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Northam moves to expand hospital capacity amid omicron-fueled COVID-19 surge in Virginia

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Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday issued an emergency order giving Virginia's health care system more flexibility to serve more patients amid a surge in COVID-19 cases that has strained the state's hospitals. 

More than 3,500 people are now hospitalized with COVID-19, breaking the state's record set last January. Nearly 600 people are being treated in intensive care units, about the same number as the peaks the state law last winter and summer. 

During a news conference, his first on COVID-19 since the recent surge started, Northam sought to dispel panic. Northam argued that although cases are rising, many people are vaccinated, blunting the likelihood of severe cases. 

Northam's order - likely his last formal order on COVID-19 - allows the state to waive licensing requirements for hospital beds, giving hospitals flexibility to increase their capacity. It also mandates extra coordination between hospitals and local health agencies. 

Northam is also trying to address the state's shortage of health care workers. It will allow workers with out-of-state licenses to practice in Virginia; increases the ratio of workers to patients; and gives health care workers extra liability protections.

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