(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Arlington and other Northern Virginia locales will be allowed to delay reopening until May 28, after Memorial Day, following a new executive order from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
The announcement follows pushback from local officials concerned that a potential reopening this Friday would be too soon. Arlington and neighboring localities have seen higher rates of coronavirus cases than less populous parts of the state, with 72% of new cases reported over the past 24 hours coming from the Northern Virginia region.
Initially, in announcing a plan for a phased reopening, Northam talked about the importance of the entire Commonwealth starting to reopen at the same time. This morning’s announcement is a change from that, but does not go as far as permitting local governments to delay reopening indefinitely.
Arlington officials have previously said that the county will not begin its reopening until a number of key metrics — including a ramp up in testing and a sustained reduction in hospitalizations — are met.
More from a press release from the governor’s office:
Governor Ralph Northam today issued Executive Order Sixty-Two, allowing specific localities in Northern Virginia to delay entering Phase One of the “Forward Virginia” plan to ease restrictions on certain business operations that were put in place in response to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
Governor Northam has said that Virginia as a whole may enter Phase One on Friday, May 15, as outlined in Executive Order Sixty-One, based on achieving certain health metrics. Executive Order Sixty-Two allows the Northern Virginia localities to delay implementation of Phase One until midnight on Thursday, May 28, to allow those localities more time to meet the health metrics.
In conjunction with this executive order, Governor Northam and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA also issued Order of Public Health Emergency Number Four.
“As I have said, it’s important that the Commonwealth as a whole can meet key health metrics before moving into Phase One,” said Governor Northam. “The Phase One policies are a floor, not a ceiling. While the data show Virginia as a whole is are ready to slowly and deliberately ease some restrictions, it is too soon for Northern Virginia. I support the request from localities in this region to delay implementation of Phase One to protect public health.”
Governor Northam had directed jurisdictions to formally request approval to remain in Phase Zero. Executive Order Sixty-Two allows the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William; the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park; and the towns of Dumfries, Herndon, Leesburg, and Vienna (Northern Virginia Region) to remain in Phase Zero, as requested by officials in those localities.
Data show that Northern Virginia is substantially higher than the rest of the Commonwealth in percentage of positive tests for COVID-19, for example. The Northern Virginia Region has about a 25 percent positivity rate, while the rest of the Commonwealth is closer to 10 percent. Further, in the last 24 hours, the Northern Virginia Region reported over 700 cases, while the rest of the Commonwealth reported approximately 270. On any given day, 70 percent of the Commonwealth’s positive cases are attributable to the Northern Virginia Region.