Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued increased statewide restrictions during a press briefing Thursday afternoon to combat rising coronavirus numbers in the Commonwealth as the Christmas holiday approaches.
Starting at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, December 14th, a modified stay-at-home order will be in place with a curfew for all Virginians from midnight to 5 a.m. The only exceptions are getting food and goods, seeking medical attention as well as traveling to and from work.
“As a reminder, you should stay home whenever you can during the rest of the day, but from midnight to 5 a.m. you need to stay home,” Northam said. “If you don’t need to go out, go home. This is just plain common sense.”
The measures include an expansion of the state’s mask requirement, in accordance with new guidelines released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now, Virginians aged five and up are required to wear masks while in indoor settings shared with other people and outdoors when six feet of distancing cannot be followed.
Under these restrictions all social gatherings, both inside and outside, are limited to 10 people or less – down from the previous mandate of 25. The new limit does not apply to religious services, employment settings or schools, however.
Restaurants and retail businesses are not impacted by these measures, but will continue to operate under past mandates imposed by the governor, including on-site alcohol sales ending at 10 p.m., and Northam said enforcement will be stepped up.
Lastly, spectators for recreational sports are limited to 25 people per field/court for indoor contests and two guests per player for outdoor events, and anyone who is able to work from home is strongly encouraged to do so.
The executive action, which incorporates two previous orders, is temporary and will be in effect until January 31st, 2021, Northam said.
“I want everyone to understand this upfront,” the governor explained. “We don’t want to extend [these measures], but we may have to. It all depends on what the virus is doing next month, and that depends on what you do right now. If the virus starts to come under control, we may be able to loosen up, but if not, we may have to take further action.”
Following the news, leaders of the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus – including Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment (R-James City), caucus chairman Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover) and Republican Leader Pro-Tempore Stephen Newman (R-Bedford), among others – released a joint statement voicing their displeasure with the governor’s restrictions.
“Governor Northam’s decision to reimpose some of last spring’s most severe restrictions on Virginians is a disappointment,” the statement said. “While we are relieved he abided by the recent decisions of the Supreme Court and did not attempt to force further restrictions on churches, the imposition of a statewide curfew smacks of martial law. Contrary to the Governor’s assertion, the curfew is neither common nor sensible. It also is wholly unnecessary.”
The statement also objected to Northam threatening to levy penalties and potentially close down businesses and restaurants that do not follow measures.
“Considering today’s announcement, our priority at [the pandemic’s] conclusion must be the full restoration of the freedoms and liberties that have been abridged by this Governor,” the statement said.
According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) COVID-19 dashboard, Virginia has seen 271,043 coronavirus cases – 235,720 confirmed, 35,323 probable – with 3,915 reported on Thursday. There have been 4,335 total deaths, 54 of which were reported on Thursday. The current 7-day positivity rate is 11 percent.
The VDH also shows that there have been 15,723 hospitalizations, but the website notes this figure under-represents the total number.
Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association’s dashboard is reporting that as of Thursday, 26,016 confirmed COVID-positive patients have been hospitalized and discharged, and 1,685 patients currently in hospitals with the disease. The 7-day moving average of current hospitalizations – both confirmed and pending cases – is 1,919.
Watch the full briefing:
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