At today's press briefing from Richmond, Gov. Ralph Northam said he is extending Executive Order 53 from May 8 to May 15, at which time “non-essential” businesses that were previously shut down or restricted — such as restaurants, hair salons, nail salons, farmer’s markets and fitness centers — will be able to open as long as the trend on new COVID-19 cases trends downward.

Northam described the step as Phase One of a three-step phase in reopening the state. However, the previously-stated social distancing and safety rules still apply. 

In Phase One, workers at these establishment are expected to wear face masks and do additional cleaning and sanitizing. Restaurants, for example, are expected to set up their dining areas in a way that would comply with the six-feet-apart social distancing standard and limiting capacity.

Individuals are encouraged to wear face masks while out in public places.

Churches may gather for services but adhere to social distancing orders, which would limit capacity.

Employees who are able to work from home are still encouraged to do so.

Phase One is expected to last a minimum of two to four weeks, depending on COVID-19 statistics.

Phase Two would follow, and includes at-risk individuals staying home, limiting social gatherings to a maximum of 50 people, continued social distancing, individual wearing of face masks, working from home, and further easing of restrictions at businesses.

Phase Two could also last two to four weeks pending COVID-19 conditions.

Moving on to Phase Three is contingent upon having no evidence of an uptick of COVID-19 cases at that time.

If all goes well, Phase Three would include “safer at home” instead of “stay at home” suggestions for the at-risk population, removing the ban on social gatherings, and removing capacity limits in businesses while they remain diligent in their cleaning practices.

Northam said COVID-19 cases continue to rise because more people are being tested.

The latest numbers put forth by the Virginia Department of Health show 122,788 tests completed with 19,492 positive tests, 2,700 hospitalizations and 684 deaths. 

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