Gov. Northam to lift capacity, social distancing measures next month if cases keep dropping

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 6:31 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia’s Governor announced he’s confident both social distancing requirements and capacity limitations can be lifted on June 15.

“This is good news and it’s thanks to the millions of Virginians who have done the right thing for so long and I say thank you. We still have work to do. We’re not at the finish line yet and we still need to take the precautions we all know work,” said Governor Ralph Northam, (D) Virginia.

It’s not official just yet, and of course, could change.

“We are approaching a time when we can think differently about how we interact especially people who are vaccinated,” said Northam.

The governor is making his assessment off COVID-19 case and vaccine data. 1 in 3 Virginians are now fully vaccinated, and daily COVID-19 counts remain under 1,000, with 856 new cases reported Thursday.

“If you’re planning your swim league or if you are planning for opening your theater or if you are planning your yoga studio plan on June 15 to be able to go to full capacity,” said Clark Mercer, Chief of Staff to Governor Northam.

“That sounds good...I’m ready to go back to normal...If it’s safe for everybody, why not open up,” John Roder said.

Others wonder if the state is considering doing too much too soon.

“The vaccinations were just open to everybody over 16. I don’t know if we’re quite there yet to have no restrictions,” Reilly Park said.

“I’m pretty ok with it as long as we’re still allowing masks to be worn. I don’t want masks to go away. I don’t feel completely safe with that,” Danyell Monroe added.

There is no movement, for now, on the state’s mask mandate. It’s going to be a tricky issue. Before the pandemic, it was illegal to wear a mask in public. The state of emergency in place covers that. If it goes away, wearing a mask becomes illegal again. Northam is holding off on making any more changes to the mask mandate until The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues new guidance.

“So the governor will consider whether or not under the CDC guidance, and I guess the advice from the Virginia department of health, even folks who want to voluntarily wear a mask will need to do so legally which may mean the declaration may have to be extended or reissued so it will apply after June 30,” said Rita Davis, Counsel to Governor Northam.

Previously, Northam announced a number of pandemic restriction rollbacks set to begin May 15. Next week, some restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings are likely to be eased to increase to 100 people indoors and 250 outdoors. Businesses will be allowed to have 50% capacity indoors, and 50% outdoors with no cap.

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