By Brandon Jarvis

Governor Ralph Northam took direct aim at the Hampton Roads region while giving an update on the COVID-19 situation in Virginia.

“We all need to be clear-eyed about what our health situation is,” says Northam.

Positive case trends have been rapidly dropping in Northern Virginia while remaining relatively the same in most other regions of the state, but the Southeast numbers have risen drastically. Northam was adamant that while most people in Virginia have been following proper guidelines, some people in the Hampton Roads region have not.

Northam laid out grim numbers, saying that the Tidewater region’s positive case numbers were at 60 per day in June, he said that number is 346 per day now.

As a response, Northam is directing state agencies to step up and help enforce social distancing guidelines and the Virginia Department of Health is hiring more employees to help with enforcement. Establishments and restaurants will be the ones to feel the brunt of punishment for not following or enforcing the guidelines by losing their licenses and permits.

Throughout the press conference, the Governor referenced younger people in their 20’s and the large events that are happening around bars and private parties. Northam says the recent increase in positive cases for the 20-29 age group is 250%.

With the current legal limit of 250 people allowed in a gathering, Northam says he is considering a reduction in the size limit. “You are being selfish,” Northam said to people who are not following guidelines. “This is not political”.

Northam noted that establishments can make an individual leave and call the police on them if they refuse. “No shirt no shoes, no masks, no service.”

He continued to reiterate that these people refusing to follow the rules are slowing the return to normalcy for the community and economy. “We want to be strong again, but if everybody doesn’t cooperate, then we are not going to get there,” said Northam.

Dr. Norman Oliver, the State Health Commissioner said that more teams are being dispatched starting today in the Tidewater region to ensure that guidelines are being followed and enforced.

When asked if he will consider a lockdown in Hampton Roads in the future, the Governor did not answer directly but said that contact tracers have reported several cases originating around bars and large social gatherings.

The Governor said that he will approach changes in the future with a regional approach, in reference to the possibility of restrictions tightening back up in the future – noting that positive case trends and hospital capacity levels are two of the metrics that he uses in the decision making process.

When asked if this is his warning shot to make sure Virginia does not become a California, Northam talked about how he believes most Virginians have been doing a good job of following the guidelines, but he also said “We can’t go back. We just can’t do it – and we don’t have to.”

Additional details from the conference:

  • According to Northam, over 938,559 people have applied for unemployment benefits in Virginia and 91% of claims are paid within 14 days. The Virginia Employment Commission has increased its staff by 550% and receives tens-of-thousands of calls each week. However, there are currently close to 80,000 appeals cases currently underway and federal assistance with the PUA will be drying up at the end of July if Congress does not extend relief.
  • Northam remained adamant that the decision for schools to reopen remains up to the individual localities. “I know these are not easy decisions,” said Northam. “We all want to be comfortable sending the children back to school and we also want teachers and support staff to feel safe.”
  • Northam said that the CARES Act funding has paid the rent or mortgage for 310 households. While 591 cases have been approved, he said they have received 1300 calls.
  • The Governor is still planning on holding a Special Session of the General Assembly in August to address several issues. The Session was first mentioned to address COVID-19 related issues, but the recent Civil Rights movement has added more legislative proposals to the agenda.

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By vascope

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