Northam says all Va. beaches may reopen starting Friday, answers questions of face covering requirement


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — At Thursday’s press conference, Gov. Ralph Northam discussed face covering requirements, the reopening of public beaches and Accomack, Richmond and Northern Virginia joining phase 1, all of which start on Friday.

Highlights from Northam’s press conference:

  • Northam started off by reminding Virginians that the U.S. passed a somber milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday. “They were friends, neighbors and loved ones,” Northam said.
  • He also acknowledged that the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Beach mass shooting is coming up on Sunday, May 31. He read each of the 12 victims’ names before a moment of silence. He’s urging everyone to wear blue this weekend in their honor. WAVY will have coverage of the anniversary through Sunday. Visit this page for all of WAVY’s online coverage.
  • A reminder that Accomack County, Northern Virginia and Richmond City will enter phase 1 on Friday, May 29, after delaying the process by two weeks due to high numbers of COVID-19 cases. Northam pointed to decreases in the percent of positive tests in these regions, along with increases in testing capabilities/personal protective equipment.
  • Virginians over the age of 10 must wear a face-covering starting Friday while indoors in public spaces. He compared wearing a face covering to being required to wear a shirt or shoes in businesses. “It’s just the right thing to do to protect the people around you, as well as workers,” Northam said. More on the requirement here.
  • As for enforcing the requirement, counsel Rita Davis reemphasized that police will not issuing misdemeanors. The Virginia Department of Health is in charge of enforcement, which will be based on “egregious and repeated” violations of the face coverings requirement. VDH will handle enforcement just the same as any other public health order. “The first is a civil process by which an injunction is obtained to enforce the public health order. The second is a warrant issued by a magistrate,” said Davis. (BELOW: Rita Davis, counsel to Gov. Ralph Northam, on wearing face coverings)
  • The Virginia Department of Health told the Virginia Mercury on Thursday that VDH will not be inspecting or monitoring businesses regularly for compliance, but will instead establish a call center to process “inquiries on alleged violations in the community.” So the requirement will mostly be voluntary, but police or security could become involved if a customer gets confrontational after the business owner asks the person to wear a mask. “We certainly don’t want confrontations to occur,” Northam said.
  • 39 new CVS drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites have opened in Virginia, Northam said, with several in Hampton Roads. More info on the testing sites here.
  • All public beaches in Virginia may reopen starting on Friday, May 29, Northam says. Beaches will still have to have restrictions in place like those put in place in Virginia Beach, such as no tents, no gatherings of 10 or more and no team sports.
  • NASCAR will also return to Virginia without fans in the stands, with a race taking place at Martinsville on June 10
  • Phase 2 for Virginia won’t start until June 5 at the earliest, Northam says. He says the delay of phase 1 for Accomack, Richmond and Northern Virginia didn’t factor into this. He says those areas could potentially move into phase 2 along with the rest of the state “if they feel comfortable.”
  • Virginia saw a per high day of 57 new COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, though state officials say there is a lag in reporting and all of those deaths didn’t necessarily happen over the last 24 hours. A state health official said its too soon to link these deaths to phase 1 of reopening.

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