Gov. Northam Isn’t Reopening Southwestern Virginia First After All

The governor says the new administration is helping speed distribution of the vaccine.

By Elle Meyers

May 6, 2020

Gov. Ralph Northam said he will not be opening certain parts of the state before others at a press conference on Wednesday.

At an earlier meeting Northam said opening parts of southwestern Virginia, where the number of coronavirus cases are low, before other parts of the state was possible. But on Wednesday Northam said he ultimately decided not to pursue that strategy, as it could encourage people living in hot spots to travel to less populated areas and bring the virus with them.

Instead of opening the state piecemeal, it sounds like the state government is encouraging local governments in areas with more coronavirus cases to maintain their own restrictions. Northam noted that parts of Northern Virginia, like Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax County, are more densely populated than other parts of the state and have higher rates of COVID-19 patients. Given that, those areas might need to implement their own restrictions to see a downward trend.

“If local governments, based on the situation in their own localities feel that they need to maintain additional restrictions on gatherings or business operations we will allow that and we will work with the localities,” Northam said. 

On Monday Northam said he would extend nonessential business closures past the original deadline of May 8 until May 15. He expects Virginia to enter “Phase One” of recovery on May 15, which will include opening businesses and allowing for small gatherings, while observing certain restrictions. 

At Wednesday’s press conference Northam said the restrictions outlined in the first phase of reopening are “the floor” or the minimum requirement for localities throughout the state. If officials in a city or county feel that additional restrictions need to be in place, they will be empowered to implement them. 

Virginia has also been coordinating with officials in D.C and Maryland so that each jurisdiction is aware of what its neighbor has planned. 

“We’re still a week and a half away from the 15th but as we get closer to it and if they have concerns and want to raise that floor, if you will, for another week to whatever they think is necessary, we will work with them on that,” Northam said. 

Northam announced that there would be more detailed guidance on the coming phases and restrictions on Friday May 8. 

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