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Norfolk business owners prepare for changes after restrictions eased

Many business owners in the Mermaid City have waited for this moment: coronavirus restrictions being lifted on May 28.

NORFOLK, Va. — At the strike of midnight Saturday, Virginia's universal mask mandate will end, and all coronavirus restrictions will end in two weeks, said Gov. Ralph Northam Friday. 

The restriction rollbacks will arrive just in time for Memorial Day and is a welcomed announcement for many business owners across the Commonwealth and in Hampton Roads. 

"Obviously, I think it's great news," said Rick Mariani, owner of Maker's Craft Brewery in Norfolk. 

Mariani has waited for this moment. 

He and his wife opened the brewery in March 2019, almost exact one year before the global pandemic began. 

“And one year in, we were almost shut down, and last year was tough,” he said.

His story is like many other business owners and restauranteurs who were forced to adapt in order to survive the age of COVID-19. 

But Virginia is turning a corner. 

“The vaccines are clearly working and they are saving lives,” said Gov. Ralph Northam in a recorded announcement Friday.  

Northam said Friday is the last day for the state’s universal mask mandate. It will end Saturday at midnight. It falls in line with the CDC’s latest guidelines saying fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in most settings. 

The governor will also lift all coronavirus restrictions for businesses and public spaces, including capacity limits and social distancing requirements, on May 28. The date is two weeks earlier than originally planned and in time for Memorial Day. 

“In two weeks, I think it will be great. I can’t wait to get back to some sense of normalcy," said Mariani. 

Mariani still has questions. The governor asks people who are not fully vaccinated to wear their mask. The Northam sai,d “it is simple: get a shot or wear a mask.” 

“You can’t ask anybody if they are vaccinated," he said. "So how do you know if they are vaccinated or not?”

Overall, he says it’s a good day. 

“I mean, getting rid of these masks and being able to see a server smile at you when you order a beer or put a tip in a jar -- that’s important to me,” he said.  

Reminder, a person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their final dose.