CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY/WFXR) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says modifications to state coronavirus reopening guidelines may be made as new COVID-19 cases and percent of positive tests rise.

“We will continue watching the data over the coming days to make sure public health guidelines are being followed—and I won’t hesitate to impose restrictions if needed,” Northam wrote on Facebook.

Northam said all options are on the table, including moving back to phase 2, but there may just be modifications to phase 3.

He says large gatherings (phase 3 allows up to 250 people compared to 50 in phase 2 and 10 in phase 1) and congregating at bars and restaurants is one of the main reasons why numbers are up. He says he’s considering changing that 250 person limit.

Northam also focused on new cases in people under the age of 29, which are up 250% percent from May. Most of Norfolk and Virginia Beach’s new cases are in this category. Northam also reemphasized how the pandemic is affected minority populations across Virginia, which is why the state is focusing on providing free testing at community events going forward.

“One of the first things we need to do, which is one of the reasons we’re out here today, is when we see hot spots is to go in and do as much testing as we can and then have an additional amount of [contact tracers.]”

Northam said Virginia now has 1,200 contact tracers, and an app to help with the process is under development.

Northam said he’d still like to try to get students back in schools in person this fall, but if Virginia can’t stay in phase 3 or better then Virginia can’t move forward.

“We need to do it safely and responsibly … it’s not only the children, it’s the teachers, it’s the staff that could contract (the virus) … if our teachers and staff can’t stay healthy then all is moot. It’s up to the community.”

“It’s up to the community as we move forward. I want as much as anyone with all the families, with all the children, to get our kids back in school,” the governor said. “But if our numbers don’t stay where they are and we can’t remain in phase three then we are not going to be able to move forward with that.”

The main takeaway, Northam said, said is that Virginians need to continue to follow state guidelines, including wearing face coverings, washing hands, staying at least 6 feet apart and avoid large crowds (despite phase 3 allowing 250 people events).

“We can do this, we know that these guidelines work, and all I ask is for Virginians to do the right thing — and most of us are,” Northam said.

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