Virginia allowing elective medical procedures to resume

RICHMOND, Va. (AP)
— Virginians will soon be able to have elective surgeries and dental
checkups again, as Gov. Ralph Northam announced that nonessential
medical procedures could resume Friday. The governor said pet owners
could also resume taking their animals to the vet for nonemergencies.

The governor imposed a ban on nonemergency procedures last month in an effort to reserve capacity in the state’s health care system for coronavirus patients and personal protective equipment such as face masks for providers treating those patients.

Northam
said at a news conference Wednesday that the state has avoided a surge
in hospitalized patients like in Italy and New York and is in a much
better spot in terms of having enough supplies and capacity than it was a
few weeks ago.

“Together we took the right actions and they have been successful,” Northam said. “We slowed the spread of this virus.”

Medical
and dental officials cheered the decision. The state’s hospitals have
pushed Northam to allow them to reopen for elective procedures as they
grappled with lost revenues. Hospitals across the state have announced
layoffs, furloughs and other measures to cut costs because of the ban.
The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association estimates that about
15,000 nonurgent inpatient and outpatient medical procedures have been
canceled each week during the ban.

Dr.
Michael McDermott, chairman of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare
Association’s board of directors, said the impact of the virus-related
shutdowns to hospitals and health systems is “well over” $200 million.
But he said Northam’s decision to stop nonemergency medical decisions
last month was “absolutely the right decision at the time that it was
made.”

Northam’s
next big decision will be whether to extend his order to close
nonessential businesses past May 8, when his current order expires. Some
Republicans have been pushing Northam, a Democrat, to open sooner, like
some other Southern states have done.

Northam
said Wednesday that he’s continuing to look at data on testing,
hospitalization and other information before deciding whether to extend
that order. He reiterated that he’s is open to the idea of opening
businesses on a regional basis.

“We’re going to do it as soon as we can, as soon as it can be safely,” Northam said.

Also Wednesday, Northam said officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have begun assessing the virus’ impact on chicken processing plants on the state’s Eastern Shore. Northam, along with the governors of Maryland and Delaware, have request federal help to deal with an outbreak of COVID-19 cases connected to poultry plants on the Delmarva Peninsula.

The
state Department of Corrections said it has released 62 inmates so far
under a budget amendment proposed by Northam and approved last week by
the General Assembly.

During
the COVID-19 emergency, the legislation gives the DOC the authority to
release inmates with less than a year left to serve on their sentences,
provided they meet certain criteria, including having a viable home
plan. Inmates convicted of a Class 1 felony or a sexually violent crime
are not eligible for early release.

For
most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as
fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older
adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe
illness and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Associated Press photo

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