NORFOLK, Va. - The light at the end of a dark year could be shining bright in Virginia this June.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced the Commonwealth will end social distancing requirements and capacity limits on June 15 if COVID-19 metrics continue to look favorable.
The big news could mean big business for so many industries hit hard during the pandemic.
“It’s going to help us to get back to being able to function as a business, both financially and being able to take care of our guests the way we used to be able to take care of them,” said Ginnele Shonyo, co-owner of Southern Eats in Downtown Norfolk.
It’s a life-changing announcement for event planners hit hard by canceled gatherings and social distancing requirements.
“I received an inquiry just three days ago for a wedding for 150 guests; whereas, once we've had our restrictions, the most that I was getting, if any at all, were 15 to 20,” said Apryl Roberts, owner of Memorable Events By Apryl.
Restaurants like Southern Eats would no longer have to keep tables 6 feet apart, and places like theaters and sports arenas could entertain in front of any size crowd.
“I'll be getting back on track," Roberts said. “We've all had to be a little bit creative with our businesses and how we do things and some of us had to do other things just to supplement the lost income.
The good news doesn’t mean everyone is in the clear. Many restaurants haven’t been able to rehire the staff needed to open at full capacity and are now doing what they can to incentive workers.
“Last week I had 17 interviews scheduled for servers and not a single one of them showed up,” Shonyo said.
With the big date just six weeks away, everyone is bracing themselves.
“I'm excited that again we're going to have a sense of normalcy, but I'm also cautious and I hope that everyone else still uses that same sense of caution and safety to know that, you know, we still have to take precautions,” Roberts said.
Virginia's State of Emergency is set to officially expire on June 30. Northam says he is considering not extending it, but he may have to reissue it to continue to enforce a mask mandate and other public health safety measures.