Northam touts testing, business task force, but no lockdown end in sight

Virginia covid-19
(© Ingo Menhard –

Ralph Northam is stuck on seeing the state increase its COVID-19 testing capacity to 10,000 per day.

He’s had six weeks, and his efforts to date, such as they are, have us at 4,000 per day today.

And for some reason, he’s proud of himself.

“Our state lab is now able to do about 400 tests per day, right here in Virginia. Colleges and universities have come online, VCU and UVA, in particular. We also have private labs, LabCorp and Quest. Remember initially, some of these turnaround times were a week to nine days. Well, now we’ve decreased that to a day or two. And now healthcare providers healthcare systems are doing in-house testing. So, we’ve come a long way in just over six weeks, and I’m proud of our team,” Northam said Monday.

The 10,000-per-day strawman is a Northam metric that we’ve been told of late will determine how the state will be allowed to proceed through a phased reopening.

The governor conceded in his Monday presser that the science behind the thinking guiding his decision-making is not “a perfect science, and I would be the first, as a scientist, to agree with that there are many challenges as we make these decisions.”

“They call this a novel COVID-19, novel meaning that it’s new to the world, it’s new to our country, it’s new to Virginia. So, there are a lot of things that we don’t know about the virus that we’d like to know, and science, yes, science evolves,” Northam said.

What we know about COVID-19 has certainly evolved since Northam issued his state of emergency on March 12.

The early modeling on the impact of COVID-19 forecast more than 2 million U.S. deaths from COVID with no interventions from government policy, and a later update that included social distancing and other elements of the lockdowns implemented in Virginia and across the nation put the figure at 240,000.

A number of studies from researchers are giving us a new, and vastly different, insight into the spread, and mortality, from COVID.

A survey of 3,277 inmates at prisons in Virginia and three other states shows that 96 percent of inmates testing positive for COVID-19 didn’t show symptoms.

A University of Miami study is showing that up to 20 times more people in Miami-Dade County have had a COVID infection than the official statistics indicate, tracking with numbers from studies in New YorkSouthern California and Silicon Valley.

The data point to a virus that has already spread far beyond what the original and updated models had assumed, and that mortality – and impact on the healthcare system – is not anywhere near as significant as had been projected.

The science has evolved. Government response is still where it was six weeks ago.

“There is no treatment for this virus today. There is no vaccination for this virus. So, again, it’s not a perfect science, we are doing the best that we can with a just magnificent, a great team, to make science-based decisions to at the end of the day, keep Virginians as safe as we can. That’s my first priority. And then to get this health crisis behind us and get our economy back up and running, again,” Northam said.

After patting himself and his “science-based” team on the back yet again, Northam touted the business task force that he announced last week, which he said would meet again on Monday, after his presser.

“The input that we’ve been receiving from these businesses to talk about how we can make sure that our consumers feel safe, how we can open up in a responsible manner, have just been invaluable,” Northam said.

“The communication throughout Virginia, from politicians, from business leaders, from just constituents, has been great, and I just want to let you all know we take all of that into consideration, and we appreciate it,” Northam said.

Later Northam acknowledged how so many people are “suffering” and “making sacrifices,” but it isn’t clear that there’s been any psychic accounting done for how much “suffering” and how many “sacrifices” are being made by Northam and his team.

It’s fair to point out that Northam and his team are continuing to draw healthy salaries from taxpayer funds as nearly half a million Virginians have been thrown onto the unemployment rolls since mid-March.

Maybe if they were forced to call the Virginia Employment Commission multiple times, if they had to fret over whether or not they’d dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s on their PPP loan application, if they had to hope that the food bank had enough for them to get through the next couple of days, that would light a fire under their asses.

“We make decisions literally by the hour,” Northam said. “And we’ll continue to use data, we’ll continue to use science and input from around Virginia, to make the decisions that are in the best interests of Virginia.”

With all deliberate speed. It’s the Virginia way.

Story by Chris Graham

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