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Virginia Plan To Reopen Economy May Take Longer Than Other States

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Friday outlined a strenuous plan for reopening the state’s economy after the coronavirus shutdown.
Northam said a reopening would not even start until the percent of daily positive tests and hospitalizations decline for 14 consecutive days, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. Northam said this hasn’t occurred yet in the state, even though the spread of COVID-19 has slowed down. Another requirement to begin reopening is a growth of healthcare capacity and availability of protective equipment in the state.
“We cannot and will not lift restrictions like one turns on a light switch,” Northam said, calling the first part of reopening, “Phase One.”
“Easing too much too soon could jeopardize public health and consumer confidence,” he added, according to the Times-Dispatch.
Phase One, however, may last awhile and will require some businesses remain closed during that time, while others would be allowed to reopen with “strict safety restrictions.” It is unclear which businesses would be forced to stay closed during Phase One. An outline of the plan stated Phase one would involve “continued social distancing, continued teleworking [and] face coverings recommended in public.”
“We will get back to work by greatly increasing our testing, then tracing the contacts of people who test positive and isolating these individuals, not everyone in Virginia,” Northam said. “That is the key to moving forward.”
State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver suggested Phase One could last two years – until “medical countermeasures” such as a designated treatment or vaccine for the disease were widely available.
“I, personally, think Phase One will be a two year affair,” Oliver said, according to the Times-Dispatch. “There are a lot of people working on this, and I hope they prove me wrong, but I don’t see it happening in less than two years.”
The Times-Dispatch said the Health Department clarified Oliver’s remarks, claiming he was referring to vaccine development and not Phase One.
More from the Times-Dispatch:
Northam said on Friday that building out the details of Phase One will involve state health officials, local government officials, representatives of the business community and faith leaders. On Friday, Northam announced a business taskforce made up of business owners and leaders that will help guide plans for reopening businesses under the pandemic.
Northam said the plans will include overarching rules for all businesses, and specific guidance for different industries, like restaurants and barbershops.
Moving towards recovering, Virginia officials said, will also include boosting COVID-19 testing in the state, as well as contact tracing — the identification of anyone who has come into contact with a positive COVID-19 case.
Virginia is still struggling with testing for the coronavirus, but tests picked up this week compared to last, and Virginia Health Commissioner Karen Remley said on Friday that the state expected to expand testing to 10,000 people per day once the economy fully reopens, which, again, according to Oliver, may not be for two years.

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