Virginia Gov. announces ‘Phase One’ reopening guidelines to begin May 15

Local Coronavirus Coverage

RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed Executive Order 61 and presented a detailed framework for the first phase of the “Forward Virginia” plan to safely and gradually ease public health restrictions while containing the spread of COVID-19.

Phase One guidelines, according to a press release from the governor’s office, will be implemented when the data meets the public health criteria outlined by the Commonwealth. The new executive order modifies public health guidance in Executive Order 53 and Executive Order 55 and establishes guidelines for Phase One.

The Governor’s phased approach is grounded in science and data and includes mitigation strategies to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus through enhanced safety practices, the release detailed. The plan allows localities to consider delaying implementation of Phase One guidelines based on local conditions.

“I am proud of the millions of Virginians who have stayed home and helped to flatten the curve, but our work is not done,” said Governor Northam in the release. “These guidelines represent one step forward in a gradual process, establishing the necessary modifications to business operations to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure for employees and customers. When we move into this first phase, it will be important for Virginians to act cautiously—especially our most vulnerable populations, the elderly, and those with underlying medical conditions.”

Under Phase One, the Commonwealth will move to a Safer at Home strategy, which continues the ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people and maintains recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and wearing face coverings, the release stated.

According to the release, all businesses should make modifications to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitation of high contact surfaces, and provide enhanced workplace safety measures.

Retail establishments will be allowed to operate at 50 percent occupancy, restaurant and beverage establishments may offer outdoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, personal grooming services may begin operating with one patron per service provider, and fitness centers may offer outdoor exercise services. Campgrounds may also begin taking reservations for short-term stay, the release stated.

Places of religious worship have had a 10-person limit and have been allowed to hold drive-in services allowed.

In Phase One, drive-in services may continue, and services may be held inside at 50 percent capacity. Specific guidelines for religious services can be found here.

Many of the restrictions put in place by Executive Order 53 will remain in place in Phase One. The release detailed that entertainment and public amusement venues will remain closed and beaches will continue to be open only for exercise and fishing. Childcare centers remain open for children of working families. Overnight summer camps will remain closed in Phase One.

Phase One guidelines for specific sectors are available here or at virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia.

View the graphs and slides from the Governor’s presentation here.

The full text of Executive Order 61 and Order of Public Health Emergency Three is available here.

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