RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia Governor Ralph Northam stopped short of formalizing May 15 as the date for reopening, but the data he showed during a Friday news conference suggests that the state is on its way.
Northam revealed a number of charts indicating that the necessary criteria for slowly reopening was in place – including front-line workers being equipped with enough PPEs, having hospital surge capacity in place, and an overall downward trend in the percent of COVID-19 cases.
With that in mind, the Governor provided a number of details on what regulations would be altered in what he has dubbed “Phase 1” of the reopening process.
The governor stressed that COVID-19 is still thriving in Virginia, and that residents will need to remain vigilant.
“The reality is, the virus is still in our communities,” he said.
He also stressed that residents should continue to practice social distancing, and also to continue practicing routine hygiene like handwashing.
The Governor said that Phase 1 will be a slow, cautious process.
“I want to reassure Virginians that we are not opening the floodgates,” he said.
Many of the regulations that are currently in place will remain in place after Phase 1 begins.
The Governor noted that – during Phase 1 – you will still be safer at home; and said social gatherings of more than 10 people will still be forbidden.
- People will be expected to continue social distancing, and those who are teleworking should continue to do so.
- Face coverings will be recommended in public, and businesses will have revised limitations.
- Places of worship – which have been heavily restricted – will be more accessible on a limited basis.
- For instance, places of worship are currently permitted to have drive-in access, and a 10 person limit. In phase one, they will continue to have drive- in services, along with 50 percent indoor capacity.
- Salons and barbershops – which are currently closed – will be open by appointment only, will maintain strict social distancing, and will require face coverings.
- Private campgrounds – which are also closed – will be open.
- State parks that are currently open only during the day will be open overnight in phases.
- Child-care facilities will continue to be open for working families, and summer camps will remain closed.
- Be able to open to a 10 person capacity in phase one and slowly to 50 percent of that establishment's capacity.
- Restaurants will go from takeout and delivery only, to outdoor seating at 50 percent capacity, if they have a permit for outdoor seating.
- Entertainment venues will remain closed.
- Beach regulations will remain the same – closed except for fishing and exercise.
During a Monday news conference, the Governor indicated that Phase 1 would remain in effect for “two to four weeks.”
If officials continue to see favorable data, a second phase would continue to ease restriction.
On March 23, the Governor ordered all “non-essential businesses” in Virginia to close.
He also ordered that all schools should remain closed through the academic year.
The closures included restaurants – except for take-out and delivery, bars, hair salons and barbershops, casinos, racetracks, simulcast betting facilities, enclosed malls, “certain recreational establishments, and “certain recreational establishments and certain retail businesses."
Essential businesses – such as medical facilities, construction companies, or emergency services – were permitted to remain open.