RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam is giving the green light for ‘Phase One’ to begin in most areas of the state on Friday.
The announcement comes as Virginia has seen a 14-day decline in the percent of positive cases– a threshold many states failed to meet before beginning the reopening process. Northam said he’s confident Virginia’s hospital capacity, personal protective equipment supply and testing capabilities are sufficient to safely move forward.
“Phase one represents a small step forward but we will remain vigilant. We will continue to monitor health data closely,” Northam said. “I again want to remind all Virginians that this virus has not gone away and everyone needs to act accordingly.”
Here’s what ‘Phase One’ will look like:
On Wednesday, Northern Virginia leaders spoke to the press remotely to explain their decision to delay ‘Phase One’ throughout the region until May 29. They said the goal is to be consistent with the broader Washington D.C. region and to keep troubling case counts under control.
“Northern Virginia represents nearly one third of the population of Virginia but half of the commonwealth’s cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The most responsible path forward for us is to maintain our current operating status,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey.
“We’re more focused on data than dates and that’s something we’ll continue to do moving forward,” Northam added.
Though Northern Virginia is taking extra precautions, Northam’s announcement is already facing pushback from members of his own party.
In a letter to the governor on Wednesday, the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus expressed “grave concern” and “strong opposition” to the plan. The group represents more than 20 members of the General Assembly who fear a rushed reopening will disproportionately impact people of color.
The letter goes on to read, in part:
Under the current plan, and with the already existent racial disparities that this pandemic and economic crisis are perpetuating, we will be creating a situation where Black and Brown Virginians outside of Northern Virginia will become guinea pigs for our economy. We’ve already seen this take place in Georgia, where that state’s premature reopening resulted in a huge spike in COVID-19 cases, with the overwhelming majority being Black people and People of Color.Virginia Legislative Black Caucus
Asked about a potential surge in cases following this partial reopening, Northam said, “We’ve got to be ready for that. We’re not only preparing for tomorrow. We’re preparing for months and years down the road.”
Gov. Northam also announced that 11 DMV customers services centers will open up on Monday. They will only serve customers who make an appointment and people will have to wait in their cars for service.
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