Nursing Homes, Long Term Care Facilities and Hospice Houses.”

Feel free to share with your local nursing homes, long term care facilities and hospices.

Recommendations_Transfer_from_Nursing_Homes

 


March 23, 2020

3/23 VA Gov Northam COVID-19 Update

UPDATE

To date, 254 positive cases, 6 deaths, a total of 3700 people tested.

EXECUTIVE ORDER –
Executive Order – Only “Essential” Businesses
Effective midnight Tuesday, limits on businesses that serve the public. All recreation and entertainment services will be closed. Personal care services closed. Non-essential retail may stay open if they can adhere to 10 or fewer people, social distancing and increased cleaning. Essential services will remain open but must maintain social distancing and increased cleaning. All gatherings of over 10 are banned. The EO will remain in effect for at least 30 days. The state will post guidance on what is/isn’t essential. The list is not exhaustive and will change regularly. The expectations for those businesses that remain open are high – they must adhere to social distancing, cleaning, and make every attempt to keep everyone safe and healthy.

In short, businesses fall into three categories:
1. Recreational and entertainment businesses – all must close
2. Restaurants – only allowed takeout or delivery
3. Non-essential brick and mortar stores – must operate by the new rules of 10 or fewer patrons, social distancing, increased cleaning

Enforcement will be done by localities.

K12 SCHOOLS –
All schools will stay closed through the end of the academic year. On Tuesday, DOE will provide guidance on how to keep children learning. Approx. 80k children of essential and medical personnel need childcare. DSS and DOE will issue guidance on how to provide emergency childcare services for essential and medical personnel.

Communications –
Stepping up statewide communications. Utilizing electronic highway signage.

Medical Supplies –
Virginia has distributed all materials we have received from the National Stockpile. Tracking down everything that we can.

Unemployment Insurance –
Trying to get resources out as quickly as possible.


March 23, 2020

VFDA Partners With The NFDA To Communicate With The POTUS and Congressional Leaders

For many years, NFDA has worked with federal agencies to prepare for situations that may include mass-fatalities, like the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic we are now facing. As the COVID-19 situation has evolved, NFDA has been working with the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies to identify deathcare workers as essential critical infrastructure workers. As you know, this designation would assure deathcare workers:

  • Have priority access to personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Are exempt from quarantine orders
  • Have priority access to testing and a vaccine once one becomes available

To add pressure to get a quick response, a letter was drafted to Secretary Azar of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) and the VFDA participated in signing of this letter. As part of a federal public/private partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), CDC, FEMA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Department of Defense and other entities, moved forward much faster than we anticipated and, on March 19, DHS provided much of the guidance NFDA asked for before the letter was actually sent.

Since we didn’t get all three of the recommendations we requested – priority access to testing and a vaccine was not addressed – and we wanted to make this a mandate to the states vs guidance, the NFDA refocused their efforts by sending a request to the President of the United States. We asked him to issue an executive order to make the DHS guidance mandatory. As a result, the NFDA modified the original letter and sent it to the White House Friday, March 20, (click to read); and also sent a letter to leaders in Congress asking them to take legislative action on the same requests (click to read).

We will continue to keep you apprised during this ever changing environment.


March 23, 2020

Dear VFDA Members,

As you know, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) named mortuary workers as “critical infrastructure workers.” This underscores the vital role funeral directors and others who work in deathcare play in responding to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. After a state executives conference call last week, the NFDA suggested that we draft a letter to send locally to request/suggest deathcare workers be considered essential workers in our state and municipalities.

Additionally, I have started receiving questions about how to access PPE supplies. Last weeks, federal designation as “critical infrastructure workers” goes a long way to helping funeral service receive the critical PPE supplies they need. The Federal government is allocating PPEs from the Strategic National Stockpile directly to each state, and then “hotspots” are receiving additional PPE’s. However, our state must request supplies through the federal system. Therefore, funeral service must request unmet needs through our local/state Health Department that then requests through ASPR (HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response).

The letter below was sent on behalf of our members to our state leaders. VFDA continues to play an important role in this current pandemic. We will continue to keep you updated on both the state and federal information as it become available.

VFDA_Letter_Regarding_Essential_Workers_03.23.20

 


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