Northam: Virginia to reopen “slowly and deliberately”
In Phase One, retail stores and churches will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity.
Scheduled to go into effect on May 15, the first phase of Gov. Ralph Northam’s Forward Virginia plan for reopening businesses won’t look that much different to daily life now in Virginia, with a handful of exceptions. These include allowing retail stores and houses of worship to open at 50% capacity and restaurants to offer outdoor dining with 50% seating capacity.
“I want to reassure Virginians we are not opening the floodgates here. We are not flipping a light switch from closed to open. When the time is right, we will turn a dimmer switch up just a notch,” Northam said Friday during his regular COVID-19 news briefing. “The reality is the virus is still in our communities and we need to continue our vigilance and social distancing, hand washing and wearing of face protection when we’re out and about. … This plan will slowly and deliberately ease some of the restrictions, but not all.”
This is the Phase One reopening plan Northam announced:
- Public gatherings will remain limited to 10 people.
- Teleworking is still strongly encouraged.
- Wearing face coverings in public and around other people will be strongly encouraged.
- Nonessential retail establishments, currently limited to 10 customers at a time, will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity.
- In addition to offering takeout and delivery, restaurants and breweries will be allowed to offer outdoor dining at 50% seating capacity.
- Entertainment venues such as movie theaters and amusement parks will remain closed.
- Gyms and other fitness and exercise establishments will remain closed but will be allowed to offer outdoor classes.
- Currently limited to drive-in services and 10-person indoor limits, places of worship will be expanded to 50% capacity for indoor services.
- Personal grooming establishments such as hair and nail salons will be able to operate by appointment only, exercising strict social distancing. Face coverings will be required.
- Private campgrounds can reopen.
- State parks will remain open for day use and will phase in overnight stays.
- Child care will remain open for working families.
- Overnight summer camps will remain closed.
- Beaches will remain open only for exercise and fishing.
During Phase One, Northam said, it will still be safer for Virginians to remain at home and he urged businesses to continue teleworking and for Virginians to continue practicing social distancing.
Northam expects Phase One to last for at least two weeks and did not offer details about the next phase of reopening. He also said that beginning Phase One on May 15 is contingent on trends such as the number of COVID-19 cases in the commonwealth. While the number of coronavirus cases in Virginia has been going upward, Northam said that was expected and was due “in part” to increased testing.
Some communities, such as Northern Virginia, which has seen much higher numbers of COVID-19 cases, may choose to wait to enter Phase One, Northam said, and that decision will be up to the localities, which will be able to place tighter restrictions on social distancing if they feel it’s warranted.
The governor also emphasized that if impacted businesses are unable to meet the requirements for reopening under Phase One conditions, then “they must remain closed. No business is required by the state to be open.”
Northam also appealed to businesses to take “precautions to protect everyone, including employees.”
The governor added: “This virus is still with us. It has not gone away. It has no cure and no vaccination to date and we may be living with it for months or even years. Our efforts have slowed the spread, but they have not cured the disease. I don’t want people to let their guard down. When we move into this phase of easing restrictions, it will be even more important for people to behave cautiously, especially our most vulnerable populations — the elderly and those with underlying [health] conditions.”