Virginia governor: 'No specific number' which might restart state's coronavirus lockdown

Decision would be based on 'a combination of all the data.'

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The Virginia state capitol
The Virginia State Capitol.
(The Washington Post/Getty)
Last Updated:
May 9, 2020 - 11:09pm

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Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is cautioning the state will adhere to "no specific number" when deciding whether to re-institute a shutdown if COVID-19 cases spike in the near future. 

The governor made that declaration at a press conference on Friday, one in which he also affirmed the state's imminent institution of what he called "Phase One" of reopening its economy. Northam ordered much of Virginia shut down at the end of March. 

Asked at that press conference if a new surge of coronavirus cases after re-opening could lead to a re-instatement of state restrictions, Northam said: "Absolutely, yes." 

"I have said from the beginning that this is a dynamic, fluid process. It literally changes by the hour," he said.

"Should these numbers go in directions that we're not comfortable with, then obviously we'll need to make adjustments in our restrictions."

Asked if the state had set any benchmarks for when it would consider re-instituting those restrictions, Northam said the government had not decided on a firm, objective data point by which to make that judgment call. 

"There's no specific number or ledge at which we'll reverse. It's really a combination of all the data that we've been following," Northam said, a reference to in part the numbers of coronavirus cases in the state as well as the number of Virginians hospitalized with the disease. 

State's reopening relies heavily on data benchmarks

Though the governor declined at the press conference to set any hard criteria for when a new shutdown might be imposed, the reopening of the state has been largely decided by objective data gathered by public health officials. 

The governor's office said last month that the state could move toward opening only when officials had observed a steady two-week decline in the percentage of positive coronavirus cases in the state, as well as a decline in the number of hospitalizations. The government is also closely monitoring the amount of personal protective equipment available to medical officials in the state. 

The re-opening of the state will come in several phases, with the government gradually permitting a return to full business operations over a period of weeks and months. 

Northam in March shuttered all restaurant dining rooms in the state; under the first phase of re-opening, restaurants will be permitted to accommodate diners in outdoor seating at 50 percent capacity. Gyms will be allowed to offer "outdoor exercise services," and campgrounds will be permitted to host campers for "short-term stays." 

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