Noting how new case counts are trending down as vaccination rates increase, Gov. Ralph Northam has announced lifting some restrictions on businesses and outdoor gatherings.

Northam said at a Wednesday news conference that he plans to lift the modified stay-at-home order in place from midnight to 5 a.m. and move the alcohol curfew from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Outdoor gatherings will allow for 25 people instead of the current 10, and entertainment venues will be allowed 30% capacity with a cap of 1,000 people, he said.

If trends continue toward fewer new cases, he expects that by April he’ll lift the 1,000-person cap while keeping a 30% capacity.

“It’s critical that we do this slowly and thoughtfully,” he said.

The Lord Fairfax Health District saw a spike in vaccinations Wednesday, administering 1,781 vaccines including 1,417 second doses.

It was a big increase from Tuesday’s report of 67 total vaccinations, 41 of them second doses.

Northam said weather-related delays in last week’s vaccine deliveries would bring an increase in vaccinations this week.

“This is a big week this week for getting shots in arms,” he said.

Additionally, he said Walgreens will be joining the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program in Virginia later this week and that Walmart, Albertsons (which owns Safeway) and Retail Business Services (which owns Martin’s and Giant), along with others, will be coming on board in the coming weeks.

The companies are joining the program after CVS, which offers vaccinations at more than 40 locations around Virginia, including one in northern Winchester and one in Woodstock.

“Locations are decided by the companies in consultation with our Virginia Department of Health,” Northam said.

Walmart has said it would offer vaccinations through community-based clinics instead of at its retail locations, Northam explained.

All vaccinations offered through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program in Virginia are going to people 65 and older, he said.

Virginia on Wednesday added 1,907 new COVID-19 cases, as the Lord Fairfax district added 33.

Frederick County added 15 cases, Warren County seven, Page County five and Shenandoah County four. Winchester and Clarke County each added one.

No new hospitalizations were reported in the region.

Frederick added three new deaths, while Page and Shenandoah each reported one.

The death rate, while high compared to the new case count, continues a recent statewide trend as the VDH catches up on death certificates relating to the pandemic.

Elsewhere in the region, Harrisonburg reported 10 new cases along with one new hospitalization and death, bringing its totals to 5,652 cases, 159 hospitalizations and 71 deaths.

Rockingham County reported four new cases and two deaths with no new hospitalizations, for a total of 5,991 cases, 313 hospitalizations and 86 deaths.

The Virginia Department of Health reports that 1,150,698 people (or 13.5% of the population) statewide have received at least one vaccine dose, an increase of 15,399; and 516,655 people have been fully vaccinated, an increase of 19,254.

Winchester has reported 15,715 doses so far (up 681) along with 6,498 people fully vaccinated (up 633).

Frederick reported 13,710 doses administered (up 571) and 5,401 people fully vaccinated (up 519).

Clarke reported 4,402 doses (up 157) and 1,815 fully vaccinated (up 128)

Shenandoah reported 11,133 doses (up 113) and 4,164 fully vaccinated (up 100).

Page reported 4,969 doses (up 29) and 1,560 fully vaccinated (up 25).

Warren reported 7,836 doses (up 230) and 3,018 fully vaccinated (up 12).

Contact Josette Keelor at