Northam: Most of commonwealth can enter phase one Friday

Richmond City leaders request health data over reopening concerns

Northam: Most of commonwealth can enter phase one Friday

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT/AP) - Virginia’s Governor says most of the commonwealth can enter phase one of reopening Friday.

During a COVID-19 briefing, Governor Ralph Northam said Friday's move will be a small step forward to restarting the state's badly hurt economy.

“We were caught flat footed by this pandemic. We weren’t ready. We didn’t have the testing capability. We didn’t have the PPE and we’ve learned a significant lesson,” said Northam.

He also said no other region has reached out to him about delaying phase one aside from Northern Virginia.

But now, Richmond leaders are asking for more health data to have a clearer picture of what phase one pros and cons could mean for the city.

“If there are other regions in Virginia that have concerns, have been following their metrics, feel that they aren’t ready to move into phase one, I haven’t heard from them personally and I would encourage them to go through the same process,” said Northam.

Phase one of the “Virginia Forward” plan allows some non-essential businesses to operate with health and safety restrictions in place. Among them: salons can open by appointment only, restaurants can only entertain diners outside with capacity limitations.

“Phase one will not be like turning on a light switch,” said Northam.

The governor also said they will continue to monitor the health data as phase one begins and make changes accordingly.

“As we have said robust testing is a critical piece of our plan to slowly ease restrictions in phase one," said Northam.

On Tuesday, Northam announced that he is delaying northern Virginia’s reopening amid the coronavirus outbreak until at least May 29, two weeks after the rest of the state is expected to reopen.

He’s signed an executive order extending mandated closures and restrictions on businesses in northern Virginia, a heavily populated area where regional officials have said they’re not yet ready to reopen.

Northam ordered some businesses closed two months ago and his planned first phase of reopening will retain severe restrictions.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) reported 26,746 total positive coronavirus tests, 927 deaths and 3,520 hospitalizations throughout the state Wednesday.

So far, nearly 180,084 Virginias have tested for the virus.

$650 million from The CARES Act is on its way to Virginia localities. Even more federal money is also coming to help with testing and tracing.

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