ACCOMAC, Va. (WAVY) — At the request of Accomack County leaders, Governor Ralph Northam announced Thursday that the county would be excluded from the state’s Phase 1 reopening plan Friday.

Northam announced that he was delaying Phase 1 implementation for Richmond as well.

Accomack County leaders asked Northam to exclude the county from the state’s reopening due to concern over further spread of COVID-19.

As of Thursday, Accomack has 593 COVID-19 cases, 26 patients hospitalized and eight deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health. It is the third-highest in the state for cases by population at 1.6% of its residents.

Accomack County and its two poultry processing plants have been plagued by coronavirus. A majority of the Shore’s COVID-19 cases have come from the plants, the county’s largest employers.

The county Board of Supervisors voted 5-4 Wednesday to ask the state to keep Accomack County at its current level of restrictions for two more weeks, which the governor granted.

Both Accomack County and the City of Richmond will enter Phase 1 no earlier than midnight on Thursday, May 28.

“As I have said previously, Virginia’s Phase One guidelines represent a floor, not a ceiling,” said Governor Northam. “I have encouraged local leaders to request exemptions when appropriate, and I am pleased to grant the delays for both Accomack County and the City of Richmond.”

On Wednesday, Northam announced ‘Phase 1’ of his Forward Virginia plan would occur for the entire commonwealth outside of six municipalities in Northern Virginia.

“This is the hardest decision I ever had to make as a member of the Accomack County Board of Supervisors,” said Vice Chair Ron Wolff. “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

In a presentation given to the supervisors during a special meeting, it was revealed that not all test results had come back yet from a mass testing event last week.

Phase 1 of Northam’s reopening plan allows 50-percent capacity at restaurants with outdoor seating, non-essential retail businesses and places of worship. Personal grooming businesses can open by appointment only. Private campgrounds can also reopen.

However, the governor’s office is allowing localities to delay implementing phase 1 based on their local conditions.

“Moving to phase 1 depends on meeting a set of health metrics … these trends are heading in the right direction,” Northam said Wednesday.

The governor has said phase 1 should start once there has been:

  • A downward trend of positive tests over 14 days
  • A downward trend of hospitalizations over 14 days
  • Increased testing and tracing
  • Sufficient hospital beds and intensive care capacity
  • An increasing and sustainable supply of PPE

For a closer look at COVID-19 cases in each Virginia locality, click here.

To see data broken down by zip code, click here.

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