Opinion — Taking decisive action

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Governor Glenn Youngkin took decisive action Thursday in the fight against COVID-19. He is applying an equal mix of science and common sense to fighting COVID-19. The Governor has always been clear that he will never mandate the vaccine, but will continue to strongly encourage Virginians to get it.

He’s launching a new plan to arrange more resources in the effort to educate Virginians about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. The plan includes directing the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to re-prioritize resources toward vaccine education and outreach, including expanded efforts in disproportionately unvaccinated communities and plans to host 120 COVID-19 vaccine events across the Commonwealth.

The Governor is also taking decisive action to support hospitals and health care providers battling a staffing crisis, overwhelmed not by the severity of the omicron variant but by its preponderance and a burned-out health care workforce.

The Governor issued Executive Order #11 to expand flexibility for health care providers. The executive order issued includes more providers and expanded options for telehealth than the order issued by the previous administration. The plan will allow hospitals and nursing homes to rapidly expand bed capacity by temporarily waiving regulations. It will ensure appropriate reimbursement for innovative treatment solutions for individuals, including telemedicine, including safe at home programs that allow individuals with mild symptoms to receive care remotely and expands flexibility, overtime hours, and availability for personal care workers.

Lastly, the Governor is issuing clear testing guidelines to mitigate supply-chain shortages for COVID-19 tests. The Governor will discourage mass testing for the purposes of pre-screening, discourage asymptomatic individuals from testing, and urge healthy individuals with mild symptoms to stay home and use discretion on testing. Rapid tests usage will be prioritized for essential health care professionals and other essential workers who need to be tested to return to work, students potentially exposed to COVID-19 who need to test to remain in school, vulnerable citizens including those in nursing facilities and over the age of 65 and those with serious medical conditions and their caregivers.

These are appropriate actions to combat the rising cases because of the omicron surge and the ongoing hospital staffing crisis.

Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order does not include two directives present in Governor Northam’s.

Prior to the transfer and transport of a patient subject to a temporary detention order to a state-operated psychiatric hospital, the facility where the patient is located, and the transporting law enforcement agency or alternative transportation provider are strongly encouraged to contact the state-operated psychiatric hospital of temporary detention to ensure that a bed is available for the patient. If the state-operated psychiatric hospital system is at or over total bed capacity, the facility where the patient is located, and the transporting law enforcement agency or alternative transportation provider are encouraged to work with the state-operated psychiatric hospital to delay transportation of the patient until the state-operated psychiatric hospital can provide a bed.

Prior to releasing a patient under a temporary detention order for transport to a state operated psychiatric hospital, providers participating in the State Medicaid Plan must comply with the applicable Criteria for Medical Assessment Prior to Admission to a Psychiatric Hospital, Inpatient Psychiatric or Crisis Stabilization Unit found at http://www.dbhds.virginia.gov/assets/doc/about/masg/adults-medical-and-screening-guidelines11-5-2018.pdf and http://www.dbhds.virginia.gov/assets/doc/about/masg/peds-medicalassessment-and-screening-guidelines-11-5-2018.pdf. Such providers shall screen patients under emergency custody or temporary detention for COVID-19 in accordance with guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health. In addition, with consent of the patient subject to emergency custody or temporary detention, such providers should administer a COVID-19 active infection test prior to the transfer of the patient to a state-operated psychiatric hospital. If no other payment source is available, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services will reimburse the provider for the cost of the test.

These two provisions represent the standard procedure for transporting patients from a hospital or other facility to a state-operated psychiatric hospital.  Perhaps they were included for emphasis, but the lack of inclusion in the current EO does not remove these requirements.

The Federal Government announced Tuesday that they would make 4 rapid at-home COVID tests available to each verified address in the nation. You can order tests at https://special.usps.com/testkits.  The tests are free and will be delivered in late January.

As the Governor’s Executive Order takes effect, many schools across the commonwealth are giving parents and their children the option to wear a mask this week. First, I support Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order 2. There are ongoing legal challenges, and we urge every Virginian to love your neighbor, to listen to your school principal, and to trust the legal process.

The Code of Virginia is clear on the role of parents: “A parent has a fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of the parent’s child.” That statement writes into our code what Virginia law, English common law, and indeed most of western civilization has held for centuries – when it comes to children, parents are in charge. The relationship between a parent and child is a constitutionally protected liberty interest under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

If a parent wants their child to wear masks, they should be able to do so. If a parent does not want their child to wear a mask, then they should be able to decline. Parents, you are in charge. Your children do not belong to the state, they are not the property of your community. Parents, you have the support of your Governor, your Lt. Governor, your Attorney General, and the majority party in the House of Delegates.

Two key voting measures are moving forward this week in the Privileges and Elections Committee: the restoration of photo ID for voting, and the repeal of the deeply flawed same day voter registration bill.

Photo ID is wildly popular, with some 80% of all Americans supporting it. Virginia saw record turnout after the implementation of photo ID. Media reports found that in Virginia’s largest jurisdictions, fewer than 1,000 people even attempted to vote without ID. Virginians are already accustomed to showing ID, and willingly do so at elections.

Restoring photo ID will help restore faith in our electoral system. Doubts, whatever the source, founded or unfounded, are corrosive to our democracy. The cost is minimal, and the reward is great. There’s no valid reason not to reinstate photo ID.

Same day registration in and of itself is not a bad thing. Twenty one states and DC have some form of election day or early voting registration. But one thing that ties them all together is comprehensive security that ensures same day registration is just as secure as registration beforehand.

Our code section has none of this. It says you can register at the polling place or register at the registrar’s office and then vote. There’s no ID requirement, there’s no provision for checking to see if this person has registered on the same day elsewhere. There’s no requirement to see if they’ve voted early in another state. It just says you can sign up and vote. Again, there’s nothing wrong with same day registration, if it is done right. But our code has none of the safeguards used in every other same day registration state.

My Pre-Session Survey is still available for constituents. You can complete the survey online at vahouse.checkbox.com/fariss2022-legislative-survey. If you would like a copy mailed to you, please contact my District office at (434)821-5929 and my staff will assist. Please take 10 minutes to fill out this survey and forward to friends and family, as this helps me know what my constituents’ concerns are going into this years’ session.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.