Northam: Virginia set to begin reopening plan May 15

Published: May. 4, 2020 at 11:10 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - There’s light at the end of the tunnel for Virginia’s suffering economy.

Monday, Governor Ralph Northam announced a three-phase plan to get the commonwealth back up and running. Phase one is set to be implemented on May 15, 2020.

“Everyone in Virginia made sacrifices but everything you have done has truly made a difference,” said Northam.

Under phase one of the "Forward Virginia Plan," social gatherings of more than 10 are still banned, social distancing is still in effect, teleworking where possible and face masks are recommended while in public.

“Even when we ease some restrictions, we must continue to behave more cautiously than before. We must not relax our vigilance or think that the risk has passed,” said Northam.

Northam’s Executive Order 53 kept some non-essential business closed like salons and gyms. That order has been extended through May 14.

As businesses and churches reopen, physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and disinfection and better workplace safety are a must. Phase one could last between two and four weeks.

“I understand people have made sacrifices. I understand people are upset by our decisions. I’m not standing up here to punish people. I’m standing up here representing 8.5 million Virginians and doing what’s in the best interest of them to keep them safe,” said Northam.

Under phase two of the plan, there is a ban on social gatherings of more than 50 people, face coverings still recommended in public and further easing of business limitations. That could take another two to four weeks

Phase three of the plan, which could be 10 to 12 weeks away, would remove the ban on social gatherings and remove capacity limits in establishments.

“This virus is still here. It has not gone away and it will not go away until we have a vaccination,” said Northam.

Many businesses are looking forward to getting customers back in their stores soon.

"We're definitely struggling right now,” said Aisha Edbal of the non-profit called 10,000 Villages in Carytown. "We help artisans in developing countries."

In March, she had to place a sign outside the door telling customers they’re closed.

“Just not having customers, I mean that’s what keeps our store open,” Edbal said.

Businesses all along Cary Street can relate, as many of them would be open right now but aren’t, and others are just barely getting by.

“I need a haircut. I need to go to the barber,” Mike Martinez, who works at Jalapeno Mexican Restaurant.

Customers there are greeted by a sign reminding them to keep their distance, which is something that will still be encouraged as Virginia prepares to enter phase one of re-opening.

"I say still keep the masks on and all that good stuff at least for another two or three weeks,” Martinez said.

That’s what the Northam’s plan calls for, and phase one could last up to four weeks before measures are relaxed even more.

“I don't want to rush it and next thing we know, we’re hit again,” Martinez said.

Many companies feel there's a way to do business while staying safe.

"Our store’s a little larger so people are still able to be 6-feet away and shop, making sure we clean down everything...we would not let anyone inside our store without a mask on. We’re lucky, I got a ton of hand sanitizer before this all happened,” Eqbal said

The governor said the data is driving his decision to reopen next week. The percentage of positive tests is going down, hospitalizations are slightly lowering and issues with personal protective equipment are down with no hospitals reporting issues for the first time Monday.

Meanwhile, Virginia House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert issued the following statement regarding the Governor’s announcement regarding reopening Virginia next week.

“We hope the Governor is serious about reopening next Friday. Virginians need a light at the end of this tunnel. The Governor’s decision to use a ‘one size fits all’ approach is going to negatively impact certain parts of Virginia worse than others. The ‘potential for division’ the Governor mentioned is already a reality, as citizens across Virginia watch their livelihoods wither.”

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