Gov. Northam announces plan to re-open Virginia over course of 3 phases

Governor Ralph Northam extended his executive order limiting gatherings and non-essential business operations through next week.
Updated: May. 4, 2020 at 2:59 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WVIR) - Governor Ralph Northam is providing an update on how the commonwealth is handling the Coronavirus pandemic, with the anticipated reopening of Virginia businesses on May 15th.

The press briefing got underway a little after 2 p.m. Monday, May 4. The governor opened the briefing by reminding everyone that Virginia saw its first case of the Coronavirus roughly two months ago. He pointed out that the virus is not going away until there is a vaccine, but we all can help slow its spread.

Gov. Northam doesn’t expect to ease restrictions until next week at the earliest, and that it will be done in three phases. The first phase will include a “safer-at-home” recommendation and promote physical distancing at businesses, as well as better cleaning and safety practices. Northam says businesses like restaurants, hair salons, gyms, and others will begin to reopen during this phase, and could last two-to-four weeks or longer. Additionally, churches and other houses of worship would open back up, but with similar practices expected for businesses.

  • Phase I still includes folks still covering their face, and not gathering in groups of more than 10.
  • Phase II would include stay-at-home for vulnerable populations, no gatherings of more than 50 people, and recommending face masks in public, but continuing to telework.
  • Phase III would lift limits on social gatherings and at businesses, but continue to use heightened cleaning and disinfecting.

Each phase should last approximately three weeks, but could take longer if the number of COVID-19 cases do not get better.

Other matters brought up included:

  • Executive Order 53, which has limited social gatherings and imposed restrictions on non-essential businesses, is being extended to May 14th.
  • Cases of the Coronavirus continues to rise, though Gov. Northam partially attributes this to more testing being done.
  • Northam says one of three PPE (personal protection equipment) decontamination units is currently up and running.
  • Governor says there is an order in with FEMA to get more swabs for COVID-19 testing. Goal is to get to 10,000 tests per day.
  • Asked if he would consider reopening more rural parts of Virginia sooner, Gov. Northam says advice from business owners across the state is to reopen as a commonwealth and not by region. If regional plan would be used, concern was people would cause the virus to move from closed to open areas. Governor says this would be like picking winners and losers.
  • Dr. Norm Oliver says we will continue to see cases rise as Virginia reopens. Contact tracing will be more important, and hundreds of workers will be needed to do that. That hiring process is currently underway.
  • Gov. Northam wants to ensure access to farmer’s markets. Secretary of Agriculture Bettina Ring says guidelines are being finalized, but browsing will be allowed with masks.
  • Gov. Northam also anticipates mixed drink curbside pickup will continue while restaurants rely on takeout/curbside pickup, but he has yet to address it with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
  • The governor says the silver bullet to this pandemic will be the development of a vaccine. It’s unclear how long that will take, but researchers are working on that, as well as treatments.

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