Gov. Northam rejects Mayor Stoney's request for modified Phase One reopening in Richmond

Posted at 5:40 PM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-26 18:48:13-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Gov. Ralph Northam has responded to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney's request for a modified Phase One reopening for the City of Richmond.

In a letter sent to Stoney on Tuesday evening, Northam rejected the mayor's request and wrote that he encourages Stoney to work with the City Council to "take the emergency actions allowed by the Richmond charter," which authorizes the City to “make and enforce all regulations necessary to preserve and promote public health and sanitation and protect the inhabitants of the city from contagious, infectious or other diseases.”

Stoney had previously lobbied the governor to delay the city’s Phase One reopening citing increasing COVID-19 numbers and the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has on black and brown communities.

“I want to reopen our city, but a sustainable reopening requires a deliberate and incremental plan,” Mayor Stoney said Tuesday.

In his letter to the governor, Stoney asked that Richmond still be allowed to maintain “restrictions on indoor gatherings for places of worship and restrictions on personal care and grooming services,” when it moves into Phase One.

“Many of our faith leaders have told me that they do not believe it is safe to reopen at this time, do not intend to reopen, and are worried about the health and safety of their parishioners," Stoney wrote. "Barbershops and salons are certainly feeling the economic pressure of the extended closure, but also have concerns for the safety of their employees with prolonged exposure to clients.”

In his response, Northam urged Stoney to work with the Richmond City council, and clarified that businesses aren't required to open despite the reopening.

"Just because a business can open, does not mean that it must open," Northam wrote. "For these reasons, I believe the capital city should operate under the same provisions that will apply to all 138 Virginia localities starting Friday. This forces no business or house of worship to take any action it does not want to take."

The mayor expressed disappointment in the governor’s decision on Twitter Tuesday evening.

“I won’t hide my disappointment in this. The Governor has always said the state set the floor, not the ceiling. I proposed this modified plan for the good of our city,” Stoney wrote.