'We need direction from Washington’: Gov. Northam asks for federal help with COVID-19 testing, supply shortage

Updated: Mar. 27, 2020 at 10:02 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Governor Ralph Northam is asking for federalized testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, joining Maryland and Washington D.C. in the request.

For the commonwealth, it would primarily be used in northern Virginia where there’s a lot of people and federal workers.

“We really need a national system. We need direction from Washington,” said Northam.

Northam says the federal government is not helping with a shortage of COVID-19 testing materials and personal protective equipment for health care workers.

“We’re all out there bidding literally against each other. Here in Virginia, we’re bidding against our own hospital systems, other states and the federal government,” said Northam.

The governor and the COVID-19 response team said the state doesn’t have enough tests due to a shortage of materials like swabs.

The state has the testing capacity of about 1,800 right now; more than 7,000 have been tested.

“It’s not a very effective, efficient system and so that’s why the governors collectively around the country have asked for some leadership for some direction at the national level to really help make that testing more efficient,” said Northam.

Northam also spoke about the shortage of personal protective equipment like gloves and it will be that way for weeks. In addition, he called on President Donald Trump to use the defense production act to make personal protective equipment.

The governor said businesses in Virginia are stepping up to help with production.

“We’re all competing for the same equipment and it’s not as efficient and as effective as it should be," said Northam.

The Virginia Finance Secretary says the federal stimulus package would give Virginia $3.3 billion, where $1.8 billion would go directly to state and $1.5 billion to cities and localities.

The Army Corps. of Engineers is also working with the Virginia Department of Health to identify sites across Virginia that could be used for excess hospital bed space over the concern of a surge in patients due to COVID-19.

There are now more than 600 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Virginia with 83 patients hospitalized and at least 14 people dead.

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