Virginia counties that surround D.C. will move into the second phase of the state’s reopening plan Friday, June 12, Gov. Ralph Northam said today, which means restaurants that have been restricted to limited outdoor seating can begin to host customers inside at half capacity as summer temperatures climb.
The majority of Virginia moved into Phase 2 on Friday, June 5, but Northern Virginia has adopted a slower timeline in recovering from the novel coronavirus crisis because the D.C. suburbs there have shown more concentrated cases of COVID-19 than rural areas across the state. Richmond, the state capital, also delayed its reopening progression.
According to Virginia’s Phase 2 guidelines, restaurants must maintain a maximum of 50 percent occupancy as determined by their business certification and space all tables at least 6 feet apart. Gyms and fitness centers will be allowed to reopen at 30 percent capacity.
On the same day Northam announced plans to lift more restrictions on Northern Virginia, two businesses sued the governor in state and federal court in an attempt to push a fulll-scale reopening. The Washington Post reports that Chap Petersen, a lawyer and a Democrat in the Virginia state Senate, is representing owners from a Loudoun County winery and a Fredericksburg hibachi restaurant. They’re arguing that Northam should have had to consult Virginia’s state legislature before issuing orders that have devastated their businesses.
Eating and drinking establishments have allowed outdoor seating in both Northern Virginia and the District since Friday, May 29. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said last week the city would enter its second phase of reopening no earlier than Friday, June 19. Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, the director of the city’s health department, has said the next round of easing restrictions is unlikely to start that date based on the city’s progress in meeting its COVID-19 benchmarks.
D.C. has reported an eight-day decline in the community spread metric it uses to track the prevalence of the coronavirus. Washington still has significant work to do in contact tracing, which refers to the process of tracking people who have tested positive for the virus and investigating who else they may have exposed.