A study this week found Virginia to have the third most COVID-19 restrictions of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, based on 17 key metrics.

The WalletHub study found Virginia to be 49th in leniency when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions. The state has fallen down 22 places since May.

Gov. Ralph Northam just last Thursday began to alleviate the extra restrictions in Hampton Roads, the area placed in "time-out" as the rest of the state moved into Phase III in July.

The region’s targeted COVID-19 restrictions went into effect nearly six weeks ago on July 31 and included a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, a reduction in indoor dining to 50 percent capacity and a requirement that restaurants close at midnight and stop the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m.

The study found Virginia to be top-three in active restrictions involving the necessity of mask-wearing in public, travel restrictions, large gathering restrictions, statewide school restart, reopening of restaurants and bars, customer health checks at restaurants, reopening of non-essential businesses, legislation on business immunity from COVID-19 claims, working from home requirements, workplace temperature screening, strictness of "shelter in place" order, enforcement of penalties for COVID-19 restriction non-compliance, mandated contact tracing, presence of multistate agreements to reopen, court closure or suspension, guidance on elective surgery and guidance for assisted living facilities.

During Virginia's fall from 27th to 49th in COVID-19 restriction leniency, Gov. Northam's approval/strong approval rating of COVID-19 handling has plummeted, with the majority of Virginians disapproving of his response.

Northam's COVID-19 response approval rating was 46 percent in late August, according to a report from the COVID-19 Consortium for Understanding the Public’s Policy Preferences Across States released last week.

A VCU survey found Northam's COVID-19 response approval rating was 76 percent April 14, marking a plummet of up to 30 percent in just four months.

Other governors' ratings have improved over the same months, even in states where COVID-19 numbers are increasing – like Vermont Gov. Phill Scott (R), who this week has a COVID-19 response approval rating of 76 percent.

"Voters in the hardest-hit states have abandoned their governors in droves," political analyst Reid Wilson said. "The governor of Virginia... saw ratings drop by more than 20 points."

Virginians polled have indicated economic prosperity and freedom to be the most important metrics in determining approval of the governor, even if the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing in their state or region.

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