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Governor Denies Richmond's Request To Start Reopening With Extra Restrictions

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney speaking at a podium during a press conference last year
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney speaking at a press conference last year. (Roberto Roldan/VPM)

UPDATE 6:30PM: Governor Ralph Northam denied the request from Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney to enter Phase One of reopening with added restrictions.

Citing concerning data from the Virginia Department of Health, Stoney made the request Tuesday morning. He asked to keep restrictions on in-person religious services and salons in place as the city reopens. 

In a response letter, Northam said he wants Richmond to enter the same reopening phase as the rest of the state starting on Friday. Northam said Stoney can pursue other emergency restrictions with the city council if he wants to.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Richmond could enter into a Phase One reopening on Friday with some modifications to the state’s rules.

Mayor Levar Stoney sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam on Tuesday morning asking to keep restrictions in place for indoor religious services, salons and barbershops. Under Northam’s “Virginia Forward” plan, Phase One allows for churches and personal grooming facilities to operate at 50 percent capacity with other social distancing measures. But Stoney says he’s concerned about the city’s increasing coronavirus cases. 

Data from the Virginia Department of Health shows the number of tests coming back positive is still trending upward, even as it’s going down state-wide. 

“I want our businesses and residents to get back to work and regain some sense of normalcy they have sacrificed to fight this pandemic,” Stoney said in the letter. “But, I believe to do so in a sustainable way requires us to be deliberate and incremental in our approach to reopening.” 

Richmond’s increasing percent positivity rate was also cited by Stoney when he requested a two-week delay in reopening on May 14. Since then, the seven-day average percent positivity rate has increased from 22.8 percent to 24.1 percent. The percent positivity rates in Henrico and Chesterfield Counties, which began reopening on May 15, are much lower at 13.2 percent and 17.2 percent respectively. 

When Richmond begins reopening, restaurants and other non-essential businesses will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity. 

The governor has not yet responded to Stoney’s request for a modified reopening plan. 

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