Gov. Northam issues state of emergency following recent COVID-19 surge

Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 12:39 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 10, 2022 at 2:21 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - On Monday, Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency following the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth.

“They are tired. They’re exhausted and they’re burned out. And that’s why it’s so important for all of us to help them. So please go to the hospital only if you believe you really need to. Let’s not put even more pressure on hospital workers who don’t need to be there,” said Governor Ralph Northam, (D) Virginia.

Northam says this 30-day state of emergency is to help hospitals and long-term care facilities deal with capacity and staffing issues due to COVID-19 and flu spread.

“The actions we’ve talked about today will help our hospitals and their staff get through this current surge in COVID cases. But there will be another,” said Governor Northam.

The announcement comes after the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians called on the doctor to declare a state of emergency due to the overwhelming number of patients being admitted to emergency departments.

“We thank Governor Northam and his team for this critical action, which should provide necessary relief to emergency departments and hospitals statewide,” the VACEP said on Monday afternoon. “The declaration highlights the important role ERs play as a safety net for all people every day. We also encourage Virginians to use one of the many new community testing sites statewide if you are in need of a COVID-19 test, as emergency departments only have a limited supply and test only high-risk, symptomatic patients.”

Under Northam’s emergency order it would allow the following:

  • Expand the number of available hospital beds
  • Increase staffing capacity at hospitals and nursing homes
  • 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
  • Provides certain liability protections to health care workers who act in good faith to protect patients
  • Allow public health agencies greater flexibility in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

“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.”

In the press conference, Northam also said Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has been informed.

“We want this process to be consistent. We want to as best we can be on the same sheet of music so that when we turn over the keys on Saturday, Virginians will still have good access to testing, good access to vaccines and access to hospitalizations as needed,” said Governor Northam.

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s office issued the following statement Monday afternoon, “Governor-elect Youngkin and his transition team have been in frequent contact with hospital systems and medical professionals throughout the transition, and it is clear that our hospital systems continue to experience an historic staffing crisis as the COVID-19 pandemic creates new challenges for them. Governor-elect Youngkin supports the use of tailored executive action that removes staffing barriers and provides healthcare providers the flexibility in order to deliver high-quality care and give overworked medical professionals the relief they need.”

In Northam’s final days in office, the omicron variant continues to fuel a surge of new COVID infections across the state.

This is a developing story - check back for updates.

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