Gov. Northam lays out blueprint to reopening

Posted at 12:01 PM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 17:34:12-04

RICHMOND, Va. - Gov. Northam outlined the steps he says Virginia can take in order to ease some of the restrictions in place during a news conference Friday afternoon.

His plan calls for expanded testing, contact tracing, and he says the Commonwealth needs to meet certain metrics.

Virginia would need to see 14 days of lower new cases, 14 days of lower hospitalizations, more personal protective equipment, and enough capacity in hospitals. "As I've said before, we cannot ease restrictions the way you turn on a light switch," said Northam. "We will do it responsibly and deliberately."

Currently, Virginia continues to see hundreds of new cases a day, but the growth rate is slowing and the hospitalization rate is flat. "Together we have slowed the spread of the virus," he said.

Northam is calling for 10,000 tests to be administered a day. Over the past two days, 4,000 have been done. Health officials say they're looking at innovative ways to increase testing.

Once his metrics are met, Northam says the Commonwealth could enter Phase One of his plan, which would allow some businesses to repen. He would still encourage social distancing and that people wear masks in public. Further guidelines will be released later. "For business to resume, both customers and employees must feel safe," he said.

Northam is hopeful Phase One could begin in two weeks on May 8. He says he'll allow elective surgeries to resume next week on May 1.

Northam has also decided to push back local elections in May by two weeks to May 19. He had proposed delaying them until November, but the State Senate killed his proposal. He's using executive order to delay the elections and encouraging people to vote absentee. He says poll workers will have personal protective equipment.

"Elections are vital to democracy and so is the right to vote, but Virginians should not have to choose between their ballot and their health," he said.