Northam Sets the Clock: More COVID-19 Restrictions Will Lift May 15

By Brian Carlton
April 23, 2021

Gov. Northam says he hopes all restrictions will be lifted by June.

RICHMOND-In three weeks, more of Virginia’s COVID-19 restrictions will lift. Gov. Ralph Northam made that announcement Thursday, detailing changes to allow concerts, festivals and more people at sporting events. 

So what changes? First, social gatherings can get a bit larger. If you want to celebrate your son or daughter’s graduation, that’ll be a bit easier. As of May 15, indoor social events can have up to 100 people, with 250 allowed for outdoor gatherings. That’s nearly double what’s currently allowed. 

And what about festivals, concerts or theater productions? The capacity for those also goes up on May 15. All indoor entertainment venues will be able to operate at either 50% capacity or 1,000 people, whichever is lower. Right now, the cap is set at 500 people. Outdoor entertainment spaces, including festivals and concert venues, will be able to simply operate at 50% capacity. There will be no cap in place. That’s because at an outdoor festival, you have more space to move around and stay distant from other groups. When you’re indoors, that’s limited. 

Now we get to sporting events. Indoor games will be limited to no more than 250 fans. The cap for outdoor games will be a bit higher, coming in at 1,000 people. Why 1,000 people for sports when outdoor festivals don’t have a specific cap? It’s because you have to sit in seats at a sporting event. If you go to watch the Richmond Squirrels or Danville Otterbots play, you’re buying a ticket to sit in a seat. That makes it harder to stay socially distant from other groups. 

Changes For Restaurants and Bars

Some changes already went into effect on Wednesday, as we can actively sit at the bar and drink again. On May 15, the final restrictions involving late night drinking go away. At that point, restaurants and bars can start selling alcohol again after midnight. Also, dining rooms won’t have to be closed between midnight and 5 a.m. 

Why will the changes happen on May 15? It’s because by then, more than half of Virginia’s adult residents will be fully vaccinated. As of April 22, half of all adults in the Commonwealth had received at least one vaccine shot. 

“Vaccination numbers are up and our COVID-19 case numbers are substantially lower than they were earlier this year,” Northam said Thursday in a video statement. “So, we have been able to begin easing some mitigation measures. We took a few more targeted steps this week and we will do more next month.” 

Northam said as long as people continue to follow the guidelines, he expects to lift more, if not all restrictions in June. 

“But some things need to continue,” Northam said. “We all need to keep wearing masks, social distancing, and encouraging each other to get a shot. It’s how we take care of one another.”

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