Governor Ralph Northam is not announcing any new COVID-19 restrictions before the Thanksgiving holiday, despite the fact that the state is now reporting the highest number of daily new cases since the start of the pandemic.
Governor Northam began his Wednesday press conference with what he says is good news, the recent announcement of positive results from two vaccine trials.
“It means a light at the end of this tunnel and I think we can all agree this has been a long tunnel,” Northam said, before cautioning that it will likely be a few months before vaccine distribution happens.
Northam did not announce any new mitigation measures, but repeated the latest restrictions that began this week: social gatherings are now capped at 25 people, restaurants must stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m., and the state’s mask mandate now applies to kids ages 5 and older.
A reporter asked Northam why he chose to institute those new restrictions late last week, an apparent reversal from his position earlier in the week. Northam began his response by citing the data, but got emotional as he said
“I’ll tell you what really affected me, is seeing mobile morgues outside of hospitals, because there’s no place to put the dead,” Northam, a doctor, paused -- getting emotional. “We don’t need that to happen in Virginia.”
NPR reports that officials in El Paso, Texas had to bring in at least four refrigerated mobile morgues to temporarily store bodies as hospitals reach capacity.
Deaths and case numbers in Virginia, while rising, have not reached levels seen in other parts of the country. Northam stayed upbeat about that fact, pointing out that the rise in Virginia is one of the lowest in the country.
Still, every part of the state is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, with the most rapid spread still in southwest Virginia.
Addressing the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, Northam asked Virginians to reduce the size of their family gatherings, wear masks, and go virtual if possible.
“Let’s all act together to make sure that next year everybody, everybody that we love, is at that Thanksgiving table,” said Northam.