Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that most Virginia localities will enter phase two of the state’s reopening plan Friday. Richmond won’t be among them.
The new phase continues Northam’s gradual reopening of the state’s economy after public health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic prompted him to order widespread closures of businesses in March in a bid to contain the virus. Phase two will feature further-loosened restrictions on businesses’ operations.
“We’ve been in phase one for nearly three weeks and our health data continues to look good. … Based on that data, I feel comfortable allowing most of Virginia to move into phase two this Friday,” Northam said during a press conference Tuesday.
Under phase two, restaurants can offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy. Gyms can open their indoor facilities at 30 percent occupancy. Some recreational and entertainment venues, such as zoos, museums and performing arts spaces, without shared equipment will be allowed to open with restrictions. The social gatherings headcount cap will be bumped up to 50. More details about phase two guidelines can be found here.
Non-essential retail, personal grooming services and religious services will be required to operate under more or less the same restrictions in play under phase one. Phase one guidelines can be found here.
Richmond, along with Northern Virginia, will stay put in phase one to allow more time to gather health data. Richmond, Northern Virginia and Accomack County delayed their entry into phase one, which started for most of the state on May 15. Richmond and Northern Virginia entered phase one on May 29. Accomack County plans to start phase two on Friday, according to a release from the governor’s office.
“We have consistently said the virus will dictate the timeline, and that remains the case,” Richmond city spokesman Jim Nolan said in an email. ‘Specifically, we will need to see a downward trend in cases and percent positivity and hospitalizations, just to cite a few factors that must be considered.”
Nolan added that as phase one is intended to last two to four weeks, Richmond won’t be up for phase two consideration until June 12 at the earliest.
Northam said Virginia is moving forward with reopening because the state’s health metrics continue to look good. The percentage of people hospitalized with a positive or pending coronavirus test is dropping and the percentage of positive tests is decreasing as testing is increasing.
The Virginia Department of Health reported there have been about 46,000 cases of COVID-19, as well as about 4,700 hospitalizations and 1,400 deaths statewide, as of Tuesday. There have been about 369,000 tests for COVID-19 conducted in Virginia.
People are still encouraged to maintain social distancing, wear face coverings and stay home if they’re in high-risk groups. Teleworking is still encouraged. Businesses should continue to frequently sanitize high-contact surfaces and observe safety measures such as physical distancing.