Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday held his first coronavirus update since he and his wife contracted the virus just over two weeks ago.
“Pam and I are now several days from our last symptoms, and we have been cleared by health officials to leave isolation and go back to work,” Mr. Northam said.
He was reportedly in isolation for 18 days, and 65 staffers from both the governor’s office and mansion were advised to quarantine for two weeks. None of the staff members tested positive for the virus, which Mr. Northam said was “a testament to wearing” masks.
The Democratic governor, who is also a certified pediatric neurologist, gave his last update on the state’s pandemic response on Sept. 15. Both he and the first lady tested positive for the virus on Sept. 25.
“When that test comes back positive, it is frightening,” he said. “It’s too easy to think ‘oh this will never happen to me.’ But it can. For me and Pam — it did, and that is why it is disheartening to see people being cavalier about it.”
Last week, Mr. Northam allocated over $300 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for K-12 schools, local broadband projects along with rent and mortgage relief. He said at least $50 million also will be put toward hazard pay for home health care workers, along with additional funds for child care providers and a vaccination program.
On Tuesday morning, the governor signed legislation that provides civil liability protection to home health workers.
During the press briefing, state Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said the commonwealth is averaging 15,000 tests per day, and has had 160,805 positive cases and 3,372 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Northam said the case positivity rate is below 5%.
In response to a question about moving into phase 4 of reopening, Mr. Northam said he is “cautiously optimistic” about it but cases must be on a downward trend.
“Numbers are going up in a number of states across this country, so we’re not out of the woods,” he said. “We want to get our children back in school, but we need to get those numbers down in the communities in order to be able to do that safely and responsibly.”
Asked when bars can reopen, Mr. Northam reiterated the importance of cases trending down and drew a contrast between his administration and that of President Trump.
“We know that the measures that we’re taking work. Compare that to what happened in the Rose Garden in Washington just a week ago,” he said. “A gathering, where people cavalierly sat together, stood together, hugged each other — you saw it, just like I saw it — no masks, no social distancing, and look at the number of people that tested positive.”
Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump both tested positive for the virus on Oct. 1 following an event in the Rose Garden on Sept. 26. Several other attendees also contracted the virus, prompting infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to call it a “superspreader event.”
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