RICHMOND, Va. -- Restrictions on businesses, gyms, and churches were relaxed in Richmond as the city entered Phase Two of reopening.
The city joined the rest of the Commonwealth on Friday as the state slowly reopened the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under Phase Two guidelines, churches were allowed to hold indoor services again, but at 50 percent capacity.
However, Reverend Jeanne Pupke’s congregation at First Unitarian Universalist Church will not meet in person this weekend.
“We are so happy for all the businesses that can open and we hope everybody is practicing safe practices, but we are a little different,” Rev. Pupke explained. “As a faith that believes in the value of insights of religion and science and they are compatible together, we have to follow the best science there is.”
Pupke described her church near Byrd Park as still open, just online.
"We are trying to protect people who are most vulnerable and we don’t want to gather until we can all gather together,” she said.
Since the start of the pandemic, she's held services streamed via Zoom and then uploaded to Youtube. In fact, their attendance is higher online than it was in person.
“We are not only seeing our congregants, but people from a distance who could not travel to a church check in. We have new members coming along that live in different states and we are happy for them to join us,” Pupke stated.
First Unitarian Universalist Church will meet again when there is either no virus or a vaccine available, which Pupke acknowledges could take months.
“Our religion teaches us there’s wisdom in science,” she said. “Therefore we believe we will be back together in 2021.”
Phase Two of reopening in Richmond meant gyms could open at 30 percent capacity and restaurants at 50 percent.
Workouts were in full swing Friday morning at Fighting Gravity Fitness on West Cary Street.
"There's an adrenaline rush that comes with it. I think that's what makes it so fun," said Amy Lord, who attended the aerial dance class. "I love everything about it."
Owner Audrey Bonafe said the past few months of only offering virtual classes due to the coronavirus pandemic weren't easy.
"I am so happy to be back in the studio," said Bonafe. "I can’t tell you how hard this has been for us financially and for the clients as well, and this type of fitness is something that’s not easy to do virtually."
She said class sizes would be smaller, and people attending would have to fill out a questionnaire at the door. She also said hospital-grade disinfectant was being used on the mats and anything touched.
Evan Campbell is the executive chef and managing partner at The Stables at Belmont in the Museum District.
He will serve customers indoors for the first time since March.
“It has been strange not having my staff here,” Campbell said. “We keep joking around that we are moving towards normalcy, but we are calling it the new abnormal.”
Diners will be able to book reservations for 5:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. dinner service.
“That way we can get everyone situated and seated. Nobody is walking about and being seated. And that allows us to do a full deep clean, in addition to keeping the bathrooms clean and the doorknobs wiped down,” Campbell explained.
Campbell said the restaurant’s neighbors and loyal customers have kept them afloat.
“I’ve had customers come with $700 to put towards the business and the staff. It’s really incredible to see the good things that have come out of this,” he stated.
Under Phase Two, social gatherings in the city can now increase from 10 people to 50 people, with social distancing. Governor Ralph Northam's order to wear face masks while indoors remains in effect.
The governor released these social distancing guidelines for businesses under Phase Two:
- Establish policies and practices for physical distancing between co-workers and between members of the public.
- Provide clear communication and signage for physical distancing in areas where individuals may congregate, especially at entrances, in seating areas, and in check-out lines.
- Limit the occupancy of physical spaces to ensure that adequate physical distancing may be maintained.
- Encourage telework whenever possible.
- For those businesses where telework is not feasible, temporarily move or stagger workstations to ensure six feet of separation between co-workers and between members of the public.
- Limit in-person work-related gatherings, including conferences, trade shows, and trainings.
- When in-person meetings need to occur, keep meetings as short as possible, limit the number of employees in attendance, and use physical distancing practices.
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.