Restrictions to be eased as first phase of reopening plan gets underway

Churches and some businesses can begin re-opening, with limitations, on Friday, May 15, as the first phase of reopening Virginia gets underway.

Under Phase One, Virginia 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.

Non-essential retail business may increase the number of persons allowed inside at a given time, from 10 to 50 percent of the store’s capacity, according to Gov. Ralph Northam who on Friday outlined the framework for the “Forward Virginia” plan.

The plan includes three phases, each designed to safely and gradually ease public health restrictions while containing the spread of COVID-19. Each phase of the plan is to be implemented in a two to three-week time frame.

“We are not flipping a light switch from closed to open. It’s more of a dimmer switch,” Northam said.

The first phase also allows for restaurants and breweries with outdoor seating permits to allow patrons to sit outside at 50 percent seating capacity, while maintaining delivery/take-out options.

Churches may open with 50 percent occupancy inside and continue to provide drive-in services.

Child-care remains open to working families only.

Personal grooming businesses, such as hair salons and barbershops, also can reopen with strict social distancing guidelines, and by appointment only. One client allowed inside per provider.

State parks are open for day use only, with a 10-person limit in place. Campgrounds may accept short-term reservations.

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.

Gyms will remain closed, but may hold outdoor classes, with limitations.

Teleworking also remains strongly encouraged.

The state does not require any business to re-open, and allows localities to consider local conditions before implementing Phase One guidelines.

“I am proud of the millions of Virginians who have stayed home and helped to flatten the curve, but our work is not done,” said Northam. “These guidelines represent one step forward in a gradual process, establishing the necessary modifications to business operations to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure for employees and customers. When we move into this first phase, it will be important for Virginians to act cautiously—especially our most vulnerable populations, the elderly, and those with underlying medical conditions.”

The phased approach is grounded in science and data and includes mitigation strategies to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus through enhanced safety practices, according to a release from Northam.

For more about the changes in Phase One, visit www.virginia.gov/.

 

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