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Phase 3 of reopening begins

Virginia will move into Phase 3 of reopening the commonwealth on July 1, loosening the restrictions on businesses and social gatherings.

Gov. Ralph Northam made the announcement Thursday, June 18 saying as many states are experiencing a surge in new infections, Virginia’s case counts continue to trend downward.

“While we may not have the same spike in infections that many states are seeing right now, Virginians need to remain cautious and do the things that we know reduce transmission. Wear a face covering, maintain physical distance, and stay home if you are high-risk or experience COVID-19 symptoms,” Northam said.

For Sharee Whitmer as a stage four cancer patient who has been in active treatment, she said she is uncomfortable with Phase 3.

Whitmer said she and her husband went to a sit-down restaurant during Phase 2, but she doesn’t plan to do so in Phase 3.

“I won’t go again, not for a very long time,” Whitmer said. “My husband and I felt completely reckless after doing so and seeing numbers rise in places that were just a bit further ahead in opening than Virginia is scary.

“People say, ‘The numbers are rising due to more testing.’ But it really doesn’t matter. That person and all the other COVID-19 positive people were out in the public, possibly spreading it, regardless of a test. It doesn’t really matter a bit whether it’s ‘official’ or not, they were still sick. You just didn’t know before that test was positive. It just proves that there is way more cases that we don’t know about.”

In Phase 3 wearing a face covering is still mandated. This is something Whitmer believes is very much needed.

“My husband and I have been wearing masks in public for five years now, as well as, using hand sanitizer,” Whitmer said. “I have fought way too hard, to let someone else infect me with COVID-19 because it will kill me.”

In Phase 3, the commonwealth will continue to maintain a Safer at Home strategy with recommendations for social distancing and teleworking, and the requirement that individuals wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals allowed in social gatherings will increase from 50 to 250 people.

“This virus is still with us, and we must continue to adapt our lives around it and ensure we are keeping our vulnerable communities safe,” Northam said.