On Tuesday morning, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) of Virginia delayed "Phase One" of his reopening plan for the state from going into effect in "Northern Virginia," the several counties in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
While previously, many gatherings of more than ten people in the state were banned-including at religious services-Virginia's new reopening plan allows for retail and restaurant establishments to begin opening their doors to customers, and religious services can be held indoors at churches, at 50% or less capacity. It will go into effect on May 15.
After the reopening plan was announced last week, Burbidge said parishes in the diocese could resume public Masses depending "on proper social distancing and the ability of parish clergy and staff to safely accommodate parishioners." The bishop had suspended public Masses in the diocese on March 16 in response to the pandemic.
Burbidge also accounted for the governor's caveat for reopening the state saying the plan was conditional, "unless a local jurisdiction determines otherwise." Local officials in Northern Virginia counties and cities wrote the governor over the weekend saying that the region was not ready to reopen; Northam issued his updated order on Tuesday granting their request.
A spokesperson for the governor confirmed to CNA that "places of worship" in the region, as defined in the order, "may continue to have in-person services with 10 or less attendees."
The Arlington diocese spans the northern part of the state and includes all the counties and cities affected by Northam's new order: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties; Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park cities; and the towns of Dumfries, Herndon, Leesburg, and Vienna.