Virginia will enter Phase Three of the lifting of coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, July 1, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday.
Northern Virginia and Richmond have generally lagged the rest of the commonwealth when it comes to taking steps toward lifting restrictions, but asked whether they would also enter Phase Three on July 1, Northam said, “Until I hear differently, they will be moving forward.”
“I will listen” if leaders in those areas have concerns, the governor said, but, “As far as I’ve heard, they intend to be moving forward with the rest of the state.”
Northam said he made the move because “statewide, our data continue to look good.”
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He added that cases and hospitalizations are down while testing is up and the percentage of tests that come back positive is at 6.4%. There’s enough personal protective equipment for hospitals and other health venues, and about 1,000 contact tracers are on the job as well.
The following changes will be made under Phase Three:
- Capacity caps for nonessential retail and restaurants will be lifted, though social distancing is still required
- Entertainment venues, such as zoos and amusements parks, can reopen to 50% capacity up to 1,000 people
- Gyms can move to 75% capacity
- Child care facilities will be open
- Swimming pools will be allowed to open to 75% capacity.
Overnight summer camps will still be closed.
Face coverings will still be required, and teleworking and physical distancing will still be encouraged.
The governor’s website has detailed information on Phase Three, including guidance for various business sectors.
“Everyone should continue to take this pandemic very seriously,” Northam said. “Cases are on the rise in other states … I do not want to see that in our commonwealth.”
The announcement came on a day where Virginia has reported its highest number of deaths in three weeks.
Health officer Dr. Norman Oliver said deaths are “a lagging indicator,” since cases are reported within days, while deaths are recorded “many days later.” Positivity, hospitalizations and cases are “more sensitive” measures, which are trending downward, he said.
Asked whether a bad turn in the numbers would lead to the re-imposition of regulations, Northam said, “Obviously, if we see surges in the commonwealth,” going back to Phase Two or even Phase One is possible.
He said progress “is in all of our hands; we all have a responsibility” to keep washing hands and distancing.
Northam, however, said he made the decision to go forward because of the degree to which Virginians have followed the safety guidelines, as well as the “wonderful job” done by the hospitals and the increased testing capability.
Nursing home names to be released
Northam also said that $246 million, mostly from the federal CARES Act, would be made available for long-term care facilities for testing, protective equipment and other factors.
He added that the names of nursing homes that have experienced outbreaks would be released.
The Virginia Department of Health’s coronavirus page online would have the names of nursing homes that have had outbreaks, including cases and deaths, with the exception of “very small numbers [which] are suppressed in order to protect patient privacy,” said Dr. Laurie Forlano, the director of the state’s office of epidemiology.
Northam said the move came in response to “a lot of misinformation coming out of Washington,” specifically the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
As protests and violence continue in Richmond, Northam said he would meet with protesters “in a safe environment” to discuss “what they want moving forward.”
The grounds of the Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond are now closed overnight.
“The great majority [of protests] have been very peaceful,” Northam said, “and we’re all very supportive of that. But after the sun goes down, there appears to be a different agenda.”
He added, “It is no longer clear what [protesters’] goals are, or the paths to achieve them.”
Northam has ordered the Lee monument down, but the move is held up in a legal challenge.
WTOP’s Zeke Hartner contributed to this report.