By Brandon Jarvis

Governor Ralph Northam provided an update to Virginians on Wednesday as the Commonwealth is dealing with rising COVID-19 numbers. Northam and his administration also provided a timeline for vaccine distribution, saying they are expecting to begin in mid-December.

The numbers are rising.

The Virginia Department of Health reported 2,071 new cases of COVID-19 in Virginia on Wednesday bringing the 7-day average of new cases up to 1,761. Due to the surging numbers, Northam recently announced new restrictions in Virginia that included limiting the number of gatherings to 25 and lowering the minimum age to five for the statewide order requiring a mask for indoor public spaces. In addition, restaurants must also stop serving alcohol at 10 pm and close by midnight. “I do not intend to wait for things to get worse before we take action,” said Northam in reference to the new mitigation measures.

As for his reasoning behind tightening the restrictions, Northam says that while he was watching the numbers rise across the Commonwealth, the actual moment he made the decision was when he saw footage of mobile morgues outside of hospitals that were overflowing. “We don’t need that in Virginia,” he said in a somber moment on Wednesday.

Northam also urged Virginians to be safe and responsible over the holidays. “Think hard about how you celebrate this holiday,” he said. Republicans have been accusing him of trying to stop families from gathering over the holidays, but Northam is adamant that he issued the new restrictions to slow the spread and save lives. He did, however, insist that Virginians be very cautious over the holidays. “I know there have been few enough celebrations this year,” said the Governor on Wednesday. “But this year staying home is an act of love too.”

As he has the entire year, Northam stressed the importance of following the guidelines while noting that most Virginians have been complying. He applauded the efforts of Virginians so far, noting that rates in Virginia are much lower than they are in other states across the country. “You have done a great job,” Northam said directly into the camera. “We have some of the lowest rates in the nation.” 

Be optimistic, but the time to relax has not arrived.

While Virginians dig in for the first winter during the pandemic, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. “I think we can all agree that this has been a long tunnel,” said Northam when talking about the recent successful news about COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Norman Oliver, the health commissioner for Virginia says that they have already identified 14 locations across the Commonwealth to store the Pfizer vaccine at the cold temperatures required. In addition, the Governor recently allocated $22 million in CARES Act funding to help build the infrastructure to distribute the vaccine. Northam noted, however, that they will need additional funding for vaccine distribution – but he said he is not concerned, explaining that he believes President-elect Joe Biden will be eager to help.

Either way, Northam seemed optimistic about the near-future while remaining vigilant of the present. “Just a few months from now we may be past the worst of this,” he said. “Let’s not make this winter any worse than it has to be.”

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