Northam releases Phase Three reopening plan details
Next phase will ease many restrictions but Virginia isn't ready yet, governor says
Virginia isn’t ready to enter Phase Three of the state’s Forward Virginia reopening plan yet, Gov. Ralph Northam said Thursday, but when it happens, it will bring some big changes back to public life — like allowing social gatherings of up to 250 people.
“We are not entering Phase Three this week. While statewide [COVID-19 case] numbers are trending in a positive direction, we need to continue to evaluate the data,” Northam said during a news conference at the Fairfax County Government Center. He added that he’s closely monitoring recent coronavirus surges in other states that reopened “prematurely” before he makes a decision to ease more restrictions in the commonwealth. “We are going to be cautious and careful and watch the data for a little while longer before we move forward.”
Other Phase Three details will include:
- Occupancy/capacity limits will be lifted on retail stores, restaurants, bars and breweries.
- Museums, zoos and other outdoor entertainment venues will be allowed to open at 50% capacity, serving a maximum of 1,000 people.
- Gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to operate at up to 75% capacity.
- Personal grooming and hair salons will still need to follow physical distancing requirements.
- Child care facilities will remain open.
- Overnight summer camps will be closed.
- Recreational sports will still require physical distancing.
- Swimming pools will be able to operate at up to 75% capacity, with physical distancing in place.
- Face coverings will still be required in indoor public spaces.
Northam added that even after the state is ready to move into Phase Three, “It still means you’re safer at home, especially if you’re vulnerable. It means we still strongly encourage teleworking. People need to focus on physical distancing in all situations outside of their home. Face coverings are still the right thing to do in indoor public spaces. … We all need to wear them and wear them properly. This is easy to do and I’m proud of all the Virginians who are showing a responsibility for their neighbor by wearing their face coverings.”
And if a business doesn’t feel comfortable opening or can’t meet state requirements, it does not have to reopen, the governor said. He also cautioned the public to be cautious about their activities. “Just because there are more places to go,” Northam said, “does not mean you need to go there.”
Northam also spoke Friday about the disproportionate toll the pandemic has taken on the Latino community. Latino people make up more than 45% of coronavirus cases and 35% of COVID-19 hospitalizations, even though Hispanic and Latino people make up only about 10% of Virginia’s population. This is somewhat due to the fact that Latino people are work likely to work in jobs that put them at higher risk for contracting coronavirus, Northam said, and the problem is worse among the undocumented community. He said his administration is stepping up outreach and testing efforts in an effort to assist the Latino community fight the virus.