Richmond, Virginia, will stay closed until at least May 28.
On Thursday, May 14, Richmond City County Mayor Levar Stoney formally requested an exemption from Virginia's statewide reopening set to take place on Friday. The relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions at the state level was proposed by Governor Ralph Northam last week, with Phase One set to formally go into effect on Friday, May 15, the governor confirmed on Wednesday.
Northam quickly granted Stoney's request, setting Richmond City's reopening date back to at least May 28.
In Wednesday's press conference, Northam, when asked about regional exceptions to the state's reopening policy, said he has not formally received a request from "any other" locality other than those in Northern Virginia, calling upon officials to respond appropriately on behalf of their region.
- On Monday, Governor Northam called upon Northern Virginia (the 13 counties surrounding D.C., where statewide case rates are highly concentrated) to formally submit a request for delay. In the next two days, officials from the 13 counties formed an alliance and did so.
- Governor Northam quickly approved their request.
When asked by a reporter about other potential local exemptions on Wednesday, Northam said, "[If there are other cities that want an exemption,] ...I haven't heard from them." He then stated that he would encourage concerned officials to reach out and submit similar formal requests on behalf of their regions.
Quickly, Stoney shot back in his own press conference that Richmond, the capital of the state, was not ready to reopen. He then formally submitted a request that the City of Richmond be excluded.
“To be clear – I want to reopen our city. However, we should only take that step when there are adequate protections for our most vulnerable communities,” Mayor Levar Stoney said in his letter to the governor on Thursday.
Northam, again, granted it—as well as the same request from Accomack County in the Eastern Shore—quickly.
"I have encouraged local leaders to request exemptions when appropriate, and I am pleased to grant delays for both Accomack County and the City of Richmond," Northam, a former physician, said on Thursday of the localities' requests for exemption from the state's reopening guidelines.
As of that time, he had not received a formal request from leaders of any other locality.
"As I have said previously, Virginia's Phase One guidelines are a floor, not a ceiling," Governor Northam restated in his reply.
Unlike other regions in the state, Richmond City, Virginia's capital, is not seeing a decline in cases.
While the rest of the Commonwealth opens on Friday, Richmond City, Accomack County, and the 13 counties of Northern Virginia will remain under lockdown orders until May 28.
What are your thoughts? Is the best decision for these cities and counties? Should Northam have left the entire state on lockdown until all of it is ready to open? Tell us in the comments!