NORFOLK, Va. - Entering his final week in office, Gov. Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency during a press conference to provide an update on Virginia's COVID-19 response Monday.
The state of emergency is to help ease hospitals and staffing as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. It relaxes some regulations, allowing them to address concerns over the number of beds they have and staffing shortages.
"I watch the numbers every day. I'm in close contact with our health systems and they need our help," he said.
Northam has held these briefings during the course of the pandemic, but has not held one recently.
His briefing comes as Virginia continues to see a surge of COVID cases, which follows national trends.
The latest prediction modeling from the University of Virginia estimates the Omicron variant now makes up 94% of new cases in Virginia, overtaking the Delta variant.
Models predict cases will continue to rise for several weeks before a decline.
"The actions we are taking today will help hospitals and their staffs get through this current surge in COVID cases," he said.
Northam will leave office on Saturday, when Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin will be sworn-in. Youngkin has vowed to take a different strategy to combating the pandemic, saying he will rescind mask and vaccine mandates.
Youngkin's transition aide, Devin O'Malley, provided News 3 with the following statement after the announcement:
“Governor-elect Youngkin and his transition team have been in frequent contact with hospital systems and medical professionals throughout the transition, and it is clear that our hospital systems continue to experience an historic staffing crisis as the COVID-19 pandemic creates new challenges for them. Governor-elect Youngkin supports the use of tailored executive action that removes staffing barriers and provides healthcare providers the flexibility in order to deliver high-quality care and give overworked medical professionals the relief they need.”