Northam, at his daily briefing on COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2, revealed in a number of charts that Virginia met the criteria for the first phase of reopening.
The conditions included falling numbers of new COVID-19 deaths and infections, front-line health workers having access to adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the ability of hospitals to cope with a potential influx of new patients in the event of a resurge in infections.
“Our hospitals have not been overwhelmed,” Northam said, adding, “We have a steady supply of PPE for our health workers, and we now believe this is sustainable.”
He said the state is continuing to ramp up testing and contact tracing, including by hiring 1,000 staff to do contact tracing.
Still, Northam stopped short of formalizing the May 15 date for Virginia’s phase one reopening, saying that for that to happen, both case and testing data must not deteriorate.
“I want to reassure Virginians that we are not opening the floodgates. We are not flipping a light switch from off to. When time is right, we will move the dimmer switch up a notch,” Northam said.
Northam said at the briefing that under phase one, non-essential retail businesses could operate at 50 percent occupancy, while employees must wear face masks.
Restaurants and beverage services will remain delivery and takeout only, while those with outdoor seating permits can have limited dining with tables set up for social distancing and operate at 50 percent capacity.
Entertainment-related businesses and indoor fitness centers will remain closed.
Salons will be by appointment only and will be allowed to operate at half capacity.
Places of worship can have 50 percent capacity, but Northam is encouraging them to provide drive-in or online alternatives.
According to Northam’s “Forward Virginia Blueprint” for reopening (pdf), in phase one people are still urged to work from home, avoid gatherings of 10 or more, and cover their nose and mouth when out in public.
“The reality is that the virus is still in our communities,” Northam said, adding, “and we need to continue our vigilance and social distancing, and hand-washing, and wearing of face protection when we’re out and about.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death. The vast majority of people recover.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.