Phase Three begin Wednesday in Virginia as statewide COVID-19 cases hit 62,787

Phase Three begin Wednesday in Virginia as statewide COVID-19 cases hit 62,787

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RICHMOND — Virginia moves one step closer to normal today as it begins Phase Three COVID-19 guidelines.

The third phase lifts capacity restrictions at retail stores, restaurants and bars, meaning those businesses can operate as they did before the pandemic. Gyms, fitness centers and swimming pools can operate at 75% capacity. Amusement parks and other entertainment venues can operate at 50% capacity, or a maximum of 1,000 people, and social gatherings like weddings and other events are now permitted up to 250 people.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced late Tuesday that bar seating will remain prohibited in Phase Three to reduce the possible spread of coronavirus in congregate seating.

“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 wrote in a statement.

Hair salons, barbershops and child care centers will fully open; however, overnight camps will remain closed.

Despite the relaxed restrictions, Northam still strongly encourages teleworking and social distancing of 6 feet. He has also said facial coverings are still required.

Over the past few days, states such as Florida, Arizona, Texas and California have reversed course, closing or otherwise clamping down on bars, shutting beaches, rolling back restaurant capacity, putting limits on crowds at pools, or taking other steps to curb a scourge that may be thriving because of such factors as air conditioning and resistance to wearing masks.

The Virginia Department of Health reported Tuesday the statewide total for COVID-19 cases is 62,787 — an increase of 598 from the 62,189 reported yesterday.

The 62,787 cases consist of 60,124 confirmed cases and 2,663 probable cases. There are 1,763 COVID-19 deaths in Virginia — 1,658 confirmed and 105 probable. That’s an increase of 23 from the 1,740 reported Monday.

The VDH defines probable COVID-19 cases as people who are symptomatic with a known exposure to COVID-19, but whose cases have not been confirmed with a positive test.

As the overall number of positive COVID-19 test results in Virginia grows, data from the VDH coronavirus dashboard shows the percentage of positive results from testing is down. The seven-day average for percentage of positive test results was at 6% as of June 26, which is the most recent figure provided by the VDH. That’s down from a peak of 22.2% on April 19.

State health officials have said there’s a lag in the reporting of statewide numbers on the VDH website. Figures on the website might not include cases or deaths reported by localities or local health districts.

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The governor said Tuesday the state's restaurants will not be allowed to fully reopen their bars as previously planned. He announced the decision Tuesday afternoon, a day before the state was set to allow people to congregate at bars as long as they practiced social distancing. 

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