RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed an executive order in March that temporarily prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people and shutdown nonessential businesses until April 23. The governor extended those restrictions until May 8 on Wednesday, more than a week before the order was set to expire.
Virginia health officials reported 195 COVID-19 deaths in the state as of Wednesday, an increase of 41 deaths from the total reported on Tuesday. According to the Virginia Department of Health, there are 6,500 cases and 1,048 people in the hospital.
Northam addressed the state’s effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, noting that social distancing guidelines have had an impact on flattening the curve in Virginia.
“As you saw in Monday’s modeling data, social distancing is working,” Northam said before announcing his decision to extend his executive order. “We saw that in the model UVA released on Monday and in other national models. The actions that we have taken as a state are having an effect.”
Despite the data from certain models, the governor urged Virginians to prepare for a new normal during Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing when he announced his decision to extend Executive Order 53.
“So when people say that it’s time to stop what we’re doing and get back to normal, they’re wrong,” Northam said. “Right now, the models and our hospitals expect that we’ll be able to handle the expected surge in patients. But if we let off the brakes and try to go back to the way things were, we’ll see another spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals.”
Northam warned that it is too early to let up on social distancing guidelines and to begin lifting closures on recreational facilities and personal care businesses.
“As we have seen from our data and models, social distancing is working, and we are slowing the spread of this virus,” he said during his remarks. “But it is too early to let up. By extending this order to keep certain businesses closed or restricted, we can continue to evaluate the situation and plan for how to eventually ease restrictions so that our businesses may operate without endangering public health.
WATCH: Full press briefing from Wednesday with Gov. Northam, state health officials