By Carol Vaughn —
Gov. Ralph Northam announced an additional easing of pandemic restrictions, including on social gatherings, entertainment and wedding venues, sporting events, and commencement ceremonies, at a press briefing Wednesday.
Northam said the statewide percent positivity for COVID-19 testing is now 5.6%, down from 17% in early January; he noted Virginia is seeing fewer hospitalizations and ICU admissions than anytime since October.
Additionally, one in four Virginians has been vaccinated.
Virginia received more than 500,000 vaccine doses this week and is averaging around 50,000 doses given per day.
Mass vaccination clinics opened last week in Petersburg and Danville and another opened Wednesday in Prince William County.
Some localities, including the Eastern Shore, have moved into Phase 1C of vaccination, which includes additional essential workers.
With lower case numbers and higher numbers of people vaccinated, “we can consider how to slowly and safely ease some of the mitigation measures we’ve had in place for the last year,” Northam said.
Starting April 1, social gatherings may have up to 50 people indoors or 100 people outdoors.
Indoor entertainment venues may operate at 30% capacity, or up to 500 people total.
Outdoor entertainment venues may operated at 30% capacity, with no cap on the number.
Spectators allowed at athletic events will increase to 100 for indoor events and 500 outdoors.
Commencement ceremonies held outdooors may have up to 5,000 in attendance, or up to 30% of the venue capacity. Indoor ceremonies may have up to 30% of the capacity or 500 people.
Weddings may have up to 100 people outdoors or 50 indoors.
Northam called vaccines “the light at the end of the tunnel — but only if we take them.”
He said vaccinating children once clinical trials show vaccines are safe and effective for them, likely will start in fall for older children and will play a role in reaching vaccination numbers that will provide “herd immunity” for society.
He said Virginians need to continue to wear masks, wash hands frequently, and maintain social distancing.
“To be very clear, we’re not throwing the doors open,” he said.
Virginia still will maintain its “Safer at Home” strategy, with continued mitigation strategies like physical distancing, teleworking, and universal mask requirements.
Dr. Norman Oliver of the Virginia Department of Health in answer to a question at the briefing said the VDH has recorded “somewhere around a couple hundred cases” of virus variants in Virginia, noting the true number is likely much higher.
The VDH has begun surveillance and is doing genomic analysis to track several variants known to be in Virginia.
Riverside Marks 100,000th Vaccine Given
Riverside Health System on Monday administered its 100,000th COVID-19 vaccine, according to a spokesperson.
The number includes first and second dose vaccinations to employees and patients throughout the Riverside system, which includes Riverside Shore Memorial Hospital and doctor’s offices on the Eastern Shore.
“This past year has been an extreme time for everyone, and we’re incredibly grateful to serve our community in this capacity,” said Dr. Mike Dacey, president and chief operating officer of Riverside Health System, in a press release.
“It’s inspiring to see all of the progress we’ve made so far thanks to our team’s amazing advance preparation and dedication on the ground, and we look forward to continuing to vaccinate more community members in the coming days and weeks,” he said.
Riverside continues to vaccinate those eligible for the vaccine, as determined by the Virginia Department of Health, through community-based clinics and at its care facilities. For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, eligibility requirements or scheduling an appointment, visit: https://www.riversideonline.com/covid_19/COVID-19-Vaccine.cfm