Gov. Ralph Northam officially said he expects the state’s “Phase One” of reopening to start a week from today.
“I anticipate and hope that Phase One will start on May 15th,” Northam said at a press conference Friday. Northam cautioned the first phase of reopening won’t be a major shift from how the state has been operating since the stay-at-home order went into effect.
“In many ways it will look like what we’ve been doing,” Northam said.
Here are the big things that will change during Phase One:
- Non-essential retail can increase from 10 people to 50% of their normal capacity
- Restaurants and breweries can serve people in outdoor facilities, up to 50% capacity
- Gyms can hold outdoor fitness classes with restrictions
- Churches can hold indoor services at up to 50% of their building capacity
- Personal grooming, like haircuts, can open as appointment only with face masks required
Northam said the 10-person limit on gatherings is still effect, and asked people to continue to telework if possible and wear face coverings when they go outside.
Northam said the decision would be guided over the next few days by data on how many tests are coming back positive, the number of hospitals experiencing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), and how many hospital beds are occupied.
At the conference, Northam walked through the current stats and said the rate of positive tests have decreased for nearly 14 days, the goal he set out earlier this month. He also said no hospitals had reported PPE shortages over the past few days.
In his remarks Northam also addressed questions about how the commonwealth will deal with fluctuating cases as it tries to move from one phase to the next. He explained that the coronavirus pandemic is one that puts residents in a “dynamic and fluid situation,” and state officials will be monitoring data to see if restrictions need to be altered.
Northam’s Chief of Staff Clark Mercer explained that the governor is in communication with officials in different localities multiple times a day to discuss concerns over entering into the first phase of reopening.
“When we look at Northern Virginia as a region, while they are looking good with the metrics [we are monitoring] they are not looking as good at this point in time as the rest of Virginia,” he said.
Mercer said that the governor wants to see the commonwealth move on to phase two and three of recovery but in order to do so there needs to be measurable progress.
“[This plan] has a very measured approach but if a region says that they would like to delay entering phase one by two weeks, for example which would be on May 29 I think the governor would be open to doing that,” he said.
He explained that one outcome the governor is working to avoid is allowing one county to open while other counties remain shuttered. This way the commonwealth can reopen with a sense of continuity.
Mercer concluded by noting that the governor is continuing to coordinate with Virginia’s neighbors like D.C. and Maryland.
Northam will be continuing discussions with other local leaders over the weekend and said he will provide further updates on entering phase one early next week.