City officials in multiple jurisdictions in Northern Virginia issued a letter Sunday to Gov. Ralph Northam that they do not believe their region is ready to reopen given the criteria in his Phase 1 reopening plan.
Northam announced that he intended to start the reopening of Virginia beginning May 15. He detailed his plan to allow restaurants, bars and non-essential retail stores to ramp up operations as state health officials track a downward trend in coronavirus cases.
Local leaders in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax County, Loudoun County and Prince William County issued a joint letter advising Northam that they are not seeing a downward trend in cases in their counties and cities.
The health directors of each of the health districts in Northern Virginia said that the criteria provided by the state is either unable to be assessed or has not yet been met in their region.
That criteria was part of the Forward Virginia blueprint for reopening the state. It required a downward trend of positive tests and hospitalizations over a 14-day period, increased testing and contact tracing, enough hospital beds and intensive care capacity, and an increasing and sustainable supply of PPE.
Leaders in Northern Virginia are saying they have not met those thresholds. As of now, the region accounts for half of the state's confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
"While it is certainly useful to examine statewide metrics as we gauge the success of current public health policies, we feel strongly that any changes to current policies be guided by what is occurring in our region," the leaders said in the joint letter to the governor.
They ask that Northam considers additional criteria to account for their localities before deciding to reopen May 15. They said the transition to Phase 1 should occur once their region has met all the criteria.
"Governor Northam has been speaking regularly with Northern Virginia officials, and is pleased to see them moving forward on the proposal he advanced last week. He asked for this formal communication to demonstrate unity across the diverse Northern Virginia region, which is critical to a continued successful mitigation strategy. He appreciates their willingness to work with him on this responsible, data-driven, and health-based approach," a spokesperson for Northam said in a statment to News4 Sunday evening.
Northam announced what his reopening plan would look like on Friday which includes guidelines for social distancing and different safety measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Northam indicated Friday he would be willing to consider a later reopening for Northern Virginia as long as the region acted together.
“I want to reassure Virginians, we are not opening the flood gates here,” he said at a news conference Friday afternoon. “When the time is right, we will turn a dimmer switch up just a notch.”