Following up on a promise he made on May 14 when he lifted the statewide mask mandate, Governor Ralph Northam officially ended all social distancing and capacity restrictions at 12:01am on May 28, two week earlier than originally expected.
The mandate is in alignment with new guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The updates are reflected in amendments to Executive Order Seventy-Two. The new changes mean there will be no more limits on social gatherings such as weddings or sporting events. Restaurants also no longer need to keep seats at the bar six feet apart.
Virginia is able to take these steps as a result of increasing vaccination rates, dramatically declining COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and statewide test positivity rates, as well as revised federal guidelines.
“Virginians have been working hard, and we are seeing the results in our strong vaccine numbers and dramatically lowered case counts,” said Governor Northam. “That’s why we can safely move up the timeline for lifting mitigation measures in Virginia. I strongly urge any Virginian who is not vaccinated to do so—the vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your community from covid-19. The message is clear: vaccinations are how we put this pandemic in the rearview mirror and get back to being with the people we love and doing the things we have missed.”
Even though all covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, the CDC guidelines state that fully vaccinated individuals do not have to wear masks in most indoor settings, except on public transit, in health care facilities, and in congregate settings. Businesses retain the ability to require masks in their establishments. Employees who work in certain business sectors—including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care, and entertainment—must continue to wear masks until fully vaccinated. Those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks in all settings.
The state of emergency in Virginia will remain in place at least through June 30 to provide flexibility to local government and support ongoing covid-19 vaccination efforts. Governor Northam will take executive action to ensure individuals have the option to wear masks up to and after that date. Masks will continue to be required in K-12 public schools, given low rates of vaccination among children.