Public health emergency order gives law enforcement authority to enforce 10-patron limit in Virginia


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A public health emergency order issued Tuesday by Gov. Ralph Northam and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver will permit authorities to enforce a 10-patron limit in restaurants, gyms and other public places.

“I hope that everyone will have the common sense to stay home tonight and in the days ahead,” Northam said in a statement. “This order will ensure that state and local officials have the tools they need to keep people safe.”

Dr. Danny Avula, the director of the Richmond and Henrico health districts, said the department’s food inspectors have been instructed to do surveillance.

“If there are restaurants that are convening more than 10 people at a time they will be instructed to stop with the potential of having their permit pulled,” Avula told 8News.

Richmond police said that there no issues in the city for St. Patrick’s Day. On Wednesday, 8News reached out to Virginia State Police about the effort to enforce the order.

On March 17, 2020, Governor Northam told Virginians to avoid non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people, per federal guidelines. This does not include normal operations at essential services such as manufacturers, distribution centers, airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, grocery stores, or pharmacies. The Governor’s announcement was issued at the advisement of the Virginia Commissioner of Health as an Emergency Declaration and not an Executive Order, which have unique legal distinctions. Under the Code of Virginia 32.1-27, Virginia law enforcement do have the authority to enforce and cite an individual(s) in clear defiance of the declaration. Such a violation would be a Class 1 misdemeanor.

The Virginia State Police encourages all Virginians to take the Governor’s advisory seriously and do their part in helping stem the exposure and spread of COVID-19 within the Commonwealth. Any violations of the declaration will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman

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