Citing “significantly improved health metrics,” Governor Ralph Northam relaxed COVID-19 restrictions in Eastern Virginia on Thursday, allowing the Hampton Roads region to join the rest of Virginia in Phase Three of its pandemic restrictions.
“Hampton Roads residents, businesses, and health officials have worked together to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Northam said in a press release. “New cases have dropped by more than half, hospitalizations have declined, and percent positivity has fallen below the statewide average.”
The new regulations allow businesses to sell alcohol as late as 12 a.m., and remove capacity restrictions — as long as facilities have room for patrons to stay six feet apart. Northam tightened restrictions in the wake of COVID-19 case spikes following holidays, and he declined to remove the restrictions ahead of Labor Day. Restaurants suffered because they were prevented from selling alcohol during the key hours from 10 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Senator Jen Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) hopes that the hospitality industry can take advantage of the short amount of the tourism season remaining.
“I applaud all of our small business and restaurants, hotels for heeding the cautions, taking the precautions, doing the right thing, social distancing, limiting capacity, and following the extra restrictions,” Kiggans told The Virginia Star. “You can see the trends are down, and the positivity rates and the numbers of hospitalizations are down, so I think it has worked.” She added, “I’m just glad that these restrictions have been lifted, so hopefully we can get back to business for the last few weeks of the warm weather.”
Kiggans, who is also a nurse, said that continued precautions are still necessary. She hopes people will get the flu vaccine. “Almost everyone is wearing a mask. I think that’s an easy precaution to take. I hope we continue to use our hand sanitizer, to stay six feet apart, follow those circles on the ground that we see and really do our part.”
Virginia Beach Councilmember John Moss said he wishes the restrictions had been relaxed earlier. “You never get that day back. They’re glad to be relieved, can you say that one weekend or one week was a major break?” Nevertheless, Moss added, “It could have been a little earlier, but we’re glad it came.”
Moss told The Virginia Star that the focus now needs to be on the future. “I think the masks make sense, I know that the anti-maskers, I certainly appreciate their frustration, but I think the science is clear. I think its doable, I think we can get back to a better place, [although] maybe it’s not fully normal until there’s a vaccine.”
According to Moss, the way forward is for businesses and individuals to evaluate their own health risk tolerance. “I just think that people are going to adapt in the right fashion over time,” Moss said.
“We certainly don’t want to be shutting down our economy again,” Moss said. “That is not a path we want to take.”
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