RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam provided an update on how the state is dealing with COVID-19 ahead of the remaining Virginia localities entering “Phase One.”
Northam said there has been a decrease in the percent positivity which allows Northern Virginia, Richmond and Accomack County to reopen Friday.
The governor said the earliest date Virginia could move into “Phase Two” of his ‘Forward Virginia’ plan would be on June 5. Northam said his administration is waiting another week because they want to be ‘very careful and deliberate.’
“We don’t have the data yet to keep moving forward,” Northam said.
The governor said his team will continue to monitor the data and the trends — only then will Virginia move into the next phase.
Areas like Richmond that delayed the reopening process by two weeks will have the option to enter ‘Phase Two’ next Friday.
Northam said he would really like to see everyone in Virginia moving forward at the same time.
After initially keeping waterfronts closed for some recreational activities during ‘Phase One,’ Northam is now allowing all beaches to open with restrictions.
“No large gatherings of more than 10 people, no tents, no alcohol and no group sports,” Northam said. “I expect everyone to follow the restrictions so that people can be safe.”
As Virginia starts to open, Northam said all residents need to make sure they are wearing face coverings. The governor said these don’t need to be elaborate coverings — a face cloth or bandana should do just fine.
“If you shouldn’t go to a public place without shoes or a shirt then you shouldn’t without a face covering either,” Northam added.
Earlier this week, Northam announced that starting Friday, May 29th all Virginians are required to wear face coverings inside public buildings. However, there are some exceptions:
- While eating or drinking
- If you’re exercising
- If you have trouble breathing or are unable to remove the face covering without help
- If you need to communicate with those who are hard of hearing
- When temporarily removing the mask is necessary to secure government or medical services
- If you have a health condition stopping you from wearing a face-covering
The Virginia Department of Health will be responsible for enforcing face masks.
Council to the governor, Rita Davis said the mask mandate can be enforced in the following ways:
- A civil process by which an injunction is obtained to enforce the public health order
- A warrant issued by a magistrate
Davis said that this enforcement mechanism in Northam’s Executive Order 63 is not new — it is a standard statutory process. She said the maximum punishment is a Class One Misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year of jail time.
However, Northam said that it shouldn’t be the responsibility of the health department, police or businesses to enforce this.
“Certainly we don’t want businesses to be in the practice of enforcing this. Its an awkward position for them to be in and we don’t want confrontations to occur so I would just ask people to do the right thing,” Northam said.
WATCH: Thursday’s coronavirus briefing with Gov. Northam, state officials