photo_ft_news_ralph northam courtesy virginia mercury

Gov. Ralph Northam at a press conference in October.

Faced with the approaching holiday season and surging Virginia COVID-19 case numbers — the highest at any point during the pandemic so far — Gov. Ralph Northam reminded Virginians Tuesday about basic public health steps: hand-washing, masks and taking precautions with gatherings. 

“I’m not saying don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but if you’re planning to gather with people outside of your household, think about ways to do it more safely,” he said during a news conference. “Consider how the space is ventilated. Or think about ways to have gatherings outdoors — especially if the weather is like it is today.”

However, he said he won’t impose any new restrictions, unlike neighboring Washington, Maryland and North Carolina.

The message — delivered during what Northam said was likely his last public briefing until after Thanksgiving — came in response to growing questions about what Northam’s administration is doing to curb new cases of the virus continue as numbers climb in many areas of the state.

As of Tuesday, Virginia had a seven-day average of 1,462 daily new cases — higher than it’s been at any point during the eight months of the ongoing pandemic. Infections are increasing across the state, but the surge is particularly critical in Southwest Virginia, where most health districts are seeing more than 10 percent of all tests return with positive results.

Virginia’s overall percent positivity rate has risen from five to 6.2 percent over the last few weeks, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health. Health systems, too, are sounding the alarm over rising hospitalizations. 

Last week, Ballad Health — which serves much of Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee — reported that its ICU was at nearly 92 percent capacity. The Bristol Herald Courier reported in late October that the system was implementing a temporary moratorium on elective procedures as COVID-19 patients threatened to overwhelm hospital resources. 

But over the past several weeks, Northam has continued to emphasize messaging over mandates as his preferred strategy for combating the spread. 

“I’ve said all along, this is not about carrying a stick around,” he added Tuesday. “This is about carrots. And I really encourage Virginians to follow the guidelines — not just for themselves but for the people that are working in our hospitals. And frontline workers in our grocery stores.”

Faced with the approaching holiday season and surging Virginia COVID-19 case numbers — the highest at any point during the pandemic so far — Gov. Ralph Northam reminded Virginians Tuesday about basic public health steps: hand-washing, masks and taking precautions with gatherings. 

“I’m not saying don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but if you’re planning to gather with people outside of your household, think about ways to do it more safely,” he said during a news conference. “Consider how the space is ventilated. Or think about ways to have gatherings outdoors — especially if the weather is like it is today.”

However, he said he won’t impose any new restrictions, unlike neighboring Washington, Maryland and North Carolina.

The message — delivered during what Northam said was likely his last public briefing until after Thanksgiving — came in response to growing questions about what Northam’s administration is doing to curb new cases of the virus continue as numbers climb in many areas of the state.

As of Tuesday, Virginia had a seven-day average of 1,462 daily new cases — higher than it’s been at any point during the eight months of the ongoing pandemic. Infections are increasing across the state, but the surge is particularly critical in Southwest Virginia, where most health districts are seeing more than 10 percent of all tests return with positive results.

Virginia’s overall percent positivity rate has risen from five to 6.2 percent over the last few weeks, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health. Health systems, too, are sounding the alarm over rising hospitalizations. 

Last week, Ballad Health — which serves much of Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee — reported that its ICU was at nearly 92 percent capacity. The Bristol Herald Courier reported in late October that the system was implementing a temporary moratorium on elective procedures as COVID-19 patients threatened to overwhelm hospital resources. 

But over the past several weeks, Northam has continued to emphasize messaging over mandates as his preferred strategy for combating the spread. 

“I’ve said all along, this is not about carrying a stick around,” he added Tuesday. “This is about carrots. And I really encourage Virginians to follow the guidelines — not just for themselves but for the people that are working in our hospitals. And frontline workers in our grocery stores.”

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