Restrictions on Virginia gathering limits ease as local churches prepare to celebrate Easter

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Posted at 7:19 AM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 08:53:53-04

More people will be able to gather together in Virginia starting Thursday.

The latest easing of COVID-19 restrictions, announced by Gov. Ralph Northam last week, take effect on April 1, just days after North Carolina capacity restrictions loosened.

Some of the key changes taking effect include:

  • Social gathering limits increase from 10 to 50 people for indoor gatherings and 25 to 100 people for outdoor.
  • Entertainment and public amusement venues must continue to operate at 30 percent capacity, however, the maximum allowance for indoor venues increases to 500 people from 250. Outdoor venues previously capped at 1,000 no longer face a specific limit outside of the 30 percent rule.
  • Recreational sporting event numbers will increase from 25 to 100 people per field or 30 percent capacity, whichever is less, for indoor settings. For outdoor settings, the cap will increase from 250 to 500 people per field or 30 percent capacity, whichever is less.
  • In-person graduation and commencement events may have up to 500 people or 30 percent capacity, whichever is less, for indoor events and 5,000 people or 30 percent capacity, whichever is less, for outdoor events.

In Virginia, churches have been able to operate indoor worship services, provided they social distance and wear masks, but the timing of this latest change to the rules isn't going unnoticed.

It comes just days before Easter celebrations.

"As restrictions have eased, we've been able to invite more people. As more people have gotten vaccines, they've been more comfortable in coming back into the space. It's been really thrilling in the last couple of months to have people return," said Drew Froese, Lead Pastor at Real Life Christian Church in Chesapeake.

Froese tells News 3 he already intended to have three in-person Easter Sunday services this weekend and he hopes an easing of restrictions will bring more people out.

"When you come back into the space, there's just an energy about [worship] that is so much richer," he said.

In Norfolk, Easter weekend marks a big moment in the pandemic journey of Ghent United Methodist Church, which will return to in-person worship for the first time on Sunday with a 10 a.m. outdoor service.

But for those who still don't feel comfortable worshipping physically with others, both Ghent UMC and Real Life Christian offer virtual services.