The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted 5-3 Tuesday to ask Gov. Ralph Northam to allow restaurants with existing outdoor seating to reopen starting this weekend with no more than 50% capacity.
The measure was supported by supervisors Victor Angry, D-Neabsco; Kenny Boddye, D-Occoquan; Pete Candland, R-Brentsville; Jeanine Lawson, R-Gainesville; and Yesli Vega, R-Coles.
“It’s never going to be 100% safe,” Candland said about reopening.
Prince William County has reported 73 deaths due to COVID-19. The county has 3,394 cases of the coronavirus — putting the rate of cases higher than Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun.
Chair Ann Wheeler and Supervisors Margaret Franklin, D-Woodbridge, and Andrea Bailey, D-Potomac, voted against the measure.
“I think it’s irresponsible to decide we have to open,” Wheeler said during the meeting. “I’m not willing to put people’s lives at risk.”
Currently, restaurants in Northern Virginia are limited to carry-out and drive-thru orders. Most of the state entered Phase One in lifting some COVID-19 restrictions Friday, including allowing restaurants to provide outdoor seating at 50% capacity.
Northam has final decision on lifting restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, Northam rejected a call from supervisors in western Loudoun County to allow them to enter Phase One and leave the heavier restrictions on the eastern end of the county.
Alison Ansher, director of the Prince William Health District, told the Board of County Supervisors during a May 12 meeting that hospitals in the county have told her they have capacity, but other metrics to enter Phase One have either been unmet or health districts in the region don’t have the data from the state.
Franklin said she wanted the data from Virginia Department of Health before making decisions about reopening. “I want to do it safely,” she said during the meeting. “I need a lot more information before doing that.”
The elected leaders of Northern Virginia’s four counties and the mayor of Alexandria sent a joint letter to the governor May 10 calling for a delay in reopening businesses in the region, and the governor has delayed Phase One for the region until at least May 29.
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