Gov. Northam issues executive order on Hampton Roads

Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 10:27 AM EDT
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Gov. Ralph Northam held a COVID-19 briefing at 2 p.m. Tuesday to discuss upcoming plans for handling the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Northam, cases remain stable in 4 out of 5 Virginia regions. Hampton Roads, however, continues to have a steady rise in cases, where more people are gathering in crowds and not maintaining social distancing guidelines.

Northam said that some restaurants have had their licenses revoked for violating COVID-19 guidelines since his last briefing as well.

For the Hampton Roads area, an executive order was placed on Friday, July 21. The order states restaurants must close by midnight and indoor dining is only allowed at 50% capacity. There are no alcohol sales permitted after 10 p.m., and private gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited. The executive order will last for at least two to three weeks until numbers begin going down.

Northam also addressed the latest updates for the CARES Act; about $645 million will be distributed across the commonwealth.

As for schools, Gov. Northam believes that numbers should go down before students head back for the upcoming year, but the matter still lies within the hands of the school board.

You can watch the briefing below.

Join me at 2:00 PM for the latest updates on COVID-19 in Virginia. This briefing will be broadcast live in Spanish on the Virginia Department of Emergency Management Facebook page. // Esta conferencia es transmitida en español en vivo en la pagina Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

Posted by Governor of Virginia on Tuesday, July 28, 2020

On July 1, the governor officially announced that Virginia would move into Phase 3 of his ‘Forward Virginia Plan.’ In Virginia, Phase 3 meant limiting the occupancy of physical spaces and limiting in-person work-related gatherings.

Nonessential retail businesses are permitted to fully open in Phase 3, along with restaurants with the exception of bar seating, and social distancing is required.

Fitness centers are open at 75 percent capacity, and entertainment venues at 50 percent. The in-person gathering limit was raised from 50 people during Phase 2 to the current limit of 250 people. Through it all, Northam’s mask mandate remains in effect.

On Northam’s July 14 briefing, the governor pressed that the commonwealth continue with social distancing practices and increasing sanitation efforts. In addition, Northam said the people of Virginia should continue wearing masks, and said that precautionary measures would be taken if the public was not careful.

Northam then said the state should increase the enforcement of face coverings and social distancing. One idea is for the Virginia Department of Health and Virginia ABC teams to conduct unannounced visits to establishments as needed. Northam said that this would happen across the state, but be more focused on Hampton Roads.

If a restaurant or a business is not following guidelines, their license could be on the line.

Northam also reminded business owners that they have the right to deny service to someone who is not following the mask mandate or social distancing guidelines.

“No shirt, no shoes, no mask... no service,” Northam said during the July 14 briefing.

A plan to impose an earlier cutoff for alcohol sales at restaurants is also being considered. Northam said there would be more to come on this soon.

Northam warned that Virginia is considering other actions as needed, such as a smaller limit on in-person gatherings. In Phase 3, the in-person gathering limit was capped at 250, an additional 200 people from Phase 2.

One viewer asked Northam if these guidelines could be applied only to certain regions of Virginia at the end of the briefing, and Northam said this option has been considered and further decisions will be made as the state continues to move forward.

On Northam’s June 25 briefing via Facebook Live, the governor said it would be the end of his twice-per-week briefings. Instead, he would hold briefings only as deemed necessary. Northam announced on his Facebook page on Monday that he would hold another briefing concerning COVID-19 numbers, pop-up inspections by the VDH and possibly more restrictive measures for Virginians.

The statewide situation in Virginia

As of Tuesday, July 28, Virginia has had 86,994 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

That’s a rise of 922 positive cases since Monday, out of 20,509 tests newly added to the system, which comes out to 4.5% of the newest tests coming back positive.

Virginia officially entered Phase 3 on Wednesday, July 1. Nonessential retail businesses are permitted to fully open, along with restaurants, as long as there is no bar seating. Gyms can be open at 75 percent capacity, and entertainment venues can be open at 50 percent capacity. There is a 250-person gathering limit.

Executive Order 63 will remain in effect for the foreseeable future, making it mandatory for almost all Virginians to wear face coverings when entering businesses. You can learn how that can be enforced here.

Executive Order 55, the ‘Stay at Home’ order first signed by Northam on March 30, is now a ‘Safer at Home’ order, encouraging Virginians to continue staying home whenever possible as the safest way to prevent COVID-19′s spread and specifically telling Virginians vulnerable to the virus to stay home except for essential needs.

Virginia's state of emergency, which was originally set until June 10, was extended by Governor Northam on May 26 to run indefinitely.

The Virginia Supreme Court’s judicial emergency, which suspended all non-essential, non-emergency court hearings, expired on May 17 and court hearings across most of Virginia resumed on Monday, May 18. But a few weeks later, on June 8, the Supreme Court of Virginia acted on Gov. Northam’s request to halt all eviction proceedings through at least June 28.

DMV offices in Virginia began gradually reopening on Monday, May 18, and continue to open up more customer service centers around the state for appointments to handle business that can only be carried out in-person.

Extensions have been granted to people with expiring credentials for themselves or their vehicles, like licenses and registrations, and Virginia State Police have not been enforcing inspections.

More information on Virginia entering Phase 3 can be found here.

What to know about preventing the virus

Most people don't suffer much from COVID-19, but it can cause severe illness in the elderly and people with existing health problems.

It spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Those droplets may land on objects and surfaces. Other people may contract the virus by touching those objects or surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can cause mild to more severe respiratory illness. In a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can cause death, particularly among those who are older or who have chronic medical conditions. Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

To lower the risk of respiratory germ spread, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages the following effective behaviors:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Avoid contact with sick people.

• Avoid non-essential travel.

There is currently no vaccine to prevent or antiviral medication to treat COVID-19. The best way to avoid illness is preventing exposure, which is why governments around the world have implemented Stay at Home orders.

For the latest factual information on COVID-19, you’re encouraged to check both the Virginia Department of Health and the CDC.