Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday announced that phase two of the state’s Forward Virginia business and public space reopening plan will start Friday. Social gatherings will be allowed to increase from a maximum of 10 to 50.
“Because of our collective efforts, Virginia has made tremendous progress in fighting this virus and saved lives,” Northam said Tuesday. “Please continue to wear a face covering, maintain physical distance and stay home if you are high-risk or experience COVID-19 symptoms. Virginians have all sacrificed to help contain the spread of this disease, and we must remain vigilant as we take steps to slowly lift restrictions in our commonwealth.”
Northam said the primary theme of phase two will be “Safer at Home,” with people with underlying medical conditions to understand that staying home is recommended.
Northern Virginia and Richmond will still remain under phase one guidelines while state health officials monitor those regions’ progress in COVID-19 testing, keeping new infection and hospitalization rates low and having sufficient bed capacity and personal protective equipment supplies for hospitals.
Executive Order 65 will allow restaurants and beverage establishments to serve customers indoors up to 50% of allowed occupancy. Dining parties must be 6 feet apart. No self-service buffets will be allowed, and employees must serve customers from buffet setups. Self-service beverages are allowed but with equipment installed to prevent contamination.
Establishments with bars must also close bar seating, with customers at tables instead.
Customers wanting ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper, hot sauce, soy sauce, pepper flakes, Parmesan cheese and other toppings will have to have servers dispense them, because condiments will not be allowed on restaurant tables.
As with phase one, frequent cleaning and disinfecting of tables, chairs and other frequently-touched surfaces will be required. Employees will be required to wear face masks.
Gyms, fitness centers, recreation centers and sports and exercise facilities will be allowed to reopen Friday but only at 30% capacity for all people in the facility. That includes guests and instructors. Patrons, members and guests will have to remain at least 10 feet apart, and instructors and participants in group activities also must keep 10 feet apart. Hot tubs, spas, splash pads, spray pools and interactive play features in those facilities must be closed, but swimming pools will be allowed to open with 10 feet of distance between swimmers and no more than three people in a pool lane.
Exercise equipment that cannot be cleaned easily between users will not be available for them, under phase two, and hand sanitizer or hand washing stations must be made available for patrons, members and guests.
Some entertainment and recreation facilities will be allowed to reopen Friday, including museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and outdoor concert, sporting and performing arts venues.