By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]
Virginia could begin easing restrictions on residents and certain businesses as early as May 15, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) announced during his Monday COVID-19 briefing.
Phase one of Northam’s reopening plan would allow certain businesses, including restaurants, barbershops, retailers and gyms, to reopen while still following specific guidelines around social distancing and cleaning practices. Patrons would need to make appointments to get a haircut and retail shops and gyms would have to admit fewer people, Northam said.
For residents, phase one would still involve working from home, practicing social distancing and not congregating in groups of 10 or more people, Northam said. Phase one would last about three weeks, Northam said.
The plan allows Northern Virginia localities to decide for themselves whether to begin reopening on May 15.
“Everything you have done has truly made a difference — we flattened the curve and our hospitals have not been overwhelmed,” Northam said. “I am keenly aware that it has come with a tremendous cost. Now we can start to move into a new phase of our response.”
Northam extended the shutdown of businesses through May 14 and said the stay-at-home order for residents that’s set to expire on June 10 could be adjusted as well. On May 1, Northam lifted the restriction on elective surgeries for medical practices across the state.
Northam’s decision to begin easing restrictions comes as hospitals have been reporting more capacity, steady access to personal protective equipment and a flattening trend of new infections, the governor said.
However, Northam warned Virginians to act cautiously and that the situation will not be truly stable until a vaccine is developed and widely available.
“Even when we ease some restrictions, we must continue to behave more cautiously than before,” Northam said. “We must not relax our vigilance or think that the risk has passed, especially for our most vulnerable populations, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.”