RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has issued new coronavirus restrictions to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These restrictions are in response to the rise of cases and hospitalizations in the state.
The state is now seeing over 4,000 new cases per day on average. Back in May, the Virginia Department of Health was reporting an average of 1,200 new daily cases.
These coronavirus measures will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 14.
Modified stay-at-home order
All Virginians must stay at home between the hours of 12 to 5 a.m. Exceptions include obtaining food and goods, traveling to and from work and seeking medical attention.
Universal mask requirement
Anyone over the age of 5 in Virginia is required to wear a face covering when in indoor settings shared with others and when outdoors within six feet of another person. This order expands the current statewide mask mandate, which has been in place since May 29.
Reduction in social gatherings
All social gatherings are limited to 10 people. Social gatherings include, but are not limited to, parties, celebrations or other social events, regardless of whether they occur indoors or outdoors. This does not apply to religious services, employment settings or educational settings. Restaurants and retail stores are already governed by strict social distancing requirements, and are not included in this limit.
Events affected by these news limits include weddings, seminars and parties. The maximum number of people allowed at a gathering was previously 25.
Continued limits on dining establishments
Virginia restaurants are currently governed by strict social distancing and sanitization requirements, which remain in place.
Employees that can telework are strongly encouraged to do so, Northam said.
New restrictions for school systems were not announced Thursday. Northam’s administration will allow localities to continue to implement specific regulations for schools. However, Northam is encouraging schools to get creative when it comes to games and spectators.
Places of worship
The governor did not place any new capacity limits on places of worship. Despite this he is still urging faith leaders to keep their congregations safe during the holidays. He called on them to “lead the way” during Hannukah and Christmas, encouraging them to hold worship ceremonies either outside or online.
If worship ceremonies are being held indoors Northam asks that masks be worn at all times.
Enforcement of the new social gathering restrictions will be carried out the same way as previous gathering restrictions. The local health department receives reports from the public and then will offer education and guidance as a first step. If follow up is necessary then the local health department will refer to the appropriate agency. Catherine Long with the Richmond Henrico Health District says, “If necessary, we can take enforcement action.”
In the past, Long says they have received a few reports about gatherings breaking statewide restrictions. The health district was able to resolve those issues.
Under Virginia’s Executive Order 72, the enforcement of coronavirus restrictions at businesses is delegated to local health districts. Long says this can include dining establishments, alcohol serving establishments, farmer’s markets, non-essential brick and mortar businesses, fitness facilities, personal care/grooming facilities, campgrounds, indoor shooting ranges, public beaches, racetracks/speedways, amusement parks, zoos, entertainment and amusement businesses, recreational sports, and essential businesses.