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January 10, 2022

Northam moves to help Va.’s struggling hospitals

In one of his last acts as governor, Ralph Northam announces the limited state of emergency Monday.
Health care workers and hospitals are exhausted, and they are again facing increasing numbers of patients, affecting their ability to provide care. 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.
— Gov. Ralph Northam
As one of his last acts in office, Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday declared a limited state of emergency to increase Virginia’s hospital capacity and support healthcare workers responding to COVID-19.

The 30-day emergency order directs the State Health Commissioner to waive normal bed licensing requirements, allows hospitals to increase their licensed bed capacity, and mandates increased coordination between hospitals and local medical services agencies.

The declaration is based on modeling that suggests the virus will peak in the next few weeks, Gov. Northam said.

Statewide hospitalizations hit a record high Friday of 3,681, with a one-day record of 26,175 new cases Saturday. The prior record was 19,506.

As of Monday, the seven-day case average is a record 16,861. The January 2021 peak was just over 6,000. Gov. Northam said ICU hospitalizations have more than doubled since Dec. 1.
“Health care workers and hospitals are exhausted, and they are again facing increasing numbers of patients, affecting their ability to provide care,” the governor 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.”

Gov. Northam said Virginia's vaccination rate is one of the best in the nation, with more than 90 percent of state residents having received at least one shot, but the Omicron variant is highly contagious and is hitting the unvaccinated hard.

"The overwhelming majority of individuals hospitalized have not been vaccinated against COVID-19," Gov. Northam said. "In fact, one hospital company reported last week that 97 percent of COVID-19 patients relying on ventilators are not vaccinated."

The governor's order 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 and provides certain liability protections to health care workers who act in good faith to protect patients. It also increases flexibility in the transfer of patients to state-operated psychiatric hospitals, which have seen dangerously-high census levels since the pandemic began.

Gov. Northam said he and his wife are moving back to Norfolk this weekend as Republican Glenn Youngkin, a former business executive from McLean, takes office Saturday as Virginia's 74th governor.
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