State of emergency declared in Virginia after record COVID-19 surge

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declared a limited state of emergency for Virginia on Monday to alleviate pressure on hospitals after the state has counted record COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent days. 

The governor announced the emergency order that aims to boost hospital capacity and support “exhausted” health care workers after Virginia counted its highest daily COVID-19 hospital admissions on Friday.  

The order designed to provide flexibility to strained hospitals and staff is set to last 30 days because of modeling predicting a peak of cases “in the next few weeks” following the omicron variant surge, the announcement said. 

“It has been a roller coaster and we are not built for this kind of uncertainty for this long,” Northam said during a press briefing. “It has been hard on everyone.”

The order waives license requirements for hospitals to increase their bed capacity, permits out-of-state licensed providers to provide care in Virginia, grants physician assistants with at least two years experience to provide care without written agreements and gives some liability protections to physicians 

Northam is only in office for a few more days, as Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin (R), who has the option of rescinding the order, prepares to be inaugurated on Saturday, although Northam anticipates Youngkin’s support.

The Governor has spoken to the Governor-elect, and is hopeful this order will remain in place for 30 days or until no longer necessary,” Northam spokesperson Alena Yarmosky said in an email. 

While the state points to the lowest case and death rates per capita, Virginia hospitals are still struggling with more than 3,500 COVID-19 patients statewide and rising flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) patients. Most of those hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated, the governor said.

Virginia’s average daily case count has nearly tripled in two weeks, nearing 14,700 infections per day, and hospitalizations have doubled to almost 25,000, according to The New York Times tracker. But deaths have mostly decreased since the end of December. 

The highly transmissible omicron variant has sparked skyrocketing cases across the country, building pressure on hospitals nationwide. 

Maryland similarly ordered a 30-day state of emergency last week as its overwhelmed hospitals deal with the influx in patients. The D.C. Hospital Association has asked Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) to initiate a state of emergency, and the mayor said Monday that the administration is considering its petition.

Tags COVID-19 COVID-19 hospitalizations Glenn Youngkin hospitals Muriel Bowser omicron Pandemic State of emergency Virginia

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