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Virginia COVID Restrictions Could End June 15

Man at podium
Gov. Ralph Northam speaks at a February mass vaccination event. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday morning that he is prepared to lift the physical distancing and capacity restrictions implemented during the pandemic, if all goes well.

It’s been over a year since Northam issued the first “stay at home” order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In recent weeks, new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have fallen to levels not seen since last October. Northam said state health officials are also seeing a dramatic drop in hospitalizations.

If COVID-19 numbers continue trending downward and more people continue to get vaccinated, Northam said all restrictions would go away on June 15.

“We’re not at the finishing line yet and we still need to take the precautions that we all know work, but we’re approaching a time when we can think differently about how we interact, especially people who are vaccinated,” Northam said.

The state is already set to relax some measures on indoor dining and entertainment venues next weekend. Starting May 15, the maximum number of people allowed indoors will increase to 100, and 250 people for an outdoor event. Bars and restaurants will also be allowed to stay open later.

It’s still unclear, however, whether the mandate to wear masks in public will also be phased out in mid-June.

Virginia’s current State of Emergency declaration is set to expire June 30. Northam’s Chief of Staff Clark Mercer said without the declaration, the state cannot enforce a public mask mandate.

“There’s also a law on the books that does not allow you, even voluntarily, to wear a mask in public, so there are some issues we need to work through between now and the end of June,” Mercer said.

Northam plans to revisit the State of Emergency declaration and mask mandate closer to June. He said he is following the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention closely. 

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