Governor Ralph Northam confirms Virginia will "go ahead" with reopening this Friday.

In his COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, May 13, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam confirmed that "most of the state" will "go ahead" and enter Phase One of its gradual reopening on May 15. Northern Virginia's reopening will be delayed until May 29, the governor said.

This is the first step the state has made to lift restrictions since the governor announced a stay-at-home order on March 30. Although some businesses may resume operations under restrictions, Virginia's stay-at-home order for citizens does not expire until June 10, unless this date is amended by the governor

Phase One involves relaxed restrictions on some businesses such as hair salons and restaurants with outdoor seating, among other allowances for business operations. Last week, the governor outlined his plan for the phases with restrictions set to "tentatively" relax this Friday. On Wednesday, he confirmed the state will "go ahead" and begin Phase One on May 15.

For now, however, the Northern Virginia region will not reopen until May 29, at the earliest. On Monday, the governor had said that the region may not reopen along with the rest of the state, as regional and county officials say they're not ready. Northern Virginia constitutes a large number of the state's total case count compared to other areas. That region will operate separately under Executive Order Sixty-Two.

“I want to make it very clear: This virus is still here," the governor said.

In the briefing, he said increased testing access is "critical."

"...Testing is an important part of our plan to slowly ease restrictions in Phase One," Northam said. He also reported that the state conducted 8,445 tests on Tuesday. The state's confirmed COVID-19 case count rose by 946 that day, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

Testing is being conducted at long-term care facilities, short-term medical facilities, drug stores, and pharmacies across the state. Rite Aid had performed more than 1200 swab PCR as of Monday.

"We will continue to see more of this.... For example, in the coming days, we'll see some exciting news from Walmart about their testing efforts," Northam continued.

Watch the full press conference here:

Virginia received a large supply of medical equipment last week, which is now being deployed across the state. With the surge in testing, the Commonwealth will likely see a continued surge in confirmed case counts throughout the week. 

As of Wednesday, May 13, at 3 p.m., Virginia has reported 26,746 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Health officials estimate the number could be much higher. 

See the latest updates from the Virginia Department of Health.