Virginia businesses owners may have a new important date to circle on their calendars — with a question mark. Gov. Ralph Northam said Thursday that more of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions could be lifted as soon as June 5.
Most of the state entered Phase 1 of the reopening process May 15, and the rest of the state, including Northern Virginia, is set to begin Friday, May 29. In Phase One, restaurants can use limited outdoor seating, salons are open by appointment only, and stores and churches can open at 50% capacity.
In Phase Two, limits on social gatherings climb from no more than 10 people to no more than 50 people.
It would also mean further easing of business limitations, Northam said when he introduced the phases last month.
Some businesses that remain closed in Phase One should be able to reopen in Phase Two with capacity restrictions, although details have not been released.
The governor suggested the state is better prepared in the event of a second wave of cases as more public places reopen. If the state sees a spike in cases or hot spots in particular areas, officials are now able to provide testing and contact tracing, Northam said.
“If we see numbers not going in the right direction, we’ll make adjustments,” he said.
Northern Virginia leaders said earlier this week they’d be interested in moving to Phase Two at the same time as the rest of the state.
Northam said Thursday, “I’d like to see everybody in Virginia moving together at the same time.”
The state’s testing capability has been an important measure in weighing reopening plans.
On Friday, the governor announced that self-swab testing will be offered at 39 CVS Pharmacy drive-through locations across the state. Patients must register in advance at CVS.com beginning Friday.
Another important measure for reopening has been the availability of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for medical staff. Northam noted Thursday that the state has sent out 200 shipments of PPE, including more than 30,000 N95 masks.
Phase One could be moving fast, but phase two may be with us for some time. Phase Three would only follow “no evidence of rebound for a sustained period of time,” the governor said in May.
Beginning Friday, face coverings will be required in public places, such as restaurants, stores, public transit, government buildings or anywhere else where people congregate.
“If you shouldn’t go into a public place without shoes or a shirt, then you shouldn’t go in without a face covering,” Northam said Thursday.
The governor noted the rules are enforceable under state health codes, but he expects only the “most egregious violations” to be enforced.
The governor noted a mask is meant to protect the people around you from exposure in the event you unknowingly have COVID-19. And he dismissed attacks from Republican leaders regarding his statewide mask requirements.
“We need to get the politics out of this,” Northam said. “This is about a health crisis."
Other notes from Northam’s news conference Thursday:
- NASCAR will be granted permission to hold auto races in the state without fans, and live horse racing can also resume without fans. NASCAR has scheduled a race at Martinsville Speedway on June 10. “We believe there is minimal risk in allowing them to go forward, with restrictions,” Northam said.
- The Department of Motor Vehicles will extend deadlines. If your license or registration expires before July 31, you’ll now have until Aug. 31 to renew.
- All beaches in Virginia may open on Friday under the same guidelines and restrictions as the beaches in Virginia Beach.