RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Some coronavirus restrictions are being lifted across Virginia as the commonwealth sees its virus levels trend down.
Starting on Monday, March 1, outdoor venues and gatherings will be able to increase capacity, Virginia’s alcohol cutoff at restaurants will move from 10 p.m. to midnight, and the overnight modified stay-at-home curfew order will be lifted.
Virginia officials pointed to significant decreases in case levels/the number of positive tests coming back and COVID-19 hospitalizations, as well increases in COVID-19 vaccinations, as reasons behind the lifting of the restrictions. Gov. Northam emphasized how virus transmission is much lower outdoors than indoors.
“We’re finally seeing COVID numbers fall and vaccinations rise. That means we can start to consider how to slowly, safely ease some of the measures we put in place before the holidays,” Northam said. “We’re at a dangerous but very hopeful moment.”
Though Northam said Virginians must continue to follow safety precautions and wear a mask. “We hope with trends continuing as they are that we can look at further steps in the coming months, but it is critical that we go this slowly and thoughtfully.”
Private outdoor gatherings can go from 10 people up 25. Current restrictions on indoor venues, restaurants, etc. will stay in place in the meantime.
“The main focus we need to talk about is indoors versus outdoors. We know the spread of COVID occurs when people are in close proximity indoors where the ventilation is not as good,” Northam said.
The changes will allow for entertainment venues, which includes pro/college sports venues, to go up to 30% or 1,000-person capacity, whichever is fewer.
Northam said that 1,000-person cap on outdoor entertainment venues could be removed around April.
Indoor entertainment venues will continue to be subject to the 250-spectator maximum that is already in place. Yarmosky said this includes basketball courts like VCU’s Siegel Center in Richmond, though smaller indoor facilities will have to cap attendees at 30 percent capacity.
Parney Parnell, CEO of Richmond’s Minor League baseball team the Flying Squirrels, said the updated guidelines announced by Northam still only allow them to fill about 1/9th of their seats. Northam said, if current trends continue, he would consider lifting the 1,000-spectator maximum for outdoor venues in April.
“This is another positive step in a long a series of positive steps that is going to have to happen in order for us to get going on May the 4th so we’re pleased,” Parnell said.
“We don’t want to risk our progress by easing restrictions too quickly – not now when more and more Virginians are getting the protection of vaccines and not when variants that can infect more people more quickly are spreading,” Northam said.
As of March 1, nearly 2 million doses had been administered statewide, VDH data shows.
The changes announced last Wednesday took effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, March 1 and will remain in place for at least one month.
Northam is also announcing that overnight summer camps will be able to open as of May 1, with safety measures in place. Registrations can begin now.
The mask mandate for Virginians over the age of 5 will continue for indoor public settings and outdoors when social distancing can’t be achieved. Current guidelines for retail businesses, fitness and exercise, large amusement venues, and personal grooming services will also remain in place. Individuals are strongly encouraged to continue teleworking if possible.