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Northam extends ban on elective surgeries to May 1

Virginia’s ban on elective surgeries was extended one week, until May 1, and closure of the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles’ public-facing offices for two weeks, until May 11, following orders announced on April 23 by Gov. Ralph Northam.

The governor also directed Virginia State Police to continue suspending enforcement of motor vehicle inspections and take several additional measures through July 31.

The ban on elective surgeries was originally scheduled to remain in effect until April 24. While the ban continues, Northam and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA continue to evaluate, in conjunction with hospitals and other medical facilities, how to safely ease restrictions on non-essential medical procedures, and the availability of personal protective equipment, a release from the governor’s office stated.

 “My top priority is protecting public health, and that includes ensuring that our frontline medical staff have the equipment they need to stay safe as they treat Virginians who are sick,” said Northam. “We have increased our supply of PPE, but before we allow elective surgeries to resume, we must first be assured that the doctors, nurses and medical staff who are fighting this virus or conducting emergency surgeries have the necessary supplies. We are working with medical facilities on plans to ensure that we can resume elective surgeries safely and responsibly.”

The public health emergency order does not apply to any procedure if the delay would cause harm to a patient. The order also does not apply to outpatient visits in hospital-based clinics, family planning services or emergency needs.

Hospitals continue to treat emergency patients and perform essential surgeries, and Virginians should feel safe going to hospitals if they are experiencing a medical emergency, such as a heart attack, the release stated. Northam also amended Executive Order 57 to allow licensed physician’s assistants with two or more years of clinical experience to practice without a collaborative agreement.

The governor also extended Executive Directive Seven, which closed Virginia’s 75 DMV offices and its mobile units to the public and extended the validity of driver’s licenses and vehicle credentials that were due to expire. Northam’s April 23 action decrees that those credentials will be valid through July 31. Virginians who need to renew a license or vehicle registration are encouraged to do so online.

He also expanded Executive Directive Eight, directing the Virginia State Police to suspend enforcement of the time period in which new Virginia residents must get a driver’s license or register their vehicles, the expiration of temporary license plates, and the time period in which temporary residents may operate vehicles with out-of-state plates. This directive continues the suspension of enforcement of motor vehicle inspections by Virginia State Police.

While local law enforcement may still issue citations for expired vehicle inspections, Northam encourages them to refrain from doing so during this pandemic.