Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam addressed protests against police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd and said most of the state will move into phase two reopening as the coronavirus continues to spread.
“I cannot imagine what it’s like to be an African-American person right now. I cannot know the depth of your pain. But I can stand with you,” the governor said at a news conference Tuesday, addressing the long history of racial inequity in the United States.
Northam highlighted several measures that could be taken in order to amend injustices, including expanding Medicaid, putting in place funding for new mothers and doulas to help reduce maternal mortality, criminal justice reforms and making Election Day a holiday.
Northam said that while these actions would help rectify historical racial inequities, they "will not bring back lives that have been lost.”
The governor invited several delegates, leaders and speakers from the commonwealth to speak about the ongoing protests.
Del. Delores McQuinn addressed the demonstrations, "we are clearly a nation in crisis and chaos, fueled by yet another casualty of systemic racism.”
A rising senior at Albemarle High School, Naquel Perry Jr., urged his peers to use their right to vote and to participate in the protests.
“To all the kids who are watching, we are the future," he said.
Northam urged all protestors to continue to wear face masks.
He also announced that “most of Virginia” will be able to move to phase two of reopening starting Friday, June 5. This phase will include more flexibility for restaurants, gyms, sports and outdoor entertainment. Gatherings will now be limited to 50 people, rather than 10.
Restaurants will be allowed to have indoor seating at 50% capacity. Gyms and fitness centers can host indoor classes at 30% capacity. Pools, museums, zoos and botanical gardens can also reopen with some restrictions. Recreational sports with physical distancing and no shared equipment will also be allowed.
Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond will remain in phase one.