Northam pushes back May elections two weeks, says state may have reached peak

Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order Friday to move the May 5 elections two weeks to May 19.

“Virginians should not have to choose between their ballot and their health,” he said.

Northam encouraged people to vote absentee and for those who plan to cast their ballots in person, the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps will be at polling stations to help.

The deadline for absentee voting is extended. The last day to request an absentee ballot is May 12 and the last day to return the ballot is May 19 at 7 p.m.

The announcement comes after Northam’s news conference was pushed back more than a half over due to technical issues. See the full press conference here.

On the Peninsula, James City County has 150 positive cases of the coronavirus, Newport News has 107, Hampton has 99, York County has 43, Williamsburg has 14 and Poquoson has 6, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s website.

At least 20 people from the Peninsula Health District and one person from the Hampton Heath District have died from the coronavirus.

The Peninsula Health District covers Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City County and York County. The Hampton Health District covers Hampton.

Northam said Virginia has a five-phase plan for testing but in order for state to start, it must meet the following criteria: Downward trend of positive cases and hospitalizations over 14 days, enough hospital beds and ICU capacity and more personal protective equipment.

According to the chart on the slideshow shown during the news conference, Northam said Virginia may have reached its peak.

Positive cases

  • Total: 11,594 cases, 410 deaths.
  • African-American: 28 percent of the cases, 28 deaths.
  • Latinx: 26 percent of the cases, 5 deaths.
  • Ethnicity: VDH will break down statistics next week.

Testing

  • State labs: 400-500 tests per day. Working with University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech.
  • Goal: Test 10,000 statewide. More than 4,000 people were tested Friday.
  • Contact tracing — State is meeting with Apple to see about app. State must have more testing capacity and more medical workforce.

Personal protective equipment

  • On Friday, Virginia received:
    • Gloves: 3 million.
    • N95/KN95 masks: 100,000.
    • Surgical masks: 500,000 surgical masks.
    • Gowns: 40,000.
  • Washington, D.C. and Maryland: $7.8 million contract for 5 million masks. Virginia gets 3 million.
  • Dollar Tree: $3.265 million contact for 2 million KN95 masks.
  • Monday: State expects 800,000 gloves, 300,000 surgical masks.

Unemployment

  • Last week: More than 82,000 unemployment benefits.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program- Independent contractors/gig workers can now file for unemployment. More 50,000 in the state filed under the program.
  • Virginia Employment Commission now has an unemployment app.

Business

  • Non-essential: Northam said he does not plan to open non-essential businesses in one region over the other.
  • Virginia must meet the same criteria as testing before starting phase one.
  • Phase one: Re-open with strict safety restrictions, continued social distancing and continued teleworking measures and recommend face coverings recommend being worn in public.
  • Phase two and three have not been developed yet.

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