May 12, 2020
Leadership During Crisis: A Conversation with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) joined Washington Post national political reporter Robert Costa on Tuesday, May 12 at 11 a.m. ET for back-to-back interviews on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in their states.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has issued an executive order that will allow Northern Virginia to begin its phased reopening May 28, two weeks after the rest of the state. ‘While they’re trending in the right direction, their percent positivity is down over the last few days, they don’t feel that they’re ready to go into Phase 1...It’s all about safety and the well being of Virginians.’
  • May 12
When asked when Virginia’s beaches could reopen for more than just exercise, Gov. Northam said he will look at how to reopen the beaches as soon as the state has a comprehensive plan in place for educating the public and enforcing guidelines. ‘We want people to be able to get back onto the beaches, but we need to do it safely...We’re living in a new day. The times of going out to the beach and being in large gatherings, we just can’t do that anymore.’
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While he commends the work of some members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said governors have been fighting a ‘biological war without supplies.’ ‘The governors have stepped up. We’ve become leaders, and we’re in charge of this pandemic. We’ve come into it, and we’re going to get our states out of it.’
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Responding to critics who say he’s crippling Virginia’s economy by reopening too slowly, Gov. Ralph Northam said he’s sticking with data and CDC guidelines to make decisions about the state’s phased reopening. He added that President Trump has been giving the country mixed messages and encouraging protests against stay-at-home orders. ‘It’s a mixed message to say back in February that this virus was going to disappear like a miracle. Well, guess what? It didn’t disappear."
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When asked what’s one thing his state needs from the federal government, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said they need a ‘consistent supply chain.’ ‘Consistent supply chain because as you go into the fall, we’ve got to have that testing capability. We’ve got to have that consistent supply chain support in order to avoid a resurgence.’
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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says schools and universities in the state plan to open in the fall, and he hopes to be able to make a decision about team sports later this month.
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Arkansas currently has 803 active covid-19 cases; 278 are in correctional facilities. When asked whether he sees more prisoners being released in the coming days and weeks to help slow the spread, Gov. Hutchinson said the state has put other measures in place, including testing and making sure facilities have room for isolation. “These are not inmates where you can say, ‘Well, you ought to go home.’’
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None of Arkansas’ 60 meat processing plants have closed during the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Hutchinson credited the safety measures those plants have put into place for workers. “It’s attributed to the companies that understand what’s at stake, for their own businesses but also for the nation’s supply chain.” He added the pandemic has slowed international meat exports, notably to China, but he believes business will resume quickly. “The supply chain is going to even out…[Farmers] are used to challenges and they are working their way through it.”
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Full Interviews
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) joined Washington Post national political reporter Robert Costa to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Virginia and its phased reopening.
  • May 12
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) joined Washington Post national political reporter Robert Costa to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in his states.
  • May 12
Gov. Ralph Northam
Before he was inaugurated as the 73rd Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ralph Northam served as an Army doctor, pediatric neurologist, business owner, state Senator and Lieutenant Governor. A native of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Governor Northam was educated at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), where he graduated with distinction. He attended Eastern Virginia Medical School and then traveled to San Antonio for a pediatric residency, where he met his wife Pamela, a pediatric occupational therapist at the same hospital. Governor Northam did his residencies at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and served as chief neurological resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital. As an Army doctor, he served in Germany, treating soldiers wounded in Operation Desert Storm. Governor Northam approaches public service with the same passion he brought to his military and medical service. He is committed to working with leaders from both parties to build a Virginia that works better for every family, no matter who they are or where they live. Governor Northam and First Lady Pamela Northam have two adult children.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Asa Hutchinson is the 46th governor of the State of Arkansas. In 2018, he was re-elected with 65% of the vote, having received more votes than any other candidate for governor in the state's history. He has won recognition for the state as a leader in computer science education, cut taxes by $150 million, and signed a law that exempts the retirement pay of veterans from state income tax. Under his economic development policies, over 100,000 more people are working in Arkansas than when he took office, and he has signed incentive agreements with nearly 450 companies that were expanding or opening in the state. His experience has established him as a national resource for his expertise on trade, energy, national security, and education. The governor has been invited to the White House several times to join discussions about health care, Medicaid, and education issues. Governor Hutchinson grew up on a small farm in Gravette. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas law school. He and his wife, Susan, have been married 46 years. They have four children and six grandchildren.
Interviewed by Robert Costa
The Washington Post
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