Gov. Ralph Northam announced most of Virginia will enter Phase Two of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown on Friday, but also spent much of his time addressing ongoing protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Northam said most of Virginia could proceed to Phase Two of reopening later this week due to favorable trends in health data.
“We’ve been in Phase One for nearly three weeks and our health data continues to look good. Our hospitals do not report any shortage of PPE. And we work continuously to help make sure our medical facilities have the PPE that they need,” he said. “And now, based on that data, I feel comfortable allowing most of Virginia to move into phase two this Friday, which will be during the 5th.”
The northern Virginia region and the city of Richmond will remain in Phase One for now, Northam said, because those regions just began last week.
Accomack County, where multiple manufacturing plants are located, is still in Phase Zero due to the high number of COVID-19 cases concentrated in the area.
Parts of the state entering Phase Two will see loosened restrictions on activities like dining out, fitness, sports and outdoor entertainment venues. Restaurants will be able to seat guests inside at 50% capacity, gyms and fitness studios will be able to hold classes inside at 30% of their capacity and pools will be allowed to reopen with some restrictions. Restrictions on gatherings will also be loosened from no more than 10 people to no more than 50.
“We’re still safer at home, we still strongly encourage teleworking, physical distance, and face coverings are still required in indoor spaces,” he said.
More information on Phase Two will be available on Thursday.
Northam also dedicated a considerable amount of time to having leaders within the African-American community talk about the unrest in the country, protests and what action residents can take.
“We are clearly a nation in crisis and chaos fueled by yet another casualty of systemic racism but sadly this is not the first time,” said Del. Delores McQuinn.
She said the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor shed light on the current attitudes that dehumanize African Americans.
“We realized that we must tell the full and true story of inequities that have resulted in over 400 years of discrimination. Racial discrimination has been legalized and institutionalized and sanctioned and sanitized throughout this country but now is the time to deal with it head on,” McQuinn said.
She added that it will take honest discussions with diverse perspectives to see change.
“After we march we plan so that we may take the steps necessary to create positive change,” McQuinn said.
Leaders encouraged residents to make their voices heard peacefully and to participate in voting so that elected officials truly represent the people.