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Phase II reopening to begin Friday

Suffolk and the rest of Virginia will be able to move into Phase II of the state’s reopening plan beginning Friday, with the exception of Northern Virginia and Richmond.

Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday that with COVID-19 metrics continuing to head in the right direction, the phased reopening plan could move forward.

As much of the state has been in Phase I for about three weeks, Northam said hospitals continue to report that they have adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, and that the state is averaging close to 10,000 COVID-19 tests per day. Hospital bed capacity remains steady, and there has been a slight decline in the percentage of people hospitalized with a positive or pending COVID-19 test. The percentage of tests for COVID-19 that come back positive also continues to trend downward to around 10 percent for Virginia, outside of Northern Virginia.

“Now, based on that data, I feel comfortable allowing most of Virginia to move into Phase II this Friday,” Northam said.

Northern Virginia and Richmond, which moved into Phase I last Friday, will remain there. However, Accomack County, which like Northern Virginia and Richmond entered Phase I after the rest of the state, will move into Phase II with the rest of the state thanks to rigorous COVID-19 testing, with Northam saying the outbreak there “is under control.”

Phase II allows for restaurants to reopen indoor seating at 50 percent capacity based on their certificates of occupancy. Gyms and fitness centers can be open at 30 percent capacity, including indoor fitness classes, and swimming pools can open with some restrictions.

Museums, zoos, botanical gardens and other outdoor venues can reopen Friday with some restrictions. Recreational sports will be permitted with physical distancing and no shared equipment. Swimming pools can reopen to exercise and swim instruction.

Face masks will still be required indoors, but gatherings can increase from 10 to 50 people.

“But we are still safer at home. … We still strongly encourage teleworking and physical

distancing, and face coverings are required in indoor spaces,” Northam said.

However, current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail and personal grooming services will largely stay the same in Phase II. Among the sectors still closed in Phase II:  overnight summer camps, most indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs and carnivals.

The state Department of Social Services is sending guidance to child care providers so they can prepare health and safety measures. Northam said he would have more to say on that at his Thursday briefing.

For more on Gov. Ralph Northam’s Phase II guidelines, go to bit.ly/phase2guidelines.