NoVa localities, Accomack expected to start Phase One on Friday
Richmond's mayor asks for "modified" reopening; governor denies request
Update, 10 a.m., May 27: Gov. Ralph Northam has turned down Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s request to reopen while maintaining restrictions on houses of worship, barber shops and grooming businesses, in a letter released Tuesday night. All of Virginia’s localities are expected to be in Phase One by Friday.
Northern Virginia and Accomack County are expected to move out of “Phase Zero” by the end of the week, while Richmond’s mayor is asking for a slower reopening plan that would keep houses of worship and barber shops closed for the time being.
In a letter released Sunday, the five directors of health departments in Alexandria and Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties wrote that the region has met four out of six metrics required to enter Phase One of Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Forward Virginia” reopening plan. They include: percentage of positive tests declining over 14 days; hospitalizations declining; increased testing; enough hospital and ICU beds.
Asked at his Tuesday coronavirus news conference if Northern Virginia has the green light to reopen Friday, Northam said, “Yes, that’s our plan.” Accomack County supervisors also have indicated that the county, which has performed extensive testing after COVID-19 outbreaks at two poultry plants, as well as community testing, will also be ready to enter Phase One as well. Northern Virginia has not met the other two metrics: enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and increased contact tracing capacity.
“PPE for outpatient facilities,” such as doctors’ offices and nursing homes, “continues to be a challenge. Although there is increased supply for these entities, there is not a sustainable supply through non-government sources,” the health officials wrote. As for contact tracing, “infrastructure is currently being put into place.” The state is hiring more than 1,000 contact tracers, who speak with COVID-19 patients about who they came into contact with before falling ill.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney wrote Northam a letter Monday asking that Richmond enter into a “modified Phase One” that would maintain restrictions on indoor gatherings at houses of worship and on personal care and grooming services.
“In recent conversations with leaders in Richmond’s business and faith communities,” Stoney wrote, “they have made it clear that their top priority is to keep their employees, their congregations and their patrons safe.” Northam said Tuesday the decision on Richmond is still under discussion but that he plans to provide details Wednesday.
Although most of Virginia has been in Phase One of the reopening plan since May 15, Northern Virginia, the city of Richmond and Accomack County received two-week delays from Northam. All seven localities had higher than average rates of COVID-19 infections in mid-May.
The two-week delay of Phase One is set to expire Thursday at midnight.