Happenings from the Homefront 5/29/20

May 29, 2020
Hello Friends,

We are certainly living in unique times. I know there are different schools of thought out there surrounding the executive orders and mandates coming out of the Governor’s office. As a healthcare provider, I want Virginians to stay safe and healthy and be mindful of the health of those around you. I’d encourage you to wear a mask if you are at risk or worried but I do not think masks should be made mandatory. I know that all Virginians want to do the right thing and that we will given the chance. I worry constantly about my vulnerable older adult patients, but I trust them to do the right thing by staying home and wearing masks when they go out. I want our businesses to succeed and our economy to rebound. I want people to go back to work, to keep their jobs, and to be able to take care of their families without relaying on the government for handouts.

Let’s talk about fear and the media briefly. I watch and read a variety of news on a daily basis to understand what my patients and constituents are seeing and hearing. The media is doing a fabulous job of inciting fear in all of us. Yes, there is a reason to be mindful of our health and the health of others. But being afraid to do things we can do safely is not healthy. Our country was not made great by a people who were fearful and stayed home. It was made strong and resilient by people who worked smartly, took chances, and made good decisions. We are still that country and still those people. Don’t let a fear take away the quality of life and freedoms that we enjoy as Americans.

I will close by asking those of you with a friend or relative in a long-term care, assisted living, or nursing facility to please check on and call your friend or family member and do it often. We have further isolated a group of people who were already limited in their ability to interact and communicate with the people they have relationships with and love. Call someone you know and call them more than once. A phone call would mean the world to them until they can have visits in person. I will continue to advocate for a phased, safe re-opening of our nursing homes and a path to improving lives for our older Americans who live in these communities.

Thank you for staying in touch with my office through our social media and email. I appreciate your thoughts and comments. I am here to help and represent you to the best of my ability.

Stay well & take care-

Call with the Governor

We asked for and were able to have a one-on-one call with the Governor last week to discuss a few things important to me and my constituents. It was a pleasant half hour discussion about many of the issues we have all been following and are all concerned about. I continued to advocate for safely opening Virginia Beach and our businesses here & assured him that our residents were ready & able to take the precautions necessary to make that happen.

As two healthcare providers, we spent the majority of our conversation discussing how the COVID crisis has affected our long-term care facilities and home healthcare (PPE, staffing), the need for budget changes going forward to enact improvements in our long-term care communities, and the possibility of a phased reopening of our long-term care facilities to allow loved ones to be reunited with their family members.

I spoke for the Moms (& Dads) of Virginia applauding the Governor’s education task force to begin the process of reopening our schools in the fall and asked that he include school counselors & pediatric mental health specialists in the discussion.I ended by thanking the Virginia Employment Commission for their help with our constituent unemployment concerns & asked for additional support.

The COVID-19 Beach Regulations include: Keep six feet apart unless family
No groups of more than 10 people
No speakers
No large coolers
No alcohol
No tents OR groups of umbrellas
No group sports (volleyball, football, Frisbee, etc.) 

In addition, no entertainment or programming that generate mass gatherings will be permitted. Public parking garages and surface lots will be limited to 50% capacity. All beach play sets will remain closed. Existing City ordinances already apply to some of these activities in the resort area. Governor Northam stated that he would not hesitate to reinstate additional restrictions or close beaches if people do not follow the rules. For more information about local ordinances, visit: https://library.municode.com/va/virginia_beach/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=CO_CH6BEBOWA_ARTIINGE

DMV Continues to open offices across the Commonwealth & extends expiration dates
The validity of driver’s licenses and identification cards expiring on or before July 31, 2020 is now extended 90 days, not to exceed August 31, 2020. A customer whose credential expires between March 15 and May 31 has 90 days beyond the expiration date to renew. Credentials expiring from June 1 to July 31 must be renewed no later than August 31, 2020. Vehicle registrations that expire in March, April, and May are also extended for 90 days, while those expiring in June are extended for 60 days, and those expiring in July are extended for 30 days. We are alerting customers of the extensions through our website, a news release issued to statewide news media, and social media.

In addition to credential extensions, we continue to reopen customer service centers (CSC) across the state for appointment-only service for specific services. Today, the Richmond Central CSC and the Onancock CSC will reopen. On June 1, the Arlington, Franconia, Leesburg, Prince William/Manassas, and Tysons Corner CSCs will reopen. To make an appointment at any open DMV locations visit www.dmvNOW.com/appt.

The amended Executive Directive Seven also allows Class B Virginia Driver Training Schools to reinstate behind-the wheel training on the date the locality in which the school is located enters Phase One as outlined in Executive Order 61 and Amended Order of Public Health Emergency Four. Those who wish to take behind-the-wheel training must contact a licensed Class B Virginia Driver Training School directly.

4th of July Flag Event – VOLUNTEERS NEEDED
Click the button below to email our office to help us deliver 100% American-made U.S. Flags across Virginia Beach this Fourth of July! My office is happy to join with Senator DeSteph and his staff to celebrate America’s birthday throughout our community. We are working to ensure that even with the current restrictions, we can help spread a little American joy!!

Click Here

Senator Kiggans Social Media Post on Mandatory Mask Order
After the debacle at our beach this past Saturday with the Governor not wearing his mask in a crowd, I am shocked he announced at his press conference Tuesday that face masks inside ALL buildings are now mandatory in Virginia (effective Friday, May 29th). As a public figure, he should know at all times that he is certainly being watched & not forget his mask nor get close to people without one.

His vague statement about mandatory masks not being enforced by law enforcement officers but by the Health Department makes me wonder what he has up his sleeve next. I know for a fact that the state legislators (as one of his “checks & balances”) are not being involved in the decision making processes. It will be the responsibility of the General Assembly when we meet again to attempt to put checks in place to ensure we are directly involved with decisions which impact our constituents and limit the direct power given to one individual at the Executive level.

As a healthcare provider who sees at-risk geriatric patients, I, too, look at the science and watch the numbers of who this disease affects & encourage those at risk to wear masks and limit their outings. I worry everyday about our nursing homes and how much work we have to do to protect this vulnerable group so they can be eventually reunited with their families. I also watch the numbers for how much money our large and small businesses have lost & how the unintentional consequences are affecting other facets of life. (Professionally, I see an average of four or five patients a day who are struggling with depression concerns or who have gained ten or more pounds.)

The Navy taught me the importance of leadership by example, and our Governor clearly has not done that. Masks should be encouraged for all but making them mandatory inside ALL establishments is going too far. Now is the time to be encouraging people to get Back to Business, not giving them another reason to not leave their homes.

COVID-19 Updates

Cases in Virginia:The Virginia Department of Health website continues to update the status of cases in Virginia. As of 9 a.m. today May 29th, 40,447 positive cases have been reported here in Virginia with 2,056 probable cases. Additionally, we currently have 680 cases in Virginia Beach and 470 cases in Norfolk.

Phased Reopening Plans
Phase 1 includes:
Safer at Home (especially if you are vulnerable)
No social gatherings of more than 10 people
Continued social distancing
Continued teleworking
Face coverings recommended in public
Easing limits on businesses and faith communities
You can find the Governor’s full slideshow presentation here.

Phase 1 Business and Religious Services Guidelines
Governor Northam rolled out an overview of guidelines applicable to businesses and religious services when Virginia enters Phase 1 of the Virginia Forward Blueprint. For more information and detailed guidelines please visit virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia.

The full text of E.O. 61 and Order of Public Health Emergency Three can be found here.

Virginia Beach: New Program to Provide Emergency Grants to Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 Pandemic:
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (May 6, 2020) — Virginia Beach is adding to the list of loan and grant programs available to small businesses by creating a new Economic Development Investment Program (EDIP) offering that provides emergency assistance.

On April 28, 2020, the City Council provided $1.5 million in funding and approved an ordinance to temporarily allow the Virginia Beach Development Authority to make emergency assistance grants to small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The EDIP part E fund is designed to help businesses with rent, utility or other business expenses up to $10,000. Qualifications, criteria, application, and associated documents can be found at www.yesvirginiabeach.com

Data from the Virginia Employment Commission and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership indicate that, since April 1, 2020, more than 20,000 new unemployment filings were received from Virginia Beach residents and that the majority of those job losses have been from small businesses. Additionally, respondents to a survey the City of Virginia Beach recently completed that asked businesses about needs indicated that funds to pay rent, utilities and related expenses were their top concern. “The pandemic has exacted high tolls from nearly everyone in one way or another.

Our economic recovery depends on the ability of our hardest hit small businesses to survive long enough to begin reopening and attracting customers back,” said Mayor Robert M. “Bobby” Dyer. “The City Council heard very clearly from constituents that emergency assistance is needed to fill critical funding gaps small businesses are experiencing. This will be money well spent.” EDIP is administered by the Virginia Beach Development Authority, which is appointed by the City Council to promote investment, reinvestment and workforce development.

Face Coverings in Virginia
Governor Northam signed Executive Order 63, requiring Virginians to wear face coverings in public indoor settings to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.  Face coverings do not take the place of public health guidelines to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitation, and wash hands regularly.

See here for a press release on this announcement. See here for the full text of E.O. 63.

Workplace Safety Regulations
Governor Northam announced that he is directing the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) to develop emergency temporary standards to prevent workplace exposure to COVID-19. 
These occupational safety standards will require the approval by vote of the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board and must address personal protective equipment, sanitation, record-keeping of incidents, and hazard communication. Upon approval, the Department of Labor and Industry will be able to enforce the standards through civil penalties and business closures.

Housing Resources
Please click here for a comprehensive overview of housing resources available to homeowners, renters, and landlords.

Mental Health Month
May is mental health awareness month. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI Coastal Virginia) is one of our local resources here to provide help. Especially now, check in on those you worry about & be mindful of your own mental health. The NAMI helpline number is: 1-800-950-6264 (M-F, 10am-5pm). The National Suicide Prevention Helpline (available 24/7) is: 1-800-273-8255.NAMI Coastal Virginia also provides the following support:—-Online Support Groups: https://www.namicoastalvirginia.org/online-support-groups
Hampton Roads COVID-19 Resources: https://www.namicoastalvirginia.org/covid-19-resources

Action Alliance Statewide Hotline
Many Virginians are unaware that sexual and domestic violence programs are still open – providing crisis services, emergency shelter, and resource-based support – or that they can still go to the hospital for care after trauma/assault. The Virginia Statewide Hotline is still here (24 hours a day, 365 days a year) and ready to help, and so are sexual and domestic violence programs all over the state. Call: 1.800.838.8238 or Text: 804.793.9999.

Behavioral Health Resources for COVID 19Community Services Boards (CSBs) across Virginia have transitioned some in-person strategies to work remotely. Many Virginians may be in need of additional mental health or behavioral health support and services. Linked here is a document that is updated periodically with activities and resources from local CSBs.

Hiring Contact TracersThe Virginia Department of Health will be hiring 1,300 individuals to conduct and oversee the contact tracing process. Interested applicants will find a listing of the number of open positions in the orange box on the left hand side of the page, and a link to the staffing agencies who will conduct the hiring process. You can find a link to that information here.

Frequently Asked Questions from Workers:Given the substantial economic impact that COVID-19 has had on Virginia’s workforce, the Northam Administration has released a comprehensive FAQ document to address questions that workers may have. That document can be found here.Also available in Spanish: haga clic aquí

Additional Information:For a comprehensive list of actions Governor Northam has announced to combat COVID-19 in Virginia, visit virginia.gov/coronavirus.

The COVID19JIC@vdem.virginia.gov email is now operational. The email address account will be monitored by our Joint Information Center (JIC) staff and relayed to the appropriate subject matter expert. If you have questions, please reach out using the above email.

There are so many resources to help out there. If you are overwhelmed or need help finding specific answers to questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to my office. The email is: district07@senate.virginia.gov and our phone number is: 757-990-3080. As always, it continues to be an honor to serve and represent you all as the State Senator from the 7th district. Stay safe and well out there! We can get through this together!

For information about best practices from the CDC, Click Here
For updated information from the Virginia Department of Health, Click Here
For updates from the City of Virginia Beach, Click Here
Like our daily routines, how we conduct politics has changed as well. We have taken a break from political fundraising for many months but are starting to begin to ask for support again in the form of small donations as we go forward. Please consider a small donation if possible to help me defend the values that we hold dear as Virginians.
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