Northam outlines 'dimmer switch' phase 1 of Virginia's reopening

Salons, stores, churches in Virginia can reopen with restrictions
Ralph Northam
Posted at 8:42 AM, May 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-08 20:04:59-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam provided detailed guidance on the restrictions and guidelines for the phased reopening of the Commonwealth and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions during his 2 p.m. news conference Friday.

Northam said phase one of the Forward Virginia plan, which could begin next Friday, May 15, looks similar to the current restrictions, but the stay-at-home order becomes a "safer-at-home" order.

"We're not flipping a light switch from closed to open," Northam said. "When the time is right, we will turn a dimmer switch up just a notch."

The analogy came as from Northam detailed easing some, but not all restrictions currently in place.

The ten-person limit on private gatherings remains in effect, the wearing of masks continues to be encouraged as is teleworking, if possible.

Phase One:

  • Non-essential retail will open with 50-percent capacity.
  • Restaurants can reopen with outdoor seating at 50 percent capacity.
  • Day cares will remain open for working families.
  • Churches can continue drive-in services and do inside services at 50 percent capacity.
  • Entertainment and amusement venues will remain closed.
  • Barbers and hair salons can open and operate by appointment only. Masks required.
  • Gyms will be allowed to hold outdoor fitness classes.
  • Beaches to remain open to only exercise and fishing.
  • Private campgrounds can open. State parks will phases overnight stays back in.

While there will be more places to go, Northam advised Virginians to stay home when possible.

Northam said he expects phase one to last at least two weeks, but that would be determined by health data. He said if they see a surge in the numbers and metrics they will consider putting restrictions back in place.

Northam added his administration is working on options for those who cannot return to work because of underlying health conditions. But to those who will. Northam pledged to do everything possible to protect them.

"If you feel your workplace is unsafe, because it is not following the rules, please report that to our Department of Labor and Industry," Northam said.

Northam said that while health metrics continue to trend in a positive direction, Virginians need to continue to be cautious.

“This virus is still with us,” said Northam. “It has not gone away. It has no cure, and no vaccination to date and we may be living with it for months or even years. Our efforts have slowed the spread, but they have not cured the disease. I don't want people to let their guard down.”

Northam said the phase one guidelines are to be considered the ground floor.

"And local governments to consult with our administration about stricter regulations," the governor said.

Northam said enforcement of the new guidelines will again fall to local law enforcement as they have during the current restrictions.

Northam’s Executive Order 53, which temporarily closed many businesses, is currently set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, May 14.

Northam said Wednesday that whatever the guidelines are from the Commonwealth, they should be considered the “ground floor” of restrictions and localities can request to implement stricter ones.

“As we get closer, if they have concerns and want to raise that floor, if you will, for another week, two, whatever they think is necessary. We'll work with them on that,” said Northam.

In terms of the impact of COVID-19 cases on Virginia’s hospitals, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) reported Wednesday that 1625 patients are currently hospitalized. This is a increase of 12 from Tuesday.

  • 2,997 people have been treated and discharged from hospital. This is an increase of 172 from Thursday.
  • 4635 beds are available in the state. This is an decrease of 48 from Thursday.
  • 20% of ventilators in the state are in use. This is unchanged from Thursday.

VHHA also reported no hospitals are “experiencing difficulty in obtaining or replenishing PPE [personal protective equipment] in the next 72 hours”, and no hospital is “experiencing difficulty in obtaining or replenishing other medical supplies in the next 72 hours.”

Depend on CBS 6 News and for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.