UPDATED: Northam outlines what Phase Three in Virginia will look like

UPDATED: Northam outlines what Phase Three in Virginia will look like

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While Virginia won’t enter its third reopening phase this week, Gov. Ralph Northam outlined Thursday what that phase would look like.

Capacity restrictions on retail stores, restaurants and bars will be lifted. Gyms and fitness centers will be able to operate at 75% capacity, as will swimming pools. Entertainment venues, including amusement parks, can open at 50% capacity, or a maximum of 1,000 people. Virginia will also raise the limit on social gatherings from 50 people to 250.

Hair salons and barbershops will be allowed to open completely. So can child care centers. Overnight summer camps will remain closed, Northam said during a news conference in Northern Virginia. Teleworking will also continue to be strongly encouraged.

The state’s guidelines recommend continued social distancing of 6 feet. Face coverings will also still be required, Northam said.

While the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to rise, the percentage of positive results from testing is down. The virus has disproportionately impacted the state’s Latino population, which Northam and other officials highlighted during the news conference, part of which was conducted in Spanish. Latino people make up 45% of the state’s 56,238 COVID-19 cases despite constituting roughly 10% of Virginia’s population.

The state has yet to reach its peak of new daily cases, according to research from the University of Virginia, which still projects a late July peak in one of its scenarios.

“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.”

Republicans have criticized Northam for not putting Virginia into the third phase, which the governor said would come June 26 at the earliest.

“When Governor Northam laid out the criteria for reopening Virginia’s economy, he said the process would be led by science, data, and testing,” said House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, in a statement. “Yet after two additional weeks of falling case numbers and a continual drop in the percentage positive of tests, Governor Northam called an audible [Tuesday] and said Phase 3 could not begin this week.”

He added: “Let us be clear, the governor is once again walking back his own criteria. Tens of thousands of Virginians have lost their jobs, and unemployment spiked to 10 percent. If Governor Northam genuinely wants ‘science, data, and testing’ to drive our reopening, he should allow Phase 3 to proceed.”

Daily numbers

The Virginia Department of Health reported Thursday that the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 56,238 — an increase of 463 from the 55,775 reported Wednesday.

The 56,238 cases consist of 53,769 confirmed cases and 2,469 probable cases. Also, there are 1,586 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 1,482 confirmed and 104 probable. That’s an increase of three from the 1,583 reported.

The VDH defines probable COVID-19 cases as people who are symptomatic with a known exposure to COVID-19, but whose cases have not been confirmed with a positive test.

In the Richmond area, there are 6,992 cases: 2,375 in Chesterfield County, 2,342 in Henrico County, 1,895 in Richmond and 380 in Hanover County.

Also, the region has 233 deaths attributed to the virus: 139 in Henrico, 40 in Chesterfield, 29 in Richmond and 25 in Hanover.

Fairfax County, the state’s most populous locality with more than 1.1 million people, has the most cases with 13,209 and 431 deaths.

Only Bath and Bland counties don’t have confirmed cases.

As the overall number of positive COVID-19 test results in Virginia grows, data from the VDH coronavirus dashboard shows the percentage of positive results from testing is down. The seven-day average for percentage of positive test results was at 7.2% as of Sunday, which is the most recent figure provided by the VDH. That’s down from a peak of 22.2% on April 19.

VDH data shows most cases (79.6%) are occurring in adults between the ages of 20 and 69. The majority of deaths (76.8%) are among Virginians over the age of 70.

The VDH said there are 424 outbreaks in the state, 230 in long-term care facilities. These facilities also account for 945 of the state’s deaths attributed to the virus.

State health officials have said there’s a lag in the reporting of statewide numbers on the VDH website. Figures on the website might not include cases or deaths reported by localities or local health districts.


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Twitter: @jmattingly306

Richmond.com Editor Paul Whelan contributed to this report.

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