Delegate Wilt sent the following communication to Governor Northam June 1 outlining his latest concerns regarding Governor Northam’s executive action in response to COVID-19:
Dear Governor Northam:
At the onset of this crisis most Virginians were quite willing to do what was necessary to help “bend the curve” to ensure our hospitals remained below capacity and avoid a significant loss of life beyond what has been realized. At this point it appears thankfully we have avoided the worst-case scenarios and predictions. Our citizens have learned how to modify their behavior and actions to help avoid transmission of the virus.
It’s understandable that some precautions must remain in place for the time being, primarily an adherence and awareness of social distancing. Furthermore, more stringent protocols for high risk populations and those in congregate settings likely need to remain for the foreseeable future. While I believe your executive orders and subsequent mandates on all citizens and businesses were developed in good faith and some may have been necessary for a period of time, it’s time to further ease these restrictions. It has become quite clear as we have sought guidance from your administration on behalf of constituents that there are numerous instances where the rules are completely arbitrary and, in some cases, completely illogical.
One of the most glaring examples of this came recently when we inquired through the Secretary of Commerce and Trade’s office whether outside church services are currently permissible under phase I. We did not want to make assumptions but expected we would be told they could meet outside since it seems to be generally accepted that the likelihood of disease transmission is lower outdoors. Afterall, the beaches are currently open where hundreds of people can gather – albeit they are supposed to maintain social distancing. Instead of confirming our assumption we were told outside services are not acceptable as it would be considered a social gathering. I see no reason this should not have been permissible under phase I, but particularly moving forward. Again, this is but one example.
Citizen’s frustrations have rightfully been growing the last number of weeks from what they see as arbitrary rules that pick winners and losers and that are unclear with differing interpretations even within the Administration and agencies. While I welcome the further loosening of some restrictions under phase II, I implore you to abandon arbitrary thresholds and guidelines that treat businesses, groups and activities differently and instead simply maintain the standard for required social distancing. For example, if a restaurant can space tables (and different parties) six feet apart and maintain an otherwise safe environment, whether they are at 50% or 70% of occupancy should not be a significant factor. Businesses and individuals have proven to be innovative. I think it’s time we trust Virginians to take the necessary precautions unique to their own circumstances.
Thank you for considering my thoughts and I hope you will give them serious consideration. If you or your staff wish to discuss any of the specific concerns or circumstances that have been raised to my office, please don’t hesitate to reach out.