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Virginia continues gradual easing of restrictions

Much of Virginia, including Gloucester and Mathews counties, will enter Phase Two of Gov. Ralph Northam’s “Forward Virginia” plan on Friday, as the state continues its gradual easing of public health restrictions, he announced on Tuesday.

The decision was made, he said, because key statewide health metrics continue to show positive signs relative to the spread of COVID-19.

Virginia’s hospital bed capacity remains stable, the percentage of people hospitalized with a positive or pending COVID-19 test is trending downward, no hospitals are reporting PPE shortages, and the percent of positive tests continues to trend downward as testing increases, Northam said.

Under Phase Two, Virginia will maintain a “Safer at Home” strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.

The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 50 people. All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high-contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures, a release from the governor’s office stated.

Restaurant and beverage establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, fitness centers may open indoor areas at 30 percent occupancy, and certain recreation and entertainment venues without shared equipment may open with restrictions. These venues include museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and outdoor concert, sporting and performing arts venues. Swimming pools may also expand operations to both indoor and outdoor exercise, diving and swim instruction.

The current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail, and personal grooming services will largely remain the same in Phase Two. Overnight summer camps, most indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs, and carnivals will also remain closed in Phase Two.

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“Because of our collective efforts, Virginia has made tremendous progress in fighting this virus and saved lives,” said Northam. “Please continue to wear a face covering, maintain physical distance, and stay home if you are high-risk or experience COVID-19 symptoms. Virginians have all sacrificed to help contain the spread of this disease, and we must remain vigilant as we take steps to slowly lift restrictions in our commonwealth.”

Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond will remain in Phase One to allow for additional monitoring of health data.