Virginia plans to enter Phase 1 Friday

Published 9:19 am Wednesday, May 13, 2020

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

Virginia has been under two executive orders since late March that has closed non-existential 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 will remain closed for indoor use. Outside fitness classes are allowed in Phase 1 with social distancing limitations.

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

Barbers 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 haircut 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 face masks 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 modified the plan somewhat Monday, May 11, announcing the Northern Virginia region would not enter into Phase 1 Friday. The metropolitan region around Washington D.C. is still seeing virus cases grow at a higher rate than the other areas of Virginia. Northam did not provide a timetable for when Phase 1 would begin in Northern Virginia. The region is made up of Fairfax, Prince William, Arlington and Loudon counties and the cities in those counties.

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 spike.

“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.”