Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam laid out key details about what Phase Three of the commonwealth’s reopening plan will look like, but said it would not take effect in the next week.
“I want to be clear: We are not entering Phase Three this week,” Northam said. “But people need and they deserve to be able to plan, so I want Virginians to see what Phase Three will generally look like when we do make that decision.”
In Phase Three, Virginians will be able to gather in groups of up to 250 people, the governor said in a news conference Thursday from Fairfax County.
The following changes will be made under Phase Three:
- Capacity caps for nonessential retail and restaurants will be lifted
- Entertainment venues, such as zoos and amusements parks, can reopen to 50% capacity
- 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.
Though Virginia is not yet ready to enter Phase Three, Northam said health metrics in the commonwealth have still been moving in a promising direction.
A decision to move forward could come on June 26, but not before then.
Northam said the commonwealth has been keeping an eye on several models predicting how the virus might spread and have a plan in place to take action if the worst-case scenarios come true.
“While our numbers are trending favorably, we must all be vigilant,” Northam said. “In the event that we should have a resurgence here in Virginia — and I am hopeful that if we continue to follow the guidelines that we don’t — but in the event we do, we have prepared for that.”
According to Northam, Virginia has a “good stockpile” of PPE, is prepared for further increases of testing and there is still work being done to shore up hospital capacity across the commonwealth.
Northam did not mention the possibility of regressing to earlier phases of reopening, though he has said that would be an option to consider in past news conferences.
“I would say to all Virginians: Keep doing what you’re doing. What you’re doing is working and hopefully we won’t see [a resurgence] down the road,” Northam said.
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Northam focuses community testing on Latin communities in Va. hard-hit by virus
The novel coronavirus has disproportionately affected Latin communities in Virginia, according to the state’s health metrics.
Latinos represented 45.3% of all positive cases of COVID-19 across Virginia, despite making up only 10% of the commonwealth’s population. Similarly, they represent 35% of all hospitalizations.
Northam said this is particularly damaging to these communities, because they are less likely to have health insurance and have a higher likelihood of working jobs that could risk exposure to the virus.
In response, Northam said he is directing free community testing sites toward large Latino communities, with a focus on those that have a high rate of uninsured residents.
These testing events will not be broadly advertised, and will instead by spread by contact with community leaders and targeted messaging to ensure that they are reaching the intended groups, according to Northam.
“Our health equity working group is tracking the data and working to make sure we are connecting with communities that are at a greater risk,” Northam said. “And we are all using a health equity lens to make these decisions.”