Governor Northam to unveil ‘phase one’ reopening guidelines Friday

Governor Northam to unveil ‘phase one’ reopening guidelines Friday

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Friday is when we will learn the fine print about what Virginia’s phase one of reopening will look like.

Virginia is set to ease restrictions on some non-essential businesses May 15. The announcement will give business owners about a week to figure things out and get ready for customers.

During the anticipated briefing, Governor Ralph Northam will present a big picture overview of the guidelines, but also specifics for a variety of sectors looking to reopen. But the fine print on business regulations is still being worked on.

“We will continue to closely monitor the data to make that decision as we do with all of our decisions,” said Northam.

Business owners like Lester Johnson at Mama J's in Richmond are preparing for the new rules on how to keep their livelihoods afloat.

“What type of things are going to, you know, what’s going to be the new normal. What things are going to be necessary that weren’t necessary three or four months ago like I said to keep people safe,” said Johnson.

Johnson’s event space business is closed under the governor’s order. But his downtown restaurant has been able to survive as a takeout operation. Johnson was also on the governor’s COVID-19 business task force. That group’s work wrapped up last week.

“I think the more direction and the more people see that this thing was looked at very carefully, then that will give people a comfort level to start coming back out," said Johnson.

Northam also under phase one: each locality can have stricter restrictions, if needed, based on circumstances. But the governor has the final say.

“This is the greatest emergency that we have seen in many years,” said Northam.

The state department of health says labs across the commonwealth can now test about 65-hundred people daily. The federal government is also shipping reagents and swabs for those test kits over the next month.

Meanwhile, The Virginia National Guard is also stepping up efforts to help coordinate widespread testing including in Richmond.

“Our top priority is providing additional capacity for COVID test sample collection and mask test fitting at long term care and correctional facilities which is some of our most vulnerable populations,” said Major General Tim Williams, Virginia National Guard Adjutant General.

Contact tracing will also be key in phase one. The state has hundreds already on staff and hopes to hire about 1,500 more. They will track the people a positive patient came into contact with. The state says it’s using a national formula to figure out how many people to bring on staff.

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