Reopening Virginia: Easing restrictions on businesses could happen ‘as early as next week’

Reopening The Region

Northam extends executive order stretching business restrictions to May 15

RICHMOND, Va. (WJHL) – Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued the first guidelines to a phased reopening approach for businesses across the Commonwealth Monday afternoon.

Governor Northam the outlined three phases below. He said that while the first phase is not starting immediately, it could begin as soon as next week, with easing restrictions on some businesses.

The governor also announced he would be extending Executive Order 53, stretching the existing restrictions on some businesses and a ban on social gatherings through May 14.

The order also extends the safer-at-home directive through May 14.

Northam said he anticipates the state will enter Phase I of reopening on May 15.

“That gives us an additional two weeks to watch the data and determine if we are meeting the metrics we need to see to enter Phase I,” he said.

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PHASE I

Northam said he anticipates Phase I to begin as early as next week.

Phase I for Virginians will continue a limit on social gatherings of 10 or more people, continued social distancing and recommended face coverings in public while easing some restrictions on businesses and faith communities.

Last week, Northam said that Phase I for other states mirrored Virginia’s current operations, citing examples of Virginia beaches being open for exercise and eased restrictions on elective surgeries.

Northam said business owners can expect industry-specific guidelines later this week, and said that the guidelines will change how businesses across the state are run.

“You’ll be able to get a haircut, but you’ll need an appointment, and you’ll see new safety measures at the salon,” he said.

PHASE II

Northam estimated that the state will remain in Phase I for 2-4 weeks depending on how COVID-19 continues its spread across the state.

Phase II will further ease restrictions on businesses while lifting the limit on social gatherings to no more than 50 people.

Like Phase I, Phase II will last at least 2 weeks depending on how the virus spreads, Northam said.

PHASE III

Northam estimated that Phase III is at least 10 weeks away.

To reach this level, Northam said the state must not show evidence of rebound of the virus for a “sustained period of time.”

He didn’t elaborate on Phase III in his press conference, but noted it would include removing bans on social gatherings and capacity limits in establishments.

The path forward

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Northam explained that his administration is tracking different sets of data to determine when the state may enter different phases of reopening.

He stressed that the state is monitoring the percent of new cases each day relative to the increased testing his administration is pushing.

“This number (of cases) will continue to go up in part because we are doing more testing,” he said.

He said officials are monitoring for a downward trend of the percent of positive test results over a 14-day period.

Northam also said that the state’s goal for testing is 10,000 COVID-19 tests per day.

Officials are also monitoring the percent of hospitalized COVID-19 cases per day for a downward trend, along with stable hospital bed capacity and personal protective equipment supply.

“Every day we monitor a wide range of health data,” he said, adding, “We’re using that to determine the spread of the virus, whether it seems to be stabilizing and whether hospitals have the capacity to meet the need.”

Northam said the business leaders he consulted gave “overwhelming advice” to open the state as a whole rather than by region.

He cited concerns about more division as well as how opening parts of the state before others could encourage the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“People from the closed areas may travel, probably will travel, to the open areas, and not only bring new cases from hotspots but also potentially bring in cases from other states,” he said.

You can watch the entire news briefing on our WJHL Facebook page below.

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