Gov. Ralph Northam will ease some COVID-19 restrictions in Virginia as case numbers fall and vaccination numbers rise.
Some of the regulations that will go into effect Monday, March 1:
- Alcohol sales will end at midnight, a change from the current 10 p.m.;
- The midnight-to-5 a.m. curfew will be lifted;
- The limit on outdoor social gatherings will increase from 10 people to 25;
- Outdoor entertainment and venues will be able to operate at a capacity of 30% or 1,000 people, up from 250.
Northam said restrictions were tightened in December due to a rise in coronavirus cases, but as case numbers drop, some restrictions can ease.
The governor encouraged Virginians to continue social distancing, wearing face masks and washing their hands. “We’re in a dangerous but very hopeful moment,” he said.
Northam also said Virginia will be working with more pharmacies to create vaccination locations as they enter the federal partnership that began earlier this month with vaccinations at CVS.
Some of the new pharmacies will include Walmart, Walgreens, Safeway, Food City, Giant and independent pharmacies. Northam said the addition of these pharmacies will add 52,000 more vaccine doses per week.
Walgreens will begin vaccinations this week.
Not all locations of these pharmacies will receive COVID-19 vaccines; some pharmacies, such as Walmart, will delegate outside locations as vaccination sites in order to focus vaccinating higher-risk communities.
The governor added that the state and pharmacies are working together to get people who are on the waiting list through state and local agencies into the pharmacies’ system.
Northam said that these pharmacies will be using the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration, but Northam said once it’s approved, Virginia will have three safe vaccines, including Moderna and Pfizer. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot, while Moderna and Pfizer require two shots.
Northam said that the state could expect doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as early as next week.
Still, he said, the distinctions between vaccines weren’t that important: “The best vaccine is the one you get,” he said.
Mass vaccination sites
Northam also said that Virginia is working on setting up mass vaccination sites for when more vaccine doses become available. He said that FEMA has allocated $179 million for additional costs and to help creates these mass vaccination sites.
Health Officer Dr. Norman Oliver said that about 12 mass vaccination sites are expected to open by mid-March.
More than 1.5 million Virginians have preregistered for vaccination, and 13.5% of the population have received the vaccine, according to Northam.
Virginia residents have to preregister for a vaccination appointment online at vaccinate.virginia.gov, or by calling 877-VAX-INVA. Fairfax County, however, is not participating in the state program.
“The system is working and it is meeting a much-needed effort,” Northam said.
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