(NewsNation Now) — Virginia leadership changes from blue to red on Jan. 15 as Democratic governor Ralph Northam hands over control of the state to Republican Glenn Youngkin.
Northam delivered his final Commonwealth address on Wednesday, highlighting the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia, the state’s economic growth and his work to combat the spread of COVID-19. He reflected on his time in office on “Morning in America.”
“I’m proud of the record we’ve had over the last four years. We’re more open, more inclusive, we embrace diversity, that’s so important for our business environment. To be the number one state in the country three years running is something we can all be proud of,” Northam said. “When we turn over the keys on Saturday, Virginia is in great shape. I think the governor-elect will have an opportunity to build on our progress and also responsibility because a lot of what we’ve been able to accomplish is a result of listening to Virginians.”
Northam said he’s advised Youngkin on potential challenges the Commonwealth may face.
“He’s a great listener and I think he wants to learn about how state government works. A couple of challenges, number one is this pandemic. There is still a lot of virus out there. We encourage people to get vaccinated,” Northam said. He adds that more than 90% of the state’s adult population received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. He says rural Virginia is the slowest to receive shots.
“We also need to work to keep our children in school safely and responsibly … I think the most important thing for our economy is our workforce. We have a very talented workforce and we need to continue to keep that pipeline open,” Northam said.
Northam says state leaders should follow the “best interests of the people.”
Also in his final hours, Northam drafted a new state of emergency order for Gov.-elect Youngkin to declare ahead of a possible winter storm this weekend. On Monday, he issued a limited emergency order to help hospitals in the state address surging COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
The order allows hospitals to increase their licensed bed capacity; allows providers with an active out-of-state license to practice in Virginia; authorizes experienced physician assistants to practice without a written supervisory agreement; increases provider-to-patient ratios, and provides certain liability protections to health care workers acting in good faith.
A spokesman for the Youngkin transition, Devin O’Malley, said the governor-elect “supports the use of tailored executive action that removes staffing barriers and provides healthcare providers the flexibility in order to deliver high-quality care and give overworked medical professionals the relief they need.”
As for his next steps, Northam says he’s returning to medical practice.
“I’m a pediatric neurologist and I’ve practiced for over 30 years,” he said. Northam said starting Monday he’ll be in his office and seeing patients.