Virginia Governor Ralph Northam Issues Emergency Order to Ease COVID Strain on Hospitals

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a limited emergency order Monday to help health care facilities and hospitals address rising COVID-19 hospitalizations due to the contagious Omicron variant.

"Health care workers and hospitals are exhausted, and they are again facing increasing numbers of patients, affecting their ability to provide care," Northam said in a statement.

According to the governor's office, the order is limited to 30 days. The emergency policies being put in place include allowing hospitals to increase their bed capacity, allowing out-of-state practitioners with an active license and good standing to practice in the state and allowing experienced physician assistants to see patients without a written supervisory agreement.

The state of emergency also waives specific regulations and eases policies when transferring to state-operated psychiatric hospitals.

"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 said in the statement.

The new emergency actions come after Virginia's hospitalizations broke a pandemic record on Friday and another on Monday. According to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, more than 3,500 COVID-19-positive patients are hospitalized statewide.

Intensive care patients have doubled since December 1, according to Northam's office.

The Virginia Department of Health vaccine dashboard indicates that more than 13 million vaccine doses have been administered and that 68.1 percent of the state's population is vaccinated.

Virginia State of Emergency COVID
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a state of emergency on Monday to deal with rising COVID-19 cases. Above, Northam speaks to members of the media after greeting voters outside an early voting location at Fairfax County Government Center on October 19, 2020, in Fairfax, Virginia. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Northam, a Democrat, is set to leave office on Saturday, when Republican Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin will be sworn in. Youngkin's position on the emergency order was not immediately clear.

Northam's office said the limited duration of the order was based on modeling that suggests infections will peak in the next few weeks.

In the news release, Northam noted that the overwhelming majority of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. He urged everyone eligible to get an initial shot or booster, as appropriate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.