Facebook Live 6/17- Answers

I wanted to do an update on a couple of things. We’re going to be putting an opinion piece up on Facebook that coalescences and references a lot of the data that is out there about the risk of COVID, and how that applies to what we should be doing about opening the economy. The conclusion of that opinion piece is that it is time to open the economy. We’ll get that up for you, it’s an editorial from the Wall Street Journal. I think it makes a lot of sense based on what we know about COVID. It’s time to get back to work, and it’s reasonable to do so.

I want to go over COVID. Looking at Virginia in the last few weeks, we’ve seen that our percent continues to decrease, it’s at the 7% range. Any number under 10% is considered a success. We are looking at decreasing numbers of deaths, and that is fantastic. Generally, we’re seeing less hospital utilization than we thought, and there is more than sufficient hospital capacity to handle COVID-19.

We heard this week in the press conference from the Governor that we’re not ready for phase 3. This is extremely unhelpful. I keep asking the Governor’s office for some constructive information so we can anticipate opening. I’m looking specifically for a date that we will enter phase 3 if all else goes well, with an understanding that it is not a guarantee, and that there may be confounding variables that could prevent us from getting there. Based on the evidence we have now, we are well on our way to phase 3, if we stick to the same 3-week window, we’d be looking at phase 3 next week. This is very hard on businesses to prepare and hire more staff if they don’t know in advance.

One of the most consistent frustrations throughout this is once we got past the stay at home and sheltering initiatives, the way to move forward has been very obscure. This takes me to a conversation about schools.

I want to review some COVID data that is Virginia specific. From all the cases we’ve had of someone having a positive test, there have been 3,338 people aged 10-19 who have tested positive. Out of all the people who have tested positive in Virginia, there is a very low number of children who have tested positive. Of those nearly 3,400, 53 have been hospitalized. Some of those have been at my hospital, they weren’t extremely sick, it was more of a precaution. There have been no deaths in the 0-19 age group. Kids do not seem to have any significant issues responding to COVID-19, like any other childhood virus.

We have the instance of Kawasaki disease, which is an inflammatory response to a virus. There are many viruses that can elicit this response in kids. We don’t know the extent of this, but we’re trying to get information on this. From the information I’ve seen, there are fewer kids that have had that response than have had the flu or other things. There are risks, but the question is whether the state needs to protect us from that risk. I believe it does not.

This brings us to schools. I am focusing on schools with the idea of wanting constructive guidelines from the state about how we go forward. We’re going to lump together K-12 education and higher ed, but we’re still waiting on some additional information. We have a constitutional obligation to deliver high quality K-12 education in Virginia for free. We have to do that, it’s part of the Virginia Constitution, it’s part of our contract with the federal government for the services we provide. That means kids have to have access to it, and we have to measure the outcome. We have to make sure we’re succeeding in educating children, and it has to be high quality. What we have from the state is the idea that schools can move forward with opening back up, but they have to submit a proposal for how they’re going to do that. They want every single school to do that. We have 2,182 public K-12 schools, with 1,113 private K-12 schools. That’s 3,200 schools. Every school is going to have to submit its own plan, and somehow those plans are going to be reviewed by the state. Those plans are due by July 6th. We’re going to have someone at the state reviewing those processes.