Gov. orders stiff COVID-19 restrictions

Published 8:14 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2020

By Diana McFarland


Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday issued new state-wide orders in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19, to include closing public and private schools for the remainder of this school year. 

Beginning at midnight Tuesday, March 24, other impacts include closing all recreational and entertainment-type businesses; restaurants must only provide carry-out and curbside service and businesses that cannot employ social distancing, such as hair style salons and barbers, must also close for the next 30 days, according to Northam during a Monday briefing. 

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Non-essential brick and mortar retail businesses can remain open if they stick to the 10 patron limit and sanitize all surfaces, said Northam. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Essential services, such as grocery stores, hospitals, doctors offices, can remain operational, but must enforce social distancing and sanitizing measures, he said. The state’s ABC (Alcohol Beverage Control) retail stores will remain open. 

Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned, said Northam. 

Businesses that violate these orders can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, according to the order. Northam said that the state wasn’t interested in putting people in jail, but those in groups of 10 or more will be reminded that it’s not acceptable.  

“We are moving into a period of sacrifice,” said Northam. 

“Social distancing is the only path forward,” he said. 

One reason for the new rules is to reduce the spread of the disease and protect the capacity of the health care system to handle new cases, said Northam.

Northam urged businesses that do remain open to follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control when it comes to sanitizing surfaces and social distancing practices. 

Nothing in Northam’s Executive order limits the provision of health or medical services, access to low income services, such as food banks, the media, law enforcement and government. 

“Make no mistake, if you are essential and open, you have a special responsibility to do the right thing,” said Northam.

In the coming days, the Virginia Department of Education will work with school division leaders to decide how best to move forward for the remainder of the  year, said Northam, adding that the federal government has allowed states to apply for waivers for testing requirements and Virginia is in the process of doing so. 

Northam also wants to make sure that those high school seniors who had planned to graduate can still do so. 

At the same time, Northam called on child care providers, schools and the community to assist essential personnel with those issues.

“We must rally together to fill this pressing need in the Commonwealth,” said Northam. 

Northam said the main problem in this crisis has been misinformation and mixed messages from the federal government.

“We are fighting a biological war in this country,” said Northam, and the federal response has been lacking. 

“We haven’t received that guidance … we had to take the lead,” he said. {/mprestriction}