When Will Virginia Reopen? Breaking Down Northam’s Plan

When Will Virginia Reopen? Breaking Down Northam’s Plan

I watched the press briefing again with my husband and noticed that Northam kept slipping up on his dates. Perhaps because he really doesn’t know when the state is opening up. Maybe he was making it up on the fly. Or, possibly, he has no plan to open up anytime soon and the dates he was sharing were arbitrary, just to give us “hope.”

Northam explained that the commonwealth of Virginia would be entering into three phases.

Phase I

Governor Northam’s website says:

Phase I of easing restrictions would continue social distancing, teleworking, recommendations that people wear face coverings in public, and the ban on social gatherings of more than 10 people.

Wow, that sounds a lot like the state shut down. The only differences Northam mentioned for Phase I are:

It would ease some limits on business and faith communities, and would transition the stay at home directive to a “safer at home” guideline, especially for those in vulnerable populations.

This is the slide that describes Phase I:

Phase I Virginia Re-opening

He wasn’t clear about what limits on faith communities he would be lifting. He did say:

We will accommodate the needs of churches and houses of worship to gather in person but social distancing still matters even at church.

I am not sure if more than 10 people will be able to meet at church during Phase I. I hope he will address this in Wednesday’s press briefing, and I really do hope that churches can start gathering at full capacity, right away.

He shared more details about Phase I:

You’ll be able to get your hair cut, but you’ll need an appointment and you’ll see new safety measures in the salon. It means you can go out to eat again, but restaurants will use less of their seating so to spread people out more. Employees will wear face coverings and they’ll do more cleaning. Phase I means more retail establishments can be open, but they’ll have to operate at lower capacity. You can go to the gym, but with fewer people and more requirements for cleaning. Farmer’s markets, will have more flexibility with foot traffic and prepared foods.

I’m glad we will be able to go to restaurants, retail shops and Farmer’s markets, but I worry that most businesses cannot function at partial capacity. They have already taken a big hit because of the shut down. Now they are expected to do more work (clean more) while serving less customers (making less money)? I am concerned that some, or many, won’t make it. I am worried that Governor Northam is tanking Virginia’s economy.

How do we enter Phase I?

Before we can enter Phase I, Northam said:

This slide also shows you the percent of those tests that come back positive. We want to see a downward trend in that percentage over 14 days.

This is the slide he was referring to:

Looking at the yellow line, it seems to me that we have been in a downward trend for about EIGHT days. So, in six days, or MAY 10, according to the guidelines, we should be able to move into Phase I. Unless he is looking at the total number of positive cases, which he pointed out:

As you can see, our cases continue to rise. This number will continue to go up in part because we are doing more testing

BINGO! If he is looking at the total number of positive cases to determine whether or not to start Phase I, those numbers will keep increasing as testing ramps up.

Why he didn’t test earlier like other states is still in question. He blames Trump on a lack of swabs, but Trump says he didn’t ask for any. We have the same president over all 50 states–how did this one state miss out on essential test supplies when all others got them?

He has more requirements for us:

Also, we are planning to deploy 1,000 people to work as contact tracers. As you can see from this slide, we are increasing our testing capacity.

He said:

We want to see a downward trend in the percent of cases that are hospitalized over 14 days and we are monitoring that we continue to have enough hospital beds and ICU capacity.

Is it the number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 that matters most, or the percentage of cases decreasing?

And notice this next sentence:

We’ll watch this especially closely over the next couple of weeks as hospitals have resumed elective surgeries.

He also said:

All of this depends on us having a good supply of PPE, which we now feel that we have.

Later, in the questions and answers, he said:

I think as we look at the trends, especially with our number of cases and our percent positives as we look at our hospital capacity, as we look at our supply PPE, our ability to test, continue to monitor this as we move forward.

Dr. Norm Oliver said:

…reopening means that we have to take a very serious approach towards identifying new cases.

And he mentioned hiring 1,000 Contact Tracers.

Let’s Break Down What It’s Going to Take to Start Phase I

(Which is not yet “Reopening Virginia” as Northam would have us believe)

  1. See a downward trend in the percentage of positive tests, over 14 days. That hasn’t started yet as of May 4, so the start date of Phase 1 is at minimum 14 days after May 4, which would be May 18.
  2. See a downward trend in the percent of cases that are hospitalized over 14 days. He just re-opened elective surgeries, so naturally, more hospital beds WILL be in use.
  3. We need to maintain a good supply of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment. IE: Masks).
  4. We need to be able to maintain what he called a “robust testing” system, with a goal of running 10,000 tests per day. Do we have that many sick people?

Quite possibly, we won’t start Phase I until the 1,000 Contact Tracers are hired, so that they have an increased workforce to make sure they are, as Dr. Norm Oliver said:

Identifying anyone who’s been exposed to that new case and then isolating those folks, putting them in quarantine if necessary. To do that will require a new workforce.

And:

We’re in the process of also beginning the setting up to hire some 1,000 contact traces that we believe will be necessary to effectively do that kind of containment strategy. We’re quite confident that we’ll be able to ramp this up quickly over the next week or two and be ready for doing serious, serious increase in the amount of contact tracing that we do.

Why do they need a workforce to “put people in quarantine,” “isolate them,” and is he referring to people when he says “containment strategy”? I wonder if the Contact Tracers as well as isolation and quarantine facilities will need to be set up before Phase I begins.

When Do We Start Phase I?

When we start “reopening,” as limited as it is, is unclear. The governor really doesn’t seem to understand the timeline himself, either.

Early in the press briefing, Northam said:

To be clear, we are not entering phase I today nor this week. Based on the data, I expect that we may be able to enter it as soon as next week.

Later, he said:

I will extend Executive Order 53 which is the order that restricted certain businesses and band gatherings of more than 10 people through next Thursday night, May the 14th.

During the question and answer time, he said:

as we anticipate moving into phase one on May the 15th

And:

I anticipate moving into phase one on the 15th which would be Friday, a week from this Friday.

Earlier in the briefing, he said this, referring to the May 14th date:

That gives us an additional two weeks to watch the data and determine if we are meeting the metrics we need to see to enter phase I.

Two weeks? He said it would be in one week. Then mentioned a date, 10 days out, then another date, 11 days out. Then two weeks. Which is it?

And then he said this:

But the message today is that we will reopen Virginia next Friday.

This statement could be debated. We aren’t “reopening Virginia” like other states have reopened. Phase I is a little less restrictive, but let’s face it, it is still difficult on the economy and ultimately on the people.

And then, he said one week again:

Another reason, another purpose for the week extension. We really want the businesses to be able to do everything they can to make sure consumers feel safe, that they feel comfortable coming back into these places of business.

This is a lame excuse, as if local businesses haven’t had plenty of time since March 30? He said “week” again:

So again, I realized that it’s a week of extension, but I think it will really give us all time.

And even though he spoke so confidently saying we would be reopening Virginia, next Friday, he reeled back and said:

…when we do open, which again hopefully will be next Friday

Note that in other parts of the speech, which I shared under the heading “When Do We Start Phase I?” he said “14 days” and “couple of weeks.”

If we’re leaning on the metrics improving and won’t start Phase I until that happens, the earliest possible date is May 18.

Phase I Start Date, Hopeful Scenario: May 14 or 15

Phase I Start Date, Likely Scenario: At Least Two Weeks Out, or, May 18 or later

Phase I Start Date, Worst Case Scenario: Whenever Northam Feels Like It

When Does Phase I End?

Governor Northam’s website says:

It is expected that Phase I would last two to four weeks, as would the two subsequent phases, depending on health metrics.

This slide also says two to four weeks, or longer:

Phase I for Reopening Virginia Business Guidelines Ralph Northam One Lovely Mess

Or maybe, let’s pick a middle number–three weeks? Northam said:

We anticipate phase I could last about three weeks, consistent with CDC guidelines.

  • Two weeks out from May 15 is May 29. Three weeks out from May 15 is June 5. Maybe, we can hope, this is the date that Phase II begins?
  • Since May 18 is more likely the start date of Phase I and the slide says Phase I could take up to 4 weeks, that puts the end date at  June 15.

It depends entirely on the health metrics, which leaves it completely open for interpretation by Northam himself.

Phase I End Date/Phase II Start Date, Hopeful Scenario: May 29 or June 5

Phase I End Date/Phase II Start Date, Likely Scenario: June 15

Phase I End Date/Phase II Start Date, Worst Case Scenario: Whenever Northam Feels Like It

Phase II

He explained Phase II like this:

In phase II, we’ll continue to ease restrictions if we see our numbers trend downward. Continued downward trend of our positive test, continued downward trend of our hospitalizations, stable capacity of hospital bed and intensive care, stable supply of PPE and continued robust testing and contact tracing.

Ok, he cleared it up. Yes, entering these phases does require contact tracing.

Phase II for reopening Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam, One Lovely Mess

Continued social distancing and continued teleworking and face coverings looks a lot like Phase I. And lockdown.

When Does Phase II End?

Northam said:

Phase II and III would also last about three weeks each as long as our health data continues to support it.

His slide says Phase II would last 2 to 4 weeks or longer.

  • A super hopeful May 29 Phase II start date plus two weeks in Phase II would put us at June 12.
  • A pretty hopeful June 5 start date plus three weeks in Phase II would put us at June 26.
  • A realistic start date of June 15 plus four weeks in Phase II would put us at July 13.

Let’s look at another slide, which mentions when Phase III can start:

Phase III for Reopening Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam, One Lovely Mess

Notice the “10-12 weeks away, or more” at the bottom? Let’s calculate this. 10 to 12 weeks from the press briefing date of May 4 would be July 13 to July 27.

Phase II End Date/Phase III Start Date, Hopeful Scenario: June 12 or June 26

Phase II End Date/Phase III Start Date, Likely Scenario: July 13 or July 27

Phase II End Date/Phase III Start Date, Worst Case Scenario: Whenever Northam Feels Like It

Phase III

Northam didn’t explain much of Phase II, except:

To move to phase III, we’re looking for no evidence of rebound for a sustained period of time.

And yet, we know, it has been predicted, there will be rebound. And what is a sustained period of time? I’m not even sure what he means by that, other than it is open ended and free for his own interpretation.

We can look at the slide of what Phase III will entail:

Phase III for Reopening Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam, One Lovely Mess

When Does Phase III End?

Again, Northam said:

Phase II and III would also last about three weeks each as long as our health data continues to support it.

His website says:

It is expected that Phase I would last two to four weeks, as would the two subsequent phases, depending on health metrics.

The slide doesn’t say anything about when Phase III will end. We could be in it indefinitely.

  • A super hopeful June 12 Phase III start date plus two weeks in Phase III would put us at June 26.
  • A pretty hopeful June 26 start date plus three weeks in Phase III would put us at July 27.
  • A somewhat realistic start date of July 13 plus four weeks in Phase III would put us at August 10.
  • A realistic start date of July 27 plus four weeks in Phase III would put us at August 24.

He May Keep Us in Phase III Until a Vaccine Comes Out

Northam mentions often that the vaccine will be the silver bullet, and what will put this virus behind us.

In the beginning of the press conference, he said:

It has not gone away and it will not go away until we have a vaccination…

In closing, he said:

…companies, researchers are working literally around the clock to find a vaccination for this and that’s really the silver bullet that will put this pandemic, that will put this health crisis behind us.

I think he’s forgetting that influenza has a vaccine and still kills 30,000 to 60,000 people in America each year, according to the CDC. The vaccine for COVID-19 will not “put this health crisis behind us.” In his words, though, we won’t be out of this “health crisis” until a vaccine comes out.

When will this vaccine, the “silver bullet” that is going to make everything better, come out? He said:

…that may be hopefully at the end of this year or another year or two.

and

And so whether that’s going to happen at the end of this year or it’s going to take another year and a half or whatever, we’re not sure about that.

In his closing statements, he said:

And as I have said so often, we came in as Virginians strong to COVID-19, and we will put this in our rear view mirror.

but he forgot to end the sentence with “when the vaccine comes out and is administered to all Virginia residents,” because I am pretty sure that’s what he meant.

Phase III End Date, Hopeful Scenario: June 26 or July 27

Phase III End Date, Likely Scenario: August 10 or August 24

Phase III End Date: MOST Likely Scenario: When a Vaccine is developed and administered to all Virginia residents

Phase III End Date, Worst Case Scenario: Whenever Northam Feels Like It

Is Northam’s Plan Constitutional?

During the question and answer time, one Virginia resident asked:

Governor, when it comes to those who see you make these orders if you will, and they are frustrated, how would you respond to those who don’t understand that they think that you are, as your counsel mentioned, not following the constitution?

Northam’s answer to this question:

…everything that we do is based on our constitution. As you know, some of it has been questioned. We have prevailed in most cases. So we try to abide, do everything that we can to abide by our constitution. Also, my decisions are made to protect Virginians, to keep Virginians healthy and safe and to prevent deaths. I understand people have made sacrifices. I understand people are upset by our decisions, but I’m not standing up here to punish people.

I think MANY could argue that “everything” Northam does is not based on the constitution. I could write another post, outlining Northam’s UNConstitutional actions!

When Will Virginia Be Up and Running Again?

I believe, based on Northam’s words, Virginia will not be up and running again at full capacity until a vaccine is developed. He said that could be the end of this year, or another year or two. Northam is in office for another year and a half. He may either:

  • Keep us in crisis mode until we are close to the end of his term, and then he will “save us.”
  • Or, keep us in crisis mode the entire time he is in office in order to maintain control and blame it on Trump, attempting to rig the election.

Or, perhaps it will be a hybrid of both scenarios. Either way, I don’t think Virginia’s lockdown is ending anytime soon…