Northam bans congregating in bars as Phase Three starts
Governor signaled he may pull back on reopening if health metrics worsen
As Virginia enters Phase Three of the state’s Forward Virginia reopening plan on Wednesday, July 1, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that bar seating and congregating areas of restaurants will remain closed. Restaurants will be permitted to use non-bar seating in the bar area, so long as tables are at least six feet apart.
While key health metrics still look good in Virginia, other states — especially those that reopened earlier, such as Florida and Texas — have been seeing record surges in coronavirus cases over the last two weeks. Northam said Tuesday that he was prepared to pull back on reopening Virginia and institute tighter restrictions if needed.
“I am watching what is happening in other states — we are taking a cautious approach as we enter Phase Three and maintaining the current restrictions on bar areas,” Northam said in a statement Tuesday. “In Virginia, our hospitalization rates have fallen, our percentage of positive tests continues to trend downward, and we are conducting more than 10,000 tests each day. We want these trends to continue, but if our public health metrics begin moving in the wrong direction, I will not hesitate to take action to protect the health and safety of our communities.”
Nevertheless, Phase Three will still see many restrictions lifted, including:
- Social gatherings of up to 250 people allowed.
- Occupancy/capacity limits will be lifted on retail stores and restaurants (except for the new rules prohibiting bar seating and congregation).
- Museums, zoos and other outdoor entertainment venues will be allowed to open at 50% capacity, serving a maximum of 1,000 people.
- Gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to operate at up to 75% capacity.
- Personal grooming and hair salons will still need to follow physical distancing requirements.
- Child care facilities will remain open.
- Recreational sports will still require physical distancing.
- Swimming pools will be able to operate at up to 75% capacity, with physical distancing in place.
Face coverings will still be required in indoor public spaces, and Northam said Tuesday that teleworking and social distancing are still “strongly encouraged.”
During a news briefing last week, Northam said Virginians will still be safer at home during Phase Three, especially if they’re medically vulnerable. “We’re still strongly encouraging teleworking. People still need to focus on physical distancing in all situations outside of their home. Face coverings are still the right thing to do in indoor, public spaces,” Northam said. “I want to reiterate that everyone should continue to take this pandemic very seriously. Cases are on the rise in many other states, as I said previously. I do not want to see that happen in the commonwealth. Be cautious and take the necessary steps to protect yourself and the people around you.”