We are now in the 6th month of this pandemic.

As the numerous experts, officials, and the Governor said back in the beginning of the pandemic, this virus would be something we will have to fight against for months, not weeks.

Though our statistics give us reason to be cautiously optimistic, there are still new cases found everyday. We need to carry on practicing physical distancing and safe, healthy, habits. While we all continue to fight against this virus together, my colleagues and I continue to pass legislation that will improve Virginia. I have information for you about the most recent pandemic developments, special session updates, and more further down this newsletter.

In the meantime, please continue to check on our friends, neighbors and family. Just because we are physically separated from each other doesn’t mean we have to be emotionally separated.

We must also do a wellness check on one another, especially our most vulnerable.  Please remember, if you or someone you know is feeling depressed or suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255, or the Disaster Distress Helpline, 1-800-985-5990

If there is anything that I can do to help or if you know someone that is in need of help, do not hesitate to reach out to our office at 804-698-1051 or via email at DelHayala@house.virginia.gov.

 

The Governor's Update

The full press conference can be watched here. When these COVID-19 press conferences are called, they will be broadcasted and archived on The Governor’s Facebook and YouTube channel. Some of the highlights from today’s press conference are as followed:

  • There are now 121,615 cases of COVID-19 in Virginia.
  • The trend of new reported cases, while experiencing a slight rise in the last few weeks, has gone down as compared to its peak in July.
    • The trend of new cases in Northern Virginia are trending slightly higher in recent weeks, but are still significantly lower than during its peak in late May.
    • Additionally, the percent positivity of cases in Northern Virginia have remained steady.
  • While the numbers are encouraging, it is clear the virus is still a valid concern in Virginia.
  • Surges occurred during the weeks following Memorial Day and the 4th of July. In order to avoid a similar surge, the Governor encourages everyone to observe physical distancing and health protocols during the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend.
  • COVIDWISE, the state COVID-19 tracking mobile app which launched about a month ago, has had over 460,000 Virginians download it.
    • ​The app allows Virginians to anonymously announce if they received a positive COVID-19 test result to all those around them that also have the app. People using the app would receive a push notification informing them if they passed by someone else who reported a positive test result (while protecting the identity of all individuals using the app).
    • If you haven’t downloaded the app already, please go to www.COVIDWISE.org, or search COVIDWISE on the App Store on iOS devices or on Google Play on Androids.
  • While Virginia’s testing capacity was less than ideal during the beginning of the pandemic, this capacity has risen considerably since. Virginia is now averaging 15,000-20,000 PCR tests per day.
  • The State Lab last week began serology, or antibody, testing. This type of testing would tell who has contracted COVID-19 in the past, and whether immunity has been developed in the body through antibodies.
  • To find a test site or upcoming testing event, please go to www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-testing/covid-19-testing-sites.

 

COVID-19 Data and Information

  • According to the VDH website:
    • 121,615 persons have tested positive for COVID-19.

    • 9,621 of those individuals have been hospitalized.

    • 2,612 of those individuals have lost their lives to this virus.

  • This virus has been shown to disproportionately affect the African American and Hispanic/Latino population throughout the country. As such, Virginia has begun to collect race/ethnicity information. With the 93,558 cases we have racial and ethnicity data on, 24,058 are African Americans and 30,845 are Hispanic or Latino.

 

Special Session

 2020 has thrown a lot at us, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the exposure and need for true racial and criminal justice reform. Since the General Assembly gavelled out from our normal session in early March, we’ve seen so much suffering and hardship. We’ve been touched by the pain felt by so many across our Commonwealth and country. Now, we take action. During this special session, we will begin the process of healing.

Our General Assembly’s special session, which began 2 weeks ago, has already made great progress. Some of the bills we have passed include:

  • HB 5046 - clarifies certain Code provisions related to telemedicine services and require the Department of Medical Assistance Services to continue reimbursing providers for Medicaid-covered telemedicine until July 1, 2021.
  • HB 5103 - funds safe and secure alternatives for Virginia voters to return absentee ballots during the upcoming 2020 General Election.
  • HB 5115 - extends eviction and foreclosure continuance periods in court proceedings to more Virginians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • HB 5098 - makes it a hate crime to make a false 9-1-1 call on the basis of race (reported out of the House Courts of Justice and House Appropriations Committee, and will appear on the House floor shortly for a vote).

Additionally, one of my bills, HB 5068, passed unanimously from the House Courts of Justice committee, and is headed to the House floor this week! Here is more information about my bill:

  • HB 5068 - prohibits creditors from garnishing, or seizing, emergency relief payments (like stimulus checks) from Virginians.

All of the special sessions and our committee hearings will be live-streamed and archived here.

 

Elections in Virginia in 2020

This year has brought challenges to all facets of our daily lives. Since the pandemic has begun, our Department of Elections has been hard at work to ensure we can exercise our right and duty to vote in November. Additionally, a number of bills passed during this year’s session, including the 45-day period of excuse free absentee voting and making Election Day a holiday, will help in this mission.

Voters are encouraged to mail in their ballots this year. If you would like to vote absentee by mail, please go here. Absentee ballots will begin going out to voters’ homes on September 18th.

It is important to note that ballots postmarked before the 7 pm closing time for polling locations on Election Day will be counted, so long as they arrive before noon on the Friday after Election Day. Because of the expected increase in mail-in ballots this year, voters are encouraged to send in their ballots as soon as they can after they receive them by mail.

VPAP has put together a detailed webpage on the recent tweaks to the vote-by-mail procedure, I would recommend you take a look at it here.

 

COVID-19 Executive Orders

Since the pandemic reached Virginia more than a month ago, the Governor has issued numerous executive orders to address it. Here is a brief explanation of each, as well as the links to the full Executive Orders.

Most recent Executive Orders:

Executive Order 67: Phase 3 Easing of Certain Temporary Restrictions Due to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Executive Order 68: Additional Restrictions on the Eastern Region due to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Executive Order 69: Declaration of a State Emergency Due to Hurricane Isaias

Executive Order 70: Addressing the Impact of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) on the Commonwealths Psychiatric Hospital System

Link to all Executive Orders here.

 

Moratorium on Evictions

Late last week, the Virginia Supreme Court granted Governor Northam’s request to place a moratorium on evictions until September 7th. During this time, no eviction proceedings will take place in Virginia, extending this necessary protection for tenants who don’t have the ability to pay their rent. Those who need assistance to pay their rent or mortgage can go here to see if they apply for relief funding. Additionally, all tenants should be aware of their rights and other relevant resources. Please go to www.StayHomeVirginia.com to find more information.

UPDATE: On August 31st, the Governor announced that $4 million will go to helping Virginians facing evictions. These funds will help hire 20 new lawyers for legal aid that will help fight eviction cases. $2 million of these funds came from IKEA as a part of the company’s efforts to support COVID-19 recovery efforts in Virginia and throughout the country. The other $2 million was authorized by the Governor, with the consent of the General Assembly.

 

COVID-19 Resource Page

I have a page on my website dedicated towards providing resources offered by the state, local government, and other entities, to those who need it. If you need assistance please visit the webpage now!

Additionally, there are other helpful, informative links that I would recommend you take a look at so you can stay up to date on this dynamic situation. You can visit the webpage here.

Ve aquí para español.

 

Comcast Updates

Comcast has recently announced that they will extend the free internet service to low-income customers they have been giving through the rest of 2020 as well as keeping their free public WiFi hotspots open through the end of the year. Please check out the following press releases from Comcast for more information:

Internet Essentials 60 days of free Internet service extended through 2020

Comcast extends free public WiFi access to everyone for the remainder of 2020

 

My Contact Information

Email to: delhayala@house.virginia.gov, or call my office at: (804) 698-1051.

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In closing, I am here for you as is our Governor and our government agencies who are readily available to help during this tough time. It is important we prevent the spread for the safety of everyone, especially those who are most vulnerable.  In addition, let's focus on caring for one another and beating this virus together.

 

Sincerely,

Hala Ayala