FAIRFAX — Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday outlined how the next phase of Virginia’s reopening from the COVID-19 shutdown will appear.
The governor said even though the state is not ready to move to Phase III of “Forward Virginia,” he wants the public and businesses to have adequate time to prepare.
He did not give a start date for Phase III. The earliest implementation would be June 26, Northam said.
“There have been surges in other states” that eased restrictions too early, Northam said. “While the data is good and restrictions may ease, the virus has not gone anywhere.”
Virginia has been in Phase II of Northam’s reopening plan since June 5.
“We need to continue to evaluate the data,” Northam said.
Under Phase III:
— Gatherings of up to 250 people would be allowed.
— Capacity limits on restaurants and retail would be lifted, with physical distancing still required.
— Zoos and museums would be allowed to open at 50 percent capacity.
— Gym and fitness centers can go up to 75 percent of capacity.
— Pools could increase capacity 75 percent, with physical distancing still required.
— Physical distancing would still be required at hair salons.
— Overnight summer camps would remain closed.
Face coverings at indoor public spaces would still be required. Northam pointed to studies showing their effectiveness in preventing the spread of the virus.
“You would continue to use the same common sense you have used throughout this pandemic,” Northam said, in talking about hand washing, physical distancing and wearing face coverings.
Northam said “safer at home” will still be emphasized in Phase III, meaning persons should only venture out for essentials. He said workers should telework from their homes, if possible.
“I know everybody wants to get back to that near normal, but we have really got to take our time,” he said.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise in Virginia, however, the percentage of positive results from testing is down.
“We still need to consider where we need to go, versus where we want to go,” Northam said.
Local Case Numbers
The Virginia Department of Health on Friday reported 35 cumulative cases of the COVID-19 in the Alleghany Highlands.
The number of cumulative cases in Alleghany County on Friday stood at 30. The cumulative case count in Covington was five.
Bath County was still reporting no confirmed cases. Bath is now the only locality in Virginia without a confirmed case.
Greenbrier County Outbreak Update
Health officials in Greenbrier County, W.Va., on Friday were investigating another possible outbreak of COVID-19 in a church.
Health officials said a person who attends the church came into contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19. That exposure is related to an outbreak at another Greenbrier County Church, in which 33 people have tested positive for the virus.
The name of the second church was not disclosed Friday. The church has cancelled in-person services for two weeks and its facilities will be deep cleaned.
“At this time, everyone in attendance has been notified by the church. Anyone experiencing symptoms is encouraged to seek testing and self-isolate,” said a Friday Facebook post by the Greenbrier County Health Department.
The original outbreak occurred at Graystone Baptist Church in Ronceverte.
Gov. Jim Justice said 104 people who attend Graystone have been tested for COVID-19 and 33 of the tests have come back positive. Three people from the church are hospitalized, he said.
Churches in Ohio and Boone counties are also experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.
Justice on Friday again admonished churchgoers to socially distance and wear face coverings. West Virginia does not have a mandate for face coverings in public buildings.
“You have got to wear a mask and you’ve got to sit in every other pew. And if people aren’t doing it, for crying out loud, step up and say something,” Justice said during a Friday press briefing.
West Virginia is experiencing cases of COVID-19 involving people who have recently traveled to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
On Friday, the state had 25 to 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 that have been linked to Myrtle Beach travel.
“When you get back, half-quarantine or quarantine yourself and get tested,” Justice said.
The Virginian Review has been serving Covington, Clifton Forge, Alleghany County and Bath County since 1914.