20200509_MET_COV_MAIN_01

Gov. Ralph Northam

As much of Virginia saw some public restrictions lift on Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam said that if any localities wish to return to stricter COVID-19 measures, he will consider those requests.

"We are open minded and willing to have those discussions," Northam told reporters at his Friday briefing.

On Thursday, Northam approved requests by Richmond and Accomack County for a two-week delay in the first phase of reopening. On Tuesday, Northam had approved a similar request from a group of localities in Northern Virginia.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney had requested testing data for the city, the type of data the state began to share publicly on Friday.

Northam said that if any localities, based on their data, wish to make similar requests, he will entertain them. Northam also cautioned against a too-local look at COVID-19 testing data, arguing that a regional or statewide look offers a more reliable and consistent picture.

State epidemiologist Lillian Peake in an interview agreed. She said Thursday that widespread testing on a particular day at a nursing home, for example, could throw off testing numbers for a small locality.

Also Friday, Northam took responsibility for a practice at the state health department that allowed for antibody testing and diagnostic tests to be reported together for weeks, without disclosure.

Antibody tests, which are still being vetted for reliability, accounted for 9% of the state's total testing numbers, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“They are designed to answer two different questions," Northam said.

"I became aware on Monday that the two tests were aggregated, that we were using those together. I took issue with the way it was being reported," he added.

"I take ownership of that and that’s what leaders do."

Also Friday, Northam said he will address restrictions on the state's beaches during a briefing with reporters on Monday, in anticipation of the Memorial Day holiday the following week.

mleonor@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6254

Twitter: @MelLeonor_

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