By Carol Vaughn —
Gov. Ralph Northam in a briefing Thursday, June 18, gave details of a planned third phase of easing public health restrictions, but said Virginia will not be ready to enter that phase until June 26 at the earliest.
“We are not entering Phase Three this week,” Northam said, but said businesses and others need time to plan.
“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, adding, “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.”
When Virginia does enter Phase Three, the plan will maintain a “safer at home” strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing and teleworking and the requirement to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.
The maximum number allowed in social gatherings will increase from 50 to 250 people.
Businesses should continue to follow distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and keep enhanced workplace safety measures in place.
Restaurants will still be required to keep six feet between tables. Fitness centers will be able to open indoor areas at 75% capacity.
Museums, zoos, and other outdoor entertainment venues will be allowed to operate at 50% occupancy, or a maximum of 1,000.
Pools may expand operations to free swim in addition to exercise, diving, and swim instruction, at 75% capacity.
Overnight summer camps will remain closed.
Northam said Virginia’s health data “is positive” but officials also are monitoring COVID-19 trends in other states, including some that have seen spikes in cases since easing restrictions.
Northam spoke Thursday during a bilingual press conference at the Fairfax County government center in Northern Virginia, where the virus has disproportionately affected the Latinx community.
Northam said Latinos make up around 10% of Virginia’s population, but more than 45% of COVID-19 cases and 35% of hospitalizations in the state.
Latino Virginians are more likely than others to be uninsured and to work in high-risk jobs, he said.
“Our administration is working to increase our outreach, translate guidance and other documents into Spanish, and using Spanish-language media outlets to get out public information announcements and other information,” he said.
Additionally, the administration is directing free community testing events to areas with large Latino populations. Northam said immigration status is not asked about at those events.
The governor’s health equity working group is tracking data for the Latinx population.
Northam’s remarks were followed by several speeches in Spanish, including by Marvin Figueroa, Virginia Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources; and Dr. Sergio Rimola, a Northern Virginia physician who serves on the Virginia Latino Advisory Board; along with community activists and local elected officials.
Northam before the briefing met with local Latino leaders and community activists to discuss issues they are facing in fighting COVID-19.