Virginia’s COVID-19 social distancing and capacity restrictions ended Friday morning at midnight. On Friday afternoon, President Joe Biden and Governor Ralph Northam highlighted Virginia’s progress on COVID-19 case numbers and vaccinations in a stop at Sportrock Climbing Center in Alexandria.
“Today we mark a tremendous milestone in our fight against COVID-19,” Governor Ralph Northam said in his speech. “As of 12:01 this morning, for the first time since March 2020, there are no limits on capacity or distancing in Virginia’s restaurants, businesses, offices, or other venues.”
“For this we can thank the vaccines and the scientists and researchers who developed them,” he said, noting that 66 percent of Virginians have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Northam said case count averages are less than 400 per day, down from over 1,600 new cases six weeks ago, and reaching levels not seen since April 2020. According to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, 514 confirmed COVID-19 or test-pending patients are currently hospitalized, a level not seen since the beginning of the VHHA metric at the end of March 2020.
Northam said, “We are also just so grateful to President Biden and his administration. We are able to kick off summer enjoying the things that we have always cherished thanks to your leadership, sir, and focus on increasing production of vaccines, getting to the states, and finally getting shots in arms.”
In his speech, Biden said Virginia could reach his goal for 70 percent of Virginians to receive at least one dose of a vaccine by July.
He also praised Northam: “And Gov., I really mean this, I’m not being political, you’ve done one hell of a job Doc. You’ve done a hell of a job and it matters.”
General Assembly Republicans React to Reopening
In a separate celebration, Senator Bill DeSteph (R-Virginia Beach) finally cut his hair on Friday. DeSteph had committed to not cutting his hair until the COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed, according to reporting by Andy Fox.
House of Delegates Minority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenadoah) issued a statement: “President Biden and Governor Northam can pretend that onerous COVID restrictions are a thing of the past in Virginia, but the truth is something else entirely. Virtually every workplace in Virginia is still bound by law to continue acting like it’s April 2020 thanks to the inflexible workplace ‘safety’ rules put in place by the Department of Labor and Industry at the insistence of Democrats.”
Gilbert joins the GOP ticket for the 2021 elections criticizing the COVID-19 workplace safety standards from the Department of Labor and Industry. Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Cooperative Programs Director Jennifer Rose told The Virginia Star that fully-vaccinated employees in most non-healthcare settings are no longer required to wear face coverings or physically distance under COVID-19 safety standards for businesses from the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI). Other rules, like workplace sanitation guidelines and procedures for handling workplace COVID-19 cases, remain in place.
The standards remain in place until the end of Virginia’s state of emergency, scheduled for the end of June. After that, the Safety and Health Codes Board will have two weeks to decide if the standards are still needed.
In his statement Gilbert said, “It’s time for the Governor to end the state of emergency so that these inflexible, unscientific rules can be rolled back and businesses can stop wasting time and money on ‘safety’ measures that are clearly no longer needed.”
– – –