RICHMOND, Va. -- Music, food and warm weather brought hundreds to Brown's Island in Richmond Saturday for the Dominion Energy River Rock sports and music festival.
It's one of Richmond’s first massive outdoor events since Gov. Ralph Northam allowed for larger social gatherings and the first day the state mask mandate was lifted for those who have been fully vaccinated.
Increasing vaccination rates and declines in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and statewide test positivity rate changes made the changes possible. On Friday, Virginia's positivity rate - the percentage of people testing positive for the virus - stood at 3.5%, a rate that is lower than at any time since the pandemic began more than a year ago.
Man on wearing masks: 'We’re going to slowly transition out'
"This is kind of the first sense of normalcy at all for me, I like it," said Robbie Franklin, who was one of dozens of people who still wore a mask while attending Dominion Energy River Rock.
“People like us who have been good about it for awhile, I think we’re going to slowly transition out of it, because it's basically a comfort thing at this point," Franklin said.
Daniel Delamorton said he was opting to be cautious.
"My only problem is you don’t know who’s vaccinated and who’s not," Delamorton explained. "We’re just staying on the safe side for now."
The change comes following CDC also says that fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks indoors, leaving businesses to figure out on their own if they want to make masks a requirement.
The CDC guidelines issued Thursday 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.
Masks will still be required in K-12 public schools, given low rates of vaccination among children. Also, businesses can still require masks in their establishments. Employees in certain business sectors, including restaurants, retail, fitness, personal care, and entertainment, must continue to wear masks unless fully vaccinated, in line with CDC guidance.
Carytown record shop: 'We’re still requiring everybody to wear a mask'
Eugene Henry, who works at Plan 9 Records in Carytown, said customers and staffers are still required to wear a mask -- for now.
"Most of us in the store have gotten both shots, others still have just one and we’re still waiting on some people to get both shots," Henry explained.
The store continues to allow just 15 people in at a time and will continue requiring masks until more people are vaccinated.
Henry hopes the new guidelines can help push more people to get vaccinated.
"We’ll be all right. Some are embracing the no mask a little bit more to get more business and I understand that, but for us right now it's just a safety thing," Henry said. "And people are still lined up waiting to come in, so might as well keep it going."
Along with the lifting of the mask mandate, Northam announced all COVID-related capacity and distancing restrictions would be lifted by May 28, which is two weeks earlier than previously announced.
Unvaccinated people or people who aren’t fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks in all settings, according to the health department.
“The message is clear: vaccinations are how we put this pandemic 2021 in the rearview mirror and get back to being with the people we love and doing the things we have missed,” Northam said.
Virginia has given out nearly seven million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. More than four million people have received at least one dose, representing over 64% of the state's adult population. Northam has said he remains confident that Virginia will meet President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70 percent of adults vaccinated with at least one dose by July 4.
Virginians age 16+ now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Register on the Vaccinate Virginia website or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343). You can search for specific vaccines as well as which are available near you via the Vaccine Finder website.
Have You Been Fully Vaccinated?
People are considered fully vaccinated:
- 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
- 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
How to Protect Yourself and Others When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated
COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.
We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.
These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.