RICHMOND, Va, (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said he anticipates nonessential businesses in the state reopening on May 15, saying more time is still needed to help contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Northam announced Monday that he is extending by another week an executive order mandating that some nonessential businesses close and banning large gatherings.
“The message today is that we will reopen Virginia next Friday,” May 15, Northam said.
The governor said while the state has made improvements in flattening the curve, or slowing the rate of new infections, Virginia needs to ensure positive trends continue related to testing, hospital capacity and the supply of medical equipment.
“I want to make it very clear: This virus is still here,” Northam said. “We must not relax our vigilance.”
His executive order, which forces the closure of some businesses and severely restricts how others operate, was set to expire this Friday. His order also bans gatherings of 10 or more in public or private.
“The governor’s decision to use a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is going to negatively impact certain parts of Virginia worse than others,” Republican House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert said in a statement.
Nicole Riley, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Virginia, said many small businesses wanted to reopen this week.
“Small-business owners are telling us they think a gradual reopening should start very soon, and most believe they can handle health and safety requirements,” she said.
Northam said that when nonessential businesses do reopen, there will be noticeable changes. Restaurants will seat customers farther apart and employees will wear face masks. Gyms will open, but with fewer people than normal. The governor said the state will issue new guidelines for specific industries in coming days.
The governor said he anticipates a three-phased reopening, with restrictions on how businesses, churches and other public spaces ease into each phase. He said he anticipates each phase to last about three weeks.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and be life-threatening.