‘I Don’t See It Happening In Less Than Two Years’: VA Leaders Comment On Reopening State

OPINION | This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

UPDATE: Governor’s office now says ‘Phase One’ of reopening Virginia ‘will not last for two years’,” according to Sabrina Moreno. This contradicts earlier statements from State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver who said, “I, personally, think Phase One will be a two-year affair.”

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam revealed on Friday that a lifting of social distancing guidelines may not happen for another couple of years.

Not days, weeks, or months—but at least two years will pass before his state completes “phase one” of a plan to return to normalcy.

“Northam said that while the spread of COVID-19 in Virginia is slowing down, cases are continuing to grow, meaning that the 14-day countdown has not begun,” Richmond.com reports.

“We cannot and will not lift restrictions like one turns on a light switch,” Northam said of his administration beginning “Phase One” of a three-part recovery process.

“Easing too much too soon could jeopardize public health and consumer confidence,” he continued.

Any initial reopenings will happen under “strict safety restrictions,” to help smooth the transition.

The first phase also includes “continued social distancing, continued teleworking [and] face coverings recommended in public,” Richmond reports an outline of the plan reads.

Northam’s plan included no timetable for when businesses and residents can return to the lives they once had, but State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver said “Phase One” of the plan could be more than two years.

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“I, personally, think Phase One will be a two-year affair,” Oliver said via the report. “There are a lot of people working on this, and I hope they prove me wrong, but I don’t see it happening in less than two years.”

Here’s more:

Northam said on Friday that building out the details of Phase One will involve state health officials, local government officials, representatives of the business community and faith leaders. On Friday, Northam announced a business taskforce made up of business owners and leaders that will help guide plans for reopening businesses under the pandemic.

Northam said the plans will include overarching rules for all businesses, and specific guidance for different industries, like restaurants and barbershops.

Moving towards recovering, Virginia officials said, will also include boosting COVID-19 testing in the state, as well as contact tracing — the identification of anyone who has come into contact with a positive COVID-19 case.

“We will get back to work by greatly increasing our testing, then tracing the contacts of people who test positive and isolating these individuals, not everyone in Virginia,” Northam said. “That is the key to moving forward.”