Northam to approve northern Virginia reopening plan as data trend in right direction

Northern Virginia counties are ready to enter phase one of reopening as relevant data continues to trend in the right direction, Gov. Ralph Northam announced.

After northern Virginia counties hit four of six metrics for reopening, local officials sent a letter to Northam that requested they be allowed to reopen Friday. Northam said during a news conference Tuesday he intends to approve their plan and will make an announcement with more detail Wednesday.

The region has seen a downward trend in positive COVID-19 cases as a percentage of tests, a downward trend in hospitalizations and met other metrics. However, localities were not meeting the benchmarks for a sustainable supply of personal protective equipment and adequate testing and tracing capabilities, both of which officials have asked for state assistance with meeting.

Northam said he has been in contact with leaders from Accomack County and believes it also is ready to enter phase one. He said he has been in contact with the city of Richmond, but did not say whether the city is ready to begin phase one.

The rest of Virginia already entered phase one, which allows retail businesses to operate at 50 percent capacity and allows restaurants to operate at 50 percent capacity for outdoor seating, but does not allow indoor seating. Beginning Friday, the state also will require people to wear face masks when in public places of business statewide.

Overall, Northam said statewide data has continued to trend in the right direction. However, he said that the state does not yet have a timeline for entering phase two.

“While one death is too many, the numbers over the weekend continue to show that our percent positivity is trending downward, our hospital capacity remains sufficient, our testing is increasing and hospitalizations of people with a positive or pending COVID test are trending slightly downward,” Northam said. “The virus clearly is still here, but overall these numbers are trending in the right direction.”

As of May 22, northern Virginia’s seven-day moving average for percent positivity was 14.1 percent, which is lower than the previous weeks. On May 15, it was 15.5 percent, and on May 8 it was 17.6 percent. Data for the most-recent days are still coming in.

Virginia has 39,342 positive COVID-19 cases, 4,325 hospitalizations and 1,236 deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s most-recent numbers. The U.S. has had more than 1.71 million COVID-19 cases and at least 98,787 deaths.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus. COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.

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