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City of Richmond to enter Phase Two of reopening plan on Friday, June 12th

Under Phase Two of Forward Virginia, eating and drinking establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent capacity, fitness centers may open indoor facilities at 30 percent capacity, and certain recreation and entertainment venues that do not rely on shared equipment may open with restrictions.

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On Friday, June 12, the City of Richmond will move into Phase Two of the state’s reopening plan, Forward Virginia.

Under Phase Two of Forward Virginia, eating and drinking establishments may offer indoor dining at 50 percent capacity, fitness centers may open indoor facilities at 30 percent capacity, and certain recreation and entertainment venues that do not rely on shared equipment may open with restrictions.

“Given the data landscape, the governor’s requirement that all Virginians wear face coverings and my trust in the Richmond community to look out for each other, I’m comfortable with our city entering Phase Two of Forward Virginia,” said Mayor Stoney.

“However, we cannot forget that beating this disease for good will require avid community testing, contact tracing and stable isolation for COVID-19 positive patients,” he continued. “This is the biggest team project we’ve ever undertaken as a city, and it will continue to require compassion and cooperation from every one of us.”

Since mid-March, the City of Richmond has operated under various stages of closure while adopting basic practices that are proven to fight the spread of COVID-19: wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, sanitizing hands and spaces and intentionally protecting the most vulnerable individuals and communities.

The Richmond City Health District, alongside the City of Richmond, continues to provide testing opportunities, primary care support, mask distribution and supported isolations for those that need it.

Said Director of Richmond City and Henrico County Health Districts Dr. Danny Avula: “We know that our ability to reopen our economy, to enjoy social and faith-based gatherings, and to move forward from the most difficult early days of this pandemic depends on our continued practice of these same key prevention methods.”

“This week, as we look at local and regional trends in cases, hospitalization data, and continued reassuring reports on hospital capacity, I support Richmond’s advancement to Phase 2,” continued Dr. Avula. “However, our success in this phase will depend on everyone becoming familiar with the guidelines for how we can live, work, and play safely at this point, and sharing what they learn with their family, friends, and coworkers.”

The following is a list of guidelines all Richmonders should follow during Phase Two:

  • Continue to wear face masks.
  • Keep six feet of distance from anyone outside your household.
  • Avoid visits or social gatherings, especially with individuals who are at higher risk.
  • Continue to wash or sanitize your hands frequently, but especially after leaving a public place or before adjusting or removing your mask.
  • If you experience symptoms of COVID-19, stay home and call your primary care provider to discuss testing opportunities, or call the Richmond and Henrico COVID-19 hotline at 804-205-3501 to register for a free testing event. Testing opportunities for City of Richmond residents are listed at RVAStrong.org/testing.
  • Remember and remind others that public playgrounds, wading pools and other recreational spaces where physical distancing and avoidance of common surfaces would be impossible will remain closed through Phase Two.
  • Social gatherings are limited to 50 people or 50 percent capacity of the event space, whichever is less.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has determined the guidelines that businesses and individuals who patronize those businesses should abide by during Phase Two. The following information is a summary of the requirements the state has made of businesses who wish to open during Phase Two. Requirements and best practices are available online in full here.

The state requires all businesses serving the public to undertake rigorous sanitation practices and display extensive signage promoting the health and safety of patrons and employees.

The signage should clearly state that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19 or known exposure to a COVID-19 case in the prior 14 days is permitted in the establishment. It should also include reminders of public health precautions, such as social distancing, isolating when sick and options for high-risk individuals.

A link to these guidelines, printable resources, opportunities for small businesses to receive support and other guidance are available on RVAStrong.org/reopeningguidance.

Restaurant and beverage services

Occupancy in the establishment is limited to 50 percent of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy. Bar seating and congregate areas of the establishment must be closed.

Tables must be at least six feet apart to allow for adequate social distancing. If tables are immovable, then parties must be seated at least six feet apart.

All establishments should use single-use menus.

Additional mandatory requirements are provided in this document.

Restaurants in the City of Richmond who wish to expand outdoor seating on their own private property, such as a parking lot, should contact Chuck Davidson, Zoning Administrator at [email protected]. Those who wish to expand outdoor seating into the public right of way should apply for an encroachment permit. More guidance is available at RVAStrong.org/reopeningguidance.

Non-essential brick and mortar

Non-essential brick and mortar retailers must limit occupancy to 50 percent of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy.

Retailers must also encourage and assist in customers keeping six feet of distance while shopping and standing in line.

Additional mandatory requirements are provided in this document.

Fitness and exercise facilities

Occupancy is limited to no more than 30 percent of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy.

Patrons should keep 10 feet of distance between each other. To facilitate this, business owners must place exercise equipment at least 10 feet apart.

Before allowing patrons to enter, fitness facility staff should screen them for symptoms of COVID-19, asking if they are experiencing a fever, a cough, shortness of breath, chills, a sore throat, or muscle aches unaffiliated with another health condition. Anyone experiencing symptoms should not be permitted to use the facility. The state notes that these screenings should be conducted in accordance with applicable privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.

Basketball and racquetball courts may be used as long as patrons maintain ten feet of social distance throughout use if they are not from the same household.

Additional mandatory requirements are provided in this document.

Indoor and outdoor swimming pools

Swimming pools may be open only for lap swimming, diving, exercise, and instruction. Hot tubs, spas, saunas, splash pads, spray pools, and interactive play features must be closed.

Lap swimmers and divers are to be held to the same standard of ten feet of distance as in exercise facilities.

Seating on pool decks must be at least ten feet apart.

As in exercise facilities, before allowing patrons to enter, pool staff should screen them for symptoms of COVID-19, asking if they are experiencing a fever, a cough, shortness of breath, chills, a sore throat, or muscle aches unaffiliated with another health condition. Anyone experiencing symptoms should not be permitted to use the pool. The state notes that these screenings should be conducted in accordance with applicable privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.

Additional mandatory requirements are provided in this document.

Personal care and personal grooming services

Service should still be offered by appointment only, with a maximum of two appointments occurring in one facility at a time.

Occupancy is limited to 50 percent of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy.

Work stations must be at least six feet apart, and clients must wear face coverings during the entirety of the service.

Employers must maintain a list of the names and contact information for all clients, to include the date and time of the appointment, to aid in contact tracing efforts.

Additional mandatory requirements are provided in this document.

Entertainment and public amusement

The following entertainment venues must still be closed in Phase Two: indoor theaters, indoor performing arts centers, indoor concert venues, indoor sports venues, horse racing facilities, bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, carnivals, arts and craft facilities, escape rooms, trampoline parks and anything not explicitly approved by the state.

Phase Two allows for outdoor performing arts venues, outdoor concert venues, outdoor movie theaters, drive-in entertainment, outdoor sports venues, museums, botanical gardens, aquariums, zoos and public or private social clubs to open with restrictions.

Facilities that are permitted to and wish to open must create a guest flow plan that identifies potential areas of crowding and adjust layout inside and outside the facility accordingly.

Any on-site retail, food or drink services, or fitness facilities must abide by the state requirements specific to those classifications of the establishment.

Additional mandatory requirements for specific venue types are provided in this document.

Religious services

Occupancy is limited to 50 percent of the lowest occupancy load on the certificate of occupancy of the room in which services are conducted.

Individuals not from the same household must be seated six feet away from each other. An acceptable seating distance should be marked.

Nothing should be passed around the gathering, and any items used to distribute food or drink must be single-use and immediately discarded.

Places of worship are still encouraged to continue meeting virtually, if possible, to protect congregants.

Additional mandatory requirements are provided in this document.

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Elephant Insurance to give $300,000 to organizations impacted by COVID-19

Elephant Insurance announced that the company is launching a new initiative, known as the Helping Herd, that will donate $300,000 to organizations and programs that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or who are providing COVID-19 relief to their community.

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Elephant Insurance announced that the company is launching a new initiative, known as the Helping Herd, that will donate $300,000 to organizations and programs that have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic or who are providing COVID-19 relief to their community. The program will launch in June and gifts will be distributed between June and December 2021.

Through the Helping Herd, Elephant’s hope is to reach at least 50 organizations or programs with the funds, with gifts ranging in size from $2,000 to $20,000. Elephant team members will be involved in the selection process, either by nominating deserving groups or participating in the voting process to finalize the recipients.

The program was made possible by Elephant’s parent company, Admiral Group, which shares in Elephant’s mission of making a positive impact on local communities during challenging times.

“We know the Helping Herd initiative will be able to make a significant impact on individuals and communities that are hurting due to COVID-19, and Elephant is grateful to be in a position to step up and give back in this way,” said Alberto Schiavon, CEO. “The Elephant team – our herd – is eager to be a part of this important process, and we’re so appreciative of the support of Admiral Group to make this possible.”

To be considered to receive funds, applicants must serve the community in at least one of three areas: mental health, physical health, or community health. Interested organizations or programs will be able to apply to receive funds at https://www.elephant.com/contact/helping-herd-submission, where more details on eligibility are available.  Applications will be accepted through August 1, 2021.

In addition to the submission form, nominations will be collected from Elephant employees by survey.  A large portion of the funds are anticipated to be distributed in Virginia, where Elephant is headquartered, but Helping Herd funds will also go to organizations in other states where Elephant services are offered, including Texas.

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Governor Northam drops COVID restrictions as Virginia fully reopens

All capacity and gathering restrictions are now lifted as Virginia fully reopens. Businesses can still make their own rules about whether patrons must wear masks, however.

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Governor Ralph Northam today dropped all distancing and capacity restrictions, two weeks earlier than planned. Northam’s office says Virginia is able to take these steps as a result of “increasing vaccination rates, dramatically declining COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and statewide test positivity rate, and revised federal guidelines.”

“Virginians have been working hard, and we are seeing the results in our strong vaccine numbers and dramatically lowered case counts,” said Governor Northam. “That’s why we can safely move up the timeline for lifting mitigation measures in Virginia. I strongly urge any Virginian who is not yet vaccinated to do so—the vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and your community from COVID-19. The message is clear: vaccinations are how we put this pandemic in the rearview mirror and get back to being with the people we love and doing the things we have missed.”

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. Businesses retain the ability to require masks in their establishments. Employees who work in certain business sectors—including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care, and entertainment—must continue to wear masks unless fully vaccinated, per CDC guidance. Those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks in all settings.

The state of emergency in Virginia will remain in place at least through June 30 to provide flexibility for local government and support ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Governor Northam will take executive action to ensure individuals have the option to wear masks up to and after that date. Masks will continue to be required in K-12 public schools, given low rates of vaccination among children.

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City’s Casino Evaluation Panel recommends ONE Casino + Resort as preferred operator

The city’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel has recommended that the ONE Casino + Resort move forward as the city’s preferred casino gaming operator at the proposed site on Walmsley Boulevard in South Richmond. The Evaluation Panel’s recommendation is supported by Mayor Stoney.

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The city’s Resort Casino Evaluation Panel has recommended that the ONE Casino + Resort move forward as the city’s preferred casino gaming operator at the proposed site on Walmsley Boulevard in South Richmond. The Evaluation Panel’s recommendation is supported by Mayor Stoney.

“ONE Casino + Resort presents a tremendous opportunity to develop a resort casino project in Richmond,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “The project will create over 1,000 good-paying jobs, generate a significant amount of new revenue for the city, and establish an additional economic engine in South Richmond. I applaud the work of the Evaluation Panel in their vetting of the proposals and engaging the entire city throughout this project.”

ONE Casino + Resort was proposed by Urban ONE in partnership with Peninsula Pacific Entertainment. Urban ONE is a publicly traded integrated media company.  Peninsula Pacific Entertainment owns and operates several casinos and Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in Virginia.

“ONE is thrilled the Richmond casino selection committee has chosen the best project with the best location and best team to develop a world-class entertainment destination in Richmond’s Southside,” said Alfred Liggins, CEO of Urban One. “Urban One and our diverse group of local investors are fully committed to creating good paying jobs with profit-sharing for employees, pathways to successful careers, and generating significant new tax revenues that can improve Richmond’s schools and fund community programs and infrastructure.”

The Evaluation Panel made its recommendation based on factors including the project’s feasibility and sustainability, proposed location, economic development impact, financial revenue impact, and community benefits.

Mayor Stoney will introduce the proposed ONE Casino + Resort project to City Council on Monday, May 24, 2021. Per legislation approved by the Virginia General Assembly, City Council will be asked to petition the court so that a referendum on casino gaming in the City of Richmond can take place during the November 2, 2021 election.

Information on the city’s resort casino process can be found at https://www.rva.gov/economic-development/resort-casino.

The city will host a public meeting on the decision on Tuesday, May 25 at 6 p.m. The link to join will be posted on the informational webpage.

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