Virginia Addressing Coronavirus' Impact on Latinos, Governor Says

Gov. Ralph Northam also spoke about what will be allowed under reopening phase three. A start date was not announced

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam speaks
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Hispanic and Latino residents of Virginia have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus and the state is working to address their needs, the governor said Thursday. 

About 45% of coronavirus cases in the state have been diagnosed among Hispanic or Latino residents, Gov. Ralph Northam said at a bilingual news conference. The group makes up only about 10% of the population. 

“Clearly, Latino communities are disproportionately affected by this virus,” Northam said. 

Latino residents are more likely to work in jobs with higher risk factors and less likely to have insurance. 

In response, the state is increasing outreach in Spanish, providing free coronavirus testing in areas with large Latino populations and tracking the data. 

“We are all using a health equity lens to make these decisions,” the governor said. 

A large portion of the news conference Thursday was conducted in Spanish. Dr. Sergio Rimola, a member of the Virginia Latino Advisory Board, said he advised the state to hire contact tracers who understand the Latino community. He advised handwashing and social distancing as the virus continues to spread.

"This virus has brought to light the disparities that exist in our community on the subject of health,” he said in Spanish. 

Northam also said reopening phase three will not start this week and that he will give an update on Tuesday. Phase three will start no earlier than June 26, he said. Northern Virginia is expected to start phase three later than other portions of the state. Northam advised continued social distancing.

"While our data is good and our restrictions may ease, the virus has not gone anywhere," he said.

Under phase three, groups of 250 people, up from 50 people will be allowed. Restaurants can operate but will need to keep tables six feet apart. Gyms will be able to open indoor areas at 75% capacity. Entertainment venues will be able to operate at 50% capacity, up to 1,000 people. Pools will be able to offer free swim. Overnight summer camps will stay closed.

Northern Virginia joined most of the state in reopening phase two on Friday, June 12. The area has been particularly hard hit by the virus.

Under phase two, restaurants can offer indoor dining with a 50% capacity limit. Fitness centers can open indoor areas at 30% capacity. Pools can expand operations to indoor and outdoor exercise, diving and swim instruction.

Outdoor entertainment venues including museums, drive-in movie theaters, botanical gardens, zoos and public or private clubs can also reopen with social distancing measures. Outdoor professional sports can also resume.

Social gatherings can have a maximum of 50 people, up from 10 people allowed under phase one. 

Fairs, carnivals, horse racing, arcades, skating rinks and similar indoor recreations can't reopen yet.

Social distancing, face masks and teleworking are still recommended. Employees at most establishments are required to wear masks.

Gym workouts, indoor dining and gatherings of up to 50 people are now allowed in Northern Virginia as the state enters phase two of reopening. News4's Justin Finch reports.

Religious services can occur at 50% capacity. People must be seated at least six feet from each other. Items such as collection plates cannot be passed. 

Go here for a sector-by-sector guide on what phase two allows.

Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story. 

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