BREAKING: Northam says June 15 lift on most restrictions

Northam: Many restrictions likely to be lifted June 15

If COVID trends remain positive, state can relax attendance caps

Gov. Ralph Northam speaks at his May 6, 2021, news conference.

Virginia will relax most COVID-19 mitigation measures by June 15 if vaccination numbers continue to increase and spread of the virus continues to decrease, Gov. Ralph Northam said Thursday.

“We will continue to evaluate our mask guidance,” the governor added, but social distancing requirements and caps on attendance will be lifted as long as COVID trends continue to remain on a positive trajectory in the state. Northam also encouraged more Virginians to get vaccinated, noting that 60% of residents age 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, and federal authorities are expected to approve the use of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine for people ages 12 and older as soon as next week.

Meanwhile, the state has recorded fewer than 1,000 new COVID cases per day over the past two weeks, as well as declines in hospitalizations and deaths.

“The vaccines are working,” Northam said. “They’re helping reduce the spread of the disease.”

According to a survey by Virginia Commonwealth University, 66% of parents polled said they plan to get their adolescent children vaccinated as soon as doses are available for younger people, and many also would vaccinate their children younger than 12 when they are eligible, Northam said.

At this point, the state is expanding how it delivers vaccine doses, including the introduction of mobile vaccine units next week, making it easier for people without reliable transportation to get vaccinated. There are several reasons people may not have gotten vaccinated yet, Northam said, ranging from those who don’t know they’re eligible to others who are nervous about receiving a newly developed vaccine.

“We’re going to keep reaching out to all of these folks,” Northam said, adding that since he came down with the coronavirus late last year, “seven months later, I still can’t smell or taste anything.” He noted that the virus is an “unpredictable disease” and that Virginia residents should get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.

Northam said he’s hopeful that the state will meet a new goal set by President Joe Biden to administer at least one vaccine dose to 70% of all Americans 16 and older by July 4.