Restaurants, stores, gyms and pools in Virginia can operate with fewer coronavirus-related restrictions starting Wednesday, July 1. But after a last-minute announcement by the governor, bar areas in restaurants must stay closed.
Phase three reopening began statewide at the stroke of midnight Wednesday.
Restaurants and nonessential retail stores no longer have to limit indoor capacity to 50% of what their space can hold. But they still need to keep customers 6 feet apart.
Gyms can go from 30% capacity to 75%. Social gatherings of as many as 250 people are now allowed. Outdoor swimming pools can operate with fewer restrictions, at 75% their normal capacity. Recreation and entertainment venues can operate at 50% occupancy or with a maximum of 1,000 people. Overnight summer camps are still closed.
People are still strongly encouraged to wear face masks.
Restaurants can operate limited table service in bar areas but cannot seat customers at bar counters, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday afternoon.
Northam said he decided to keep stricter rules on bars after seeing spikes in virus cases in states that reopened earlier than Virginia.
“I am watching what is happening in other states — we are taking a cautious approach as we enter Phase 3 and maintaining the current restrictions on bar areas,” he said in a statement.
At a restaurant in Arlington on Tuesday night, patron April Henson said she thought the continued restrictions on bars were smart.
“I think it’s good that he’s telling us not to congregate in bars. We do need to still keep our distance so we can get over this pandemic, so we can get on with our lives,” she said.
State data shows progress in containing the coronavirus.
A smaller portion of those who are tested are testing positive, the number of new cases has plateaued, the rate at which cases are doubling has slowed and hospitals have enough ventilators and beds.
A stay-at-home order first went into effect in Virginia on March 30. Since the start of the pandemic, the state says more than 60,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus. At least 1,658 people have died.