(The Center Square) – The city of Richmond and Accomack County received approval from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to delay their implementation of the first phase of reopening until May 28.
“As I have said previously, Virginia’s Phase One guidelines represent a floor, not a ceiling,” Northam said Thursday in a news release. “I have encouraged local leaders to request exemptions when appropriate, and I am pleased to grant the delays for both Accomack County and the city of Richmond.”
House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert said Northam's decision to grant the delays further erodes confidence in the governor.
"In a matter of hours, and just hours before businesses were set to reopen, Gov. Northam has once again changed his mind and allowed individual localities to remain shut down, rather than requiring the regional approach he required after initially refusing requests for the same," Gilbert said. "This shocking level of inconsistency inspires no confidence in the governor’s ability to lead our commonwealth in its hour of need.”
The Accomack County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to request a two-week delay from Northam. Thursday afternoon, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney made a similar request. The governor granted a two-week delay to northern Virginia localities Wednesday.
The rest of the state is set to enter the first phase of reopening Friday.
Restaurants in these localities will be able to open at 50 percent capacity for outdoor dining, but indoor dining still will be prohibited. Nonessential retail stores will be able to open at 50 percent capacity. Personal grooming services, such as barber shops, will be able to open by appointment only with mandatory face masks and social distancing.
Virginia has had 27,813 COVID-19 cases and 955 deaths, according to the state Department of Health’s most-recent numbers. The seven-day moving average for percent positivity was 15 percent, as of Sunday. On April 26, it was 21 percent. Data since Sunday are not complete, and a percentage can't be calculated. The state has combined viral and antibody tests in its test and case counts.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus. The disease has caused at least 86,248 deaths in the U.S., with more than 1.44 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.