Northam Declares State of Emergency

Photo credit: Patch (McLean)

by DJ Rippert

Danger! Danger! Yesterday, Governor Ralph Northam declared that the Old Dominion was in a state of emergency due to the Coronavirus. Northam exercised these emergency powers five days after the first Coronavirus case was confirmed in the state. The online Patch newspaper from McLean reports that “a statement from the governor says the declaration gives the state flexibility to east [SIC] regulatory requirements and procurement rules, continue federal and multi-state coordination and continue access to critical services.” Northam also announced plans for state employees to work from home.

Northam’s declaration of emergency was considerably slower than in many other states. In Maryland, for example, Republican Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency on the same day that the first cases of Coronavirus were confirmed. Yesterday, Maryland detected the first case of Coronavirus caused by community spread.

School’s out. There are confirmed COVID-19 cases in every state.  Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, DC, Maryland and Ohio have closed all their K-12 schools for at least two to three weeks. There is no statewide closure in Virginia. However, at least one large public school system has acted.  Yesterday, Loudoun County Public Schools closed for the remainder of this week and next week as well. Read Hans Bader’s excellent post on Bacons Rebellion from earlier today for more details.  For a different view, read Kerry Dougherty’s fine article on Bacons Rebellion from earlier today.

Italy.Confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths from the Coronavirus are both growing at over 20% per day in Italy. There are now over 1,000 fatalities. The entire country remains on lockdown as that nation tries to contain the contagion. Further to the east mass graves being dug in Iran are now visible from space.

The great debate. How many people will contract COVID-19? Estimates from experts in western countries vary. Yesterday in Germany Angela Merkel, who holds a doctorate in quantum chemistry, predicted 70% of Germans (or 58M people) would eventually be infected. A leading German epidemiologist put the number at 40,000, citing the apparent success the Chinese have seen in combating the spread of the disease. Also yesterday: Congress’s attending physician told the Senate that he expects between 70 to 150 million people to eventually contract the coronavirus in the United States. Given a fatality rate of 1% that infection rate would result in between 700,000 and 1.5M dead Americans. In a normal year the flu and pneumonia cause about 60,000 deaths in the U.S. However, Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told Congress: “We really need to be careful with those kinds of predictions because that’s based on a model.”

Is Virginia still asleep at the wheel? There can be no doubt that Virginia’s reaction to the Coronavirus outbreak has been slower than many other states. Where other states almost immediately declared a state of emergency once the first case of COVID-19 was found Virginia waited five days. As other states are shutting down schools statewide Virginia is formulating plans for state employees to work from home. While Northam has repeatedly stressed how Virginia is prepared, he has declined to explain why our response is slower than many other states. One can only imagine that the goal is to maintain calm and keep economic activity moving under the assumption that the U.S. will be able to repeat China’s containment success. The problem with that logic is that China’s containment success came from a very aggressive lockdown. If you don’t do the lockdown, how do you get the containment? As Dr. Fauci told Congress yesterday (in reference to contagion models), “all models are as good as the assumptions that you put into the model,” and that with containment and mitigation the upper end of the projection could be avoided.

Big Blue to the rescue? Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Summit supercomputer is being used by COVID-19 researchers in the search for a cure. Considered by some experts to be the world’s fastest supercomputer, Summit is largely built with IBM hardware and software. In a world where Amazon, Google, Facebook and other relative newbies get most of the attention, it’s still the old warhorse from Armonk that answers the life-and-death call. (Note: the author is a former IBM executive and just couldn’t resist.)

Still the Champs. A rare bright spot for Virginia comes out of the Coronavirus contagion. Given that the NCAA has decided to cancel the annual Men’s basketball tournament (aka March Madness), it appears that the University of Virginia will remain national champions for another 12 months. (Note: the author is a graduate of UVa and just couldn’t resist).

Update – Fairfax County closed all its schools and school related activities today ahead of a planned closure next Monday.  Kentucky and Washington state have also closed schools statewide.

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7 responses to “Northam Declares State of Emergency”

  1. johnrandolphofroanoke Avatar

    Ralph and the gang seem to be stumbling and bumbling. Reminds me of that infamous press conference. Hope somebody is banging the pots and pans in the Executive Mansion.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Northam must be surrounded by yo-yo’s. If there was even one person with significant corporate management experience they would be quoting the crisis management playbook.

      1. Get ahead of the crisis.
      2. Overcommunicate.
      3. Tell the truth even if the truth makes some of the things you did look stupid.
      4. Explain the mitigation plan in detail.
      5. Where there is uncertainty – develop and communicate how different scenarios will play out.
      6. Hold regularly scheduled updates.
      7. Wherever possible use facts and figures.

      So far, if you believe them, the only successful effort to combat this disease has come from China. That effort involved a massive lockdown of the affected area.
      The only other option is to simply hope it won’t happen in your geography. That’s it – act or hope. I guess Northam is hoping.

      1. djrippert Avatar

        Silence doesn’t calm panicked people. Leadership calms panicked people. Maryland is getting leadership from its governor. We are not.

  2. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Hogan and Northam’s responses are far better than trump’s. You Republicans like Haner don’t want him mentioned. I will.

  3. Talk about IBM Blues obviously Blue Virginia was focus on the urgent need to transform Virginia into a progressive state…with the first blue GA session is progress and falling behind schedule. But first things first. we gotta have a live state before said urgent transformation.

    Need some BBKing for the blues around here.

    1. Come on guys hum a few bars…

      The thrill is gone
      The thrill is gone away
      The thrill is gone baby
      The thrill is gone away
      You know you done me wrong baby
      And you’ll be sorry someday

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    For a new and broader perspective on virus, I suggest this article in The American Scholar, “COVID-19: A Primer, By Philip Alcabes:

    Perhaps, this new information and perspective allows us to think about the corona problem, its practical risks and its practical solutions in more productive and less disruptive ways.

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