HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — It’s been nearly six weeks since Hampton Roads was put under extra health restrictions to quash the uptick of COVID-19 cases in the region.
On Thursday, Governor Ralph Northam announced the region would join the rest of the state that’s already in Phase 3 of the “Forward Virginia” plan — meaning no more special restrictions for the area as of Thursday night at 11:59 p.m.
The emergency order was specific to Hampton Roads with an emphasis on restaurants and social gatherings — the primary source of infections in the region. It started July 31 and included a last call for bars at 10 p.m., 50-percent capacity for indoor dining, and limits on gatherings of more than 50 people.
Localities included under the restrictions were: Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, Williamsburg, Newport News, Poquoson, James City County and York County.
Just a week ago on Sept. 1, Northam said he would not lift the Hampton Roads-specific restrictions, despite a public request from Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer. Northam cited surges in cases after Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends as the reason for that decision at the time.
Health statistics now show the percent positivity rate for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests in the region is 6.7 percent and has been decreasing for 12 days, Northam’s office wrote in a news release Thursday.
The number of new cases in the region has been decreasing for 46 days. Hospitalizations and emergency room admissions have also been decreasing.
“Hampton Roads residents, businesses, and health officials have worked together to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Northam. “New cases have dropped by more than half, hospitalizations have declined, and percent positivity has fallen below the statewide average. But we cannot let our guard down—we all must continue practicing social distancing, wearing facial coverings, and following all public health guidelines. If we want to keep moving forward, we must stay vigilant and do the things that we know will keep our communities safe.”
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