Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday he has not decided whether Northern Virginia can enter Phase One of reopening on May 29.
Northam last week delayed the region's entry into the first phase of easing restrictions designed to slow the spread of coronavirus until at least midnight on May 28. Most of the rest of the state began easing restrictions on Friday, May 15.
In response to a question during his thrice-weekly news conference in Richmond, Northam said he is in daily communication with Northern Virginia government leaders and has set no timeline for making a decision.
"They are following the data just as we are," Northam said. "When they are comfortable and when the data supports moving to Phase One we will do so."
Northern Virginia continues to have between 50% and 55% of the state's new cases of the virus, and the region also accounts for more than half of the deaths related to COVID-19. However, one key metric - the percent of positive tests in the region - has been trending downward over the past week or so.
Northam did not specifically address a request approved Tuesday by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors to allow restaurants to open outdoor dining areas at 50% capacity this weekend, one of the guidelines in the Phase One reopening.
He noted that he has received a number of other specific requests from towns, cities and parts of counties. "I listen to the requests. I take everything into consideration," he said. "But as best we can we try to be consistent."
Northam also said he does not have a timeline yet regarding any announcement about when the rest of the state would move into Phase Two of the reopening, which would ease restrictions further, including allowing gyms to open and restaurants to resume indoor dining. He said that will not happen before May 29 and that a key is a continued downward trend in key metrics.
"We'll continue to watch in the next few days, over the weekend," he said. "We look at data, rather than dates, and that's what we'll continue to do going forward."
Northam noted that the goal of the shutdown of non-essential businesses and the stay-at-home order was to ensure hospitals were not overwhelmed by the spread of the virus. Two months later, he said, "Our supplies are better, our testing capabilities are better, our hospitals are better equipped. If someone contracts COVID-19 today versus two months ago, their outcome is going to be far better."
He said that since the beginning of the pandemic the state has distributed 793,000 N95 masks, 1.3 million surgical masks, 3 million pairs of gloves, 285,000 gowns, 427,000 face shields and 24,300 containers of hand sanitizer to hospitals and other providers associated with testing and treating the coronavirus.
The state's Department of General Services has begun a rapid review process to approve vendors of personal protective equipment, and the state has worked with Amazon to prioritize shipments to health-care providers, Northam said.
He emphasized that providers should exhaust their private supply chains before requesting state assistance but shouldn't hesitate to do so if they need it.
"No one will go without PPE," Northam said. "If a clinic or a nursing home or another provider needs help, we want to provide that help.”