FILE - Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam gestures during a news conference Wednesday, April 8, 2020, at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. 

(The Center Square) – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is hoping to enter phase one of reopening the state's economy May 15, but localities will be allowed to open at a slower rate if they deem it necessary, the governor said Wednesday.

Northam said he is communicating with local government officials who may consider this, including officials in northern Virginia.

"I know that across Virginia, our localities are being affected in very different ways," Northam said. "I want everybody to understand when we do detail what phase one's restrictions look like, we regard that as the floor. If local governments, based on the situation in their own localities, feel that they need to maintain additional restrictions on gatherings or business operations, we will allow that and we will work with the localities."

The governor announced Monday his intention to enter phase one of three by May 15 as long as COVID-19 statistics continue to trend in the right direction. This includes a decreasing percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive, an increasing ability to test and trace, a stable supply of equipment and stable hospital capacity.

Phase one would allow most business to reopen at a limited capacity. Future phases would incrementally reduce restrictions. Each phase is expected to last about three weeks.

Virginia has 20,256 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 713 deaths and 127,938 tests have been conducted, according to the state Department of Health's most-recent update.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus. The disease has caused at least 73,211 deaths in the U.S., with more than 1.25 million confirmed cases in the country. COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and Tennessee for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.