Governor: Easing of Business Closures May Be in Sight

(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) You might be able to get a haircut in Virginia by mid-month.

Gov. Ralph Northam held a press conference this afternoon in which he announced that “Phase 1” of the Commonwealth’s easing of restrictions is likely to start on Friday, May 15 — in about a week and a half. In the meantime, Northam extended the closure of non-essential businesses through May 14, and said his stay-at-home order will become a “safer at home” recommendation.

Coronavirus cases in the state continue to rise, but Northam said that the worst has been averted.

“Everyone in Virginia made sacrifices, but everything you have done has truly made a difference,” he said. Virginia has “flattened the curve, hospitals have not been overwhelmed… [and] now we can start to move into a new phase of our response.”

Phase 1 of the state’s reopening would see businesses open with additional cleaning, safety precautions and social distancing. Virginia will be publishing guidelines for industries like restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care and grooming, and entertainment, Northam said.

“You’ll be able to get your hair cut, but you’ll need an appointment and will see new safety measures,” said the governor. “Restaurants will spread people out, employees will wear face coverings and do more cleanings.”

The gradual reopening — there will be three phases, each expected to last around three weeks — does not mean that the coast is clear, Northam said.

“This virus is still here, it has not gone away and it will not go away until we have a vaccination, and that may be hopefully at the end of this year, or another year or two,” he said. “All of our efforts have slowed the spread, but it has not cured the disease.”

“Even when we ease some restrictions, we must continue to behave more cautiously than before. We must not relax our vigilance or think that the risk has passed,” Northam continued, encouraging continued social distancing and the use of face coverings while out and about.

“You’ll still be safer at home,” Northam added. “Large gatherings are a bad idea.”

The May 15 date is not set in stone, the governor said, and could get pushed back if the state data does not show a sustained improvement in data points like the test positivity rate and hospitalizations.

Northam said the continuation of his executive order “gives us an additional two weeks to watch the data and determine if we are meeting the metrics we need to see to enter Phase 1.”

More from the governor’s office:

Governor Ralph Northam outlined a three-phase plan to ease restrictions on businesses and gatherings, when health data supports doing so.

Governor Northam said he will extend key provisions of Executive Order 53, which places restrictions on businesses and gatherings of more than 10 people, at least through next Thursday, May 14, at midnight. The Northam administration will continue to monitor health data to ensure that trends of positive cases are going downward, that hospital capacity remains steady, that testing is increased, and that hospitals and medical facilities have necessary supplies of PPE. For more information on key metrics, please see here.

Phase I of easing restrictions would continue social distancing, teleworking, recommendations that people wear face coverings in public, and the ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people. It would ease some limits on business and faith communities, and would transition the stay at home directive to a “safer at home” guideline, especially for those in vulnerable populations.

It is expected that Phase I would last two to four weeks, as would the two subsequent phases, depending on health metrics.

More specific guidance on each phase will be available in the coming days. Slides from the Governor’s briefing are available here.