- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday said while the Eastern region of the state has shown improvement, the uptick in coronavirus cases in the Southwest is cause for concern.

The Southwest region of the state has an average daily new coronavirus case count of 229 and a positivity rate of 8.1%, according to the Democratic governor. While the positivity rate has been decreasing in recent days, it is still the highest rate in Virginia.

“Since Southwest Virginia has fewer people and fewer hospitals with fewer ICU bed capabilities, this continues to be concerning to us,” Mr. Northam told reporters at a press conference. “I know that our local health departments and our local officials are keeping an eye on these stats and looking at ways they can take action in their communities.”

“Ultimately it is our behavior that will get this pandemic behind us,” he said.

He urged residents to keep social distancing, to avoid large gatherings, to wear face coverings at indoor settings and to download the COVIDWISE contact tracing app. Since the app’s launch last month in the state, more than 515,000 people have reportedly downloaded it — or about an estimated 12% of Virginia residents ages 18 to 65.

As of Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 135,514 coronavirus infections, up 943 new cases from the previous day, and 2,839 deaths including 96 new deaths from Monday.

The governor has also asked the State Corporation Commission to extend a moratorium on utility disconnection, which expires Wednesday, to Oct. 5 so that the General Assembly has time to finalize the budget and address the issue.

Starting on Friday, the Virginia Department of Elections will start sending out absentee ballots. Mr. Northam said the department so far has received 790,000 requests for absentee ballots by mail. In 2016, only 566,000 votes were cast absentee and only half of those by mail.

The governor reminded the public that anyone can vote absentee and do not have to provide a reason as they had to in the past. All Virginia absentee ballots come with prepaid postage.

Virginia residents can vote early in person starting on Friday until Oct. 31 or can vote on Nov. 3 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Unlike other states, Virginia is allowed to pre-process ballots before election day.

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