WASHINGTON — Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax in a letter is calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to do more to mitigate the potential spread of coronavirus in the commonwealth with "much bolder and swifter measures."
Along with several other measures, Fairfax proposes following Maryland and D.C.'s mandates in closing all bars, restaurants, gyms and theaters in Virginia.
"I have personally heard from many Virginians, including small business owners, employees, healthcare workers, families and community leader across the Commonwealth pleading that we implement much bolder and swifter measures to flatten the curve and combat this unprecedented health and, consequently, economic threat, Fairfax said in a letter sent to the Northam's office.
The Lieutenant Governor also presides over the Virginia Senate, and is calling for a special session before the end of April to pass economic measures not available through executive action. Fairfax proposes allowing voting on bills to happen over the course of an hour, rather than the typical minutes, to allow lawmakers to file into legislative chambers one at a time to avoid large gatherings.
Fairfax is suggesting the following items:
- Mandate a ban on all public mass gatherings through April 15
- Mandate the closures of all bars, restaurants, gyms and theaters through April 15 -- continuing to allow takeout, delivery and to-go sales of alcohol.
- Close all K-12 schools, universities and community colleges through the end of the current academic term, while providing online options. Also, waiving/suspending all standardize testing and allowing students in good-standing to graduate to the next grade.
- Create a large state-level small business fund and grant program.
- Refund or waive the 2020 Business, Professional and Occupational License tax to all small businesses in the commonwealth.
- Suspend all state and local tax payments for 120 days
- Increase maximum weekly unemployment benefits for displaced workers from $378 to $800 weekly for at least the next 120 days.
- Negotiate with lenders and landlords to suspend all rent payments, mortgages, student loan and burdensome consumer loans for the next 120 days. Also, freeze all derogatory credit remarks for consumers and small businesses for unpaid bills for the next 120 days.
- Create a relief fund for impacted faith-based and other community and nonprofit institutions.
- Call a Special Session of the General Assembly as necessary before April 22 Veto Session to implement these and other emergency measures to address COVID-19 health crisis.
Here's Fairfax's full letter:
When WUSA9 asked Fairfax if Northam was doing enough, Fairfax responded, "I think he’s doing a great job. I think as I’ve said, I think he’s provided, steady, really good leadership. I just think as this is progressed, we see the threats that we’re facing, both again in the health care front and the economic front are really striking and unprecedented, and I think we have to take unprecedented action."
At Friday morning's news conference, Northam’s workforce advisor did announce one change putting cash in some Virginians’ pockets immediately:
"The Governor has waived the waiting week and the work search requirements," Megan Healy said. "So if somebody applies for unemployment insurance after they’ve filled out that process and they have direct deposit, hopefully they can start getting money within the next week."
As for containing the Coronavirus, Gov. Northam’s health commissioner announced more masks are being delivered to Virginia hospitals within days.
"The Virginia Department of Health, just yesterday, received close to 200,000 N95 respirators," Norm Oliver said.
Check the status of the virus in your state with your state health department's websites by tapping below: