RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gov. Ralph Northam said he’ll present new guidelines next week for the state’s eventual reopening, adding progress has been made in boosting testing and obtaining medical supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Northam said at a news conference Friday that he plans to outline the state’s next steps towards reopening its economy on Monday.
“Everyone wants to know what comes next,” Northam said. “We have slowed the spread but we are not out of the woods yet. We must continue to move forward carefully.”
The governor has issued executive orders shutting down activity in the state to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That includes an order closing some nonessential businesses through May 8. Northam declined to say whether he will extend that order.
Some Republican lawmakers and others have been pushing Northam, a Democrat, to reopen like some other Southern states have done.
The square surrounding the state Capitol was briefly closed Friday afternoon after a small group of armed people gathered at the foot of the Capitol stairs protesting the virus-related shutdowns. The approximately 20 “belligerent” protesters eventually dispersed, said Capitol Police spokesman Joe Macenka. There were no arrests.
Northam recently lifted a ban on non-elective surgeries and said Friday that his executive orders have been less restrictive than what some other states have issued.
Republicans also have complained that the state lags behind other states in testing. Northam said Virginia has made “tremendous progress” in boosting the number of tests for the virus that are being conducted each day and that the state is now well positioned to test anyone who thinks they may have the virus.
The governor said the state’s National Guard is also available to help run testing at nursing homes in which everyone at a facility is tested on the same day.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and be life-threatening.