Virginia

Virginia to Offer COVID-19 Testing to All Nursing Home Residents, Staff

Northam reduces jail population, increases testing to slow spread of coronavirus

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Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday that Virginia is making plans to offer testing for every nursing home resident and staff member.

The testing criteria will change to account for the vulnerable population in these facilities.

It’s something families of those in nursing homes have been begging for.

On Monday, new guidelines will be put in place to bring more testing to facilities with outbreaks. As Friday evening there were more than 650 coronavirus cases in nursing homes, and dozens of residents have died and 66 facilities are struggling.

“We will work to make sure any nursing home or long-term care facility experiencing a breakout can test every person in a facility as well as the staff,” Northam said.

Northam also announced the Department of Corrections would be releasing low-level offenders from local and regional jails as the coronavirus continues to spread.

This step was taken to mitigate the spread among those in the state's custody. There was already a 17% decrease on the jail population and a 67% decrease in the number of new commitments for misdemeanors.

The progress comes after Northam advised local law enforcement agencies in March to decrease the number of individuals put in jail for low-level offenses.

State officials said in a press conference Friday that they are not planning to use statewide clemency to release inmates with compromised immune systems. Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran said that there is a lot to consider when letting people out of custody, like access to healthcare and places to live.

"We are not going to irresponsibly release people without someplace to go," said Moran.

Northam also addressed how relief from the federal government would be used. He said that FEMA approved hotel accommodations for essential workers on the front lines including first responders.

There was also additional data released on the demographics of patients. African Americans make up 30% of the state's 7,491 cases and 34% of the 231 deaths.

Northam was asked about his response to a Tweet from President Trump earlier Friday that read: "LIBERATE VIRGINIA..."

"I don't have time to involve myself in Twitter wars," Northam said.

The governor made it clear Virginia is nowhere near being able to meet even the White House’s initial reopening criteria of positive tests being on a downward trend for 14 days.

Northam said he wants to get to the place where all businesses can reopen, but that day is going to be determined by science, testing and data. 

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