Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) now appears to be moving the state toward reopening, announcing on Monday that some previously closed business could start to reopen as early as May 15. The announcement comes ahead of any from Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) or Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported a phased reopening could start so long as current coronavirus trends continue. While Northam extended the date that so-called nonessential businesses are required to close from May 8 to May 14, he said he expected the state to being reopening after that point.
“All of our efforts have slowed our spread, but not cured the disease. Even when we ease some restrictions, we must continue to behave more cautiously than before,” Northam told reporters on Monday. “We are not entering phase one today, or this week. I expect we may be able to enter it next week.”
Northam and public health officials, according to the Times-Dispatch, said there was “data showing a decline in the daily share of positive cases among total tests performed over the last week — data they said would be made available to the public Tuesday.”
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 cases are also well below the state’s emergency capacity, the outlet reported, and fewer hospitals are reporting shortages of protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
More from the Times-Dispatch:
On Monday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 821 new COVID-19 cases, increasing the state’s total to 19,492 cases.
The 19,492 cases include 18,640 confirmed cases and 852 probable cases. The agency also reported 24 new deaths on Monday, pushing the death toll of COVID-19 in Virginia to 684.
Phase One, which would allow some previously deemed nonessential businesses like restaurants and hair salons to reopen with restrictions, could last “two to four weeks, or longer,” the Northam administration said during the announcement.
“Here’s the bottom line: You’ll be able to get your hair cut, but you’ll need an appointment. And you’ll see new safety measures in the salon,” Northam said. “It means you can go out to eat again. But restaurants will use less of their seating, so to spread people out. Employees will wear face coverings.”
Northam also said his “stay-at-home” order would be replaced with a “safer at home” message. Social gatherings would still be limited to no more than 10 people and social distancing and teleworking would still be encouraged. Northam said the state would still recommend people wear masks while in public.
Once Phase One is completed, Phase Two would begin, which would last another two to four weeks. Phase Two would increase the number of people allowed at social gatherings to 50 but still require a stay-at-home order for those vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
Phase three, the Times-Dispatch reported, would start so long as coronavirus cases don’t rebound after the first two phases and would lift the ban on social gatherings while moving vulnerable populations to a “safer at home” recommendation.
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