By Brandon Jarvis

Governor Ralph Northam provided an update on COVID-19 conditions across the commonwealth on Tuesday afternoon.

Here are the key points:

  • Numbers are rising across the state with community spread taking place across all health districts, says Northam. But even as numbers continue to rise, he is not prepared to implement any additional restrictions yet. “We have the right measures in place,” said Northam, before noting that the new restrictions have only been in place for two weeks and will require two more weeks of data to know if they are working. 
  • Virginia is currently at 28 cases per 100,000 people, which is lower than 45 other states. However, the states that border Virginia are not doing as well. Northam said the lack of a mask mandate in Tennessee specifically is harming the surrounding states. 
  • Northam says that the virus is spreading in churches, small social gatherings after work and school. He says that schools and workplaces are doing a good job with requirements, but people are gathering after and ignoring social distancing protocols. The Governor noted a specific example where multiple families in the Mount Rogers Health District are quarantining due to gathering on Thanksgiving.
  • Ballad Health has stopped all elective surgeries in southwest Virginia as the numbers in that area of the state continue to rise. Officials are not as much worried about bed space, as they are staffing issues. To that point, officials say that there are nearly 10,000 beds available across Virginia, but they say they would not have the staffing to support those beds.

Vaccine information

  • Northam stressed on Tuesday that he believes the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are safe. “We have every reason to believe that these vaccinations are safe,” says Northam. “Thousands of scientists, governments, and research labs have worked around the clock all year.” Northam says the vaccines will not give anyone COVID-19, instead, it will prepare a person to fight off the virus. “As a doctor, I am confident that all protocols have been followed and no corners have been cut.” 
  • Healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities will be first in line for the vaccine. The Governor expects to eventually have enough doses for everyone in Virginia, but he says it will take time. “It’s like when you get on an airplane and they tell you if something goes wrong to put on your own mask first so that you can safely help other people,” said Northam. 
  • Officials are creating priority groups and have been preparing since the summer under the assumption that the majority of the public will want to receive the vaccine.
  • As soon as the F.D.A. approved the emergency use application from Pfizer, the doses will be shipped immediately, as soon as mid-December according to Northam. He is expecting to receive 70,000 doses in the first shipment. Each patient will need to receive their first dose, then a second dose three weeks later. Northam says he expects Pfizer to deliver the second delivery of 70,000 doses in time. 
  • Officials estimate that there are around 500,000 healthcare workers and residents in long-term care facilities. They are still working on a plan with health care officials across Virginia to prioritize who receives the first doses among the 500,000. 
  • Northam stressed the importance of continuing to live safely even with positive vaccine-news. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to be careful and take precautions,” said Northam. “Your decisions impact a lot of other people.” 
  • Campbell County recently passed a resolution declaring themselves a 1st amendment sanctuary city, essentially saying they will no longer follow the executive orders from Governor Northam that are aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. When asked what he thinks about law enforcement potentially not enforcing the orders in Campbell County, Northam said, “I expect that law enforcement will be part of the solution here. We are not the enemy, the enemy is the virus. We all need to work together to attack the virus, not each other.” 

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