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Northam: Plan for safe in-person graduations and commencements in Virginia announced

In the amended executive order, graduation events held outdoors will be capped at 5,000 people or 30% of the venue capacity, whichever is less.

VIRGINIA, USA — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam released Wednesday preliminary guidance for how K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities, may safely hold in-person graduation and commencement events this spring. 

Northam's tentative plans have been reviewed with education officials and are expected to be included in an April 1 update to the amended Executive Order 72.

In the amended executive order, graduation events held outdoors will be capped at 5,000 people or 30% of the venue capacity, whichever is less. Graduation events held indoors may have up to 500 people, or 30% of the venue capacity, whichever is less. 

Attendees must wear masks and follow other guidelines and safety protocols to ensure proper distancing.

To view the guidance on graduations and commencements in the newly amended Executive Order 72, view below:

“We are releasing this guidance early to allow schools to begin planning for this year’s events. While graduation and commencement ceremonies will still be different than they were in the past, this is a tremendous step forward for all of our schools, our graduates, and their families," Northam said in a release.

Over the past two weeks, Northam and state officials have visited schools at every grade level in 26 school divisions throughout the Commonwealth, highlighting innovative approaches to safe classroom instruction.

“We have met hundreds of students eager to learn and excited to be back in school with their peers and educators,” Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni said. “We know that students learn best in their classrooms and will continue to work with divisions to ensure children across our Commonwealth have access to in-person learning options.”

Virginia prioritized vaccinating teachers and school staff early on, and more than two-thirds have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Virginia has currently administered more than 2.7 million total COVID vaccine doses, and 1.8 million Virginians—21.3% of the population—have received at least one dose, while more than one million are fully vaccinated. The statewide positivity rate is 5.4%. 

About 50,000 shots are being administered to Virginians each day, and the Commonwealth is on pace to have vaccines available to everyone who wants to get vaccinated by the beginning of May. The acceleration of the vaccine program and the decrease in new COVID-19 cases make it safer to ease restrictions on activities like in-person graduations.

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