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There is light at the end of the tunnel

Summer is almost here, and the weather is improving. Fortunately, so is the coronavirus situation around most of the commonwealth.

As of this writing, the commonwealth has entered Phase 1 of reopening, with the exception of northern Virginia, the City of Richmond, and Accomack County. That means that some of the restrictions on non-essential businesses have been lifted.

Gatherings of more than 10 people are still banned. Businesses that had been restricted to 10 people or fewer will be allowed to reopen with 50% of their rated capacity. Personal grooming businesses such as barbershops and salons may open with strict social distancing, cleaning, and by appointment only. Restaurants that have outdoor seating may serve customers at 50% of their outdoor capacity. Churches may resume indoor services at 50% capacity. Gyms may open to provide outdoor classes only. Beaches remain closed for all activities except for exercise and fishing. Telework is still encouraged for all who are able to do so.

Our entire Republican team continues to work as hard as possible to get Virginians back to work, safely and efficiently. Earlier this month the governor listened to our advice and allowed elective medical procedures to resume, helping to get some of our medical professionals who had been laid off back to work.

The deadline to pay any Virginia income tax owed is June 1. If you were unable to file your Virginia income taxes, there is an automatic six-month extension.

The governor’s Stay-at-Home Order has been changed to a Safer-at-Home Order. If you can, it’s better to stay home, especially for vulnerable people. But the order is no longer mandatory.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that Virginians wear some sort of fabric covering over their mouth and nose when out in public. If we all wear masks in public, this will help continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 and get us all back to normal much earlier.

I encourage you to go to this website — https://bit.ly/3bHnwvy — for answers to the most frequently asked questions about what orders are currently in place for Virginia, including information on school closures and guidelines for businesses.

You can stay up to date with various health and safety measures being recommended by state officials at this link: https://bit.ly/2VUEGiz.

The Supreme Court of Virginia has allowed the judicial emergency to expire, and courts can begin hearings again on May 18, if it is safe to do so. If you have business before a court, check with your attorney or the local court clerk to find out if it has been rescheduled.

Most DMV service centers remain closed to the public, although a few have been reopened by appointment only. Virginians with business before the DMV are encouraged to perform their transactions online.

The Virginia State Police have also been instructed to not enforce the state’s vehicle inspection program through July 31. If your vehicle inspection is about to expire, you have an additional few months to drive without fear of a citation.

The State Corporation Commission order remains in effect directing all publicly regulated utility companies to suspend disconnections. That order remains in effect through June 14. Go to this link for more information: https://bit.ly/3cWvkd5.

Friends, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I know this is difficult, but we are moving forward. Keep doing what you’ve been doing, stay well, and we will bounce back stronger than ever before.

Last week, I was appointed to the Joint Commission on Health Care by Speaker Filler-Corn, an appointment that will coincide with my current house term. During these trying times of COVID-19 and new leadership in the House of Delegates, I am honored to be able to work on and with the commission to improve Virginia’s health care.

My office is continually monitoring the situation and will continue to provide you with updates as we receive them. I encourage you to sign up to receive emails from my office and follow my Facebook page as I am frequently updating both with resources and links to important information.

Del. C. Matthew Fariss represents Buckingham in the Virginia House of Delegates. His email address is DelMFariss@house.virginia.gov.