After two months of being largely shutdown amid the coronavirus, most of Virginia is beginning the first phase of a gradual reopening plan put in place by Gov. Ralph Northam.
Nonessential businesses across the state reopened Friday under modified restrictions set in place by the governor. Retail stores are reopening with limited capacity, but indoor gyms remain closed, beaches were still off limits to sunbathers and restaurants were prohibited from indoor dine-in service.
Stacey Zebrowski, a Zumba instructor at a YMCA in Henrico County, led morning classes on a soccer field. She wore a mask and class participants kept far apart from each other. While far different from her normal classes, Zebrowski said it felt “fantastic” to be back teaching again.
“People were sincerely happy to be back,” said said. “You could just see the joy in their eyes.”
The reopening is not universal around the state. Northern Virginia, Richmond and Accomack County were all granted two-week delays after elected leaders there expressed concern it was too early to open amid the coronavirus.
Northam said he’s basing his decision to reopen on positive trends in key metrics related to the virus’s spread, like hospital readiness and testing capacity. He’s stressed repeatedly that the process will be slow and the state is not reopening all at once.
Beauty parlors and barber shops will be by appointment and will be able to operate only if both employees and customers wear masks. Entertainment venues, like theme parks and bowling alleys, will stay closed.
Northam has been criticized by black lawmakers for reopening too soon and by Republicans who said he has not moved quickly enough like some other states.