NORFOLK, Va. - Local health leaders believe Gov. Glenn Youngkin's COVID Action Plan is a good one as Virginia navigates the pandemic under a new administration.
Youngkin signed the plan into action last week. It declares a state of emergency and provides flexibility for hospitals to deal with staffing and capacity issues, as well as provides guidelines on vaccination and testing.
"The idea of allowing us to increase our capacity by giving us some flexibility with respect to things like licensed beds that’s helped a lot," said Dr. Mike Dacey, the president & COO of Riverside Health System.
The order speeds up the process by which out-of-state health care providers can begin working in Virginia. Dacey says a few weeks ago almost 500 employees were out with COVID. That number has dropped to about 150, but the order has helped fill in staffing gaps.
"We’re pretty thinly staffed in healthcare overall, so to have that many people out — having out-of-state people be able to come and help provide care has been very, very helpful," Dacey said.
The order continues aspects of an Executive Order former Gov. Ralph Northam signed before leaving office, but adds in additional flexibility for tele-health and other measures.
"What we appreciate Gov. Youngkin for doing is taking decisive action so quickly on this matter right after coming into office," said Julian Walker, the vice president of communications for the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.
On testing, the order directs the State Health Commissioner to develop new guidelines for where rapid tests are used.
Youngkin is discouraging mass testing for the pre-screening. He also discourages asymptomatic people from getting tested and says people with mild symptoms should stay home and use discretion on whether to get tested due to shortages of tests available.
News 3 also spoke with Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Colin Greene about the plan. "The governor is interested in focusing on things we know that work," said Greene.
Dr. Greene said the testing strategy takes into consideration the shortage of tests. "It's a scare resource. The governor's intent is too see that we make the best use of it," he said. "As test supplies increase, we can do more."
Dr. Ryan Light with the Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group believes that this is the best strategy for now.
"Really, we need to identify the people who are at highest risk for serious complications and get them therapeutic treatment, so I would rather hold off tests for those patients to confirm it," he said.
There's also the question of the governor's executive order letting parents opt their kids out of wearing masks at school. Dr. Greene said he supports the order.
Greene didn't want to go into the politics of it, but said it's important to view the debate by also taking a child's mental and spiritual well-being into account.
"All of those things need to be considered, alongside the disease count," said Greene. "The governor's feeling is the one to make that assessment is the parent."