Virginia will slightly ease some of its COVID-19 restrictions beginning March 1, as vaccinations are underway and cases continue to decrease nearly a year into the pandemic, Gov. Ralph Northam announced in a news conference Wednesday.
“We can start to consider how to slowly, safely ease some of the measures we put in place before the holidays,” Northam said.
Under the new guidelines, restaurants and bars will be allowed to serve alcohol until midnight, which is a change from the current 10 p.m. curfew. These establishments will still have to be closed from midnight until 5 a.m.
Capacity restrictions for outdoor entertainment and public amusement venues will increase to 30% capacity with a cap of 1,000 individuals, which is an increase from the current 250 person cap. If trends continue, Northam said the cap will be removed. The cap for outdoor social gatherings will increase to 25 people from the current 10 person limit.
Restrictions on indoor gatherings and indoor entertainment and public amusement venues will remain unchanged: 10 person limit on gatherings and a 30% capacity for venues capped at 250 people.
Overnight summer camps will be able to open with strict mitigation measures beginning May 1. The governor is also lifting the current curfew that requires Virginians to be back in their homes by midnight, although he still encourages people to be home at that time.
“Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice of all Virginians, hospitalization and positivity rates across the Commonwealth are the lowest they have been in nearly three months,” Northam said in a statement. “As key health metrics show encouraging trends and we continue to ramp up our vaccination efforts, we can begin to gradually resume certain recreational activities and further reopen sectors of our economy. Even as we take steps to safely ease public health guidelines, we must all remain vigilant so we can maintain our progress—the more we stay home, mask up, and practice social distancing, the more lives we will save from this dangerous virus.”
Nicole Riley, the Virginia state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, said the organization appreciates the easing of restrictions, but that many businesses will still struggle under these guidelines. The NFIB is the largest small business association in the country.
“We do hope to see a change very soon in indoor gathering restrictions and expect the Governor will do that as soon as the number of positive cases continue to go down and the number of vaccinated Virginians are widespread,” Riley said in a statement. “It is still extremely difficult for those who don’t have outdoor space, and there are also limits to outdoor dining during inclement weather.”
Face covering and social distancing guidelines will remain in place. Northam said he does not want to ease restrictions too quickly because it would risk the progress the commonwealth has made. He said the state needs to take extra precaution concerning the spread of new COVID-19 variations, but that he believes the vaccines will get out faster than the new variations can spread.
This article was originally posted on Virginia alcohol curfew changed to midnight, outdoor gatherings increase to 25