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Northam Spells Out ‘Phase 1’ Guidelines in New Executive Order

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed Executive Order 61 Saturday and presented a detailed framework for the first phase of the “Forward Virginia” plan to safely and gradually ease public health restrictions while containing the spread of Covid-19.

The Phase One guidelines will be implemented when the data meets the public health criteria outlined by the Virginia Department of Health.

The new executive order modifies public health guidance in Executive Order 53 and Executive Order 55, and establishes guidelines for Phase One.

Northam’s phased approach is grounded in science and data, according to a statement from his office today, and includes mitigation strategies to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus through enhanced safety practices.

The plan allows localities to consider delaying implementation of Phase One guidelines based on local conditions.

“I am proud of the millions of Virginians who have stayed home and helped to flatten the curve, but our work is not done,” Northam said. “These guidelines represent one step forward in a gradual process, establishing the necessary modifications to business operations to minimize the risk of Covid-19 exposure for employees and customers.

When we move into this first phase, it will be important for Virginians to act cautiously — especially our most vulnerable populations, the elderly, and those with underlying medical conditions,” Northam continued.

Under Phase One, the Commonwealth will move to a “Safer at Home” strategy, which continues the ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people and maintains recommendations for social distancing, teleworking and wearing face coverings.

All businesses should make modifications to maintain six feet of physical distancing, increase cleaning and sanitization of high contact surfaces as well as provide enhanced workplace safety measures.

Retail establishments will be allowed to operate at 50 percent occupancy, restaurant and beverage establishments may offer outdoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, personal grooming services may begin operating with one patron per service provider and fitness centers may offer outdoor exercise services.

Campgrounds may also begin taking reservations for short-term stays.

Places of worship can also open with 50 percent capacity and have been allowed to hold drive-in services.

Many of the restrictions put in place by Executive Order 53 will remain in place in Phase One.

Entertainment and public amusement venues will remain closed and beaches will continue to be open only for exercise and fishing. Childcare centers remain open for children of working families. Overnight summer camps will remain closed in Phase One.