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Virginia to Enter Reopening Phase Three Next Week

Northam standing behind podium
During his bi-weekly press conference, Governor Northam announced the beginning of phase three of the state's re-opening. (Screenshot by VPM News)

Virginia will enter phase three of reopening on Wednesday, July 1. Gov. Ralph Northam made the announcement at a press conference today, where he repeated guidelines for the next phase in the state’s reopening.

Northam says the VDH is monitoring surges in other states, and that despite the lifting of many restrictions - including caps on non-essential retail and the reopening of many recreational and commercial facilities - the state is still strongly encouraging telework and mandating social distancing guidelines that include face coverings.

“I want to reiterate that everyone should continue to take this pandemic very seriously. Cases are on the rise in many other states as I said previously,” Northam said. “I do not want to see that happen in our commonwealth.”

Richmond and Northern Virginia, which had previously lagged behind the rest of the state in reopening as a result of concerns over hotspots, are projected to enter phase three on the same schedule as the rest of the state.

Northam also announced more protective equipment for correctional facilities, such as 170,000 disposable masks donated by the Reform Alliance for statewide distribution.

Long-term care facilities, which have struggled to contain coronavirus outbreaks, are receiving $246 million dollars in new funding. Of that amount, $56 million will be allocated for periodic testing of nursing home residents and staff.

The majority of these funds come from the CARES Act, which was passed by congress in late March. The state will also begin publishing information on long-term care facilities which have experienced outbreaks of COVID-19. “I understand that it’s been difficult for families who wanted this information about the facilities where their loved ones are living and it’s time we make this change,” said Northam.

Northam also announced that Agriculture and Forestry Industry Development Fund grants would be made available to agriculture and forestry businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Northam indicated that the state would be taking action on criminal justice reform in the upcoming July session, saying, “Action is coming. And new laws starting July the first reflect my commitment to criminal justice reform.”

Addressing the protests which have broken out across the country, Northam said, “After three weeks, it is no longer clear what the goals are or a path to achieve them. Clearly Richmond needs a different path forward. These nightly conflicts cannot continue indefinitely.”

VPM has done extensive reporting on protester demands and responses from Richmond political leaders, which includes concrete policy proposals from protesters, city council members, and police organizations.

Responding to a question about whether he would direct state police to stop the use of tear gas and rubber bullets - so-called “less than lethal” crowd suppression tools - Northam responded, “Obviously, we don’t like seeing the use of tear gas and rubber bullets - no, I’m not going to direct the police how to do their work.”

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