RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Gov. Ralph Northam says he’s issuing an executive order effective at 12 a.m. Friday that will impose tighter restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Hampton Roads, which includes:
- No alcohol sold after 10 p.m.
- Restaurants close at midnight
- 50 percent capacity limit at restaurants, food courts, breweries, wineries, etc.
- Parties limited to 50 people, indoor or outdoor
Northam says the first two restrictions effectively close bars, a major source of COVID-19 spread in the region and around the country.
Northam pointed out the region’s high percent of positive tests (above 10%) and increased trends in cases and hospitalizations (ICU and emergency room visits) for the reason behind the restrictions.
“I want you to know this. We are putting a lot of attention on Hampton Roads.”
Northam says most of the new cases come from house parties and backyard gatherings in addition to bars and restaurants, and people overall not wearing face masks. Most of the new cases involve younger people.
At this time, Northam is not formalizing a self-quarantine order for people who travel to Hampton Roads or other parts of the state. Washington, D.C. just implemented a quarantine order for travelers from 28 states, and other states have implemented similar restrictions.
Northam said the restrictions for Hampton Roads will be in place for at least 2 weeks at a minimum to track the trends in the region, due to the incubation period for the virus being up to 14 days.
When asked why he’s only reinstating restrictions regionally instead of statewide, Northam said “all options are on the table.” He said he’ll continue increased enforcement across the commonwealth and follow the trends, which have mostly been steady for all other regions of the state. He says if he sees concerning trends he’ll adjust restrictions.
The announcement comes after Northam met with Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House Coronavirus Taskforce, who’s advised several states to increase restrictions before their COVID-19 numbers get worse. That advice included closing bars “where social distancing isn’t possible” and limiting indoor dining. Virginia was the last stop of Birx’s five-state tour. She also visited Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
“It could really prevent Virginia from having the experience that our southern states have had by starting mitigation efforts sooner rather than later,” Birx said. “We do know across the south where the epidemic is now in every single county in most of these states that it’s important to do it statewide.”
Under Phase Three, Gov. Northam lifted capacity limits at restaurants but maintained Virginia’s ban on bar seating. Virginia has rules requiring all establishments that serve liquor to also serve food, so it’s not clear what businesses would fall under a potential “bar closure.”
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