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Virginia begins transition from ‘stay at home’ to ‘safer at home’

After weeks of increasingly dire news coming out of Richmond as a result of the spreading coronavirus pandemic, a glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon this week.

During a press conference held Monday afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam outlined a three-phase plan to ease restrictions on businesses and gatherings, when health data supports doing so.

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.

Northam said his administration will continue to monitor health data to ensure that trends of positive cases are going downward, hospital capacity remains steady, testing is increased, and that hospitals and medical facilities have necessary supplies of Personal Protective Equipment.

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. Phase I guidelines for businesses would include physical distancing, enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and enhanced workplace safety.

Based on current data, the governor expects that Virginia can move to Phase I as soon as Friday, May 15.
It is expected that Phase I would last two to four weeks, as would Phase II, depending upon health metrics.
Phase II would include a stay-at-home provision for vulnerable populations, no social gatherings of more than 50 individuals, continued social distancing, continued teleworking, face coverings recommended in public, and further easing of business limitations.

Phase III, which Northam said could be 10-12 weeks away, or more, includes “safer at home” guidelines for vulnerable populations, a removal of the ban on social gatherings, removing capacity limits in establishments, continued heightened cleaning and disinfection, as well as other possible measures.

“To move to Phase III, we’re looking for no evidence of rebound for a sustained period of time,” Northam said.

More specific guidance on each phase will be available in the coming days, according to a release from the governor’s office. Details will likely be discussed at governor’s next press conference, which was scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday.