(WRIC) — 8News hosted a virtual town hall with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam; Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine; and Dr. Laurie Forlano, Deputy Commissioner of Population Health at Virginia Department of Health, on Tuesday, Apr. 21.
As some states across the country are starting to reopen, many Virginians are left wondering when Virginia will do the same?
We asked Governor Ralph Northam, who reiterated his intentions to follow CDC guidelines. This means Virginia needs to go through three phases before there is a return to “normal life.” The first phase includes a decrease in the number of coronavirus cases for two full weeks.
“We are nowhere near 14 days,” Northam said during the virtual town hall.
8News asked Gov. Northam if he would consider reopening the economy on a regional basis?
“There are hot spots in Virginia,” he said. “The virus tends to be more successful, if you will, in areas where there’s density, but I will remind folks that this virus knows no borders.”
Virginia has a stay-at-home order through June 10 and non-essential businesses have been asked to stay closed through May 8.
“I would love to get the economy back up and running before then, but we need several things,” Northam told 8News. “We need to make sure we have the necessary PPE. We also need the testing.”
The governor adds that when the state has the proper supply of PPE and testing, he can ease restrictions and the state can move forward in a safe and responsible way. As the days progress, Northam told 8News he has been in close communication with the neighboring state’s governors, Maryland and North Carolina, to make sure Virginia is consistent with their plans during COVID-19.
According to the governor, he says a lot of his guidelines have been centered around having people practice social distancing. He would love the virus to be in “our rearview mirror by July” so people can enjoy summer plans, but adds that Virginians have to take things one day at a time.
“Until we have a vaccination, which people are saying a year, a year and a half, I think this virus will continue to be out there in our community, so we all as Virginians need to be careful and follow these guidelines, ” Northam said. “As far as festivals, large gatherings this summer, I wouldn’t recommend those right now.”
During recent protests, people are calling on the governor to reopen the economy and resend the stay at home order. Some even accused Governor Ralph Northam of tyranny.
Addressing his critics, Northam says “I would remind folks that my job as Governor is to keep Virginians safe and to save lives.
“On Thursday, our President, through the CDC guidelines told us we need 14 days of decrease in numbers. While I know people are frustrated, I’m frustrated, and we all want to get back to our normal lives, but we need to do this in a safe and responsible way. I don’t need protests to encourage me to lift these restrictions. What we need right now is to work as a team. We need to put this health crisis behind us.”
8News also spoke with Senator Mark Warner who asked Virginians to “show each other a little more kindness and grace” amid uncertain times.
Sen. Tim Kaine told 8News Congress is doing its best to help Virginians during this time. He encouraged citizens to follow public health advice and guidelines to remain safe.
“We will do our best to provide financial assistance,” Sen. Kaine added.
8News asked Dr. Laurie Forlano, Deputy Commissioner of Population Health at Virginia Department of Health when it will be safe for the economy to reopen in Virginia? She says “We need to make sure we have enough tests and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases across the state,” before reopening can become a possibility.