COVID-19 testing improving as Virginians prepare for first phase of reopening plan

COVID-19 testing improving as Virginians prepare for first phase of reopening plan

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - With the commonwealth on track to begin lifting COVID-19 restrictions at the end of this week, Governor Ralph Northam now has his eyes set on Northern Virginia.

Over the weekend, leaders in Arlington, Fairfax and others asked the governor to delay phase one for their area.

"The relationship with Maryland and Washington DC and so if you look at the statistics, the data, the number of cases, the percent positives, that whole area is so dense and they're all sort of sharing the same challenges," said Northam.

Northern Virginia accounted for about 73% of Monday's reported positive case numbers.

Northam promised details and guidance on that issue at Wednesday’s briefing but did say no travel restrictions would be placed around hotspots.

“When you take northern Virginia out of the mix, if they are permitted and allowed to not enter phase one this Friday when you look at our contact tracers and our testing for the rest of the commonwealth, I think we’re more than ready for the rest of the commonwealth to enter phase one,” said Clark Mercer, Northam’s Chief of Staff.

Meanwhile, the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging Travel Association sent its own letter to Northam Monday criticizing guidelines over restaurants and saying the governor is picking and choosing winners based on who has outdoor seating.

Northam reminded businesses that phase one will only last a few weeks and is driven by the consumer.

"It falls back to people being comfortable going into that restaurant, knowing that they're going to be safe and also for employees of restaurants," said Northam.

Testing in the commonwealth is improving. The Virginia Department of Health says 9,801 coronavirus tests were administered Sunday. The goal is to average around 10,000 daily.

“We want to assure people across the state that we’re doing enough testing in their zip code, in their district to be reassured that the number of cases represents what it looks like in that community,” said Dr. Karen Remley, Former State Heath Commissioner.

Under “Phase 1” of the guidelines, stores and churches can operate at 50 percent occupancy. Restaurants can offer outside seating at 50 percent as well.

Salons and barbershops will also be allowed to reopen by appointment only. Customers and employees must wear masks.

Gyms will remain closed, but outdoor fitness classes will be allowed.

REWATCH Northam’s previous briefings here:

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