Virginia Could Start Reopening May 15: Northam

May 4, 2020 Updated: May 4, 2020

Virginia could start reopening on May 15, Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday as he extended his stay at home order until May 14.

“I anticipate moving into phase one on the 15th,” the governor said at a press conference.

“You’ll be able to get your haircut but you’ll need an appointment. … You can go out to eat again but restaurants will use less of their seating so to spread people out more. … You can go to the gym, but with fewer people and more requirements for cleaning.”

Officials still aren’t completely sure if reopening can start, prompting the extension of the harsh order.

Since March, Virginians have been largely confined to their houses and ordered not to leave except for so-called essential trips. As most states in the nation reopen or move toward reopening, Northam has so far resisted calls to ease restrictions along with neighboring Maryland and the District of Columbia.

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People begin to arrive at the Family Drive-In Theatre during its opening night in Stephens City, Virginia on May 1, 2020. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Extending the order “gives us an additional two weeks to watch the data and determine if we are meeting the metrics we need to see to enter phase one,” the Democrat said. He said he’d do everything he can to give advance notice to people if the plan changes.

Phase one includes easing limits on businesses and houses of worship. People who go out will be encouraged to maintain distance between themselves and others and use face coverings or masks in public.

Companies will be told to establish policies to keep employees and customers physically separated while avoiding conferences, trade shows, and other large gatherings. Employees may have to wear masks at work. Disinfecting should be stepped up. People who can work from home should continue to do so.

In-person gatherings at churches and other houses of worship will be allowed with social distancing measures. Farmer’s markets can operate.

The elderly and people with compromised immune systems should stay home if possible.

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A protestor carries a sign reading “We Will Not Comply” during a demonstration outside the Virginia State Capitol to protest Virginia’s stay-at-home order and business closures in the wake of the CCP virus outbreak in Richmond, Virginia on April 16, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Phase one could last two to four weeks or even longer, according to state officials. Phases two and three are projected to last about three weeks each.

Phase two will see further easing of restrictions, including allowing social gatherings of up to 50 people. Workers will still be advised to work from home if possible and follow social distancing guidelines if they go to work.

Phase three would only be implemented if there’s no evidence of a rebound in new cases for a sustained period of time. It would remove the ban on social gatherings and remove capacity limits on businesses and other establishments. At-risk populations including the elderly would still be advised to stay home when possible and a heightened amount of cleaning and disinfection would continue.

The number of new cases in Virginia hasn’t fallen significantly in recent days, with record levels reached April 30 and May 1. The state saw 821 new cases overnight. Officials expect the daily rate to stay high as they ramp up testing even more. They’re instead focusing on the percentage of people who test positive in respect to the total number tested, especially the 7-day moving average of positive tests.

“We want to see a downward trend in that percentage over 14 days,” Northam said.

Another key metric is the percentage of people hospitalized with COVID-19.

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