May 29, 2020 — It’s finally here. The moment many Virginians have been waiting for since March 23rd when Northam announced Stay-at-Home orders — Virginia has officially re-opened, and stay-at-home orders have been lifted. This step does not come without divisiveness, however. Virginians are torn as many feel that this decision to re-open may be happening too soon, while others feel the opposite is true and are ready to get back to at least some semblance of a normal life. Regardless of your personal feelings on this controversial topic, Governor Northam has cleared us to resume business, but it is definitely not business-as-usual.
What Are the Rules?
As you can imagine, Virginia has put many safety precautions and regulations in place to ensure that the state’s COVID-19 numbers do not skyrocket during Phase One of resuming business. Under Phase One, the following is allowed to open:
- Retail Shops + Churches — Allowed to operate at 50% occupancy. Fitting rooms will remain closed. Employees will be required to wear masks or face covers at all times. All high traffic surfaces and areas should be disinfected at least every 2 hours. A minimum of 6 feet of distance is required between individuals attending religious services. And, yes, malls are allowed to open at this time.
- Restaurants — Outside dining is permitted at 50% capacity. Small groups dining together must be a minimum of 6 feet apart from other parties, and all tables should be at least 6 feet away from sidewalks and walkways. Menus must be disposable and should be disposed of after every patron leaves. Finally, condiments are not allowed on the table and if provided, must be single use only.
- Gyms — Available for use outdoors only with gatherings of less than 10 participants at any given time. Gym goers must remain at least 10 feet apart at all times. Pools can re-open assuming they are following disinfecting guidelines and designated lanes are used for lap swimming only. For the most part, this leaves most gyms unable to operate.
- Grooming Salons — Hair salons, spas, tattoo parlors may re-open by appointment only. Employees and visitors must wear masks at all times, which means all services provided must not require removal of masks. Disinfecting guidelines at salon-style businesses are very strict.
Governor Northam also announced this week that all Virginians must wear masks in public spaces. This includes when inside public buildings, using public transit, etc. After looking at examples around the world, one thing is for sure — masks seem to work very well in mitigating COVID-19. Japan was able to substantially lower its coronavirus cases through the heavy use of masks in public places.
It is important to remember that while our community takes baby steps toward re-opening, that does not mean the threat of coronavirus is over. Please continue to remain cautious and careful. Finally, all high risk individuals should continue to stay-at-home through Phase One and Phase Two.
If you are a business-owner, you can find more information on best practices regarding social distancing, disinfecting and more at: www.virginia.gov/coronavirus/forwardvirginia.
We have outlined some of the most helpful tips that have been shared with us:
- If you choose to participate in the Phase One experiment, keep hand sanitizer with you and wash your hands frequently.
- Continue to refrain from touching your face.
- Proceed with staying a minimum of 6 feet away from others.
- If you feel unwell, have a cough or fever, stay home.
- Carry an extra mask or face covering with you if you can so you are prepared in the event you lose your mask or that it breaks.
- Consider wearing a face shield in combination with your mask if you are high risk, but must go out.
We are not experts on pandemics, viruses or government planning; however, we do care about our community. These tips are only to assist you in making the best decisions you can to stay safe and healthy.
When Will Phase 2 Begin?
While it is difficult to say when Phase Two will happen, Governor Northam has mentioned that the earliest Phase Two can begin is on Friday, June 5th assuming Virginia meets all of the criteria that had been laid out by state government officials in April.
We will continue to update this article with the latest news on Phase One re-opening in Northern Virginia.