At a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Governor Northam announced that Northern Virginia will be following the rest of the state into Phase 2 of COVID-19 recovery on Friday, June 12. Phase 2 calls for the reopening of many amenities and businesses that we have long missed over the past few months, albeit at reduced capacities. While we are beginning to return to our “new normal,” Governor Northam wanted to make it very clear that Phase 2 does not mean all bets are off when it comes to safety. The Governor is still urging everyone to maintain social distancing guidelines, including the six-foot standard, and masks will still be required in indoor public areas (like supermarkets). However, COVID-19 positive tests are continuing to decrease, even as testing becomes more widespread.
The biggest return in Phase 2 will be restaurants and “beverage” establishments, which we’re pretty sure is just a weird way to say bars. Both restaurants and bars will be allowed to open their indoor spaces, however only at 50% capacity. Inside these establishments, parties must be sat at tables at least six feet apart and seats at the bars themselves are to remain closed. Additionally, these establishments are required to keep game areas, dance floors, and playgrounds closed throughout Phase 2. While not required, the government is also urging restaurants to utilize reservations systems in order to keep crowding in check and to limit the amount of contact patrons make with surfaces including credit card machines. A full list of requirements and suggestions for restaurants and bars begins on page 9 of the Phase 2 guide.
To help combat the binge eating and drinking that is about to occur, indoor fitness centers will be allowed to reopen at 30% capacity, as well as outdoor recreation, sporting areas, and public swimming pools. Other venues like museums, zoos, aquariums, gardens, and performing arts venues will be also be allowed to open at reduced capacities. Every venue that opens, including the restaurants and bars, will be required to enforce social distancing guidelines, and will be required to clean and sanitize surfaces frequently. Obviously the smaller capacity combined with everyone and their mother trying to go to their favorite places will result in large waits and crowds, so be patient and please don’t harass employees. They’ve had it just as hard as you have. Some additional new changes in Phase 2 include private gatherings being allowed to have up to 50 people now.
Establishments that are reopening will be required to post signage in their windows detailing what must be followed inside their doors. The necessary signage is also available in the Phase 2 guide. This blog post is not a complete rundown of every requirement for every establishment. If you own a business in Northern Virginia, please read through the Phase 2 guide to fully understand what is expected of you if you choose to reopen your doors.
Not everything will be changed in Phase 2. Guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail, and “personal grooming services” (barbershops/salons) will remain the same from Phase 1, with only 50% capacity allowed and appointments required. Additionally, popular summer activities like overnight summer camps, amusement parks, fairs, and carnivals will, unfortunately, remain closed.
While not part of Phase 2 re-openings, Governor Northam did address a common question on many parents’ minds: what about the schools? While each school district will have to make their own decisions, Virginia schools will be open at the start of the new school year. However, in-person classes might not resume immediately. The Governor stated that most classes will begin the year virtually, and over time will transfer back to in-person. Younger students will likely be allowed back in schools first and this will progress up the chain with older students returning to in-person instruction last. For more specific information about your children’s education, you will have to consult with your district.
Recovery will be slow, but hopefully, these careful steps will be enough to stop a second wave of the virus from reappearing in the fall. For now, enjoy what you can and if you are still uncomfortable with going out in public, stay home. Your health and safety should be your number one priority. If you own a business or have questions about local businesses, do not hesitate to contact an attorney at Scrofano Law PC. We are an expert Social Distancing law firm and are here to make sure Northern Virginia can return to normalcy in the safest and most legal way possible. Stay safe and six feet apart NoVa!