Governor loosens some crowd restrictions as COVID positive rate holds steady

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 9:01 AM EDT
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Governor Ralph Northam held a briefing Tuesday to give an update on COVID in the commonwealth.

Northam said more than two million people across the commonwealth are at least half vaccinated, with a million fully vaccinated. He said Virginia is eighth in the nation as far as doses put in arms, and he said more doses of all available brands are on the way from the federal government.

He said with some localities already moving into Phase 1c of those eligible to recieve vaccines, he expects Virginia to beat the United States goal of opening vaccinations up to everyone by May. He urged as many people as possible to get vaccinated as soon as possible, saying more people vaccinationed means less overall risk to the public.

As COVID-19 vaccinations continue to rise in Virginia, Northam said, certain sports and entertainment venues may begin to operate with additional capacity, and indoor and outdoor gathering limits will increase starting Thursday, April 1.

“With increased vaccination capacity and our health metrics continuing to trend the right direction, we can safely take these targeted steps to ease certain mitigation measures,” said Governor Northam. “Virginians have come so far over the past year, and now is not the time to simply throw the doors open or let down our guard. While some capacity limits will be increased, we must all remember to stay vigilant and work together to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.”

Key changes in the Fourth Amended Executive Order Seventy-Two include:

· Social gatherings: The maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase to 50 people for indoor settings and 100 people for outdoor settings. Social gatherings are currently limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

· Entertainment venues: All indoor and outdoor entertainment and public amusement venues must continue to operate at 30 percent capacity. Indoor venues must operate at 30 percent capacity or with a maximum of 500 people, an increase from the current cap of 250 people. Outdoor venues must operate at 30 percent capacity, with no specific cap on the number of attendees. These venues were previously limited to 30 percent capacity or up to 1,000 attendees, whichever was fewer.

· Recreational sporting events: The number of spectators allowed at recreational sporting events will increase from 25 to 100 people per field or 30 percent capacity, whichever is less for indoor settings, and from 250 to 500 people per field or 30 percent capacity, whichever is less for outdoor settings.

· In-person graduation and commencement events: Last week, Governor Northam issued preliminary guidance on safe in-person graduations and commencements, which included a cap of 5,000 people or 30 percent of the venue capacity for outdoor events, whichever is less. Events held indoors may have up to 500 people, or 30 percent of the venue capacity, whichever is less. Attendees must wear masks and follow other guidelines and safety protocols to ensure proper distancing.

The full text of Fourth Amended Executive Order Seventy-Two and Order of Public Health Emergency Nine is available here. Updated guidelines for specific sectors can be found here. Visit for more information and answers to frequently asked questions.

RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia Department of Health is reporting 607,234 total cases of COVID-19 across the commonwealth as of Tuesday, March 23, 2021, dating to the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. That’s up 1,267 from the 605,967 reported Monday, a larger increase than the 1,063 new cases reported from Sunday to Monday.

[VDH launches central pre-registration website, phone number for COVID-19 vaccine]

[VACCINE INFO: What you need to know in southwest Virginia]

Click here for vaccination phases and who is eligible under each phase.

Per the latest update from the state’s vaccine dashboard, 3,149,418 doses of vaccine have been administered in Virginia as of Tuesday, up from Monday’s 3,123,190.

6,337,388 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests have been conducted in Virginia as of Tuesday, with a 5.6% positivity rate from those tests over the last week, the same as reported Monday.

As of Tuesday, there are 10,137 recorded coronavirus-related deaths in the commonwealth since the pandemic’s beginning, up from the 10,127 reported on Monday.

1,035 people across Virginia were hospitalized as of Tuesday with confirmed or test-pending cases of COVID-19, up from 1,000 on Monday.

Click here for the latest statewide rules regarding curfew, masks and public gatherings.

49,804 COVID patients have been released from hospitals in Virginia since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, which gets a daily report from hospitals around the commonwealth.

These hospital numbers are different from those reported by VDH, which only gathers hospitalization status at the time each case is investigated by VDH and is an under-representation of Virginia hospitalizations.

Any new confirmed cases from health departments throughout the state the rest of the day won’t show up until at least the following day on the state list, as the official numbers are only updated once a day, with a 5 p.m. cutoff each day for new cases to be reflected on the next day’s list.

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