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Virginia isn’t ready to enter Phase Three of the state’s reopening plan yet, Gov. Ralph Northam said Thursday, but when it happens, it will bring some big changes back to public life — like allowing social gatherings of up to 250 people.
Phase Three of the “Forward Virginia” plan is designed to continue easing public health restrictions while mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Northam said he does not yet have a targeted date for entering Phase Three.
As many states are experiencing a surge in new infections, Virginia’s case counts continue to trend downward. Virginia’s hospital bed capacity remains stable, the percentage of individuals 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 decline as testing increases.
The governor and Virginia public health officials will continue to evaluate data based on the key health indicators laid out in April.
“Our Phase Three guidelines will help Virginia families and businesses plan for what the next stage of easing public health restrictions will look like in our Commonwealth,” Northam said. “While we may not have the same spike in infections that many states are seeing right now, Virginians need to remain cautious and do the things that we know reduce transmission: wear a face covering, maintain physical distance, and stay home if you are high-risk or experience COVID-19 symptoms. This virus is still with us, and we must continue to adapt our lives around it and ensure we are keeping our vulnerable communities safe.”
In Phase Three, the Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing and teleworking, and the requirement that individuals wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals allowed in social gatherings will increase from 50 to 250 people. All businesses should continue to follow physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and keep enhanced workplace safety measures in place.
Other Phase Three details will include:
Northam added that even after the state is ready to move into Phase Three, “It still means you’re safer at home, especially if you’re vulnerable. It means we still strongly encourage teleworking. People need to focus on physical distancing in all situations outside of their home. Face coverings are still the right thing to do in indoor public spaces. … We all need to wear them and wear them properly. This is easy to do and I’m proud of all the Virginians who are showing a responsibility for their neighbor by wearing their face coverings.”
And if a business doesn’t feel comfortable opening or can’t meet state requirements, it does not have to reopen, the governor said. He also cautioned the public to be cautious about their activities. “Just because there are more places to go,” Northam said, “does not mean you need to go there.”