Gov. Northam extends ban on elective surgeries, DMV closures

Gov. Northam extends ban on elective surgeries, DMV closures
Governor Ralph Northam holding a press briefing in Richmond. (Source: WVIR)

RICHMOND, Va. (WHSV) — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is extending several orders he announced earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, including postponements of elective surgeries and the closure of DMV offices.

Northam announced in a statement on Thursday that the current ban on elective surgeries, which was set to expire on Friday, April 24, is being extended by one week to May 1.

He also announced that the closure of public DMV offices, which have been closed since March 18, is being extended by another two weeks until May 11. That closure had been set to expire on Friday as well.

In light of the DMV closure, Virginia State Police are directed to continue not enforcing vehicle inspections.

Just a few hours before the governor's announcement on Thursday, the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association sent a public letter to the governor urging his administration to let the elective surgery postponement order expire, saying that hospitals have the capacity to handle both the procedures and COVID-19 cases.

But the governor said the ban on elective surgeries will continue until State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA can "evaluate, in conjunction with hospitals and other medical facilities, how to safely ease restrictions on non-essential medical procedures, and the availability of personal protective equipment."

The VHHA said that Virginia hospitals have already established a framework (which you can review here), for re-opening the health care delivery system in a responsible manner consistent with the Open Up America Again Guidance document recently issued by the White House.

“My top priority is protecting public health, and that includes ensuring that our frontline medical staff have the equipment they need to stay safe as they treat Virginians who are sick,” said Governor Northam. “We have increased our supply of PPE, but before we allow elective surgeries to resume, we must first be assured that the doctors, nurses, and medical staff who are fighting this virus or conducting emergency surgeries have the necessary supplies. We are working with medical facilities on plans to ensure that we can resume elective surgeries safely and responsibly.”

The public health emergency order, Order of Public Health Emergency Two, does not apply to any procedure if the delay would cause harm to a patient. The order also does not apply to outpatient visits in hospital-based clinics, family planning services, or emergency needs.

But the VHHA says the continued postponement of the procedures puts patients with chronic conditions at risk and keeps medical workers furloughed.

Hospitals continue to treat emergency patients and perform essential surgeries, and Northam says “Virginians should feel safe going to hospitals if they are experiencing a medical emergency, such as a heart attack.”

The governor also amended Executive Order Fifty-Seven to allow licensed physician’s assistants with two or more years of clinical experience to practice without a collaborative agreement.

Executive Directive Seven ordered the closure of Virginia’s 75 DMV offices and its mobile units to the public and extended the validity of driver’s licenses and vehicle credentials that were due to expire.

Those credentials are now valid through July 31.

Executive Directive 8 directed the Virginia State Police to suspend enforcement of the time period in which new Virginia residents must get a driver’s license or register their vehicles, the expiration of temporary license plates, and the time period in which temporary residents may operate vehicles with out-of-state plates.

That now remains in effect until July 31.

It continues the suspension of enforcement of motor vehicle inspections by Virginia State Police. While local law enforcement may still issue citations for expired vehicle inspections, Governor Northam encourages them to refrain from doing so during this pandemic.

Copyright 2020 WHSV. All rights reserved.