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A flock of seagulls rest in the empty parking lot at Potomac Mills Mall, April 25, which would normally be filled with cars and shoppers.

Northern Virginia leaders are preparing to enter Phase One reopening on Friday, May 29, according to a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday.

The same group of 10 county and municipal leaders previously asked the governor to delay a planned May 15 reopening in the region due to COVID-19 concerns. It left doors closed at businesses, restaurants and salons across Northern Virginia. Meanwhile, doors reopened in nearby Warrenton and Fredericksburg.

“Each of our jurisdictions have been making preparations to support a transition into Phase One at midnight May 28,” stated the letter, signed by county leaders in Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, along with mayors of Fairfax, Dumfries, Herndon, Middleburg and Vienna.

An updated assessment from area health officials Sunday noted four of six critical metrics had been met in the past two weeks. 

The remaining issues are sustainable supplies of personal protective equipment for medical staff and expanded capacity for contract tracing. The leaders suggested those issues could be resolved in the coming days, with state support.

“We appreciate the increased testing capacity the Commonwealth has provided for our region and realize that your assistance with testing and tracing in the future will be important to assist us as we move into subsequent phases,” the letter noted.

The metrics met include a downward trend in percentage of positive tests and hospitalizations, increased testing and hospital bed capacity, according to health district leaders.

Northam suggested last week he’d have news Tuesday on Northern Virginia’s progress toward reopening, as well as news on statewide rules for face masks.

"I share our community’s desire to reopen our businesses in the safest way possible," Fairfax County Chair Jeff McKay said in a statement Monday. "Fairfax County has made significant preparations should the governor decide that Northern Virginia has met his criteria to reopen this Friday. Regardless, we will continue to monitor our local statistics to ensure Fairfax County doesn’t see spikes in cases and be transparent with the public on our progress.”

Under Phase One: 

  • Restaurants will be limited to outdoor dining at up to 50% capacity, with six feet between parties, as well as physical distancing from persons on public sidewalks. Menus will need to be disposable and discarded after each customer. Condiments won’t be allowed on tables.
  • Retail stores are allowed up to 50% of their occupancy. Fitting rooms will be closed. Employees will have to wear face coverings and will have to clean all high touch surfaces at least every two hours.
  • Gyms will be limited to outdoor instruction. No more than 10 participants will be allowed for any class, and everyone has to keep 10 feet apart. Outdoor pools can reopen, but only for lap swimming in designated lanes.
  • Salons, barbershops, spas and tattoo shops can reopen by appointment only. Employees and patrons must wear a mask and services can only be provided if you can do it without removing the customer’s mask.

The letter from Northern Virginia leaders asked Northam to consider putting the region on a fast track in the coming weeks to enter Phase Two as other parts of the state lift more restrictions.

That request may be difficult if other parts of the state move to Phase Two soon.

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