RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Monday announced measures to assist Virginia hospitals by increasing their capacity and supporting health care workers.

A release from Northam’s office states the “limited 30-day order” was issued after COVID-19 hospitalizations reached new records on Friday, Jan. 7. Northam addressed the order in a media briefing streamed by News Channel 11.

According to the release, the order does the following:

  • Expands the number of available hospital beds
  • Increases staffing capacity at hospitals and nursing homes
  • Allows public helath agencies to have more flexibility in their responses to the pandemic

“Health care workers and hospitals are exhausted, and they are again facing increasing numbers of patients, affecting their ability to provide care,” Governor Northam said. “These steps will help ease the strain, giving medical professionals more flexibility to care for people. Ultimately, the best thing everyone can do for our hospitals and their staff is to get vaccinated.”

Northam referred to the Ballad Health system in Southwest Virginia during the briefing when voicing concerns about vaccinations in some areas. He referenced a News Channel 11 article that cited Ballad Health data, which showed 97% of COVID-19 patients relying on ventilators were unvaccinated as of Jan. 5.

According to the release, COVID hospitalizations have risen above 3,500 and intensive care unit admissions have more than doubled since Dec. 1.

“To address this patient increase, Emergency Order Eighty-Four directs the State Health Commissioner to waive normal bed licensing requirements, allows hospitals to increase their licensed bed capacity, and mandates increased coordination between hospitals and local Medical Services Agencies,” the release states.

Emergency Order 84 also includes provisions to increase staff in hospitals and nursing homes. The following provisions are included:

  • Allows providers with an active out-of-state license to practice in the Commonwealth
  • Gives experienced Physician Assistants the authority to practice without a written supervisory agreement
  • Increases the provider-to-patient ratios
  • Provides certain liability protections to health care workers who act in good faith to protect patients

“In addition, Emergency Order Eighty-Four increases flexibility in the transfer of patients to state-operated psychiatric hospitals, which have seen dangerously-high census levels since the pandemic began,” the release states.

The entire emergency order is available to read by CLICKING HERE.