PETERSBURG, Va. -- As many Virginia restaurants reopen as much of the state enters Phase One of Gov. Ralph Northam's Forward Virginia plan, other eateries are opting to continue with takeout in favor if opening their patios to patrons.
Saturday marked two months since customers were able to eat a meal outside Saucy’s BBQ in Petersburg.
“It was really nice seeing people sitting out on the patio eating barbecue," Saucy's owner Tom McCormack said. "Everybody was in good spirits."
The longtime restaurant owner is one of many who chose to reopen for outside dining Friday under Northam’s first reopening phase.
“It was more of a steady day of work," McCormack said. "And when I say a day, a steady 11, 12 hours of work."
McCormack said his staff were able to serve everyone following social distancing rules.
“So spacing the tables at six feet was no issue whatsoever," McCormack added. “The masks are really important and we have that down.”
McCormack said Saucy's saw roughly half the customers they would have on a normal day.
“I guess in terms of on the patio, we were probably at 50 percent of what we would normally do," McCormack said.
But not every restaurant was comfortable allowing customers back to dine.
Sarahbeth Hagen, who owns SB's Lakeside Love Shack in Henrico's Lakeside neighborhood, opted to continue with to-go orders, which the breakfast and lunch mainstay has been offering since March.
“For the sake of safety for employees, for customers, we chose not to open our patio," Hagen said. "What we’re doing is working right now and I was taught, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. So as long as we can hold off, and be safe for everybody around us, I think that that’s what drove my decision.”
Both owners said they are dreaming of the day when things return to normal.
“When’s the next phase or whatever?" McCormack asked. "But we will do what we have to do and we will try to do it as smoothly as we can."
Hagen thinks the COVID-19 crisis will create a new normal.
"It’s going to be a whole other level of service industry," Hagen said. “I think that at the end of all of this, we’re going to come out stronger and people will be a lot kinder."
Richmond, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Accomack County were all granted two-week delays and remain in Phase Zero. As a rsult, the soonest Richmond restaurants could roepen for outdoor dining would be Friday, May 28.
Northam has said he is basing his decision to reopen on positive trends in key metrics related to the coronavirus's spread, like hospital readiness and testing capacity.
More than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Virginia Saturday. That brings the state's total case count to 29,683. There were 76 new cases reported in Richmond and 28 in Henrico. No new cases reported in Petersburg Saturday.
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.