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Gov. Northam Agrees to Delay Phase I of ‘Virginia Forward’ Reopening in Northern Virginia

| May 11, 2020 | 0 Comments | News

Gov. Ralph Northam (Twitter)

It is unlikely Northern Virginia will begin easing its COVID-19 restrictions, May 15, with the rest of the state.

Governor Northam announced Monday, May 11, that he will work with Northern Virginia officials to delay Phase I of his “Forward Virginia” Plan, which involves easing restrictions on businesses in the Commonwealth.

Last week, Northam announced that he would begin to ease COVID-19 “Stay-at-Home” restrictions to be replaced by a “Safer-At-Home” executive action to go into effect as early as May 15. Executive Action 61 would allow some businesses to further open up to more business.

Phase I would allow certain retail businesses to open at 50% capacity. It would allow restaurants to seat customers outside with the proper precautions. It would allow for some personal services, like haircuts, under strict regulations.

(This is not a complete list, nor does it outline exact protocol. Please read the details within Executive Action 61.)

While Northam previously said that he prefers to keep the state on the same timeline, by Friday, he added that Northern Virginia officials may decide to progress more slowly as that region is seeing more cases of COVID-19.

Northam asked Northern Virginia leaders to discuss, come to an agreement, and send him a letter as to their decision on how to progress. “Uniformity across the region is critical,” he said at his May 11 press conference.

Leaders from the counties of Prince William, Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington sent Northam two letters over the weekend asking the Governor to set regional targets for the reopening. One on May 9, stating some of the statistics associated with COVID-19 cases in their region. The other, on May 10, stated their preference for having a slower entrance into Phase I of reopening.

The elected officials were in agreement that Northern Virginia is not ready to begin the easements as dictated in Phase I.

“We eagerly wish to rebuild our economy and help our residents recover,” wrote Mayor Justin Wilson (Alexandria) and Chairs Libby Garvey (Arlington County), Jeff McKay (Fairfax County), Phyllis Randall (Loudoun County) and Ann Wheeler (Prince William County) in their letter. “It is only through our regional achievement of these milestones that we will be positioned to avoid a more damaging return to business closures later in the summer.”

Monday, Northam said he would support that decision and that the phases are only meant to be a ceiling. While regions cannot choose to open any quicker than his executive orders allow, they can proceed more cautiously.

“We live in a diverse Commonwealth and different regions face different challenges,” he said.

Northam outlined the reasons it is appropriate for Northern Virginia to be extra cautious. While cases of COVID-19 in Northern Virginia is still trending downward, 25% of those tested were testing positive. The rest of the Commonwealth saw only 10% of people testing positive. Northern Virginia has more cases of COVID-19 and more people hospitalized for it as well.

Northam said he would bring Northern Virginia leaders to his Wednesday briefing. He did not announce a new date by which Northern Virginia could enter Phase I. It would likely depend on the metrics and could be left up to the leaders of the jurisdictions to decide for themselves.

© 2020, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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