FILE - Ralph Northam Viginia

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

(The Center Square) – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has directed all hospitals to postpone elective surgeries to free up medical beds and personal protective equipment to be used to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

This directive does not apply to patients if delaying the procedure would cause harm. It also does not apply to outpatient visits in hospital-based clinics, family planning services or emergency needs. Licensed inpatient and outpatient surgical hospitals, free-standing endoscopy centers, physicians’ offices and dental, orthodontic and endodontic offices still can perform procedures if a patients’ condition could worsen because of waiting.

“Hospitals and medical facilities in Virginia and around the country are in desperate need of additional masks, gowns, gloves, and other personal protective equipment,” Northam said in a news release

“While we work to increase our supply, it makes sense to decrease the demand on that equipment where we can,” he said. “Postponing elective surgeries allows us to divert more PPE to the medical staff who are dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak so we can better protect the men and men on the front lines of this public health emergency, fighting to keep us all safe.”

The commonwealth received its first personal protective equipment shipment from the national stockpile this week and has made a second request.

The most recent numbers from the Virginia Department of Health show Virginia has 460 confirmed coronavirus cases, 65 hospitalizations and 13 deaths. There are more than 80,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. and at least 1,151 deaths.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus. COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.

Most people who have it develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually the elderly and those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and Tennessee for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.