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Virginia To Reopen Partially This Week, But Not In Richmond, Areas Closest To D.C.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (center) walks past boxes of personal protective equipment that volunteers plan to distribute Tuesday at an event in Richmond. Northam is doing a phased reopening in parts of the state outside the Washington, D.C., suburbs.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (center) walks past boxes of personal protective equipment that volunteers plan to distribute Tuesday at an event in Richmond. Northam is doing a phased reopening in parts of the state outside the Washington, D.C., suburbs.

Updated 5/14/20

As many states begin taking steps toward reopening their economies, Virginia is set to allow some businesses around the state to open up later this week.

But Gov. Ralph Northam is delaying the reopening for areas just outside Washington, D.C., because of a higher infection rate in the region. The governor's office announced on Thursday that he's also delaying the re-opening plan for Richmond and for Accomack County on Virginia's Eastern Shore, at the request of local officials.

In a news release Thursday, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said the city had requested the delay in re-opening until at least May 29 because of an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 tests in the past two weeks.

Northam, a physician, has outlined a phased plan that will allow some business activities to resume on Friday. For example, nonessential retail stores can operate at 50% occupancy, and restaurants can offer limited outdoor dining. Churches, synagogues and other religious congregations also will be allowed to hold services at 50% capacity.

In an executive order signed Tuesday, Northam extended restrictions for several counties, cities and towns in Northern Virginia through at least May 28. The governor said local municipal leaders asked him to take that step out of concerns about the number of cases in the area.

"While no region may move faster to ease restrictions, we're open to some regions moving more slowly," Northam said during a media briefing Monday.

State officials said Northern Virginia, which borders Washington, D.C., accounts for about 70% of the commonwealth's positive coronavirus tests on a typical day.

Northam said that in recent days Virginia hospitals have been reporting an adequate supply of personal protective equipment for health care workers.

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