By Carol Vaughn —
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday all public beaches in Virginia may open to recreational activities on Friday, May 29, with restrictions similar to those at Virginia Beach, which opened its beaches over Memorial Day weekend.
Virginia Beach’s plan to reopen its beaches is a model for the rest of Virginia’s beaches, Northam said during a briefing.
Social distancing is required and groups of more than 10 are not permitted at beaches. Alcohol, tents or groups of umbrellas, speakers, and group sports also are not allowed.
Accomack County, Northern Virginia, and Richmond enter Phase 1 of reopening from COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on Friday, May 29 — two weeks after the rest of the state.
Northam said the entire state, including the three localities that opted to stay in Phase 0 for an additional two weeks, will remain in Phase 1 until at least June 5, but he said the trends are encouraging to be able move the state into Phase 2 soon.
Northam said the request from the three localities to remain in Phase 0 did not delay the state’s timeline for entering into Phase 2 of reopening.
“The reason why we are waiting another week is because of the incubation period of this,” Northam said, adding, “We will be very careful and deliberate as we move forward, and we just don’t have the data yet to move into Phase 2. …We will continue to monitor the data and as soon as we feel comfortable that the trends are moving in a positive direction then we will make the announcement as to when we can go into Phase 2.”
Accomack County and the other two localities may enter Phase 2 on June 5 along with the rest of the state, even though they entered Phase 1 later.
“We will have that discussion, but if they are comfortable…I would really like to see everybody in Virginia moving together at the same time,” Northam said.
Northam said his administration has been in contact with Accomack County leaders about the reopening process.
“We’ve also spent a lot of time, spent a lot of resources doing testing in our meat processing plants. The National Guard…was working with our nursing homes on the Eastern Shore. The Virginia Department of Health has been there; the CDC has been there — so a lot of efforts have been placed in Accomack County,” he said, noting community testing also was done on the Eastern Shore in May.
“Bottom line, we feel comfortable moving into Phase 1 in Accomack County. Their leaders do, as well, and we will continue to follow the trends there,” Northam said.
Northam during the briefing asked for a moment of silence to remember the victims of a mass shooting at the Virginia Beach Municipal Center a year ago.
He also noted “yesterday, the United States reached a sad milestone” of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, including 1,338 deaths in Virginia.
“They were all individuals with their own story,” Northam said.
Additionally, Northam announced NASCAR and other vehicle and horse racing may resume with single-day events, but without audiences.
Northam also announced a renewal extension until Aug. 31 for drivers or identification card holders whose credentials are set to expire, as many DMV centers in Virginia remain closed.