Virginia Phase 1 Reopening Explained: Gov. Ralph Northam to Allow Gyms, Restaurants and Shops to Open in May

Virginia could begin phase 1 of its reopening as early as next week, according to Governor Ralph Northam.

In March, Gov. Northam ordered Virginia residents to stay at home until June 10 and non-essential businesses to close until April 23. In mid-April, Northam extended to the closures until May 8.

Yesterday, Northam extended the non-essential closures by a week and said he hopes Virginia can begin gradually easing restrictions on May 15.

In a press conference Monday, Northam said: "We are not entering Phase 1 today, nor this week. But based on the data, I expect we may be able to enter it as soon as next week."

Phase 1 of easing restrictions will involve Virginia residents continuing working from home and social distancing, wearing face coverings in public, and not gathering in groups of more than 10 people.

However, phase 1 would ease limits on businesses and faith communities and would transition from a stay at home directive to a "safer at home" guideline, especially for those in vulnerable positions.

Businesses will have to follow phase 1 guidelines, which include physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and enhanced workplace safety.

Following President Trump's guidelines for states on reopening their economies, in phase 1, venues like dine-in restaurants, movie theaters and sports venues can reopen under strict physical distancing protocols, and gyms can reopen if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.

Virginia Protester
A vehicle passenger displays a sign during a "reopen Virginia" rally around Capitol Square in Richmond on April 22, 2020. Protesters were opposed to the stay-at-home orders related to the COVID-19, coronavirus pandemic and circled the capitol, to demand that Governor Ralph Northam reconsider Executive Order 53 and reopen the economy sooner than June 10, 2020. Ryan M. Kelly/Getty

But during the press conference, Northam also warned: "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, especially for our most vulnerable populations, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions."

Phase 1 is expected to last two to four weeks, as will Phases 2 and 3, depending on health metrics.

According to the Opening Up America Again Guidelines, phase 2 could see Virginia reopening schools, daycare centers and camps, with bars reopening with reduced standing-room occupancy. Finally, under phase 3, venues like movie theaters and sports venues can operate under limited physical distancing.

The guidelines the public should follow during all three phases include washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, avoiding touching your face, and sneezing or coughing into a tissue or the inside of your elbow.

Members of the public should continue disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces and consider using face coverings while in public. People who feel sick should not go to work or school.

In mid-April, some Virginia residents protested against the stay-at-home order. But Northam resisted calls from demonstrators that the state reopens, saying: "This is not the time to play politics. We're all trying to get through this together."

Yesterday, Northam tweeted: "Everyone in Virginia has sacrificed. And let me be clear—what you have done is making a difference.

"We are flattening the curve, and our hospitals have not been overwhelmed. We have sufficiently built up our supply of critical PPE, and we have ramped up our testing capacity."

According to Johns Hopkins University, Virginia currently has 19,493 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC.
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.