Virginia Governor Ralph Northam speaks at a COVID-19 briefing in Richmond April 24, 2020.

Governor Northam outlines plan for reopening of Virginia


• The Governor will extend Executive Order EO-53 on business and social restrictions, originally set to expire on May 8, through May 14. 

• The Governor will adjust the “Stay at Home” order (EO-55) to “Safer at Home” to ease restrictions. 

• The state will be publishing reopening and safety guidelines for various industries this week. 

• Measures taken to contain and respond to the coronavirus have been working. The curve has flattened and hospital bed capacity has not been overwhelmed. 

• However, the virus is still present and a vaccine is still about a year away, so we must continue to take strong precautions. 

• Based on current data, the Governor expects we can “Phase 1” to reopen Virginia next Friday, May 15, 2020. 


• The Governor anticipate three phases for reopening. 

• Staying home, avoiding large gatherings, practicing social distancing, teleworking, and using face coverings are still important for safety. 

Phase 1 – Begin to reopen business with guidelines for physical distancing, cleaning and disinfection, and workplace safety. o Companies should establish policies to keep coworkers and customers physically separated with clear rules and communications. 

o Limited and short conferences and trade shows. 

o Use of face coverings at work. 

o Increasing cleaning and disinfection. 

o More employee breaks for hand washing. 

• The state will be publishing reopening and safety guidelines for specific industries, including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care and grooming, and entertainment. 

• Retail and other establishments will be able to operate at lower capacity, increased spacing, and more cleaning, including restaurants, barbers/salons, farmers markets, gyms, and churches and houses of worship. 

• Phase 1 will last about 3 weeks, consistent with CDC guidelines. 

• Phases 2 and 3 will also last approximately 3 weeks each. 

Phase 2 – Ease more restrictions based on downward trend of COVID-19 cases, stable capacity of hospital beds and intensive care, stable supply of PPE, and robust testing and contact tracing. 

Phase 3 – Will occur when there is no evidence of a rebound of cases for a sustained period. 

• The Administration will monitor the science and data over the next 2 weeks to determine the implementation of these phases. 

• Businesses need time to prepare for customers to return safely and for state to develop and issue guidelines.

• The Governor stated that restrictions need to be lifted consistently across the entire state, not by region. Travel can spread the virus. A regional approach would be picking winners and losers. 

• The top priority for reopening is workplace safety. 

• The state is waiting for guidance on unemployment insurance from the US Dept of Labor, including guidance on workplace safety and criteria, compliance and process for when employees do not feel safe at work. 


• The Northam Administration is taking the following metrics into consideration in determining when to begin the phased easing of restrictions: o Positive cases 

o Testing trends  Virginia now testing 6000 people per day 

o Contact tracing  1000 workers to be deployed 

o Hospitalizations over 14 days 

o Hospital bed and ICU capacity 

PPE and Testing 

• Virginia is receiving three PPE decontamination units. o One is operational in Blacksburg. 

o The others are expected to go online in Richmond and Newport News this week. 

• The Virginia National Guard is helping with moving supplies, logistics, and testing in congregate settings. o Tested 1310 inmates yesterday. 

o Concluded a testing pilot program in Harrisonburg yesterday. 

• The state is working with public and private partners to obtain more testing swabs. 


• Eastern Shore Health District has reported 260 cases associated with the two poultry plants in its district. 

• CDC teams have visited Virginia. This week the health district, CDC, and the plants are working together to test plant workers and community members in the Eastern Shore. 

• The Administration is also monitoring Shenandoah Valley plants, where the case increase is smaller and leveling off; focus remains on the Eastern Shore. 

• The state is taking continued safety measures and healthcare access for these areas. 


• 19,492 cases, 821 new cases from prior 24-hour reporting period 

• 684 deaths, 24 new deaths 

• 122,788 tests to date 

• 239 outbreaks, majority are in long term care facilities 

• African American cases represent 26% for which there is data. o 27% of deaths 

• Latin American cases represent 35% for which there is data. o 7% of deaths 


• This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. 

• This week is also Virginia’s first Resilience Week: o Visit for family resilience information, training and resources. 

• A church on the Eastern Shore sued the Governor alleging First Amendment violations because of the Governor’s emergency executive orders. The Easter District court dismissed the case. The plaintiffs have appealed, and the US Department of Justice has entered a statement of interest on behalf of the church that does not question the Governor’s underlying authority but suggests that the executive actions create a disparity between religious institutions and secular businesses. The Administration continues to believe the Governor’s actions were prudent, necessary, and constitutional. The case will go before the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. 

• Pharmaceutical companies and universities are working hard to find treatments. 

• The antiviral drug Remdesivir studies are very promising, which the FDA has approved. 

• Companies and researchers are also working to find a vaccine, but the timing is uncertain. 

• The state continues to work on support systems for healthcare, frontline, and essential workers. 

Next briefing: Wednesday, May 6 at 2:00PM. 

NOTE: This is an informal and timely summary of the Governor’s live press briefing. To access recordings of the briefings, visit To access the Governor’s official news releases, visit

Prepared by Commonwealth Strategy Group for the Virginia Press Association. 

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