Virginia to loosen rules on gatherings, entertainment venues

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday that the state will soon relax some coronavirus-related restrictions for social gatherings and entertainment venues.

Starting April 1, Northam said, social gatherings such as weddings may have up to 50 people indoors. Outdoor gatherings can have up to 100 people.

Indoor entertainment venues will be able to operate at 30% capacity or with up to 500 people. Outdoor venues can operate at a 30% capacity with no limits on the actual number of people.

For example, a baseball stadium that holds 9,500 fans will be able to host a crowd of roughly 3,000. That will give people room to socially distance, Northam said.


Indoor recreational sporting events will be able to have 100 people per field or 30% capacity. Outdoor events will be able to accommodate 500 people per field or 30% capacity.

“These are measured changes,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference. “We still have a strict gathering limit and a universal mask mandate and capacity restrictions both indoors and outdoors.”

Social gatherings in the state are currently limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Some in the wedding business say that relaxing the limits to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors may still be too restrictive.

Virginia Beach hospitality firm Gold Key/PHR has seen 100 weddings canceled since the pandemic began and coronavirus restrictions were implemented, CEO Bruce Thompson said.

“It’s not very helpful for us,” said Thompson, whose company operates places such as the historic Cavalier Hotel on the Atlantic Ocean. He said the firm has ballrooms of various sizes that could safely accommodate more guests and allow for social distancing.

“I’m not saying the restrictions aren’t needed or appropriate. I just think they’re not practical,” Thompson said. “I have a 10,000-square-foot ballroom. I can put 100 people in it —- and that’s 100-square-foot per person. I just would like to see him be more aligned to what the real risk is in different venues.”

Thompson added that there’s a fine line between weddings and entertainment events such as a concert.

Northam has previously said that weddings often have groups of people hugging, dancing and drinking in close proximity.

“(A)ll of the things that we know that spread the virus,” Northam said during a March 9 news conference. “We’ve really tried to follow the science and follow the data.”

Northam said Tuesday that the state is starting to relax guidelines because the number of new coronavirus cases has bee plateauing while more people are getting inoculated.

Nearly 1 in 4 of Virginians have received at least one shot of the vaccine, Northam said. That’s more than 2 million people. At the same time, more than 1.1 million people in the state have been fully vaccinated, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s website.

More than 1,200 new coronavirus cases were reported in the state on Tuesday. But that’s far below the nearly 10,000 cases that were reported on Jan. 17 following the holiday season, according to the Virginia Department of Virginia’s website.

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