The Prince William Board of County Supervisors voted 5-3 Tuesday to ask Gov. Ralph Northam to allow restaurants with existing outdoor seating to reopen starting this weekend with no more than 50% capacity.

The measure was supported by supervisors Victor Angry, D-Neabsco; Kenny Boddye, D-Occoquan; Pete Candland, R-Brentsville; Jeanine Lawson, R-Gainesville; and Yesli Vega, R-Coles.

"It's never going to be 100% safe," Candland said about reopening.

Prince William County has reported 73 deaths due to COVID-19. The county has 3,394 cases of the coronavirus — putting the rate of cases higher than Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun.

Chair Ann Wheeler and Supervisors Margaret Franklin, D-Woodbridge, and Andrea Bailey, D-Potomac, voted against the measure.

"I think it's irresponsible to decide we have to open," Wheeler said during the meeting. "I'm not willing to put people's lives at risk."

Currently, restaurants in Northern Virginia are limited to carry-out and drive-thru orders. Most of the state entered Phase One in lifting some COVID-19 restrictions Friday, including allowing restaurants to provide outdoor seating at 50% capacity.

Northam has final decision on lifting restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, Northam rejected a call from supervisors in western Loudoun County to allow them to enter Phase One and leave the heavier restrictions on the eastern end of the county.

Alison Ansher, director of the Prince William Health District, told the Board of County Supervisors during a May 12 meeting that hospitals in the county have told her they have capacity, but other metrics to enter Phase One have either been unmet or health districts in the region don’t have the data from the state.

Franklin said she wanted the data from Virginia Department of Health before making decisions about reopening. "I want to do it safely," she said during the meeting. "I need a lot more information before doing that."

The elected leaders of Northern Virginia's four counties and the mayor of Alexandria sent a joint letter to the governor May 10 calling for a delay in reopening businesses in the region, and the governor has delayed Phase One for the region until at least May 29.

(7) comments

PWC resident since '69

Vote red and get those irresponsible chumps out of office, Wheeler has no clue

Stoptheinsanity

Ann Wheeler is endangering all of our lives with her one sided politics and biased approach to leadership. The Prince William Board of Supervisors need to step up and call out this lack of transparency and injustice. The tax paying residents of this county deserve representation by elected officials. Se is representing political contributors and organizations over residents and citizens.

InsideCommenter

If you want stability and sane leadership vote blue and keep our current board who have been wonderful at helping us get through this crisis. Ann Wheeler is a proven leader, who despite enduring threats from crazed yokels in our community has been a steadfast leader and good manager of the county.

Cultured2014

she's nothing of the sort. proven leader in what?

InsideCommenter

Using evidence based practice to ensure this county weathers this crisis, she is also not a supply sider who think that constantly cutting taxes will help our county, we have a board for the first time in years that is pragmatic and is focused on funding our schools and improving our roads.

Citizen52

Quit being a hack and name calling. You violate Insidenova’s commentary policies all of the time.

Realitycheck

I am glad to see the board is beginning to acknowledge businesses in their discussions. However, opening restaurants to outdoor dining is one small step. How can we go to Walmart and Home Depot along with hundreds of other customers while gyms are not allowed to reopen with outdoor training while maintaining distancing guidelines? Hair and nail salons should be able to do the same just to name a few. The most recent Johns Hopkins data shows our county with a 1.86 fatality rate compared to Fairfax County with 3.62. There is a decline in cases in Northern Virginia according to reporting by Inside NOVA. When will the BOCS and the media provide a broader scope of data on public health and welfare of residents in the county that includes trends in crime, domestic abuse, suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, food pantry use, unemployment, number of businesses already declaring they cannot reopen, etc. There needs to be more data (or science as some say) to make more discerning decisions. The county staff should be briefing the BOCS with graphs also available to the public. We should not make decisions based on emotion but on data driven trends specific to our county. Everyone says this should not be a partisan issue, but voting by the board seems to be partisan lockstep based on limited data that should be available to elected officials. Is this data being requested by BOCS officials? Let's not give our county leadership a free pass to, intentionally or unintentionally, exclude data on the broader perspective of health and welfare of residents.

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