Governor Ralph Northam said Virginia can begin to reopen some businesses and relax restrictions on May 15th, if current trends in COVID-19 cases and hospital capacity continue.
During his Monday afternoon news conference, Northam said restrictions on gatherings and businesses have succeeded in flattening the curve of infections and maintaining hospital capacity. "But to be clear," Northam added, "the virus is still here and it will be here."
Northam's current restrictions on non-essential businesses were set to expire May 8th. That will be extended through Thursday, May 14th, if current trends hold. Northam said he believes they will. Phase 1, Northam said, will allow businesses to reopen with enhanced physical distance, increased cleaning and enhanced workplace safety. Northam said additional specific guidelines will be issued for certain businesses, including personal grooming, entertainment venues and restaurants. "You'll still be safer at home," Northam advised, and social distance will still be important. Northam also said the needs of churches will be acommodated but social distancing will need to be in place. Restrictions on gatherings of more than ten people and the recommendation that people wear face coverings in public will remain in effect.
Northam said there would be two additional phases of relaxed restrictions. He expects each phase to last about three weeks if trends continue downward. Ending Phase 3 would require no evidence of rebound for an extended period of time.
Some Republican lawmakers, who've been pressing Northam to move forward with reopening, said they hope he is serious about the date. "Virginians need a light at the end of this tunnel," Delegate Todd Gilbert wrote in a statement.