Gov. Northam

Gov. Ralph Northam reiterated that Phase 1 of Virginia’s reopening plan is still on track to begin May 15, but warned that the data is still being monitored and the date could change if needed.

RICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Ralph Northam has confirmed Phase One of his plan to reopen Virginia businesses will begin Friday.

Northam made the announcement in a press briefing Wednesday afternoon.

Phase One will open around the state except in Northern Virginia where the start has been delayed until May 29 because of the high number of coronavirus COVID-19 cases in that region.

Northam said starting Friday non-essential retail stores and places of worship may reopen to 50 percent capacity; restaurants may open for outdoor dining at 50 percent capacity; gyms will remain closed except for outdoor activities; and salons and barbershops may reopen, but customers must make appointments and employees must wear masks.

“We will still maintain a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people,” he said, as well as encourage people to work from home if they can, wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

Northam said the decision to start the process of reopening the state is based on science and data, as well as the state now being in a position to adequately and quickly handle any possible new surge of positive cases.

Some state Department of Motor Vehicle offices will also reopen, starting Monday, May 18, but only for transactions that require an in-person visit, like a new driver’s license or learner’s permit.

Northam said appointments must be made at each DMV office and customers must wait in their vehicles until called in.

Only 11 DMV offices will open Monday, with none in Southwest Virginia. The closest office to open to this area will be in Roanoke at 5220 Valleypark Drive.

Openings of the other DMV offices will phased in through mid-summer, he added.

Valley View Mall in Roanoke is the first indoor mall in the region to announce its reopening.

According to the mall’s website, starting Friday it will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

“The health and well-being of our customers, employees, retail partners, and the communities we serve is always a top priority,” the website said. “As such, we have implemented a number of protective measures to keep our employees, retail partners, and community healthy. We ask that the public exercise good judgment when visiting the property; including following CDC guidelines for social distancing and hygiene practices. We also ask that anyone with a fever or experiencing other symptoms, to stay home.”

Northam said moving into Phase Two, which may come on May 29, will require the current trends in metrics to continue, including a downward trend in the percentage of positive cases to the total number of tests, more testing capability, more widespread contact tracing, adequate hospital beds and adequate supplies of PPE.

“Robust testing is a critical piece of our plan … for Phase One to begin,” he said, adding that daily testing continues to be near the 10,000 test goal, reaching almost 9,000 Tuesday.

Northam said he is hopeful gyms will be able to reopen in Phase Two and restaurants may be able to offer indoor dining at a reduced capacity.

On another issue, the Governor said he is moving forward to distribute $650 million in federal dollars from the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act to local governments.

He also said an all-out effort is being made to test residents and staff in all state long-term care facilities.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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