Northam Outlines Efforts to Ramp Up Testing, Potential Mask Mandate Coming Next Week

May 22, 2020

Virginia added 813 new cases of COVID-19 to its tally on Friday, raising the state's total to nearly 35,000.

The Virginia Department of Health's Friday data update shows a total of 34,950 cases.  37 additional deaths were reported Friday, raising the state's total to 1,136.

6,543 new diagnostic (PCR) test results were entered into the state's database Friday.  223,433 such tests have now been conducted in Virginia.  The positivity rate for such tests has slowly declined since mid-April and has been at or slightly below 15% for the last several days.

Northam Provides Update on Testing Efforts, Potential Mask Mandate Coming and VDH Launches New Online Tool

During a news conference Friday, Governor Ralph Northam provided an update on where the state is in its fight against COVID-19. He said that Virginia's positivity rate continues to trend in the right direction. It currently sits at 15%. He also said the overall testing numbers are trending upwards as well.

Speaking of testing, Northam says the state is working to ramp up its testing efforts next week. That includes several community testing events across the Commonwealth.

The governor also said he plans to make an announcement on Tuesday about a potential mandate on wearing masks while out in public.

The Virginia Department of Health has launched a new online tool called COVIDCHECK. It will allow users to check their symptoms to see if they potentially have the virus.

During the news conference, Northam said participants in the SNAP program will be allowed to begin getting their groceries online next Friday. That's thanks to a new pilot program that Virginia was recently granted admittance to. The governor thanked Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine for their work in getting the Commonwealth included in that pilot program.

Turning to unemployment, Northam said the state is working to expand its call centers to help those who need to access unemployment benefits. The Virginia Employment Commission has had trouble keeping up with the unprecedented demand on its system.

Northam urged Virginians to use extreme caution over the Memorial Day weekend if they plan on boating due to recent heavy rains. He also said the state's flags will be at half-staff this weekend to honor armed service men and women in addition to those who have lost their lives due to COVID-19.

The governor said he will provide more details on when his administration thinks most of the state can enter Phase Two of his reopening plan next week. Northam promised more information Tuesday about plans for a statewide mandate on wearing masks. He will also give an update on when Richmond and northern Virginia can enter Phase One. Northam's tri-weekly updates will be to a bi-weekly format beginning next week. Those news conferences will now be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays moving forward.