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Ready or not, Phase 2 arrives Friday

Most of Virginia will enter Phase 2 of the state’s Forward Virginia plan to reopen the economy Friday, June 5.

Although area coronavirus cases are still climbing, Gov. Ralph Northam signed Executive Order 65, designed to lessen restrictions on restaurants, gyms and other businesses, according to a Tuesday, June 2, press release from the Office of the Governor.

Dr. H. Robert Nash, the director of the Piedmont Health District, has advised against further reopening in the area, but local officials have said they do not plan to ask Northam to keep Prince Edward County in Phase 1.

Prince Edward County had 72 positive cases on May 15 after two months of the pandemic, the day Phase 1 began. Since then, the county has added 71 additional cases in less than three weeks. But local officials have made it clear they will not ask Northam to delay Prince Edward’s entry into Phase 2.

“The town is following the governor’s executive orders on reopening and we are awaiting the timeline and guidelines for Phase 2,” Farmville Mayor David Whitus said Monday, June 1.

The only part of Virginia that will not enter Phase 2 at this point is Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond.

Northam is moving the state into the next phase of reopening because no hospitals are reporting PPE shortages, hospital bed capacity remains stable and the percent of positive tests continue to trend downward.

“Because of our collective efforts, Virginia has made tremendous progress in fighting this virus and saved lives,” Northam said. “Please continue to wear a face covering, maintain physical distance, and stay home if you are high-risk or experience COVID-19 symptoms. Virginians have all sacrificed to help contain the spread of this disease, and we must remain vigilant as we take steps to slowly lift restrictions in our commonwealth.”

Under Phase 2, restaurants may offer indoor dining at 50% occupancy. Fitness centers may open indoor areas at 30% capacity. Swimming pools may expand operations to both indoor and outdoor exercise, diving and swim instruction.

The guidelines for church gatherings in Phase 2 remain the same as in Phase 1.

Overnight summer camps, most indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs and carnivals all will remain closed in Phase 2.

A Safer at Home strategy continues in Phase 2 with continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of people permitted in a social gathering increases from 10 to 50 people.

Phase 2 – What Changes?

• Gatherings may be up to 50 people

• Indoor dining allowed at 50% occupancy

• Gyms may open indoor areas at 30% occupancy

• Museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens may open with restrictions

• Outdoor concert, sporting and performance venues may open with restrictions

• Pools may open to both indoor and outdoor exercise, diving and swim instruction