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Northam Says COVID-19 Imposes a 'New Normal'

Northam standing at podium and woman interpreting
Screenshot: VPM News

Citing new COVID-19 models, Gov. Ralph Northam extended the closure of non-essential businesses by two weeks today. Restrictions on hairdressers, entertainment businesses, and public gatherings of more than 10 people will now lift on May 8, barring any other changes.

Northam says his administration is talking to hairdressers and looking for ways to safely permit hair cutting. When we're ready to open businesses, he said, "Barber shops are going to be at the top of my list, I promise."

As usual, the governor used his briefing to stress that social distancing was working. “The actions that we are taking as a state are having an effect. They’re slowing the spread and flattening the curve,” he said.

He also addressed critics who are asking for an end to restrictions. “So when people say that it’s time to stop what we’re doing and get back to normal, they’re wrong,” Northam said. “Right now, the models and our hospitals expect we’ll be able to handle the expected surge in patients. But if we let off the brakes and try to go back to the way things were, we’ll see another spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals.”

Northam answered another common question: With the deadline for federal tax filing pushed back to July 15, will state taxes be delayed too? Northam said law prevents Virginia from delaying state taxes: “We can not operate at a deficit.” Unlike the federal government, if the state doesn't have the revenue, it can't spend money.

While finances for the state are trending downward due to the pandemic, Northam announced $70 million in funding for daycares through the federal CARES Act. The money will go to supporting daycares that are still open, helping some reopen, and helping some families pay for care.

“We want to be sure that centers who serve our most vulnerable Virginians are ready to welcome children back when it is possible to do so,” Northam said. “These measures should help some of our childcare centers to stay open to help the children of our essential workers.”

Childcare was also addressed by the first lady of Virginia, Pam Northam. She said essential workers who need daycare should call 1-866-KIDS-TLC or visit https://vachildcare.com for a list of open facilities.

Throughout the briefing, and during reporter’s questions, Northam addressed frustrations with the current restrictions. Although he said he “doesn’t have any intention of extending” his June 10 stay-at-home order, he did say life was not going back to normal.’

“We need to be clear, things are not going back exactly like they were before,” Northam said. “Together we will figure out how to build a new normal. Right now that new normal will probably look like covering your face, spending more time at home, teleworking if you can, continuing to use social distancing and to stay away from large gatherings.”