Gov. Ralph Northam late Tuesday took a step back and ordered bars in restaurants closed as the state enters Phase 3 reopening Wednesday.
Northam said bar seating will remain prohibited. While key heath indicators in Virginia are improving, the governor “made clear he is taking a cautious approach and is prepared to implement tighter restrictions if needed.”
He announced the decision a day before the state was set to allow people to congregate at bars as long as they practiced social distancing.
Restaurants may use non-bar seating in the bar area, as long as a minimum of six feet between tables is provided, according to the governor’s office.
“I am watching what is happening in other states—we are taking a cautious approach as we enter Phase Three and maintaining the current restrictions on bar areas,” Northam said. “In Virginia, our hospitalization rates have fallen, our percentage of positive tests continues to trend downward, and we are conducting more than 10,000 tests each day. We want these trends to continue, but if our public health metrics begin moving in the wrong direction, I will not hesitate to take action to protect the health and safety of our communities.”
Virginia does not allow establishments to only serve alcohol, they all must serve food.
Under Phase 3, restaurants and nonessential retail stores no longer have to limit indoor capacity to 50 percent of what their space can hold but would still have to keep customers 6 feet (2 meters) apart.
Gyms can go from 30 percent capacity to 75 percent, and social gatherings of up to 250 people are allowed. Outdoor swimming pools can operate with fewer restrictions at 75 percent their normal capacity.
The Virginia Department of Health on Tuesday reported nearly 63,000 total cases of COVID-19, with just over 6,200 total hospitalizations and 1,760 deaths.
Virginia is currently averaging more than 10,400 tests per and hospitals continue to report ample supplies of personal protective equipment, according to the governor’s office.
The percentage of positive tests has dropped to six percent from a high of 20 percent in mid-April. The number of Virginians hospitalized with a positive or pending COVID-19 test has declined significantly over the past several weeks, and more than 1,200 contact tracers are presently working throughout the state.
Sector-specific guidelines for Phase 3 can be found here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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