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Non-emergency medical and dental procedures to start back up in Virginia

Everything from teeth cleanings to pet surgeries to certain cancer treatments will be able start back up, with some guidelines, this Friday.

NORFOLK, Va. — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that providers would start to be allowed to perform non-emergency medical and dental procedures on Friday.

The order that blocked non-emergency treatment is set to expire at midnight on Thursday, and Northam said after procuring and learning to clean PPE, the state was ready to move forward.

This means everything from knee replacements to some cancer treatments can start back up again.

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Northam  said the state had come a long way in the last two months, and called attention to the atmosphere where his office enacted Public Health Order 2, which stopped the procedures.

"Our case counts and hospitalization rates were rising. We were worried that our hospitals would be overwhelmed by a surge in cases. Around the country, people were worried that we'd run out of PPE, and that our nurses would have to resort to wearing trash bags," Northam said. "We found that as totally unacceptable."

He said because of everyone's hard work and social distancing efforts, Virginia had successfully slowed the spread of the virus.

"Your healthcare is important, and I encourage you to resume that healthcare. We will, together, do it in a safe manner," he said in a 2:00 p.m. press conference.

He didn't want Virgnians to be afraid of resuming health care - he said hospitals and dental offices were clean, safe places to seek care, even during the pandemic.

Northam said dental problems could affect the rest of a person's health, so it was important to get those up and running again.

Dr. Elizabeth Reynolds, a fellow of the Virginia Dental Association, said dental offices have always been careful about hygiene, but would be taking new steps to minimize the risk of any possible spread of coronavirus. 

These include screening for COVID-19 before appointments, minimizing or eliminating patients in the reception area and adjusting schedules to allow cleaning between appointments.

She said dental offices will initially be prioritizing patients who have been waiting for important procedures through the pandemic.

Dr. Mike McDermott, the president and CEO of Mary Washington Healthcare, encouraged patients in the state to seek out needed non-emergency, scheduled in-patient and out-patient procedures.

"Virginia hospitals have more than 5,000 available beds to meet patient needs and continue the care for those impacted by COVID-19," he said. "It is important for all Virginians to know that if you need care, please do not hesitate to receive care to improve your health outcome."

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Northam said he was thankful to the doctor's offices and hospitals, dentists and veterinarians who worked together to get the state to this point of stability.

He further said that veterinarians were welcome to start performing the full array of services their pet patients needed. 

"Many of them voluntarily stopped doing any surgeries that required PPE so that they could donate that to those on the front lines," he said. "Our two labrador retrievers, Murphy and Virginia Pearl, love their veterinarians and thank them as well."

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