Virginia will begin reopening Friday
Restaurants, bars, breweries, wineries and other places that sell food can open their outdoor seating at 50% capacity, and continue providing takeout and delivery. Patrons will be able to use the restrooms inside restaurants. Parties must be seated at least 6 feet apart and must be limited to 10 patrons or less. Bar seats, congregating areas, game areas, dance floors and playgrounds will be closed. If live musicians are performing, they must be at least 6 feet away from patrons and staff. Reusable menus will not be allowed. Fitness equipment must be separated by ten feet, and fitness classes will be limited to 10 or fewer. Instructors and participants must stay 10 feet apart. Equipment not easily disinfected like climbing rope and exercise bands can’t be used. Hot tubs, spas, splash pads, spray pools, pool seating, and basketball and racquetball courts will stay closed. Outdoor pools can open for lap swimming only, limited to one person per lane.
Beaches are still limited to exercise and fishing only. They could stay closed through Memorial Day weekend. Northam said he’s working with localities, including Virginia Beach, which he praised for recently putting together a plan for reopening its beaches. The governor added that when he’s comfortable that a comprehensive plan can be in place, he will ease the restrictions on the beaches. In the Outer Banks, beaches will reopen to visitors on May 16.
Places of worship can hold services inside at 50% capacity and continue holding drive in services. Seating should be marked in six foot increments. People must sit 6 feet apart; families can sit together. No items can be passed to or between attendees, other than family members. Surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected before and after services, and anything used to distribute food or drink must be disposable, used only once and thrown away. Attendees are encouraged to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth at all times.
More detailed guidelines and recommendations for religious services can be found here, or at the bottom of this story.
Salons, tattoo parlors, tanning salons, spas, massage parlors and other personal grooming services can open by appointment only and must abide by strict social distancing measures. Face coverings are required inside. Work stations should be six feet apart.
Private campgrounds can reopen. Lots rented for less than 14 days must be 20 feet apart. Common areas like gazebos and picnic areas will remain closed. No sharing of recreational equipment unless cleaned with an EPA approved disinfectant, and no day passes or visitors. No gatherings of more than 10 people in one spot.
State parks will be allowing overnight stays in phases, starting with tents and eventually allowing people to stay in cabins again. Day use is allowed. As of May 14, hiking, biking and equestrian trails are open, as are boat ramps, picnic tables and grills for groups of fewer than 10 people. The Department of Conservation and Recreation said state campgrounds are set to reopen May 21 in time for Memorial Day weekend. Reservations for camping between May 21 and June 10 are now being accepted, but playgrounds, swimming beaches, camp stores, museums, picnic shelters and visitor centers will remain closed. Restrooms and campground bathhouses will open May 21.
Overnight summer camps remain closed.
The Department of Motor Vehicles will reopen 11 customer service center locations to appointments only on May 18, including two in Hampton Roads (Virginia Beach at 3551 Buckner Blvd. Monday through Saturday for services that need to be conducted in person. Otherwise, Virginians are encouraged to transact DMV business online. For more information, including how to make an appointment, visit the DMV’s website.
Gatherings are still limited to 10 people. Teleworking and face coverings are still strongly encouraged.
Business owners must create policies to make sure people are physically distant from one another, and more cleaning and disinfecting must occur, Northam has said. They should set schedules that allow for several breaks so employees can wash hands and disinfect. Restaurants, for example, must thoroughly clean frequently contacted surfaces every 60 minutes, and items like chairs, tables and credit card machines must be cleaned after each use.
Northam said he came up with these restrictions for phase 1 with input from various small and large business owners across the state.
Previous coverage: Northam extends business closure order, announces plans to reopen as of May 15
On May 9, the governor’s office published specific guidelines for various industries including retail, restaurants, farmers markers, grooming services, entertainment business and gyms. That document can be found here or at the bottom of this story.
We don’t yet know what this means for other businesses not specifically mentioned by Northam. We also don’t know what it means for travel restrictions.
What happens to workers who don’t want to return to newly opened workplaces because they believe it’s unsafe?
It’s not entirely clear. If a worker refuses to return to a job after getting a job offer, that person would no longer be eligible for unemployment. Gov. Ralph Northam’s Chief of Staff Clark Mercer said during a May 11 press conference that there’s currently an adjudication process to handle claims and complaints at the state level from people who feel they may be being asked to return to an unsafe environment. But with much of the unemployment payments coming from the federal government through July 31, there may need to be some reconciliation there. “It’s a work in progress,” he said. A Virginia Employment Commission spokeswoman said a person can appeal any unemployment denial. In the case of feeling a workplace may be unsafe for health reasons, it may require a doctor’s note, the spokesperson said.
“Stay at home” becomes “Safer at home.”
The governor said he will be revising the order that required everyone to stay home with exemptions like buying groceries, seeking medical help, going to work or exercising outside. On May 4, the governor said it would become more of a “safer at home” order that still encourages people to stay put especially the most vulnerable population.
Social distancing will still be encouraged, and people who can telework should continue to do so. Face masks are recommended when going out in public.
The stay at home order was set to expire June 10. We don’t know whether the safer at home order will have a different date.
Just like under the governor’s previous executive orders, the phase 1 guidelines will be enforced. Police can charge you with a misdemeanor if you don’t follow the order.
There’s no statewide requirement to wear a mask, although some businesses will have to require their workers to wear one. The governor has continued encouraging people to wear one when going out.
We’ve got a solid amount of personal protective equipment.
The governor has also said he wants to make sure hospitals have enough personal protective equipment and bed capacity to handle any surges if outbreaks happen during the reopening phases ## ## . The state is on track there, with no hospitals reporting any difficulty getting any personal protective equipment since Sunday, according to the Virginia Department of Health. And hospitals have almost 5,000 beds available.
Three localities in Virginia including Newport News received new decontamination stations this week that use hydrogen peroxide vapor to sterilize N95 masks. The masks can handle up to 20 such decontamination cycles without degrading the performance of the mask’s filter, and each of the three units can sterilize 80,000 masks per day.