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"Turning The Dimmer Switch Up": This Is How Businesses Could Reopen May 15

Photo by WHRO staff. Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin campaigned to make Virginia a more business-friendly state.

Businesses in Virginia can start reopening May 15, barring any sharp increases in the number of positive COVID-19 cases.

Gov. Ralph Northam said he would move toward lifting restrictions if the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and cases followed a downward trend for two weeks.

Testing has increased, Northam said Friday in a press conference, so the number of cases has gone up, but the percentage of people testing positive is getting smaller.

At the same time, hospitals around the state are not experiencing severe shortages of personal protective equipment, he said.

The first phase of reopening will begin May 15, as long as there isn't a spike in cases. 

Many of the recommendations will stay in place: People should telework if they can, face coverings are suggested when in public and people should practice social distancing.

"We are not opening the floodgates here; we are not flipping the light switch from closed to open," Northam said. "We are turning the dimmer switch up a notch."

On May 15, the following will happen:

  • Non-essential retail can open at 50% capacity
  • Restaurants, breweries and other beverage services should continue offering takeout and delivery. If a business has permitted outdoor seating, 50%  of that capacity can be used.
  • Churches may continue drive-in services and operate at 50% capacity
  • Personal grooming, like hair salons, will be by appointment-only and should implement strict social distancing and employees and customers are required to wear facial coverings.
  • Beaches will remain limited to exercise and fishing activities. Northam said reopening beaches will require a more "comprehensive" approach and pointed to suggestions Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer made for a safe beach reopening.
  • Private campgrounds will be open with no special restrictions.
  • State parks will continue to stay open for day use and some locations will be open for overnight use. Northam did not say which state parks would allow overnight visitors.
  • Entertainment and public amusement venues and gyms will remain closed.
  • Child care centers, which were allowed to stay open, will continue to be open.
  • Overnight summer camps are closed.

Northam said this phase of reopening could last about three weeks.

Mechelle is News Director at WHRO. She helped launch the newsroom as a reporter in 2020. She's worked in newspapers and nonprofit news in her career. Mechelle lives in Virginia Beach, where she grew up.

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