Northam says Virginia to enter phase 1 of reopening next Friday

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC/WAVY) –Gov. Ralph Northam is pushing back the first phase of Virginia’s economic reopening.

At his press conference on Monday, Gov. Northam extended his executive order banning gatherings over ten and closing some non-essential businesses through May 14th. This is the second time the governor has extended the order.

Northam says Virginia is looking to to enter phase 1 of reopening by next Friday, based on data his team is seeing, though he emphasized “this virus is still here. It has not gone away, and it will not go away.”

Northam’s executive order closing non-essential businesses is being extended until next Thursday, May 14 in the meantime (it was scheduled to expire this Friday, May 8).

Northam said moving the deadline to next week will give his administration more time to determine if the data supports easing restrictions.

Virginia Department of Health data shows that new cases are still climbing. Northam said some of that can be attributed to the increase in testing over the last several days. As the state inches towards its goal of 10 thousand daily tests, Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Daniel Carey said the good news is that the percentage of positive tests daily is beginning to decline. Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and ventilator demand also remain flat. 

“All of our efforts have slowed its spread but they have not cured the disease,” Northam said. “We must figure out a path forward but we must always be aware that this virus is still with us.”

Related: Virginia May 4 COVID-19 update

Northam also said his stay-at-home order (which has closed Virginia’s beaches) will be reassessed.

Northam says each of the three phases of the reopening process could last between 2 to 4 weeks or longer in accordance with CDC guidelines. 

Northam laid out what ‘Phase One’ of his reopening plan will look like in more detail on Monday. The plan mimics the White House’s guidelines. 

  • The ‘stay at home’ order becomes a ‘safer at home’ advisory
  • Vulnerable populations should continue to shelter in place 
  • No social gatherings of more than 10 
  • Teleworking is encouraged but some can return to the workplace
  • Face coverings recommending in public
  • Eased limitations on businesses and faith communities

The big difference will be that movie theaters, gyms, salons, churches, restaurants and retailers will be able to open back up with strict social distancing rules, enhanced sanitation and safety guidelines for employees.  

“You’ll be able to get your haircut but you’ll need an appointment and you’ll see new safety measures in the salon. It means you can go out to eat again but restaurants will use less seating to spread people out more,” Northam said. 

The governor said they’ll be publishing industry-specific guidelines for businesses online.

Northam says ‘Phase Two’ is similar to ‘Phase One’ but social gatherings of 50 or less would be allowed. 

Phase 3 removes all restrictions on social gatherings and capacity limits for businesses, while still stressing cleaning and vulnerable populations staying home. Phase 3 likely won’t happen for 10-12 weeks or longer, state officials say.

Small business owners have reacted to Northam’s plans saying they are hopeful of the possibility of the reopening.

“As business owners wait those two more weeks, they are still going without income to pay their employees or pay their bills. That means it’s critical for the state to move forward the moment it is safe to do so,” says Nicole Riley, State Director of The National Federation of Independent Business in Virginia.

NFIB received emails from over 200 members late last week who were asked questions about their ability to have health measures in place for reopening, and when they believed that reopening should take place.

“Small business owners are telling us they think a gradual reopening should start very soon, and most believe they can handle health and safety requirements, but they are concerned about customers’ fears and getting them to come back to their businesses.”

Data driving the decision

Gov. Northam says he’s looking at a number of different metrics to determine if Virginia is making progress, including cases by date reported, percentage of positive tests and more.

Learn more by watching Northam’s explanation below:

This article will be updated.

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