I hope you and yours are doing well and staying safe.

As we progress through month 6 of this pandemic in Virginia, I want to highlight an important issue. September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, it has taken 48,344 lives and caused 1.4 million attempts in just 2018. In normal times, suicide is a health crisis in its own right that we need to address. However I recognize that its terrible effects on so many have been amplified because of the consequences of this pandemic.

We need to come together to fight the suicide health crisis.

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 135,514 cases of COVID-19 in Virginia.
  • We continue to see roughly 1000 new cases per day statewide.
    • The percent positivity is at 6.8%, which has been decreasing for 12 days now.
  • The past few months had seen a sharper rise of cases in the Eastern region of Virginia. After implementing restrictions for the region, the number of cases and percent positivity have gradually gone down.
    • Those restrictions were lifted in the Eastern region last week.
  • The southwest region of Virginia has started to see a rise in cases. While the percent positivity has slowly gone down in the past few days, it is currently at 8.1%, the highest in the state.
    • Local health officials are watching these statistics and looking at ways to mitigate this rise.
  • Since it launched, more than half a million people have downloaded the COVIDWISE app, the state’s COVID-19 tracking app.
    • 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.
  • The moratorium on utility disconnections, put into place by the State Corporation Commission, is set to expire tomorrow. The Governor has requested the SCC to extend the moratorium to October 5th, giving the General Assembly to finalize the budget and address this issue.
    • The Governor’s budget sent to the General Assembly includes a moratorium on utility disconnections, a repayment plan structure, and a debt forgiveness program.
  • $42 million in CARES funding has been authorized for PPE distribution.
  • The Virginia National Guard continues to help with pandemic assistance. From April to July, the National Guard has collected nearly 106,000 testing samples and helped distribute nearly 1.3 million pounds of food.

 

COVID-19 Data and Information

  • According to the VDH website:
    • 135,514 persons have tested positive for COVID-19.

    • 10,337 of those individuals have been hospitalized.

    • 2,839 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 105,201 cases we have racial and ethnicity data on, 26,933 are African Americans and 32,662 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 a month ago, has already made great progress. Some of the bills that have passed the House and are currently in consideration in the Senate 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 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

*UPDATE*

Comcast has partnered with Prince William County Schools to provide free internet service to low-income students that currently do not have internet at home. Comcast Internet Essentials, which is currently available for low-income families for $9.95 a month, will be covered by Prince William County for low-income students. It is anticipated that this program will cover thousands of students throughout the County.

To learn more about Comcast’s Internet Essentials program available for eligible low-income households, please go here.

 

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