Virginia lowers unemployment rate again

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Governor Ralph Northam announced Virginia’s unemployment rate had fallen another 0.2% in June down to 4.3%.

Down substantially from the 8.8% rate a year ago and lower than the national average of 5.8%. 

Virginia also had one of the lowest seasonally adjusted employment rates in the Southeast.

The Secretary of Labor Megan Healy believes these are signs that Virginia’s workers are finding safety and opportunities in the job market.

The job markets with the most growth in Virginia include leisure and hospitality which is up 25.5%.

Trade and transportation had the second highest growth at 6.5%

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Virginia governor lifting indoor mask mandate in most places

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By Associated Press | Published May 17, 2021 7:10 a.m.


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s governor announced that he is lifting the state’s indoor mask mandate in line with new guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gov. Ralph Northam said the mask policy change takes effect at midnight along with changes to other mitigation measures expanding capacity for sports and entertainment venues and an easing of limits on social gatherings.

Northam also said Virginia will ease all distancing and capacity restrictions on May 28, two weeks earlier than planned.

Increasing vaccination rates and declines in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and statewide test positivity rate changes made the changes possible. On Friday, Virginia’s positivity rate — the percentage of people testing positive for the virus — stood at 3.5%, a rate that is lower than at any time since the pandemic began more than a year ago.

Virginians have been working hard, and we are seeing the results in our strong vaccine numbers and dramatically lowered case counts,” Northam said in a statement. He also urged any unvaccinated people to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities.

“The message is clear: vaccinations are how we put this pandemic 2021 in the rearview mirror and get back to being with the people we love and doing the things we have missed,” he said.

The CDC guidelines state that fully vaccinated individuals do not have to wear masks in most indoor settings, except on public transit, in health care facilities, and in congregate settings.

Masks will still be required in K-12 public schools, given low rates of vaccination among children. Also, businesses can still require masks in their establishments. Employees in certain business sectors, including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care, and entertainment, must continue to wear masks unless fully vaccinated, in line with CDC guidance.

Tony Stafford, president of the Virginia Restaurant Association, said he expects the lifting of the mask mandate to cause some confusion.

“It really puts us in a rough spot because I don’t feel comfortable and I don’t think I’m allowed to ask (customers) if they’re vaccinated,” he said.

“What does this mean? Am I going to ask them to see their vaccination card? I mean, I’m not going to do that. I’m just here to feed people,” said Stafford, the owner of Ford’s Fish Shack.

Still, Stafford said, the lifting of the mandate is an encouraging sign for business owners.

“We want to get back to work. We want to get back to living without the masks, but we also want to be very cautious and respect everyone’s decision to wear a mask or not wear a mask,” he said. “We just want to serve people great fish and chips.”

Stafford said his staff will continue to wear masks.

Northam said unvaccinated people or people who aren’t fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks in all settings.

Virginia has given out nearly seven million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. More than four million people have received at least one dose, representing over 64% of the state’s adult population. Northam has said he remains confident that Virginia will meet President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70 percent of adults vaccinated with at least one dose by July 4.

(All contents © copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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Northam to again roll back COVID-related restrictions

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By Associated Press | Published Apr. 23, 2021 9:00 a.m.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday that he would be further loosening coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and social gatherings in mid-May. He also said that a more substantial rollback is likely coming in June.

Beginning Saturday, May 15, sports and entertainment venues in Virginia may begin to operate with expanded capacity, and social gathering limits will increase under changes Northam is making to an executive order. The state’s existing mask mandate will not be lifted.

The Democratic governor said the easing of the measures would be possible thanks to increasing vaccination rates. All Virginians over the age of 16 are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than half of all adults have gotten at least one dose.

“I’m optimistic that we will be able to take more steps in June,” Northam said in a statement. “We’re aiming to significantly ramp up vaccinations even further, and aim to reduce capacity limits in June, hopefully all the way.”

Under the changes taking place in May, the maximum number of individuals permitted in a social gathering will increase to 100 people for indoor settings and 250 people for outdoor settings, up from 50 and 100, respectively.

Indoor entertainment and public amusement venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity or 1,000 people, up from 30 percent capacity or 500 people, Northam’s office said. Outdoor venues will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity.

The number of spectators allowed at indoor recreational sporting events will increase, and restaurants will be allowed to return to selling alcohol after midnight. Dining room closures will no longer be required between midnight and 5 a.m.

Earlier this week, Northam made smaller changes, allowing bar seating in dining and drinking establishments, relaxing limits on outdoor races and allowing school performances like musicals to take place.

Both cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations from the disease have fallen tremendously in Virginia since the post-holiday surge. On Thursday, the health department was reporting 1,373 new cases, and the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association was reporting 1,104 hospitalized with COVID-19 or with tests pending.

(All contents © copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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Virginia to loosen rules on gatherings, entertainment venues

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By Associated Press | Published Mar. 24, 2021 6:25 a.m.


Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday that the state will soon relax some coronavirus-related restrictions for social gatherings and entertainment venues.

Starting April 1, Northam said, social gatherings such as weddings may have up to 50 people indoors. Outdoor gatherings can have up to 100 people.

Indoor entertainment venues will be able to operate at 30% capacity or with up to 500 people. Outdoor venues can operate at a 30% capacity with no limits on the actual number of people.

For example, a baseball stadium that holds 9,500 fans will be able to host a crowd of roughly 3,000. That will give people room to socially distance, Northam said.

Indoor recreational sporting events will be able to have 100 people per field or 30% capacity. Outdoor events will be able to accommodate 500 people per field or 30% capacity.

“These are measured changes,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference. “We still have a strict gathering limit and a universal mask mandate and capacity restrictions both indoors and outdoors.”

Social gatherings in the state are currently limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Some in the wedding business say that relaxing the limits to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors may still be too restrictive.

Virginia Beach hospitality firm Gold Key/PHR has seen 100 weddings canceled since the pandemic began and coronavirus restrictions were implemented, CEO Bruce Thompson said.

“It’s not very helpful for us,” said Thompson, whose company operates places such as the historic Cavalier Hotel on the Atlantic Ocean. He said the firm has ballrooms of various sizes that could safely accommodate more guests and allow for social distancing.

“I’m not saying the restrictions aren’t needed or appropriate. I just think they’re not practical,” Thompson said. “I have a 10,000-square-foot ballroom. I can put 100 people in it —- and that’s 100-square-foot per person. I just would like to see him be more aligned to what the real risk is in different venues.”

Thompson added that there’s a fine line between weddings and entertainment events such as a concert.

Northam has previously said that weddings often have groups of people hugging, dancing and drinking in close proximity.

“(A)ll of the things that we know that spread the virus,” Northam said during a March 9 news conference. “We’ve really tried to follow the science and follow the data.”

Northam said Tuesday that the state is starting to relax guidelines because the number of new coronavirus cases has bee plateauing while more people are getting inoculated.

Nearly 1 in 4 of Virginians have received at least one shot of the vaccine, Northam said. That’s more than 2 million people. At the same time, more than 1.1 million people in the state have been fully vaccinated, according to the Virginia Department of Health’s website.

More than 1,200 new coronavirus cases were reported in the state on Tuesday. But that’s far below the nearly 10,000 cases that were reported on Jan. 17 following the holiday season, according to the Virginia Department of Virginia’s website.

(All contents © copyright 2021 Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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