President Joe Biden offered high praise for Virginia’s governor in remarks at a climbing gym in Alexandria on Friday, hours after the state lifted all distancing and capacity restrictions. Masks are still required in some settings.
“You’ve done one hell of a job, doc,” Biden told Gov. Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist.
The president praised the governor for his leadership.
“You’re one of the best governors in the country at taking this on, and you did it from the beginning," he said.
Northam thanked residents for following COVID-19 guidelines and getting vaccinated.
About 66% of Virginians have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, Northam said. About 54% are fully vaccinated. Virginia ranks 14th among states for vaccination rates and is a leader in the South, according to the governor.
“We are closer to a normal life than we have been in the last 14 months," he said to applause.
The leaders spoke at the Sportrock Climbing Center, before a crowd of children. Biden joked that he was about to climb a 60-foot wall.
As of 12:01 a.m. Friday, social distancing and capacity restrictions are no longer in effect in Virginia. The governor planned to lift the restrictions in mid-June but moved up the date by two weeks.
“Virginians have been working hard, and we are seeing the results in our strong vaccine numbers and dramatically lowered case counts,” Northam said in a statement earlier this month. “That’s why we can safely move up the timeline for lifting mitigation measures in Virginia.”
Here’s Virginia’s guidance on masks:
- Anyone not vaccinated is strongly encouraged to wear masks in all settings, as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Employees in regulated business, retail, restaurants, fitness, personal care and entertainment are required to continue to wear masks until fully vaccinated.
- Businesses may require masks, if they wish, for employees and patrons.
- Masks continue to be required in K-12 school settings, regardless of vaccination status.
Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.