We still don’t have a date, but Phase Three of businesses reopening in Virginia will include an easing of several key restrictions, Gov. Ralph Northam said Thursday during a press conference in Fairfax.
“While the statewide numbers are trending in a positive direction, we need to continue to evaluate the data,” Northam said of the continued delay in moving to Phase Three.
Most of Virginia entered Phase One of reopenings on May 15, with Northern Virginia following on May 29. The rest of the state moved into Phase Two on June 5, and Northern Virginia entered Phase Two on June 12. Under Phase Two, restaurants can offer indoor dining at 50% capacity, gyms can open at 30% capacity, and gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed.
Last week, Northam was upbeat about the prospects of a Phase Three shift as early as Friday, June 19. But Northam continued to point Thursday to other states where restrictions have been lifted prematurely, followed by a surge in COVID-19 cases. In response to a question, Northam said the state would not enter Phase Three before next Friday, June 26.
When Virginia does move to Phase Three, social distancing and face mask requirements will still be in place in public places, but there also will be several changes:
- Social gatherings will be allowed with up to 250 people
- Capacity limits at stores and restaurants will be lifted
- Museums and zoos can open at 50% capacity
- Gyms and swimming pools can open at 75% capacity.
Northam didn’t provide a timeline for entering Phase Three, but stressed that it will be more important to stay safe when out in the community.
“While our data is good, and our restrictions may ease, the virus has not gone anywhere,” Northam said. “We’re adapting our lives around it, but it has not changed. We must be even more cautious.”
Data provided by the Virginia Department of Health this week has shown a flattening in the number of new cases after more than two weeks of declining numbers.
Northam was in Northern Virginia to highlight the disproportionate impact that the coronavirus has had on the Latino community, particularly in the region.
The state has increased efforts to reach out to Latino communities, including translating health messages, directing public testing efforts to these neighborhoods and hiring experts in outreach to underserved communities.