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Northam relaxes restrictions

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday, April 22, that sports and entertainment venues in Virginia may begin to operate with expanded capacity, and social gathering limits will increase beginning Saturday, May 15.

The announcement comes as vaccinations continue to rise in the commonwealth, and more than half of all adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“It’s good news that half of all adults in Virginia have gotten a shot so far,” Governor Northam said. “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.”

“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. It’s how we take care of one another,” Northam said.

The governor also reminded Virginians that getting vaccinated keeps communities safer and allows expanded personal activities — for example, people who have been fully vaccinated do not have to quarantine after an exposure, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The commonwealth will continue to mandate mask-wearing and social distancing, even as commercial restrictions are further eased. Key changes in the Sixth Amended Executive Order Seventy-Two will go into effect in about three weeks and include:

Social gatherings: The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase to 100 people for indoor settings and 250 people for outdoor settings. Social gatherings are currently limited to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

Entertainment venues: Indoor entertainment and public amusement venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity or 1,000 people, up from 30 percent capacity or 500 people. Outdoor venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity — up from 30 percent — with no specific cap on the number of attendees.

Recreational sporting events: The number of spectators allowed at indoor recreational sporting events will increase from 100 to 250 spectators or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less. Outdoor recreational sporting events will increase from 500 to 1,000 people or 50 percent capacity, whichever is less.

Alcohol sales: Restaurants may return to selling alcohol after midnight, and dining room closures will no longer be required between midnight and 5:00 a.m.

Earlier this week Governor Northam made minor changes to the existing mitigation measures, including increased accommodations for cross-country events, school-based fine arts performances and expanded access to bar seating in restaurants with strict social distancing.