Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) All of Virginia will enter Phase 3 of the reopening on Wednesday, July 1, Gov. Ralph Northam announced this afternoon.

Northam said that statewide coronavirus infection and hospitalization data is trending in the right direction, and the state has ample hospital bed availability and supplies of personal protective equipment, allowing a wider business reopening. Arlington and Northern Virginia entered Phase 2 of the reopening on Friday, June 12.

“This gives us about three and a half weeks in Phase 2, where we have been able to follow the data,” Northam said, adding that he wants people to keep wearing masks and follow guidelines to avoid recent spikes in other states.

“This is because Virginians have followed the guidelines of social distancing, handwashing and use of facial protection,” he said of the next reopening phase. “We encourage you to continue doing that.”

Phase 3 will:

  • Allow social gatherings with groups of up to 250
  • Lift capacity restrictions on non-essential retail stores
  • Lift capacity restrictions on restaurants, though all parties must be separated by at least six feet
  • Allow fitness centers and pools to open at 75% capacity
  • Allow entertainment venues to open at 50% capacity
  • Allow barbershops and salons to serve customers without an appointment
  • Still required masks to be worn in indoor public spaces

Northam said the Virginia Dept. of Health is continuing to hire contact tracers, to help stamp out coronavirus outbreaks, noting that about 1,000 have been hired so far.

Ashley Hopko contributed to this report

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Morning Notes

Schwartz Presents New Capital Plan — “County Manager Mark Schwartz has proposed a $277.5 million one-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The County Manager, rather than proposing the traditional 10-year plan, is presenting a short-term proposal until the County better understands the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The focus of the one-year CIP is on projects that are already underway, those that improve failing or end-of-life infrastructure, and those required by legal or regulatory obligations.” [Arlington County]

Juvenile Court Reeling from Coronavirus Cases — “An outbreak of covid-19 in the clerk’s office of the Arlington County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court has forced the court to close the office to the public and has concerned lawyers who practice there daily. Four of the seven clerks in the office have tested positive for covid-19.” [Washington Post]

Small Business Grants Announced — “Arlington County today announced 394 businesses are receiving the Small Business Emergency GRANT (Giving Resiliency Assets Near Term). The GRANT program provides financial assistance to Arlington’s small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The GRANT funds were designed to bridge the gap to provide near-term relief for businesses and nonprofits, some of whom have experienced delays or limitations with federal relief initiatives.” [Arlington County, Arlington Economic Development]

Va. Not Ready for Phase 3 — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday that statewide Covid-19 numbers ‘continue to look favorable,’ but that he will not move the commonwealth into phase 3 of reopening this week. ‘I want to have more time to see how the numbers look before we make changes, especially as we see surges in other parts of our country,’ Northam said.” [Washington Business Journal, InsideNova]

Wardian to Run to Every District Taco — “This is Mike Wardian, a Guinness-World-Record winning runner, who is partnering with DT on Saturday, June 20 as he runs to ALL 12 DMV LOCATIONS (just about 60 miles)! If you see Mike on his run, snap a pic and use #whereswardian for in-app credit for a free taco!” [Twitter]

County Offers Free Trees and Tree Maintenance — “Arlington County loves trees, and knows trees are critical for our stormwater infrastructure, environmental and human health benefits, and through its Tree Canopy Fund EcoAction Arlington offers grants to plant or maintain trees on private property.” [Press Release]

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Morning Notes

Big Response to Small Biz Grant Program — “Those hit hard by the pandemic can receive help through the small business emergency grant program. More than 1,100 businesses have applied, [County Board Chair Libby] Garvey said, and at least 63% of them are owned by women or minorities. ‘With an additional $1.6 million, we can provide grants to a total of 400 businesses, more than 50% of those that… were eligible,’ Garvey said,” during her State of the County address Tuesday morning. [WTOP, Zoom]

Chamber Presents Valor Awards — Also on Tuesday, “awards were presented to honor Arlington County’s public safety personnel and first responders. Fourteen honorees were recognized for their courageous, and often lifesaving, actions in the line of duty. Leadership of all respective departments submitted nominations for the honorees, based on their performance over the past year.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce, InsideNova]

Road Closures for Grad Parades Tomorrow — “On Thursday, June 18, the Arlington County Police Department’s Special Operations Section will support Senior Graduation Parades for Wakefield High School and Washington-Liberty High School. Traffic around the schools will be impacted at the below listed times. The public can expect to see increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods.” [Arlington County]

CivFed Wants More Open Space — “The president of the Arlington County Civic Federation on June 13 delivered his message quietly but bluntly: The county government needs to put much more emphasis on acquiring land for parks and open space before the window of opportunity closes. Allan Gajadhar handed County Board members a Civic Federation resolution calling on the county government to better balance open-space and passive-recreation needs with facilities for sports and active recreation.” [InsideNova]

COVID Cases Among DCA Construction Workers — “Employees with 17 contractors working on Reagan National Airport’s massive capital improvement project have tested positive for Covid-19, according to a staff report issued ahead of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s upcoming board meeting… The most recent positive result was confirmed June 7.” [Washington Business Journal]

Juneteenth May Become State Holiday — “Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said Tuesday that he will support legislation to make Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery, a state holiday in Virginia. He gave executive branch state employees the day off Friday — June 19 — in recognition of the event. On that date in 1865, federal troops told enslaved people in Texas they had been freed, more than two years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.” [Washington Post]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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If you’ve been waiting for the opportunity to dine inside a restaurant or work out in a gym again, the time is almost here.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced at a 2 p.m. press conference that Northern Virginia will enter Phase 2 of its reopening this Friday, June 12. That will permit larger social gatherings and the reopening of restaurant dining rooms and indoor gyms, along with certain entertainment and recreation venues.

More from a previous press release:

Under Phase Two, the Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 50 people. All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures.

Restaurant and beverage establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, fitness centers may open indoor areas at 30 percent occupancy, and certain recreation and entertainment venues without shared equipment may open with restrictions. These venues include museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and outdoor concert, sporting, and performing arts venues. Swimming pools may also expand operations to both indoor and outdoor exercise, diving, and swim instruction.

The current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail, and personal grooming services will largely remain the same in Phase Two. Overnight summer camps, most indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs, and carnivals will also remain closed in Phase Two.

Most of the rest of the Commonwealth entered Phase 2 this past Friday.

The coronavirus pandemic “is still very much with us,” Northam said at the press conference. “That said, our health metrics are looking positive.”

Virginia’s test positivity rate and hospitalizations are trending downward, Northam said, while personal protective equipment supplies, testing capacity and the contact tracing workforce are all increasing.

“Overall, our numbers look good,” the governor said, adding that Virginia residents are encouraged to continue wearing masks and social distancing.

After a minor resurgence in cases over the weekend, there were only nine new COVID-19 cases and three new hospitalizations reported in Arlington overnight, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.

Northam today also outlined a phased response to going back to students returning to classrooms for the 2020-2021 school year. In-person classes will resume, he said, but perhaps not right away.

“To be clear, all Virginia schools will open for students next [school] year, but the school experience will look very different,” he said.

Most instruction will remain virtual to start. In-person classes will resume slowly, starting with small groups. Students from Pre-K to third grade, as well as English learners and those with disabilities, will be able to resume face-to-face instruction first, followed by older students.

Physical distancing protocols, along with restrictions on mixing groups of students and use of communal spaces, will be in place, according to the governor. High-risk students and school staff will have the option to continue remote learning and teleworking. Daily health screenings will be conducted and students — especially older students — will be encouraged to wear face coverings.

Each school division will have flexibility in deciding how soon to advance to new reopening phases, Northam said. Arlington Public Schools has previously told parents that it believes remote learning to start the new school year is the most likely scenario.

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Virginia will enter Phase 2 of its reopening on Friday, but Northern Virginia and Richmond will remain in Phase 1.

Gov. Ralph Northam made the announcement Tuesday afternoon, saying that key health metrics point to it being safe to further reopen in most parts of the state. He did not, however, give a timeline for when Northern Virginia — including Arlington — would advance in its reopening. The region started to reopen this past Friday, May 29, two weeks after much of the Commonwealth did.

Under the Phase 2 guidelines, the allowed size of social gatherings will increase from 10 to 50, restaurants will be allowed to open indoor dining areas at 50% capacity, and fitness centers can reopen at 30% capacity. Under Phase 1 guidelines, both restaurants and fitness businesses can only serve customers outdoors.

Northam said delaying Phase 2 for Northern Virginia will “allow for additional monitoring of health data.” As of Tuesday, Arlington has reported 236 new coronavirus cases and 10 new hospitalizations over the past seven days.

More from a press release from the governor’s office, below.

Governor Ralph Northam today signed Executive Order Sixty-Five and presented the second phase of the “Forward Virginia” plan to continue safely and gradually easing public health restrictions while containing the spread of COVID-19. The Governor also amended Executive Order Sixty-One directing Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond to remain in Phase One.

Most of Virginia is expected to enter Phase Two on Friday, June 5, as key statewide health metrics continue to show positive signs. Virginia’s hospital bed capacity remains stable, the percentage of people hospitalized with a positive or pending COVID-19 test is trending downward, no hospitals are reporting PPE shortages, and the percent of positive tests continues to trend downward as testing increases. The Governor and Virginia public health officials will continue to evaluate data based on the indicators laid out in April.

“Because of our collective efforts, Virginia has made tremendous progress in fighting this virus and saved lives,” said Governor Northam. “Please continue to wear a face covering, maintain physical distance, and stay home if you are high-risk or experience COVID-19 symptoms. Virginians have all sacrificed to help contain the spread of this disease, and we must remain vigilant as we take steps to slowly lift restrictions in our Commonwealth.”

Executive Order Sixty-Five modifies public health guidance in Executive Order Sixty-One and Sixty-Two and establishes guidelines for Phase Two. Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond entered Phase One on Friday, May 29, and will remain in Phase One to allow for additional monitoring of health data. Accomack County delayed reopening due to outbreaks in poultry plants, which have largely been controlled through rigorous testing. Accomack County will move to Phase Two with the rest of the Commonwealth, on Friday, June 5.

Under Phase Two, the Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 50 people. All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures.

Restaurant and beverage establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, fitness centers may open indoor areas at 30 percent occupancy, and certain recreation and entertainment venues without shared equipment may open with restrictions. These venues include museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and outdoor concert, sporting, and performing arts venues. Swimming pools may also expand operations to both indoor and outdoor exercise, diving, and swim instruction.

The current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail, and personal grooming services will largely remain the same in Phase Two. Overnight summer camps, most indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs, and carnivals will also remain closed in Phase Two.

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Morning Notes

Confusion Over Governor’s Mask Order — “At a briefing this afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam emphasized that Virginia’s new indoor mask requirements weren’t intended to be criminally enforced. But the text of the order (released ~3 hours later) defines a violation as Class 1 misdemeanor.” [Virginia Mercury, Twitter]

Virus Hits Latino Communities Hard — “Fredys Medina, a diabetic construction worker from Arlington County, waved off his wife’s suggestion that he had the virus after he developed a cough and fever in late April, and he continued to work. Two weeks later, he collapsed on the living room floor. By the time paramedics arrived, Medina, 56, was gone. His wife, Leonor Medina, an unemployed hotel housekeeper, was left with an $8,000 funeral bill.” [Washington Post]

Clement Questions County Board Actions — “An independent candidate for the Nov. 3 Arlington County Board race contends that current board members are overstepping their bounds in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Audrey Clement says that the board’s May 19 vote continuing emergency operations gives the government far too much power for too long.” [InsideNova]

Volunteer Award Winners Announced — “Volunteer Arlington, a program of Leadership Center for Excellence, is honored to announce the recipients of the 2020 community volunteer awards which will be presented virtually at Arlington Cares on July 14.” [Volunteer Arlington]

Alleged Armed Robbery in Crystal City — “At approximately 2:56 p.m. on May 23, police were dispatched to the late report of an armed robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 9:30 p.m. on May 15, the victim was in the area of 18th Street S. and S. Bell Street when he was allegedly approached by seven suspects. One suspect displayed a firearm and threatened the victim. The suspects stole the victim’s phone and wallet then fled.” [Arlington County]

Man Rescued from Potomac Near Chain Bridge — “A man is in the hospital in serious condition this morning after being pulled from the Potomac River [early Tuesday morning] in a daring rescue operation. The incident occurred just north of the Chain Bridge in an area that is extremely difficult to access from land.” [WJLA]

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Arlington and Northern Virginia are expected to begin a phased reopening on Friday.

“That’s the plan,” Gov. Ralph Northam said of the partial reopening during a Tuesday afternoon press conference. The region will be joining much of the rest of the state, which started its “Phase 1” reopening on May 15.

The first phase of the reopening will see non-essential businesses — salons, barber shops, restaurants, gyms, etc. — reopen with additional cleaning, safety precautions and social distancing. Among Virginia’s Phase 1 guidelines are:

  • “Retail establishments may operate at 50% capacity”
  • “Restaurant and beverage establishments may offer outdoor dining at 50% occupancy”
  • “Personal grooming services may operate with one patron per service provider”
  • “Fitness centers may offer outdoor exercise services”

In a letter to Northam sent over the holiday weekend, Northern Virginia leaders wrote that four key health metrics were pointing in a positive direction, making a reopening possible. Northam said today that statewide numbers were likewise looking good, though he emphasized that the coronavirus is continuing to infect people, making it necessary to continue taking steps to mitigate the spread.

“The virus is clearly still here, but the numbers are trending in the right direction,” Northam said.

The governor announced Tuesday that masks will be made mandatory in indoor public spaces, including businesses, starting Friday. The state’s mask requirement will have some exceptions, including for eating, children under 10, and those with health conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask.

“Science shows us that the virus spreads less easily when wearing a face covering,” Northam said. “I’m asking people to do the right thing, to respect one another.”

Enforcement of the mask requirement will done by the Virginia Dept. of Health, not police, the governor said.

“This is not a criminal matter… it won’t be enforced by law enforcement,” he said. Northam’s chief of staff said having police enforce the mask requirement could cause “tremendous equity issues,” adding that the governor is hoping that a special session of the General Assembly over the summer could approve a civil fine for noncompliance.

The state health department will have the ability to take action against “grossly negligent actors” — businesses that refuse to enforce the requirement. First would come a warning, then the state health department could seek a court order to rescind the business license.

Northam said the universal wearing of masks protects everyone, including workers, who “are especially vulnerable.” A mask could be something as simple as a bandana or “a piece of cloth and some rubber bands,” the governor said.

Arlington County is planning to distribute free masks in the coming weeks.

The efficacy of wearing masks was discussed by Virginia Hospital Center emergency room chief Mike Silverman, in a public Facebook post on Friday.

“We follow the CDC guidelines at work with masking both parties (provider/RN and patients when they can) and we’ve had a remarkably low rate of staff getting sick. Masks work… and work better when everyone is wearing them,” Silverman write. “Be smart. Social distance. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. And stay inside and away from others if you’re sick.”

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Morning Notes

No Word Yet on N. Va. Reopening — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday he has not decided whether Northern Virginia can enter Phase One of reopening on May 29. Northam last week delayed the region’s entry into the first phase of easing restrictions designed to slow the spread of coronavirus until at least midnight on May 28. Most of the rest of the state began easing restrictions on Friday, May 15.” [InsideNova]

Nam-Viet Back Open — Long-time Clarendon restaurant Nam-Viet is back open, starting today, for takeout. “The last two months have been the most challenging time for our restaurant since we first opened our doors 34 years ago,” Nam-Viet said on social media. [Facebook]

County to Restart Commission Meetings — “The Arlington County government’s ability to jumpstart its board and commission process in a social-distancing environment remains, in part, at the mercy of technological and scheduling challenges… The Arlington government has dozens of advisory panels on subject areas ranging from aging and the arts to historic preservation and sports.” [InsideNova]

DCA Passenger Volume Plummets — “DCA overall is registering barely 1,500 passengers a day. The slowest day since the coronavirus outbreak brought just 641, Potter said… Overall, passenger volume at Reagan and Dulles is down 97%.” [Washington Business Journal]

Dumpster Fire at Grocery Store — “Scanner: Firefighters working to extinguish a dumpster fire behind the Giant at the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center (2901 S. Glebe Road).” [@ARLnowDOTcom/Twitter]

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(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.

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Arlington County has seen a slight, week-long slowdown in new coronavirus cases, but is pushing back on Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to partially reopen statewide by the end of the week.

As of Monday morning, there were 1,399 known coronavirus cases in Arlington, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data. That brings the trailing 7-day rise in cases to 293, down from a peak of 349 on May 4.

The state health department is also reporting 60 deaths and 286 hospitalizations in Arlington, up from 57 deaths and 227 hospitalizations on Friday.

Statewide, 25,070 cases have been reported, along with 3,300 hospitalizations, 850 deaths and 167,758 total tests.

According to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, 1,504 confirmed and potential COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized statewide, while 3,273 have been hospitalized and subsequently discharged. There are 4,647 hospital beds available statewide and 21% of ventilators in Virginia are currently in use.

Over the weekend, Gov. Northam released more details about his “Forward Virginia” plan to reopen the state, which could happen as early as Friday. From a press release:

Under Phase One, the Commonwealth will move to a Safer at Home strategy, which continues the ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people and maintains recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and wearing face coverings. All businesses should make modifications to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitization of high contact surfaces, and provide enhanced workplace safety measures.

Retail establishments will be allowed to operate at 50 percent occupancy, restaurant and beverage establishments may offer outdoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, personal grooming services may begin operating with one patron per service provider, and fitness centers may offer outdoor exercise services. Campgrounds may also begin taking reservations for short-term stays.

Places of worship have had a 10-person limit and have been allowed to hold drive-in services allowed. In Phase One, drive-in services may continue, and services may be held inside at 50 percent capacity. Specific guidelines for religious services can be found here.

Many of the restrictions put in place by Executive Order Fifty-Three will remain in place in Phase One. Entertainment and public amusement venues will remain closed and beaches will continue to be open only for exercise and fishing. Childcare centers remain open for children of working families. Overnight summer camps will remain closed in Phase One.

Arlington County and other Northern Virginia governments, however, are asking for the ability to delay its implementation. The county released the following statement Friday evening.

Arlington County supports Governor Northam’s detailed framework for “Forward Virginia,” and appreciates the Commonwealth’s acknowledgement that the Northern Virginia region faces challenges that differ in number and scale from the Commonwealth as a whole. Over half of the cases and hospitalizations and nearly half of the COVID -19 deaths are here in Northern Virginia — despite our constituting a little more than a quarter of the state’s population; and we continue to see a rise in hospitalizations. Arlington is working closely with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, which comprises other localities in the region, to coordinate with the Governor’s office to determine the safest path forward, with an extended timeframe for entering Phase One.

Arlington County’s top priority is to ensure the safety of the entire community; and we believe we must meet the criteria for entering Phase One. At this point, based on the data for our region as well as Arlington specifically, the most responsible path forward is maintaining our current operating status until these criteria are met.

That message was echoed by County Board member Katie Cristol, in an interview on WAMU Friday. She was asked by host Kojo Nnamdi about potentially opening up on Friday, May 8.

“I think that is going to be a timeline that works for some part of Virginia. And we are grateful that, in recent days, it is recognized that that is not a timeline that is likely going to make sense here in Northern Virginia,” she said.

“Generally, we are coalescing around more or less the same criteria,” she said, “downward trend in positive tests, downward trend in hospitalizations, testing, tracing PPE, and so forth.”

Cristol also revealed a bit of news in the interview: Arlington County is planning to distribute cloth face coverings, as a way to further encourage their use.

“We recently put in a pretty significant order for cloth face coverings that were intended to be distributed around the county,” she told Nnamdi. “And we’ll have more details on that, we hope, in the next week or so. So, I suppose a carrot, not a stick approach on that one.”

“It makes more sense to make masks available and distribute those to whomever needs them, rather than trying to, for example, give tickets to those who aren’t wearing them,” she added.

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(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.

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