Northam Asks SCC to Extend Utilities Moratorium, Says Officials Monitoring COVID-19 in SWVA

Sep 15, 2020

Virginia's COVID-19 case count continues to grow; adding nearly a thousand cases every day.

And most of those cases are currently coming from southwest Virginia.

Governor Ralph Northam addressed the situation there during a press conference Tuesday.

“Southwest Virginia is seeing more new cases per day on average – 229 – than any other region in our state, even northern Virginia – which is home to a lot more people living closer together,” he explained.

He then repeated messaging that he and state health officials have been saying for months; Virginians need to continue wearing face masks, practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings. That's especially important in the Southwest region.

Governor Northam during one of his COVID-19 briefings earlier this year.
Credit AP Photo / Steve Helber

“We just don’t have the hospitals and especially the ICU capabilities, so I would ask everybody, not just in the southwest, to continue to follow these guidelines,” Northam explained.

He also talked about an uptick in cases in the New River Valley after students at Virginia Tech and Radford University returned to campus last month, which he said state officials worked to help address the rise. Northam added that those schools and the surrounding communities of Blacksburg and Radford have done a good job so far in trying to prevent even more spread.

And while the governor said all options are on the table, he does not currently anticipate imposing additional, COVID-19 restrictions on southwest Virginia.

Northam Requests SCC Extension of Utilities Moratorium

Also during his Tuesday press conference, Northam said he has asked the State Corporation Commission to extend the moratoium through October 5th.

That would give the General Assembly more time to come up with more long-term solutions.

“The budget I sent to the legislature includes a moratorium on utility disconnections, a repayment plan structure and a debt forgiveness program,” he explained.

So far, lawmakers have mostly addressed criminal justice reforms during a special session that began last month. They will also need to account for a nearly three billion dollar shortfall in the state budget caused by the pandemic before leaving Richmond.

The State Corporation Commission granted the extension Tuesday evening.