Northam said he still will encourage Virginians to stay home if they can, telework if possible and keep on social distancing.
“Everyone should continue to take this pandemic very seriously. Cases are on the rise in many other states,” he said. “I do not want to see that happen in our commonwealth.”
Northam said he anticipates that Northern Virginia and Richmond will adopt Phase 3 at the same time as the rest of the state, although he said he’d consider delaying those areas if local leaders are uncomfortable. Northern Virginia and Richmond officials said Tuesday they are largely on board with Northam’s plan.
State officials have watched for downward trajectories in the average rates of coronavirus infections and new hospitalizations as signs that the virus’s spread is slowing. They have also increased testing, hired more contact tracers, bought more personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals and other institutions, and are monitoring hospitals’ ability to handle any spikes in cases.
Here’s what is open, and the latest on the benchmarks state and local officials used to decide whether reopening is safe.
New daily deaths per 100,000 residents
What will be open under Phase 3?
In Phase 3, large social gatherings of 250 people or less will be permitted. The capacity limits on restaurants and nonessential retail businesses will be lifted, but tables will still have to be six feet apart and social distancing needs to be followed.
Museums, zoos and other entertainment venues also will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity. Outdoor venues will have a cap of 1,000 people. Swimming pools will be able to operate at 75 percent capacity, with swimmers following distancing restrictions.
Currently, under Phase 2, barbershops, beauty salons and other personal grooming operations can operate at half capacity if their customers first make an appointment. Providers and customers inside grooming operations are required to wear masks, so no beard trimming or lip waxing.
Churches, mosques, synagogues and other houses of worship can also operate at half capacity. And retail stores can open at half capacity, but no fitting rooms and no food or drink sample trays allowed.
The limit on group gatherings is 50 or fewer people. That allows some entertainment venues to be open, as well as museums and zoos, with some restrictions. Restaurants, cafes and taverns also can hold indoor dining service at half capacity.
Movie theaters, concert venues and bowling alleys will stay closed in all areas of the state, though drive-in theaters can open if they maintain social distancing.
What about exercise?
Under Phase 3, indoor gyms and fitness centers will be able to operate at 75 percent capacity.
Currently, in Phase 2, gyms and fitness centers can operate at 30 percent capacity, but without shared equipment. Indoor and outdoor pools will be open for lap swimming, diving, exercise and instruction.
Can I use athletic fields and other park facilities?
Under Phase 3, attendees of recreational sports, both participants and spectators, cannot be more than 250 people or 50 percent of the facility’s capacity, whichever is fewer. Sports played on a field will be limited to 250 attendees.
Athletic fields and other park facilities are currently open under Phase 2, but with tighter restrictions.
The total number of attendees (including both participants and spectators) of outdoor recreational sports is limited to 50 people or less than half of the facility’s capacity, whichever is fewer.
For sports played on a field, attendees are limited to 50 or fewer people.
For outdoor youth recreational sports, spectators may not be present with the following exceptions: parents, guardians, caretakers who are supervising children playing in the event and other children also under caretakers’ supervision.
What about camping and other outdoor activities?
Groups of 250 or more will be allowed to gather under Phase 3.
Presently, groups of 50 or fewer people are allowed to gather under Phase 2. Overnight camping is allowed in private campgrounds and some state parks. But overnight summer camps are not allowed. Beaches are open for recreational activities, including swimming and sunbathing. No group sports, alcohol, tents or large groups are allowed, and parking areas are limited to 50 percent capacity.
Day camps for children are allowed. Under Phase 2, day camps for children ages 4 or younger are limited to groups of 12, while camps for kids between ages 4 and 13 can have as many as 22 in a group.
What about face masks?
Virginians must wear masks inside retail shops, restaurants, personal care and grooming establishments, government buildings, public transportation and other places where people congregate. Exceptions include: people who have trouble breathing; children younger than 10; eating or drinking while at a restaurant; and during exercise. Northam said he “strongly” recommends children age 3 or older also wear a face covering. The masks need not be medical grade, he said — they can be cloth face coverings or bandannas. Masks are “strongly recommended” inside houses of worship, but are not required.
Businesses may refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask, Northam said.
“If you shouldn’t go into a public space without shoes or a shirt, you shouldn’t go into it without a face mask,” the governor said. “It’s just the right thing to do to protect the people around you as well as workers.”
Rita Davis, the state’s counsel to the governor, said the health department could enforce the mask order by seeking a civil injunction or criminal charge against an individual from a magistrate. But she said the department would do so for only “very egregious or gross violations. Not for one-offs.”
How many people are hospitalized?
Statewide, 854 people with confirmed or probable cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, were hospitalized Thursday, part of a mostly downward trend since 1,524 were hospitalized May 29. The number of covid-19 patients in intensive care units was 237 Thursday, compared to 373 on May 29.
What about hospital beds?
There were 3,624 beds available Thursday, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.
On Thursday, 589 ventilators were being used, 20 percent of the state’s supply.
Does the state have enough PPE?
In May, Virginia officials said the state had ordered 17.4 million respirator masks, 1 million face shields and 17 million pairs of gloves. So far, state officials have distributed almost 794,000 N95 masks, more than 1.3 million surgical masks, more than 3 million gloves and more than 285,000 gowns, 427,000 face shields and 24,000 containers of hand sanitizer, Northam recently said.
What about coronavirus testing and the rate of infections?
The state initially prioritized testing for specific groups, such as those older than 65, first responders and people already showing flu-like symptoms. Facing criticism over Virginia’s low rate of testing, state officials began taking samples from residents in low-income areas and plan to test people with chronic diseases, expectant mothers, babies born to mothers with covid-19, and uninsured and underinsured residents, said Karen Remley, a former Virginia health commissioner who is helping the state with testing.
Northam has said the state’s goal is 10,000 daily tests. The state recently began offering tests to people without symptoms, including one-day sites in Northern Virginia that have quickly run out of available kits. The CVS Pharmacy chain opened 39 drive-through testing sites in Virginia, where customers who register in advance can swab themselves with a pharmacy worker nearby to ensure their sample is properly taken.
Northam’s office says the governor wants to see sustained declines in the rate of people testing positive. Last month, the state health department eliminated results from less-reliable antibody tests from that calculation, which had pushed the positivity rate slightly downward. The seven-day average of positive test results on June 25 was 6 percent, down from a high of 22 percent in mid-April.
What about contact tracing?
The National Association of County and City Health Officials estimates that states need about 15 to 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents, the governor’s office says.
Following those guidelines, the Northam administration estimates it needs about 1,300 contact tracers. The state has moved to hire 1,000 contact tracers by the end of June, for a total of 1,300. Virginia will use $58 million in federal relief money to support the hiring of those workers and 200 communicable disease investigators, Northam said. Northern Virginia officials say they will have the infrastructure for contact tracing in place this month.
Those teams are crucial to the reopening plan, which is based on widespread testing to identify people who are infected and follow-up investigations to trace anyone the infected person had contact with so they can be isolated.