(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Virginia will further loosen restrictions on social gatherings and some businesses on May 15, Gov. Ralph Northam announced yesterday afternoon (April 22).
“Vaccination numbers are up, and our COVID-19 case numbers are substantially lower than they were earlier this year,” Northam said in a video message. “So, we have been able to begin easing some mitigation measures.”
Changes include increasing capacity for both outdoor and indoor entertainment venues to 50%, though indoor venues will be capped at 1,000 people. Both outdoor and indoor venues were previously limited to 30% capacity.
Per the executive order, the entertainment venue category includes concert venues, performance art venues, movie theaters, museums, bowling alleys, escape rooms, zoos, and trampoline parks.
In addition, indoor recreational sporting events will be allowed more spectators with an increase of up to 50% capacity or 250 people, whichever is less. Outdoor recreational sporting events can go up to 50% capacity or 1,000 people.
Public and private social gatherings will be able to host up to 100 people if they’re indoors or 250 people if they’re outdoors. Masks must still be worn, and six feet of social distancing must still be maintained.
Restaurants will be able to sell alcohol after midnight again. Northam also amended Virginia’s guidance earlier this week to let restaurants resume bar service, effective immediately, provided the patrons are six feet apart.
Late-night and 24-hour restaurants will no longer have to close their dining room between midnight and 5 a.m., either. Self-service buffets will also be allowed to reopen.
“I’m optimistic that we will be able to take more steps in June,” Northam said. “We are working to significantly ramp up vaccinations even further and aim to reduce capacity limits in June, hopefully all the way.”
The governor also took the time to announce that children 12 and over could potentially be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as this summer.
“Research is moving forward and it’s looking like vaccinations may be available for children age 12 and over as soon as this summer,” Northam said. “That will make it easier and safer for when school starts up again in the fall.”
Along with the rest of Virginia, Fairfax County moved to Phase 2 on Sunday (April 18), making all adults 16 and over eligible for a vaccine, but getting an appointment continues to be a challenge, particularly at local pharmacies. Some readers have told Tysons Reporter that they have had luck finding slots at the new Tysons Corner Center mass vaccination site, which is now listed as an option in Vaccine Finder.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisor Chairman Jeff McKay says the latest easing of public health restrictions reflects the encouraging trends that the county has been seeing, with COVID-19 cases declining and vaccinations on the rise.
As of today (Friday), the county is currently averaging 141.6 new cases over the past week, which is down from the spring 2021 high of 194.4 cases on April 13. 484,617 residents have received at least one vaccine dose, and 297,704 residents have been fully vaccinated, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
“Our population in Fairfax County is very eager to be vaccinated and have acted with care this last year,” McKay said in a statement. “Of course, we will keep an eye on the data as we move forward, we know we aren’t out of the woods yet. We need everyone to be smart, but generally everything is moving in the right direction.”
Northam has set May 31 as the target date for all adults who want a vaccine to be able to get one, but Fairfax County officials have not committed to that yet.
Even with the easing of restrictions, Northam reiterated that some mitigation strategies still need to continue.
“We all need to wear masks, keep social distancing, and we all need to keep encouraging each other to get a shot,” he said.
Photo via Governor Ralph Northam/YouTube