By Stefanie Jackson – Gov. Ralph Northam announced today that the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests in Virginia continues to decline, and the state will enter Phase Three of its reopening Wednesday, July 1.
“I want to remind all of you, this is because Virginians, you, have followed the guidelines of social distancing, hand-washing, and use of facial protection, and we encourage you to continue doing that,” Northam said.
In Phase Three, social distancing will continue and face masks will still be required in indoor public spaces, but some restrictions will be eased or lifted.
The maximum number of people allowed at social gatherings will increase from 50 to 250.
Nonessential retail stores, restaurants, and other food and beverage establishments may operate at full capacity.
Outdoor venues such as zoos may operate at 50% capacity, with a limit of 1,000 people.
Gyms, fitness centers, and swimming pools may operate at 75% capacity. Social distancing must still be practiced during recreational activities.
Hairdressers and barber shops will continue social distancing.
Childcare centers may be open, but overnight summer camps will remain closed.
Virginia’s positivity rate for COVID-19 tests has fallen to 6.4%, with about 8,000 to 12,000 tests conducted every day.
Supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) remain sufficient. Since last Friday, 38 shipments of PPE have been delivered to local jurisdictions, assisted living facilities, and institutions of higher education, Northam said.
A donation of 170,000 disposable face masks from Reform Alliance, a nonprofit for criminal justice reform, will be distributed to Virginia jails and correctional facilities.
The state has more than a dozen contracts for PPE to keep its supply diversified, the governor noted.
It has distributed about 860,000 N95 face masks, 1.6 million surgical masks, and 4.4 million gloves to date, he said.
The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has about 1,000 contact tracers, including current employees and new hires.
Virginia Health Commissioner Norman Oliver reported a total of 58,994 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 529 new cases reported within the last 24 hours.
Another 25 coronavirus-related deaths were reported, bringing Virginia’s total COVID-19 deaths to 1,645.
More than 627,000 COVID-19 tests have been administered in Virginia, including 10,228 newly completed tests.
VDH will be listing on its website long-term care facilities with outbreaks of COVID-19, in light of incorrect data reported by the federal agency CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services), Northam said.
This release of information will conform to state law and will not compromise confidentiality, he added.
Long-term care facilities will benefit from $246 million in additional funding, mostly from the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act), including $152 million that goes directly to facilities for staffing, infection control, PPE, and testing requirements.
Virginia’s COVID-19 funding package includes more than $56 million for periodic COVID-19 testing of nursing home residents and staff, Northam added.
There are no plans for VDH to name other facilities, such as poultry plants, that have outbreaks of COVID-19.
“As far as other businesses, we’ll monitor that. If it becomes a pubic health risk, then it’s something we’ll address,” Northam said.
A reporter at the press briefing noted that some business owners are asking, “Why now?” regarding some mandatory, temporary restrictions being considered by Virginia’s Safety and Health Codes Board even as Phase Three of Northam’s Forward Virginia plan approaches.
The board will make a decision following a 10-day public comment period that ended Monday.
“It takes a little while to get all the guidelines in place. … This is all about safety for individuals coming into our places of business,” Northam said.
“The key to our economic recovery is … to know that businesses are safe, that it will be consumer driven.”