Tougher mask requirements, limits on gatherings ordered
With COVID-19 infections surging, Gov. Ralph Northam Friday announced new restrictions on the size of gatherings, tougher face covering requirements and more.
“COVID-19 is surging across the country, and while cases are not rising in Virginia as rapidly as in some other states, I do not intend to wait until they are,” Northam said in a press release. “Everyone is tired of this pandemic and restrictions on our lives. I’m tired, and I know you are tired too. But as we saw earlier this year, these mitigation measures work. I am confident that we can come together as one commonwealth to get this virus under control and save lives.”
Measures taking effect at midnight Sunday include:
• All public and private in-person gatherings must be limited to 25 individuals, down from the current cap of 250 people. This includes outdoor and indoor settings.
• All Virginians aged five and over are required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. This expands the current mask mandate, which has been in place in Virginia since May 29 and requires all individuals aged 10 and over to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.
• All essential retail businesses, including grocery stores and pharmacies, must adhere to statewide guidelines for physical distancing, wearing face coverings and enhanced cleaning. While certain essential retail businesses have been required to adhere to these regulations as a best practice, violations will now be enforceable through the Virginia Department of Health as a Class One misdemeanor.
• The onsite sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol is prohibited after 10 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery or tasting room. All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries and tasting rooms must close by midnight.
Virginia law does not distinguish between restaurants and bars. However, under current restrictions, individuals who choose to consume alcohol prior to 10 p.m. must be served as in a restaurant and remain seated at tables six feet apart.
Virginia is averaging 1,500 newly-reported COVID-19 cases per day, up from a statewide peak of approximately 1,200 in May. While Southwest Virginia has experienced a spike in the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases, all five of the commonwealth’s health regions are currently reporting a positivity rate over 5 percent. Although hospital capacity remains stable, hospitalizations have increased statewide by more than 35 percent in the last four weeks.
For information about COVID-19 in Virginia, visit vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.
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