Northam says next phase of reopening at least a week away

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says he’s holding off on further relaxing restrictions on businesses and public gatherings, citing concerns about the rising number of coronavirus cases in other states.
Northam said at a news conference Thursday that Virginia was not ready to enter Phase 3 of reopening despite seeing sustained positive trends related to case numbers, hospitalizations and other metrics. Northam said there have been “surges in other states that have eased restrictions prematurely,”
“I know everybody wants to get back to that new normal but we’ve really got to take our time,” he said.
The governor said the earliest the state would Phase 3 is June 26. Republicans said there is sufficient data to open up this Friday, two weeks after most of the state entered Phase 2. Northam previously said that Phase 2 would two to four weeks or longer.
“Let us be clear, the governor is once again walking back his own criteria,” House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert said in a statement.
Under Phase 3, restaurants and non-essential retail stores would no longer have to limit indoor capacity to 50% of what their space can hold, but would still have to keep customers six feet apart. Gyms could go from 30% capacity to 75%, and social gatherings of up to 250 people would be allowed.
Outdoor swimming pools could operate with fewer restrictions and at 75% their normal capacity.
The governor held his news conference in northern Virginia and was joined by leaders of the Latino community, which has been hit disproportionately by the virus. Latinos make up about a tenth of the state’s population, but 45% of the cases for which the state has democratic data, Northam said.
Across the country, states reporting racial data indicate similar trends, with overwhelmingly high rates of infection within the Hispanic population.
The governor his administration is working to boost testing and other outreach to the Latino community, including undocumented immigrants.
“We’re not checking papers at these testing events or clinics,” Northam said. “We just want to help you and your family to be safe and healthy.”
The state reported more than 56,238 confirmed or probable cases of the virus Thursday, with nearly 1,600 confirmed or probably coronavirus-related deaths.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and even be fatal.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at and