Northam sets May 8 as target date for slow reopen of Virginia economy
Gov. Ralph Northam said Friday that he is hopeful that the state can move toward the beginning of a slow reopening of the economy by Friday, May 8.
“What we’d really like to see, I’ve given the guidelines of when we plan to ease these restrictions, we are hopeful that we have hit our peak. As you know, businesses have been asked to close through May 8, which is two weeks, by the way, from today. Hospitals will be allowed to do elective surgeries a week from today, which is May 1. If our numbers will continue, if we can get a little bit of help out there with with our numbers, I would really like to see us be able to go into Phase 1 as soon as May 8, but certainly no sooner than that,” Northam said.
The governor, earlier in the day on Friday, announced that he has assembled a COVID-19 Business Task Force, with representatives representing sectors including restaurants, breweries and wineries, small and large retailers, fitness centers, tourist attractions and entertainment venues.
“This economic recovery is really going to be driven by our businesses and by our consumers,” Northam said. “This is the reason we’ve reached out to businesses, because they have to be in a position, whether it be a barber shop or a hospital, to make sure that that consumers are comfortable coming back into their place of business. They’ve really, I think, been creative and innovative and certainly part of the solution. And we’ve really been pleased by the response so far.”
Citing a desire to be “consistent,” Northam said he won’t consider a phased reopening of parts of Virginia barely registering COVID-19 cases.
“Doing this, as the name of our Virginia is a Commonwealth, so, our plans to date as of today are to not open up one region before the other,” Northam said.
A look at a COVID-19 map of the state on the Virginia Department of Health website shows that there isn’t a single locality south and west of Albemarle with a rate of more than the 81.1 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population registered in Botetourt County.
Augusta County is at 45.1, with a hospitalization rate of just 2.7 people per 100,000 population.
The case rate in Staunton is 40.1, with no hospitalizations; Waynesboro has a case rate of 44.2 per 100,000, with 4.4 hospitalizations per 100,000, which, given the city’s population, at 21,311, means one actual hospitalization.
As you would expect, the case and hospitalization numbers are greater in the Urban Crescent – Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads.
But as it stands, we’re all under the same orders.
“I am as eager as anyone to move into the time where we can ease some of these restrictions, but we must do so in a safe manner. One that seeks to avoid causing a spike in cases or a surge or hospitals cannot handle,” Northam said. “As I’ve said before, we cannot and will not lift restrictions the way you turn on lights. We will do it responsibly and deliberately. And it has to be grounded in data. We will move forward, but in a way that prioritizes public health and creates public confidence. Easing too much too soon could jeopardize public health and consumer confidence. One step forward and two steps back is no way to move here.
“As you have heard me say many times, we are in the middle of a health crisis, as well as an economic crisis. And as soon as we together can get this health crisis under control, as soon as we can put this health crisis behind us, we will be able to get our economy up and running again,” Northam said.
Story by Chris Graham