Northam lays out more details for Virginia’s Phase 1 reopening

A woman wearing a face mask walks past a sign in a store window during the COVID-19 pandemic in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Virginia is still looking to enter Phase One of its reopening blueprint on May 15, and Gov. Ralph Northam laid out more concrete details as to what that phase would look like.

During his briefing Friday, Northam said that the closure of Virginia and the stay-at-home order was the “one blunt tool” that the commonwealth had for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is working — our health data shows us that,” Northam said. “Our hospitals have not been overwhelmed, and it bought us time to build up our toolbox.”

The governor also said that he believes Virginia’s current supply of personal protective equipment is steady, and his administration believes that supply is sustainable. A shipment of PPE heading for Virginia from overseas is currently en route after landing Thursday in Chicago.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Northam said that the number of hospitals that have reported its struggles to source PPE has been trending downward, and that no hospitals have reported PPE shortages in the last couple days.

Virginia is also going to hire around 1,000 contact tracers in the near future. There are currently around 325 contact tracers, Northam said.

Phase One will look very similar to how Virginia is currently operating, with some key differences, Northam added.

The stay-at-home order will be shifted into a “safer-at-home” model. The governor explained that his hope is for people who are able to telework to continue to do so. Restrictions remain on gatherings of more than 10 people.

“While our tools to fight this virus have changed, our commitment has not,” Northam said. “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.”

Changes to businesses and public spaces

With Northam’s “dimmer switch” plan for reopening, some types of businesses will be able to open their doors, albeit with strict guidance on how they can operate.

In Phase One:

  • Nonessential retail businesses can open, but they will be limited to 50% capacity.
  • Restaurants and bars that already had existing outdoor seating areas will be allowed to open those spaces up to 50% capacity.
  • Entertainment and amusement venues will remain closed.
  • Gyms with outdoor spaces can open those areas up to 50% capacity.
  • Beaches are still limited to fishing and exercise use only.
  • Places of worship can operate drive-in services or allow congregations up to 50% of building capacity.
  • Salons, barbershops, etc. can operate by appointment only. Strict social distancing measures will be in place, and all clients and employees must wear masks.
  • Overnight stays in state parks will reopen in phases.
  • Private campgrounds can reopen.
  • Overnight summer camps remain closed.

Northam said that he would “absolutely” return to stricter guidelines for Virginia if cases of COVID-19 begin to surge again.

The governor said he expected Phase One to last around two weeks, but that his administration would use data provided by the Virginia Department of Health to determine if it was safe to move forward.

Virginia case numbers

Below is a list of the cases of COVID-19 in Virginia as of May 8, 2020, along with the amount increase from the day before:

Number of total cases*: 22,342 (+772)

COVID-19-related and probable deaths: 812 (+43)
Currently hospitalized, per VHHA: 1,625 (+12)
Recoveries**: 2,997 (+172)
Total number of tests: 143,220 (+6,662)

*includes positive test results and probable cases

**Confirmed COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized and have since been discharged, according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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