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Virginia Governor Declares State of Emergency. Here’s What That Means

governor ralph northam speaking at podium
Gov. Ralph Northam (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM)

Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia on Thursday through June 10, 2020, or until further notice. The announcement comes as a response to 17 Virginians testing positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. 

The emergency declaration allows the governor broader spending powers and access to more funding to deal with the disease, that the World Health Organization is calling a pandemic. 

Northam criticized the federal government for giving mixed messages during a press conference with state leaders on Thursday. He also called on other states to play a larger role in responding to the outbreak. 

“Leadership is essential in times like these. It's counterproductive when people hear announcements that contradict the expertise of public health professionals,” Northam said. “In Virginia, we are taking this very seriously, heeding the advice of public health experts, and working to combat misinformation and stigmatization. We will continue to do so.”

Last week, President Trump said that anyone feeling ill could be tested for the disease — but that’s not the case here in Virginia, where specific criteria must be met — including having respiratory symptoms, contact with a confirmed case, or having traveled to an area where the virus is widespread.

Northam pushed for large events to be canceled and, for the next 30 days, he’s banning all out-of-state travel for state employees. 

Health officials say that travelers returning from countries and states where the disease is spreading should stay home for 14 days after arriving. 

They also warn residents to take precautions like frequent hand-washing, disinfecting touched surfaces and objects, staying home when sick and covering coughs and sneezes.

This story is still developing. Continue to follow VPM News for continuing coronavirus coverage.