NORFOLK, Va. - It remains unclear how long social distancing will last in Virginia.
Over the weekend, the Department of Health clarified comments made by Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver on Friday. Oliver said he thought phase one of Gov. Northam's reopening plan would last for two years.
Phase One of Northam's plan would allow some businesses to reopen, but would require social distancing to remain in effect.
“I, personally, think phase one will be a two-year affair,” Oliver said. “There are a lot of people working on this, and I hope they prove me wrong, but I don’t see it happening in less than two years.”
A VDH spokesperson later clarified Oliver meant COVID-19 will be an issue in Virginia until there is a vaccine, which could take two years.
“Although we have no expectation that Phase One of this approach will last two years, some level of social distancing will have to continue until we have a treatment or a vaccine for the disease,"the spokesperson told the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Oliver's comments prompted Virginia Senate Republicans to call on Northam to release a clearer timeline.
“Having the Department of Health ‘clarify’ Dr. Oliver’s remarks is not sufficient to refute the perception of an endless economic shutdown. Governor Northam needs to detail an actual timeline for how long it will take Virginia to reach Phase Three of his ‘Forward Virginia Blueprint,'" Republicans said in a statement Monday.
Northam was asked about the Republicans' comments during his press briefing on Monday, but didn't get more specific on timing.
"Just as soon as we can reopen businesses we will open businesses throughout Virginia," said Northam. "We will do that."
Northam is meeting with a business task force on Monday afternoon to come up with strategies to reopen. He says he plans to release more details about what phase one would look like soon. "We are in process of establishing a plan as we move forward," he said.