Northam: Virginia will move into Phase 3 in July; Encourages demonstrators to protest peacefully

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — At a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that the commonwealth would start Phase Three of the reopening process on July 1, more than three weeks after most of the state began ‘Phase Two.’

Northam said he’s comfortable with the whole state moving forward at the same time noting that, if local leaders in Northern Virginia and Richmond had concerns, he would take that into consideration. These areas have previously lagged behind the rest of Virginia due to higher case counts and hospitalizations.

At his last update, the governor gave details on what Phase Three would look like. He said the mask mandate and social distancing recommendations will remain in place.

Some of the major changes include increasing the cap on social gatherings to 250 people. Retailers, restaurants and bars will be able to lift capacity limits entirely. Plus, more people will be allowed in entertainment venues and gyms.

“It still means you’re safer at home, especially if you’re vulnerable,” Northam said.

Here is a breakdown of what Phase Three looks like:

The announcement comes as about half of U.S. states are seeing increases in new cases.

“Obviously if we see surges in the commonwealth and we’re going in the wrong direction we will have to make difficult decisions,” Northam said when asked if he’s prepared to restore restrictions.

“I want to reiterate that everyone should continue to take this pandemic very seriously,” Northam continued. “I do not want to see that happen in our Commonwealth.”

The governor said he wouldn’t have allowed the state to move forward in the first place if the data wasn’t encouraging.

The governor also addressed the 400-plus protests that have gone on across the state over the last three weeks. He said these demonstrations have been mostly peaceful but expressed specific concerns about consecutive nights of unrest in Richmond.

“These nightly conflicts cannot continue indefinitely,” Northam said. “I’m hopeful the city can move forward with meaningful policy change.”

While he ‘doesn’t like’ the use of tear gas or rubber bullets, Northam added he wasn’t going to tell the police how to do their job.

“As you saw last night in Richmond an unlawful assembly was called a couple of times, people refused to leave, and when people break the law we can’t condone that,” Northam said. “To keep the law, police are going to need to take the actions necessary.”

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