Northam delays economic reopening, extends non-essential business closure

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) –Gov. Ralph Northam is pushing back the first phase of Virginia’s economic reopening.

At his press conference on Monday, Gov. Northam extended his executive order banning gatherings over ten and closing some non-essential businesses through May 14th. This is the second time the governor has extended the order, originally scheduled to end April 23rd and then on May 8th.

Northam said moving the deadline to next week will give his administration more time to determine if the data supports easing restrictions.

Virginia Department of Health data shows that new cases are still climbing. Northam said some of that can be attributed to the increase in testing over the last several days. As the state inches towards its goal of 10 thousand daily tests, Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. Daniel Carey said the good news is that the percentage of positive tests daily is beginning to decline. Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and ventilator demand also remain flat. 

“All of our efforts have slowed its spread but they have not cured the disease,” Northam said. “We must figure out a path forward but we must always be aware that this virus is still with us.”

Northam laid out what ‘Phase One’ of his reopening plan will look like in more detail on Monday. The plan mimics the White House’s guidelines. 

  • The ‘stay at home’ order becomes a ‘safer at home’ advisory
  • Vulnerable populations should continue to shelter in place 
  • No social gatherings of more than 10 
  • Teleworking is encouraged but some can return to the workplace
  • Face coverings recommending in public
  • Eased limitations on businesses and faith communities

The big difference will be that movie theaters, gyms, salons, churches, restaurants and retailers will be able to open back up with strict social distancing rules, enhanced sanitation and safety guidelines for employees.  

“You’ll be able to get your haircut but you’ll need an appointment and you’ll see new safety measures in the salon. It means you can go out to eat again but restaurants will use less seating to spread people out more,” Northam said. 

The governor said they’ll be publishing industry-specific guidelines for businesses online.

Northam says each of the three phases of the reopening process could last between 2 to 4 weeks or longer in accordance with CDC guidelines. 

Northam says ‘Phase Two’ is similar to ‘Phase One’ but social gatherings of 50 or less would be allowed. 

‘Phase Three,’ which could be 10-12 weeks away or more, will not be initiated until there’s no evidence of the virus’s rebound for a sustained period of time, according to Northam. During this phase, vulnerable populations would still be advised to stay home but bans on social gatherings and and capacity limits will be lifted. 

Last month, there were at least two #ReopenVirginia protests. Protesters have said they believe they have the right to go back to work and the state is overstepping with its restrictions.

Governor Northam told 8News  that he will not be persuaded by the protesters. He also said people who are rallying and not practicing social distancing are putting themselves and others at risk.

WATCH: Monday’s full coronavirus briefing with Gov. Northam, state officials

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