Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the commonwealth’s economy continues to outperform others despite the post-Thanksgiving surge in coronavirus cases, and that vaccines are on the way.
Northam presented the positive economic report to members of the Northern Virginia Technology Council during a webinar Friday.
“There’s no question that our economy has been rocked by COVID-19, but we’re in much better shape than other states,” Northam said.
He added that, right now, the focus is on being ready for when the doses of COVD-19 vaccines arrive. “The exciting news is that the vaccination is really going to be the light, I believe, at the end of a long, dark tunnel,” Northam said.
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The first vaccine shipments will largely go to hospitals that have the freezers needed to hold the doses, Northam said of Virginia’s phased immunization approach. Among the first people to get them will be health care workers and others on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virginia, Northam said, also stands ready for widespread distribution. “We’ve logistically put the process in place to really be able to get this vaccination out very efficiently,” he said.
Northam added that the state has $22 million set aside to get the vaccines administered, but he said the state will need more. He called on Congress to approve a new coronavirus bill that would fully fund the state’s immunization plan.
“It will be extremely helpful for distribution of this vaccination to make sure that we can get it out to everybody that needs it,” Northam said.
During the webinar, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said he feels there will be a deal in Congress soon — to the tune of around $900 billion — though how the money will be distributed remains a big sticking point.
“My gut tells me that maybe instead of state and local government, it’ll be a mixture of direct checks into lower-middle and lower-income individuals, and some other spending that would help states and communities,” Kaine said.
During the meeting, Northam was also asked whether he foresaw a scenario in which educational institutions could mandate that students and staff get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I think you’re on a slippery slope when you start mandating,” Northam said in response.
The governor said he feels Virginia’s job will be to show people that vaccines are safe and effective.