Virginia health officials issue COVID-19 warning over small gatherings

Virginia health officials issue COVID-19 warning over small gatherings

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia Health Officials are warning about small gatherings. It’s part of the concern over rising numbers in southwest Virginia but the message goes to the entire state as we head into the holidays.

“Coming together as an extended family as if you are in one household does present risk,” said Dr. Daniel Carey, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources.

During a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam said those gatherings are the reason behind a percent positivity climb from 5% to 8% in southwest Virginia.

“I know that many people are tired of COVID restrictions. We are all tired of not having social get togethers, not going to see sports or shows, not having the regular interactions that we count on in our lives,” said Northam.

Small gatherings were fine during the warmer months, when people could be social while outside on patios. But now that it’s getting cooler, people are moving indoors, and state health officials say they aren’t keeping their virus guard up.

“We talk to our contact tracers, they tell us it was a group of four or five people who had dinner but they didn’t have the distance, they didn’t use masks, obviously with eating you have to take a mask off, and that means you may need to spread out,” said Dr. Carey.

Northam also announced an expansion to “Rebuild VA.”

That’s a grant program to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The maximum grant award will increase from $10,000 to $100,000. It’s being funded through CARES Act funding.

“Small businesses and nonprofits are the backbone of the economy and they will be the backbone of our recovery.”

The money can be used for payroll support and salaries, rent and utilities, loans and personal protective equipment.

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