Masks No Longer Required in Virginia for Fully-Vaccinated People Outdoors, Except in Crowds

Virginians who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer have to wear masks in small gatherings or when outdoors alone, according to a Thursday announcement from Governor Ralph Northam. Effective immediately, he also amended Executive Order 72 to allow the lesser of 1,000 spectators or 30 percent capacity at recreational sports, two weeks earlier than originally planned.

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Northam Announces Relaxed Guidelines for Social Gatherings, Sports, and Restaurants Effective in May

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.

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Virginia Wedding Venue Appears in Court to Fight COVID-19 Capacity Limits

Outdoor wedding venue Belle Garden Estate (BGE) appeared in court Wednesday in a lawsuit against Governor Ralph Northam. BGE’s lawyer Tim Anderson argued that Northam’s executive orders violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment, since religious weddings have no capacity limits, but secular weddings are capped by executive order. Northam’s lawyer argued that the right to have a wedding is not infringed, just the capacity allowed at a wedding. BGE sought an injunction blocking enforcement of executive orders that limit wedding venues differently from other businesses.

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Judge Rules Gourmeltz Can Stay Open While Case Proceeds

Gourmeltz 90’s Music Bar & Drafthouse will stay open for now, after a judge denied a request for an emergency injunction to force the restaurant to close.

Even after being contacted by the health department officials, Gourmeltz owner Matt Strickland has refused to comply with some provisions of Governor Ralph Northam’s COVID-19 Executive Orders.As a result, Strickland’s health certification allowing him to operate legally was rescinded, but Gourmeltz remained open. The Attorney General’s office is now bringing a case against Strickland, but they asked the court for an emergency injunction to close the restaurant while the case proceeds.

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Virginia Gov. Northam Releases Draft Plan Allowing up to 5,000 People at Outdoor Graduations

Schools will be able to hold in-person graduations this year, according to a draft of preliminary guidance announced by Governor Ralph Northam on Wednesday. Outdoor graduations can have the lesser of 5,000 people or 30 percent capacity, while indoor graduations can have the lesser of 500 people or 30 percent capacity.

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Virginia Takes Restaurant to Court After Owner Doesn’t Obey Mask Requirements

Gourmeltz 90’s Music Bar & Drafthouse, based in Spotsylvania, has had its health certification suspended after owner Matt Strickland refused to enforce bar closures and mask restrictions. Strickland refused to close after the certification was suspended, and the attorney general is now seeking an injunction against Strickland that will force Gourmeltz to close, according to Fox5. Strickland had a court hearing on Friday, and is now waiting for a decision from the judge.

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Wedding Venue Sues Northam For Not Allowing Expanded Capacity at Outdoor Weddings

Outdoor wedding venue Belle Garden Estate (BGE) is suing Governor Ralph Northam over Executive Order 72.  The governor has begun relaxing restrictions on outdoor activities, allowing the lower of either 1,000 people or 30 percent capacity at many outdoor venues. However, outdoor wedding venues are not included in those relaxed restrictions.

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Despite Last Week’s Vote, Republican Party of Virginia Still Doesn’t Have a Clear Path to Nominate Candidates

The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) still doesn’t have a finalized option for how to nominate its candidates, despite the final-sounding words of party officials last week.

The RPV State Central Committee (SCC) has decided to hold a drive-in convention at Liberty University (LU), but after a site visit with LU officials Wednesday, the RPV team determined that convention would not be feasible. In a letter published Friday, RPV Chair Rich Anderson renewed a call for a convention that would have satellite locations across Virginia, and announced that the SCC would hold another Zoom meeting to vote on an unassembled convention again.

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Virginia Gov. Northam Relaxes More Outdoor COVID-19 Restrictions, Announces Vaccine Progress

As warmer weather starts to tempt Virginians out of their COVID caves, Governor Ralph Northam announced another round of relaxed restrictions on outdoor activities, effective March 1. On Wednesday, Northam amended Executive Order 72 to allow up to 25 people at outdoor social gatherings, allows outdoor venues to have the lesser of either 1,000 people or 30 percent of their capacity, allows overnight summer camps to begin operations on May 1, and extends alcohol sales curfews until midnight, when restaurants must still close.

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As High School Football Begins, Northam Allows up to 250 Spectators at Outdoor Sports

Governor Ralph Northam released an amended Executive Order 72 that allows outdoor sports to have up to 250 spectators or 30 percent of venue capacity, whichever is less, effective Monday. The February 17 amendment modifies language that previously allowed just two guests per player, up to 30 percent of venue capacity. Indoor sports are still limited to 25 persons per field.

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Senator Chase Sues the Republican Party of Virginia

Senator Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield), who is running for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, announced Tuesday that she is suing the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV). Chase has been critical of the RPV decision to hold a nominating convention since the decision was first announced in December. Now, after months of fractious debate in the RPV over that decision, Chase is suing, arguing that she is harmed by the RPV choosing a nominating method currently illegal under Executive Order 72, which bans large gatherings like an in-person convention.

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Virginia Court Denies Chincoteague Church Lawsuit Over Northam’s Executive Orders

A U.S. District Court has dismissed a lawsuit by Chincoteague Lighthouse Fellowship Church against Governor Ralph Northam. In April 2020, the church sued over Northam’s Executive Orders 53 and 55, which limited gathering sizes to 10 and issued a stay-at-home order. But in a January 27 decision, Judge Arenda Wright Allen dismissed the suit, saying that the complaint was moot since those executive orders no longer stand.

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Two Churches File Another Lawsuit Against Governor Ralph Northam Over Executive Order 72

Two pastors are suing Governor Ralph Northam over Executive Order 72 (EO 72), saying that the order places restrictions on churches that aren’t placed on educational institutions or essential businesses. Pastor Jeff Light and Reverend Jon Heddleston are being represented in the Rappahanock Circuit Court by lawyer Mike Sharman, who is also representing churches in Madison and Culpeper in two other lawsuits against Northam.

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Virginia GOP Moves Forward with Nominating Convention Amidst Chaos and Intense Division

After another stalemate between pro-primary and pro-convention factions of the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) State Central Committee (SCC), Chairman Rich Anderson said he will move forward with plans for a convention.

“The majority of the SCC voted today for a third time to conduct an assembled in-person Republican State Convention. Our hope is to get SCC buy-in in a later meeting on proposals to transform it to an unassembled state convention, like we did last summer,” Anderson told The Virginia Star.

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