If you’ve been waiting for the opportunity to dine inside a restaurant or work out in a gym again, the time is almost here.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced at a 2 p.m. press conference that Northern Virginia will enter Phase 2 of its reopening this Friday, June 12. That will permit larger social gatherings and the reopening of restaurant dining rooms and indoor gyms, along with certain entertainment and recreation venues.
More from a previous press release:
Under Phase Two, the Commonwealth will maintain a Safer at Home strategy with continued recommendations for social distancing, teleworking, and requiring individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public settings. The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase from 10 to 50 people. All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures.
Restaurant and beverage establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent occupancy, fitness centers may open indoor areas at 30 percent occupancy, and certain recreation and entertainment venues without shared equipment may open with restrictions. These venues include museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, and outdoor concert, sporting, and performing arts venues. Swimming pools may also expand operations to both indoor and outdoor exercise, diving, and swim instruction.
The current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail, and personal grooming services will largely remain the same in Phase Two. Overnight summer camps, most indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs, and carnivals will also remain closed in Phase Two.
Most of the rest of the Commonwealth entered Phase 2 this past Friday.
The coronavirus pandemic “is still very much with us,” Northam said at the press conference. “That said, our health metrics are looking positive.”
Virginia’s test positivity rate and hospitalizations are trending downward, Northam said, while personal protective equipment supplies, testing capacity and the contact tracing workforce are all increasing.
“Overall, our numbers look good,” the governor said, adding that Virginia residents are encouraged to continue wearing masks and social distancing.
After a minor resurgence in cases over the weekend, there were only nine new COVID-19 cases and three new hospitalizations reported in Arlington overnight, according to the Virginia Dept. of Health.
Northam today also outlined a phased response to going back to students returning to classrooms for the 2020-2021 school year. In-person classes will resume, he said, but perhaps not right away.
“To be clear, all Virginia schools will open for students next [school] year, but the school experience will look very different,” he said.
Most instruction will remain virtual to start. In-person classes will resume slowly, starting with small groups. Students from Pre-K to third grade, as well as English learners and those with disabilities, will be able to resume face-to-face instruction first, followed by older students.
Physical distancing protocols, along with restrictions on mixing groups of students and use of communal spaces, will be in place, according to the governor. High-risk students and school staff will have the option to continue remote learning and teleworking. Daily health screenings will be conducted and students — especially older students — will be encouraged to wear face coverings.
Each school division will have flexibility in deciding how soon to advance to new reopening phases, Northam said. Arlington Public Schools has previously told parents that it believes remote learning to start the new school year is the most likely scenario.