RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced new COVID-19 restrictions going into place across the commonwealth in response to rising case numbers.
“Numbers are going up in every region of the state and we must act as one commonwealth to get this virus under control. Virginia is not an island. While our cases may not be rising as rapidly as some states, I do not intend to wait until they are,” said Northam.
Restaurants and bars will take the biggest hit. Starting Monday, those establishments must stop on-site alcohol sales at 10 p.m. and close by midnight.
The governor’s mask mandate is expanding to include children ages five and up instead of 10 and up.
And you can expect stepped-up enforcement of safety guidelines at essential retail places like grocery stores and pharmacies. Violators could have their operating permit pulled and face a class one misdemeanor.
“We know this virus is spreading in indoor places like restaurants where people take off their masks. It’s spreading at small social gatherings like dinner parties and it’s spreading when people ignore the science and don’t think they need to wear a mask inside,” said Northam.
Also as you think about your holiday plans, consider the following. Northam is reducing the state’s gathering limit, both indoor and outdoor, to just 25. The public gathering limit has been 250.
“We’re acting now so that things do not get worse. We know that these litigations measures work. We saw that earlier in the year. I am confident we can get our numbers back down but it requires all of us to make smart choices,” said Northam.
The governor’s office says the new restrictions DO NOT apply to schools or churches. They will also not further limit the capacity at private offices, gyms and businesses. They will also not apply to sports. For recreational, youth and high-school sports, spectators are limited to 25 spectators per field or 30 percent of the venue’s occupancy load, whichever is fewer.
College athletics are considered sports venues under the “entertainment and public amusement" guidelines. They are also limited to 250 persons or 30 percent of the venue’s occupancy load, whichever is fewer.
The governor’s office has also clarified that there will be no changes to how fitness classes and gyms operate. They will remain operating at 75 percent capacity with a limit of 25 people per fitness class. Read the full order here.
No word on how long the restrictions will be in place.
The following measures will take effect at midnight on Monday, Nov.16:
- Reduction in public and private gatherings: All public and private in-person gatherings must be limited to 25 individuals, down from the current cap of 250 people. This includes outdoor and indoor settings. This limit does not affect schools, churches, capacity at businesses and offices.
- Expansion of mask mandate: All Virginians aged five and over are required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. This expands the current mask mandate, which has been in place in Virginia since May 29 and requires all individuals aged 10 and over to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.
- Strengthened enforcement within essential retail businesses: All essential retail businesses, including grocery stores and pharmacies, must adhere to statewide guidelines for physical distancing, wearing face coverings, and enhanced cleaning. While certain essential retail businesses have been required to adhere to these regulations as a best practice, violations will now be enforceable through the Virginia Department of Health as a Class One misdemeanor.
- On-site alcohol curfew: The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol is prohibited after 10:00 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery, or tasting room. All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms must close by midnight. Virginia law does not distinguish between restaurants and bars, however, under current restrictions, individuals that choose to consume alcohol prior to 10:00 p.m. must be served as in a restaurant and remain seated at tables six feet apart.
While cases per capita and the positivity rate remain relatively low in Virginia compared to other areas of the United States, the governor hopes the restrictions will mitigate the spread here. Currently, all five health regions are experiencing increases in new COVID-19 cases, positive tests and hospitalizations.
Virginia is averaging 1,500 newly-reported COVID-19 cases per day, up from a statewide peak of approximately 1,200 in May.
“COVID-19 is surging across the country, and while cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are. We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse,” said Governor Northam. “Everyone is tired of this pandemic and restrictions on our lives. I’m tired, and I know you are tired too. But as we saw earlier this year, these mitigation measures work. I am confident that we can come together as one Commonwealth to get this virus under control and save lives.”
The full text of amended Executive Order Sixty-Three and Order of Public Health Emergency Five and sixth amended Executive Order Sixty-Seven and Order of Public Health Emergency Seven will be made available here.
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