Phase 1 opens churches; keeps indoor dining and gyms closed

Published 4:02 pm Friday, May 8, 2020

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam gave more details during a Friday afternoon, May 8, press conference about what Phase 1 of reopening Virginia’s economy will look like when the state begins to ease restrictions Friday, May 15.

 The state has been under two executive orders since late March that have closed non-essential businesses and encouraged residents to remain home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Northam said mitigation efforts have worked to flatten the curve. Hospitals have maintained adequate capacity. The state has been able to build an inventory of personal protective equipment. The percentage of positive coronavirus tests have been trending down in the past 14 days, although the number of cases and deaths from the virus continue to show uneven results.

 Restaurants will not be allowed to open indoor dining rooms next Friday. In addition to the takeout and delivery services restaurants are currently providing, restaurants may utilize any permitted outdoor seating at 50% capacity.

 Gyms were expected to reopen with additional cleaning requirements and limited capacity in Phase 1, but they will remain closed for indoor use. Outside fitness classes are allowed in Phase 1 with social distancing limitations.

 Churches will be able to hold gatherings inside their buildings at 50% capacity.

 Barbershops and beauty salons may open for customers who have appointments only. Strict social distancing and face coverings are required.

 “The good news today is if all this goes into effect a week from today, we may all get our hair cut by our barber or hair stylist,” Northam said.

 Retail stores may open but must limit capacity to 50%.

 Entertainment venues such as theaters and bowling alleys are to remain closed.

 Teleworking is strongly encouraged, for those able to do so. Wearing facemasks is also strongly encouraged during the first phase of reopening Virginia’s economy.

 Phase 1 is expected to last about three weeks before the state moves into Phase 2, if the numbers continue to improve. Each phase is expected to last three weeks, meaning the fastest the economy would completely reopen would be between a 10- to 12-week time period.

 Northam acknowledged that once the restrictions are eased, it would be very difficult to put the restrictions back in place if the number of coronavirus cases spikes.

“What’s important to know is we are following trends, and our trends are headed in a good direction,” Northam said. “We are taking a dimmer switch, and we are just turning up the intensity as we can and as the numbers allow.”