PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY/WRIC) — Friday is a new day in Virginia as we get closer to returning to normal.
The governor lifted most COVID-19 mitigation measures at midnight.
This means that social distancing and capacity restrictions are done in most situations.
The Norfolk Tides will open Harbor Park at full capacity Friday night — that’s more than 11,000 seats.
Colonial Williamsburg also released a statement Thursday saying that it will begin the process of reopening all of its sites, and returning to normal group sizes.
It may feel strange, but that’s what Executive Order 79 says.
Also, in accordance with Executive Order 72, declared by the governor on May 15, fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in most situations. Businesses can still require employees and customers to wear a mask.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, a business can ask about your vaccination status without it being a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPPA applies to these entities.
The governor’s order says anyone who is not vaccinated should wear a mask in all settings in accordance with CDC guidelines.
And masks are still required for everyone in schools, given low rates of vaccination among children.
The federal government also still requires masks to be worn when using public transportation, including on buses, trains, and airplanes.
All of this comes as the state’s go-to data analysts say new COVID-19 cases are at their lowest rate since last summer and that decline is expected to continue.
However, Bryan Lewis with the University of Virginia’s Biocomplexity Institute, has been modeling possible worst case scenarios for the Northam Administration since the beginning of the pandemic.
Lewis said a surge is possible this summer, though the likelihood of that occurring is “low” based on current trends.
“You can take that sigh of relief but let’s try to be cautious. We’re emerging from the woods but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still some danger lurking out there,” Lewis said.
Even though researchers from the RAND Corporation say — with the current vaccination pace — the state won’t be able to reach herd immunity before September, Lewis agrees with Northam’s decision to move forward with reopening.
“Yeah I think it’s about the right time for us to start moving towards the new normal. We have very little case prevalence. We have high levels of vaccination. To get totally back to normal though everyone needs to do their part and get vaccinated,” Lewis said.