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Governor Talks COVID Increases, Updates on VMI, Police Reform

Northam speaking at podium
Although COVID numbers have remained flat in much of Virginia, VDH numbers indicate rising case counts in the Southwest. (Screenshot of briefing)

*VPM News intern Connor Scribner contributed to this report.

Gov. Ralph Northam reported an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the largely rural Southwest region of the state Wednesday. He said the increase is being driven by small family gatherings and community spread.

Giving an update on the spread of COVID-19 throughout the commonwealth, the governor said data from the Virginia Department of Health indicates that daily case counts in the Northern, Northwestern, Eastern and Central health regions have remained relatively flat after a spike in the Hampton Roads area in August.

Dr. Daniel Carey, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services, warned Virginians to exercise caution when getting together with extended family.

“It may sound innocent that you’re going over to your brother’s house and they have three kids and a spouse,” Carey said. “If they’re from different households with different connections, they really should be socially distanced.”

The governor also announced that the state received a shipment of 26,000 Rapid Antigen Tests, purchased in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation. The tests are intended for use by nursing homes and long term care facilities, which have been hotspots for COVID-19.

Northam also said the state plans to expand the “Rebuild Virginia” initiative, which uses federal coronavirus aid to provide grants to small businesses and nonprofits. The expansion includes an additional $30 million in aid and an increase in the maximum grant amount from $10,000 to $100,000.

dollar amounts of CARES act aid
New CARES act allocations totaled over $500 million. (Screenshot of briefing)

The governor delineated new CARES act allocations, including $116 million for colleges and universities, $73 million to fund hazard pay for health workers, $220 million for K-12 education and $30 million for local broadband projects, a priority for school districts conducting online classes.

Several pieces of police reform legislation were signed today, including a ban on no-knock warrants, a revamp of the decertification process and limited measures to ‘demilitarize’ local police forces. Several measures advocated by police reform advocates still remain in limbo, and some legislators have raised concerns about the versions of the bills advanced to the governor’s desk.

Northam addressed complaints of racism and discrimination at Virginia Military Institute, announcing an investigation backed by the General Assembly into the culture and policies at VMI. Northam, a VMI graduate, penned a letter last week with Attorney General Mark Herring, the lieutenant governor and legislators to VMI President John W. Boland expressing concern over the allegations.

Secretary of Administration Keyanna Conner gave an update on the elections process. Conner emphasized that election night results have always been provisional, and that official results will be certified by the state board of elections on Monday, Nov. 16. Because absentee ballots cannot be counted in advance in Virginia, those ballots will be counted on election night and over the following days.