Virginia Rolls Back COVID-Linked Gathering and Restaurant Restrictions


RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) – Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday announced he would further ease coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and social gatherings in mid-May. He also said a more substantial rollback was likely in June.

Starting Saturday, May 15, sports and entertainment venues in Virginia could begin operating with increased capacity, and social gathering limits will increase due to Northam’s changes to an executive order. The state’s existing mask mandate will not be lifted.

The Democratic governor said the easing of the measures would be possible thanks to the increase in vaccination rates. All Virginians over the age of 16 are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than half of all adults have received at least one dose.

“I am optimistic that we will be able to take more action in June,” Northam said in a statement. “We aim to dramatically increase vaccinations even further, and aim to reduce capacity limits in June, hopefully through to the end.”

As part of the changes in May, the maximum number of individuals allowed to participate in a social gathering will increase to 100 people for indoor spaces and 250 people for outdoor spaces, from 50 and 100 respectively.

Indoor entertainment and public entertainment venues will be able to operate at a capacity of 50% or 1,000 people, up from 30% or 500 people, the Northam office said. External sites will be able to operate at 50% of their capacity.

The number of spectators allowed at indoor recreational sporting events will increase and restaurants will be allowed to resume selling alcohol after midnight. The closing of the dining room will no longer be required between midnight and 5 a.m.

Earlier this week, Northam made small changes, allowing bar seating in food and beverage establishments, relaxing the limits on outdoor racing and allowing school shows like musicals.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations from the disease have fallen dramatically in Virginia since the post-vacation flare. As of Thursday, the health department was reporting 1,373 new cases and the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association was reporting 1,104 hospitalized with COVID-19 or with pending tests.

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