RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In a letter sent Tuesday to Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, Gov. Ralph Northam wrote that he doesn’t believe the city should operate under different “phase one” guidelines as the rest of the state, a move the mayor had requested in his own letter to the governor the day before.
Stoney tweeted out the letter he sent Northam asking for a modified “phase one” reopening plan for Richmond. In the letter, the mayor laid out what steps would need to be taken under the modified “phase one,” which included imposing restrictions on indoor gatherings for places of worship and on personal grooming services.
“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. “Barber shops 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.”
Northam’s letter urges Stoney to work with the Richmond City Council if he hopes to enforce additional restrictions on houses of worship, barber shops or hair salons, but that he believes Richmond should follow the same guidelines that will be applied to the entire state on Friday.
“I understand this perspective, and I would point out that nothing requires any house of worship or any private business to open if they do not want to. Just because a business can open, does not mean that it must open,” the governor wrote in response. “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.”
After Northam made the decision to reject the mayor’s plans for a modified “phase one,” Stoney took to Twitter to express his thoughts.
“I won’t hide my disappointment in this,” the mayor wrote. “The Governor has always said the state set the floor, not the ceiling. I proposed this modified plan for the good of our city.”
Earlier this month, Stoney asked the governor to delay Richmond entering Phase One for two weeks because he said the city needed more testing in order to safely reopen. According to the Virginia Department of Health, Richmond has reported 1,089 coronavirus cases and 20 deaths linked to the virus.
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