Northam Expects To Further Relax COVID-19 Restrictions Next Week

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that he plans to further relax restrictions on businesses and public gatherings next week, saying trends related to cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations and other key health metrics were moving in the right direction.

Northam said at a news conference that he’s planning for the state to enter Phase 3 of reopening July 1.

Under Phase 3, restaurants and nonessential retail stores would no longer have to limit indoor capacity to 50% of what their space can hold but would still have to keep customers 6 feet (2 meters) apart. Gyms could go from 30% capacity to 75%, and social gatherings of up to 250 people would be allowed.

Outdoor swimming pools could operate with fewer restrictions at 75% their normal capacity. Recreation and entertainment venues at may operate at 50% occupancy, or a maximum of 1,000 people.

Northam, who is a doctor, said Virginians are still “safer at home,” especially if they are elderly or have underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable to the new coronavirus.

“I want to reiterate that everyone should continue to take this pandemic very seriously. Cases are on the rise in many other states. … I do not want to see that happen in our Commonwealth,” he said.

Social distancing and teleworking are still recommended whenever possible, and the requirement that individuals wear face coverings in indoor public settings will continue, Northam said.

The Virginia Department of Health on Tuesday reported nearly 59,000 total cases of COVID-19, with just over 5,900 total hospitalizations and 1,645 deaths.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Photo: AP

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