RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that he will begin loosening some coronavirus-related restrictions, affecting alcohol sales and late-night curfews, as key pandemic metrics continue to improve.
Northam said at a news conference in Richmond that he plans to lift the modified stay-at-home order in place between midnight to 5 a.m. and push the alcohol curfew from 10 p.m. to midnight.
Those restrictions, which are part of Northam's current executive order, are set to expire at the end of this month. The changes will kick in at 12:01 a.m. March 1.
Northam also said the cap on social gatherings will remain at 10 if an event is indoors, but it will be expanded to 25 individuals if outdoors.
His order also affects outdoor entertainment and public amusement venues. They will be able to operate with up to 1,000 people or at 30% capacity, whichever is lower. The venues may eventually be able to operate at 30% capacity with no cap starting in April, if coronavirus cases continue to fall.
But indoor venues must continue to operate at 30% capacity with a cap of 250 people. All entertainment venues were previously limited to a maximum of 250 individuals.
Another change affects overnight summer camps. They will be able to open May 1 with strict mitigation measures in place. Registration is allowed to begin.
The state's mask mandate will continue. And Northam encouraged people to continue working from home if they can.
“We are finally seeing COVID numbers fall and vaccination numbers rise,” Northam said. “That means we can start to consider how to slowly, safely ease some of the measures we put into place before the holidays."
Northam noted that the daily new case average in the state is the lowest it has been since before Thanksgiving at 1,708. He also said that about 13.5% of the state's population, or more than 1.1 million Virginians, have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
The seven-day moving average of both new cases and patients hospitalized has fallen dramatically since a peak in mid-January.
The Democratic governor, who is also a physician, added that “it’s critical that we do this slowly and thoughtfully ... and we do not want to risk our progress by easing restrictions too quickly.”
The current restrictions were put in place in mid-December and extended in late January. The governor said a further loosening of the restrictions will be coming if the trends continue.
Also, the Virginia Department of Health announced Wednesday that additional pharmacy networks are beginning to administer COVID-19 vaccines to those age 65 and older. It's part of a federal partnership that will bring an additional 52,000 vaccines into Virginia this week.
In addition to CVS, which began receiving approximately 26,000 vaccine doses last week through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination, the newly added pharmacies include Walgreens, Walmart, Kroger, Safeway, Food Lion, Giant Food, Food City and a network of multiple independent community pharmacies.