Governor details the first phase of planned reopening

Stores and places of worship will be able to open their doors to many visitors under Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening plan May 15, but restaurants and gyms were left with little relief from state restrictions.

The governor also said that Northern Virginia may delay this first phase of reopening until later in May. A decision is expected early next week.

Northam announced May 4 that the state would start reopening some businesses on May 15 in the first of a three-phase plan.

On Friday, he provided details, noting “this plan will slowly and deliberately ease some restrictions, but not all.”

  • Non-essential retail stores that were limited to a 10-person limit will be able to open at 50% capacity. 
  • Restaurants will not be able to open dining rooms, but will be able to serve outdoor seating at 50% capacity.
  • Gyms will remain closed, with limited opportunities for outdoor fitness programs.
  • Churches will be able to open at 50% capacity.
  • Salons and barber shops can open by appointment with strict social distancing and face coverings required.

The governor said he kept restrictions on restaurants and gyms due to safety.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of discussion and collectively we’ve made that decision,” Northam said, noting restaurants may be able to welcome some diners inside their businesses in the second phase.

The first phase will last at least two weeks, and possibly longer depending on COVID-19 cases and testing. Earlier this week, Northam said the third phase is likely 10-12 weeks away.

“I want to assure Virginians, we’re not opening the floodgates,” Northam said Friday.

Northam has suggested that local governments may be able to place additional limits on businesses.

“I know some communities may choose to go more slowly, particularly in Northern Virginia,” Northam said.

His chief of staff, Clark Mercer, explained that Northern Virginia counties and cities may choose, as a region, to delay phase 1 implementation until later in the month. That determination is expected following discussions over the weekend.

During phase 1, gatherings will still be limited to 10 people. The state’s stay-at-home order will become a “safer-at-home” order, Northam said. While there are a few more places to go, he said everyone should stay at home as much as possible.

“As we move into this phase, it will be even more important for people to behave cautiously,” Northam said.