Governor denies Richmond mayor’s request for “modified” reopening
Entire state expected to be in Phase One by Friday
In a letter released Tuesday night, Gov. Ralph Northam turned down Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s request to enter a “modified” Phase One of the Forward Virginia reopening plan Friday, restricting houses of worship, barber shops and other grooming businesses from opening in the city.
“I would point out that nothing requires any house of worship or any private business to open if they do not want to. Just because a business can open, does not mean that it must open,” Northam wrote, echoing his statement at Tuesday’s news conference. “For these reasons, I believe the capital city should operate under the same provisions that will apply to all 138 Virginia localities starting Friday.”
Northam further advised Stoney to “work with your City Council to take the emergency actions allowed by the Richmond charter, which authorizes the city to ‘make and enforce all regulations necessary to preserve and promote public health and sanitation and protect the inhabitants of the city from contagious, infectious or other diseases,'” if the mayor wants to add additional restrictions.
On Twitter, Stoney wrote, “I won’t hide my disappointment in this. The Governor has always said the state set the floor, not the ceiling,” referring to statewide guidelines on reopening businesses and public spaces. “I proposed this modified plan for the good of our city.”
Stoney released a guide to Phase One in Richmond on Wednesday, noting that nonessential retail stores will be open at 50% capacity, outdoor restaurant seating at 50% capacity and places of worship at 50%, although the mayor wrote in his “best practices” that houses of worships remain closed and continue digital gatherings or outside meetings. Restaurants, he added, should “keep a log of dine-in patrons for contact tracing.”
Also, he said in a statement, the state should continue helping Richmond expand its testing capacity and provide face coverings and hand sanitizer. “Quite frankly, we’re going to need more support from the state for our residents and our businesses to reopen safely and sustainably. When public health is on the line, blindly pushing forward is not an option.”
More information is at the RVA Strong coronavirus website.