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Northern Virginia Restaurants Could Reopen Outdoor Seating at the End of May

Gov. Ralph Northam allows a region hit hard by COVID-19 to open two weeks after the rest of the state

The patio at Augie’s
The patio at Augie’s Mussel House in Alexandria

Northern Virginia restaurants could start reopening for limited on-site dining Friday, May 29, Gov. Ralph Northam ordered today, approving a delay that gives a region hit hard by COVID-19 two more weeks to prepare than the rest of the state.

Representatives from Alexandria and four Northern Virginia counties (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William) sent a joint letter to Northam over the weekend showing the governor they weren’t ready to reopen because they weren’t showing a sufficient decline in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Leaders in Maryland’s Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have also pushed back on expectations that they’ll begin reopening this week.

Northam has tabbed Friday, May 15, as the beginning of the reopening process for nonessential businesses in the rest of the state. While that date isn’t official yet, Northam said he expects to finalize it by tomorrow. Virginia’s first phase of reopening, expected to last at least two weeks, will restrict restaurants to outdoor seating at 50 percent capacity. The plan calls for barbershops, salons, spas, and tattoo parlors to reopen by appointment only at half capacity.

According to the governor’s order, Northern Virginia reported more than 700 new cases in the 24 hours preceding Tuesday, while the rest of the state reported about 270.