Governor Glenn Youngkin announced a COVID action plan aimed at expanding healthcare facilities’ ability to respond to COVID-19 and coping with test shortages. The plan also includes COVID-19 vaccine outreach. Youngkin announced the plan during a stop in Roanoke.

“As your governor, I will not mandate the vaccine,” Youngkin said according to The Roanoke Times. “But as your neighbor and as your friend, I am strongly encouraging you to please get it.”

Virginia is in a wave of high COVID-19 case numbers. Although daily case numbers are declining, they are still higher than the previous highs set in January 2021. The Virginia Department of Health reported 14,803 cases on Thursday, and reports that unvaccinated people are 4.4 times more likely to get COVID-19 than vaccinated people. Hospitalizations are still climbing, reaching 3,871 on Thursday, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA).

VHHA CEO Sean Connaughton thanked Youngkin in a Thursday press release.

“In the past month, Virginia hospitals have encountered some of the most challenging circumstances seen since the pandemic began. A rapidly escalating surge has led to record-setting hospitalizations that are straining the capacity of the health care delivery system, its staff, and resources,” Connaughton said. “Already weary frontline caregivers are being asked to do more even as the highly-transmissible Omicron variant has caused illness leading to staff shortages that make an existing health care staffing crisis even worse. An effective hospital response to this surge necessitates support from the public and partners in government to ensure continuity of operations so that patients can receive the care they need.”

Youngkin’s plan includes his 11th executive order, which waives some regulations allowing expanded bed capacity and allowing out-of-state medical providers to work in Virginia.

The governor is also addressing test shortages by discouraging mass testing for pre-screening. He’s urging healthy people with mild symptoms to stay home and is discouraging asymptomatic people from testing, and ordering the state health commissioner to issue guidelines prioritizing tests for people including students, essential workers, and vulnerable citizens.

In a Thursday press release, Youngkin said, “Today’s announcements are designed to give Virginians the tools and resources needed to make the best decisions for their families, strengthen our hospital systems, and ensure a strong recovery as we encounter new challenges associated with the pandemic that has become part of our everyday life.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Glenn Youngkin” by Glenn Youngkin.