Citing increasing numbers of vaccinated Virginians, Governor Ralph Northam announced Thursday relaxed COVID-19 restrictions to take effect May 15. The new guidelines allow 100 people at indoor social events and 250 at outdoor gatherings, up from 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Other restrictions at restaurants, entertainment, and sports venues are also relaxed.
“It’s good news that half of all adults in Virginia have gotten a shot so far,” Northam said in an announcement. “Vaccination numbers are up, and our COVID-19 case numbers are substantially lower than they were earlier this year. So, we have been able to begin easing some mitigation measures. We took a few more targeted steps this week, and we will do more next month.”
Social-distancing and mask mandates remain in place. But the relaxed restrictions allow indoor entertainment venues to have the lesser of 50 percent capacity or 1,000 people. Outdoor venues can operate at 50 percent capacity. Indoor sporting event capacity increases to the lesser of 250 spectators or 50 percent capacity; outdoor sporting events increases to 1,000 people or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less.
“I’m optimistic that we will be able to take more steps in June. We are working to significantly ramp up vaccinations even further and aim to reduce capacity limits in June, hopefully all the way. But some things need to continue—we all need to keep wearing masks, social distancing, and encouraging each other to get a shot,” Northam said.
Under the new guidelines, restaurants will be allowed to have their dining rooms open between midnight and five a.m. Restaurants will also be allowed to sell alcohol after midnight, and bar seating will be open, as long as there is six feet of distance between parties at the bar.
Dustin Hughes owns the Lockside Bar and Grill and the Vino Italian Bistro, both located on Battlefield Blvd in Chesapeake. In September 2020, he told The Virginia Star that even with takeout alcohol sales, alcohol sales curfews and closed bar seating were harming restaurants.
“Getting the bar seating will definitely be helpful,” he said on Friday. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction, a step back towards normalcy.”
Hughes said that as the weather warms up, business is improving. But he said he and other employers are struggling to find the staff they need.
“The struggle these days is getting any help,” Hughes said.
– – –