RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Starting Monday, Virginia will implement a “modified stay-at-home order,” or statewide curfew, from midnight until 5 a.m. and require masks outdoors when social distancing guidelines can’t be followed.
Northam announced a series of additional restrictions, including the curfew, the stricter mask mandate and new limits on social gatherings, in a press conference Thursday.
“New daily case numbers are higher than they have been at any previous point in the pandemic, and while the trends in Virginia are better than most of the country, we are taking action now to slow the spread of this virus before our hospitals get overwhelmed,” the governor said in his opening remarks.
The new measures in Northam’s amended executive order — listed below — will take effect Dec. 14 and last until Jan. 31, 2021, unless the governor decides to alter them.
- A modified stay at home order requiring people to stay in their residences, unless they are getting food, goods, seeking medical attention or traveling for work, between midnight and 5 a.m. each day.
- An expansion of the mask mandate for all Virginians aged five and older in indoor public settings to also include outdoor public spaces “within six feet of another person.”
- Reducing the capacity limit on social gatherings — which include but are not limited to parties and other social events — to 10 or fewer. The cap on gatherings does not include religious services, employment or education settings and commercial businesses — restaurants and retail stores — which already have strict social distancing guidelines.
- Dining establishments will still be prohibited from selling alcohol after 10 p.m. and all must be closed by midnight.
“Everyday, starting at midnight and lasting through 5 a.m., unless you are commuting to and from work, you are asked to stay at home. A reminder that you should stay home whenever you can during the rest of the day,” the governor explained. “But from midnight to 5 a.m., you need to stay home. If you don’t need to go out, go home. This is just plain common sense.”
Despite the curfew, the emergency order from the governor does not specify any enforcement process or name an agency to administer it. Virginia Republicans were critical of the new restrictions, labeling them “draconian” and calling the curfew “blatantly unconstitutional.”
“You cannot bubble-wrap the people of Virginia,” Republican leadership in the Virginia Senate said in a joint statement. “Virginians have behaved responsibly and should not have their diligence rewarded with more stringent restrictions that threaten their physical and mental well-being and infringe upon their most basic freedoms.”
The state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, an organization advocating for small and independent business owners across the country, said the group appreciates that no additional restrictions were imposed on small businesses but that the curfew “will definitely reduce the number of people coming into retail shops and restaurants.”
“Continued restrictions will only increase the likelihood more and more small businesses will not survive especially with no additional financial relief from either the federal or state government,” Nicole Riley, the state director of NFIB in Virginia, continued.
In a conference call with top state officials before the briefing, Northam’s chief of staff Clark Mercer said Virginia was planning to announce a “modified stay-at-home order” or curfew “similar to what North Carolina announced” earlier in the week, sources told 8News.
Additional restrictions for school systems were not announced Thursday, instead the Northam administration will allow localities to continue to implement specific regulations for schools, Mercer said on the call.
Tighter virus restrictions limiting public gatherings to 25 people or fewer, expanding Virginia’s mask mandate to include children over the age of five and prohibiting restaurants from selling alcohol after 10 p.m. were ordered by Northam before Thanksgiving. These orders, made in an effort to prevent transmission rates from increasing after the holiday, did not slow the spread of the virus in the commonwealth.
The additional mitigation measures come as Virginia reported 4,398 new cases on Wednesday, a record high for daily cases. On Thursday, 3,915 new cases were reported by the Virginia Department of Health, the second largest daily increase recorded in the commonwealth.
Since the onset of the pandemic in March, the commonwealth has had 271,043 total cases and 4,335 COVID-19 deaths. As of Thursday, Virginia’s positivity rate sits at 11 percent.
According to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, over 2,000 Virginians are in the hospital with COVID-19 and the total ICU bed occupancy is 78 percent. Last year’s ICU occupancy average rate was 68 percent.
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