UPDATE 1:20 p.m.: On Monday afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam issued a 30-day emergency order to help increase Virginia’s hospital capacity and support healthcare workers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic after a record number of hospitalizations were posted last Friday.
According to Northam’s office, this order will expand the number of available hospital beds, increase staffing capacity at hospitals and nursing homes, and allow public health agencies greater flexibility when responding to the pandemic.
This marks Virginia’s first COVID-19 state of emergency since June 30, 2021.
However, the limited duration of this emergency order is based on modeling that suggests the virus will peak in the next few weeks, officials say.
“Health care workers and hospitals are exhausted, and they are again facing increasing numbers of patients, affecting their ability to provide care,” Northam said. “These steps will help ease the strain, giving medical professionals more flexibility to care for people. Ultimately, the best thing everyone can do for our hospitals and their staff is to get vaccinated.”
The governor’s office says Virginia not only has one of the lowest COVID-19 case rates and death rates per capita across the U.S., but the Commonwealth is also one of the 10 most-vaccinated states in the country.
“But the highly-transmissible omicron variant has increased the number of people turning to the hospital with COVID-19,” Northam’s office said in a statement on Monday. “The overwhelming majority of individuals hospitalized have not been vaccinated against COVID-19. In fact, one hospital company [Ballad Health in southwest Virginia] reported last week that 97% of COVID-19 patients relying on ventilators are not vaccinated.”
According to officials, more than 3,500 patients statewide are currently hospitalized with the coronavirus. In addition, ICU hospitalizations have more than doubled since Dec. 1, 2021.
Meanwhile, Virginia is reportedly seeing a rising number of flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases during the winter season, impacting hospital capacity.
In order to address the increasing number of patients, Northam’s office says Emergency Order 84 directs the State Health Commissioner to waive normal bed licensing requirements, allows hospitals to increase their licensed bed capacity, and mandates increased coordination between hospitals and local Medical Services Agencies.
“Healthcare workers across the country are facing severe burnout and exhaustion 22 months into the pandemic. The Governor’s Emergency Order directs a number of actions to boost staff in hospitals and nursing homes,” Monday’s statement said. “The Order allows providers with an active out-of-state license to practice in Virginia; authorizes experienced Physician Assistants to practice without a written supervisory agreement; increases provider-to-patient ratios; and provides certain liability protections to health care workers who act in good faith to protect patients.”
In addition, Emergency Order 84 increases flexibility in the transfer of patients to state-operated psychiatric hospitals, which have seen dangerously-high census levels since the pandemic began, officials say.
According to Northam there are no plans for switch Virginia’s schools back to fully virtual learning since state law currently only allows for public school closures at individual schools or classrooms rather than large-scale closures of public schools. The governor also pointed to vaccine access for those age five and older.
Watch the full briefing below.
RICHMOND, Va. (WFXR) — After Virginia health officials reported record-shattering spikes in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over the last three weeks, Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia Emergency Support Team are set to share updates on the Commonwealth’s pandemic response.
This briefing comes after the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported 57,703 new coronavirus cases between Friday, Jan. 7 and Monday, Jan. 10 — including 26,175 new cases on Saturday, Jan. 8, the largest single-day case spike of the entire pandemic.
You can watch Northam’s news conference live at 1 p.m. on air at WFXR-TV, here at WFXRtv.com, on the WFXR News Facebook page, or on the WFXR News app.
This will mark Northam’s final coronavirus briefing before he leaves office at the end of the week.