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Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday he anticipates Virginia will be ready to enter the first phase of reopening the state on May 15 after the coronavirus closures, including allowing restaurants, barbershops and gyms to start reopening -- with restrictions.
While Northam extended his original order restricting nonessential business from May 8 to May 14, he said conditions allow for the state to consider reopening soon. Hospital beds are reporting excess capacity, the state has adequate levels of personal protective gear and growth has slowed for the rate of infections, the governor said.
“The message today is we will reopen Virginia next Friday,” Northam said. “We really want the businesses to do everything they can to make sure consumers feel safe.”
“Everything you have done has truly made a difference — we flattened the curve [of infections] and our hospitals have not been overwhelmed,” Northam told Virginia residents. “I am keenly aware that it has come with a tremendous cost. Now we can start to move into a new phase of our response.”
The governor also said that on May 14, he will also amend his “stay at home” order banning gatherings larger than 10 to make it a “safer at home” order.
The announcement came after President Trump called out Northam in a Fox News town hall Sunday for the order, which is set to expire in the middle of June.
"I really believe you can go to parks, you can go to beaches, you keep the spread, you stay away a certain amount and I really think the public has been incredible," Trump said.
Northam said that in phase one residents would be allowed to get a haircut, but with appointments. Restaurants, retailers and gyms would reopen, but at a limited capacity and with greater cleaning measures. Houses of worship would be allowed to hold service if they follow social distancing guidelines.
The governor said he anticipates phase one to last about three weeks, and he shot down an idea that some regions in the state would reopen before others. “When we go into phase one, I want to do that as a commonwealth,” Northam said.
Northam in his first loosening of restrictions allowed doctors, dentists and veterinarians to resume elective procedures on Friday.
Northam's new announcement is a departure from a regionally coordinated effort by Virginia along with D.C. and Maryland leaders, which have yet to announce restriction rollbacks.
Maryland's Republican Gov. Larry Hogan outlined a reopening plan on April 24, but did not give a timeline. After Northam's announcement, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan's administration said it had no update on when Maryland might lift restrictions.
"As you know, Maryland, Washington and specifically Northern Virginia are in very densely populated areas, so we do communicate. We’re probably not going to do everything on the exact day, but we’re working as close as we can," said Northam.
Virginia has had 19,493 coronavirus cases and 684 deaths.
Fox News' Kelly Phares contributed to this report.