Virginia begins reopening with fear from businesses and customers

By Daniel Espinoza

The Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam gave the yellow light for some organizations and businesses to cautiously begin phase one of reopening on Friday, May 29. However, not all Virginia jurisdictions are ready or willing to reopen. In fact, many of them have decided to wait until testing improves and the number of incident cases declines before lifting the strict stay-at-home measures. And though many Virginia business owners are reopening this week, employers and employees, alike, fear the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission, with some employees refusing to go back to work. Nevertheless, many business owners claim that they can no longer afford to stay closed despite their concerns.

What businesses can reopen in Virginia?

As part of Governor Northam's plan, he will reopen the following businesses this week: churches, farmer's markets, massage and tattoo parlors, indoor shooting ranges, campgrounds, salons, outdoor fitness classes, and outdoor dining restaurant areas. However, restaurants, bars, and non- essential stores will only be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity, and for outdoor seating only. What will remain closed, continuing from the first phase of the pandemic, include: museums, theatres, concert venues, zoos, indoor gyms, indoor dining restaurants, overnight summer camps, bowling alleys, racetracks, and any other indoor entertainment businesses.

Businesses will not look the same after COVID-19.

Social distancing sign on grocery store (From the Seattle Times)

One thing is clear, however. What was business as usual, will be unusual for the foreseeable future, ranging from customer consent forms to assume the possible risk of infection, plexiglass dividers, occupancy limits, cleaning directions, and cloth covering rules. These requirements for re-opening will become both standard and the new normal as business owners hope to allay both customer and employee fears while recovering from painful financial losses.

Customers will have to adapt to the new post-COVID-19 world. Larger outlets and malls may implement additional social-distancing measures, such as signs limiting store capacity and dividers dictating flow of traffic. One mall owner, the Simon Property Group, reports that they will establish measures to ensure public seating will be at least six feet apart and install markers on escalators to denote where people can safely stand.

Crowds of customers are ready to go shopping.

The success of these measures is critical for the re-opening of more businesses in the next few weeks, as the expansion of re-integration measures will depend on not only health outcomes but also the willingness of customers to shop again.

Many customers are eager to return to their local businesses. Several businesses that have been closed since March reported large crowds of customers flocking to their stores upon re-opening. “We’re tired of being cooped up in the house and spending a ton of money on DoorDash,” said Jamie Cale, a Williamsburg financial adviser who took his wife and two kids out to lunch to celebrate his 41st birthday.

Virginia Beach will reopen this week.

In addition to partial re-opening of businesses this week, Governor Northam will also allow beaches in Virginia to reopen this Friday under strict guidelines.

  • Compliance monitoring by beach ambassadors

  • No beach sports

  • Increased cleaning of high touch areas

  • 50% reduction on beach parking

  • No large group gatherings

  • Sunbathing, surfing, and swimming are allowed.

As Northern Virginia reopens this Friday, May 29, it will be critical for Virginia residents to keep themselves informed on the state’s COVID-19 policy and restrictions. Everyone in the state of Virginia will be required to wear a cloth covering while utilizing public transportation, shopping at stores, or dining at restaurants. The only individuals exempt from cloth covering use are those with medical conditions and children under nine years of age. The Governor of Virginia will continue to provide updates with detailed instructions in the upcoming days. While the fear of going back to business “as usual” is present among Virginia residents, business owners, and elected officials, they are willing to take the extra steps in an effort to return to some level of normalcy.







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