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Crowd curbs loosened on virus figures improve / March 24, 2021

With positivity rates and the number of active COVID-19 cases in decline across Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday announced an easing of restrictions on public gatherings and recreational events starting April 1.

Currently the state is averaging around 1,400 COVID-19 cases per day, according to Northam. Locally, Mecklenburg County is averaging seven cases per day. That number has remained fairly static for most of March but began to tick up in the last couple of days.

The number of new cases reported on Tuesday was 12, and the total number of active cases for Mecklenburg County now stands at 57. The number of active new cases increased by seven since Monday, according to county officials.

Since the pandemic began a year ago, 61 people in Mecklenburg County have died, according to the Virginia Department of Health. VDH data also show that roughly 1 out of every 14 residents in Mecklenburg has contracted the virus at some point in the past 12 months.

As vaccine efforts are ramping and the number of new cases is starting to slow down for much of the state, Northam said Tuesday he felt it was a good time to make “measured changes” to the restrictions that have been in place. He said his office would continue “to follow the date to see how these [changes] go.”

Starting April 1 social gatherings will be capped at 50 people for indoor events, up from 10. Outdoor events will be capped at 100 people, up from 25.

Entertainment venues will be open to 500 people or 30 percent of capacity for indoor events, and 30 percent of capacity for outdoor events, with no cap.

Recreational sporting events will be allowed to have 100 spectators or 30 percent of capacity at indoor events, and 500 people or 30 percent of capacity at outdoor events. The previous limit was 25 people indoors and 250 people outdoors.

The previously announced limits on graduation events remain unchanged. Outdoor ceremonies will be capped at 5,000 attendees or 30 percent of capacity, and indoor ceremonies can have up to 500 attendees or 30 percent of capacity.

Crowd capacity limits for bars, restaurants, gyms and salons remain unchanged as does the universal mask requirement. The guidance by the governor calls for people to socially distance and practice good sanitation practices.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Northam said that one out of every four Virginians has received at least one vaccine shot and that vaccine efforts will continue to ramp up.

He also called vaccines the “light at the end of the tunnel” and added that they only work “if we take them and make smart choices.”

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