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Gov. Northam announces new COVID-19 restrictions to go into effect Monday at 12:01 a.m.

Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 10:26 AM EST
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Gov. Ralph Northam held a COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, Dec. 2 to discuss new statewide COVID-19 restrictions.

To start the briefing, Northam said the case numbers in Virginia are still looking better than the case numbers in other states throughout the country, but case numbers in Virginia are still on the rise, and are at record-high levels.

Northam said Virginia is now seeing 4,000 new cases per day on average. On Thursday, Dec. 10, the state reported 54 additional deaths.

Northam said statewide testing percent positivity is currently at 11%, doubling in one month. Hospitalizations in the ICU have been rising since November, and capacity is a problem, specifically in southwestern Virginia.

Staffing remains a critical problem for most Virginia hospitals. Northam played a YouTube video uploaded by Emily, a registered nurse at Ballad Health, which serves southwestern Virginia and eastern Tennessee.

In the video, Emily spoke to the state and said the fight against COVID-19 has been getting out of hand, but the virus continues to spread. She continued, speaking about the condition of COVID-19 patients in the ICU she works at, and the bodies she had to put into body bags.

“I can’t tell you how many patients we’ve had contract [the virus] at a ball game or with their family,” Emily said in the video.

Once Emily’s video ended, Northam addressed new statewide COVID-19 restrictions, which will begin on Monday, Dec. 14 at 12:01 a.m. Per a press release from the governor’s office, the new restrictions are as follows:

  • Modified Stay at Home Order: All individuals in Virginia must remain at their place of residence between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Exceptions include obtaining food and goods, traveling to and from work, and seeking medical attention.
  • Universal mask requirement: All Virginians aged five and over are required to wear face coverings 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, and requires all individuals aged five and over to wear face coverings in indoor and outdoor public settings outside of their own household. These changes are consistent with new CDC guidelines, released December 4, which recommend universal wearing of face coverings.
  • Reduction in social gatherings: All social gatherings must be limited to 10 individuals, down from the current cap of 25 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.
  • Continued limits on dining establishments: Virginia restaurants are currently governed by strict social distancing and sanitization requirements, which remain in place. The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol remains prohibited after 10:00 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.
  • Teleworking: Employees that can telework are strongly encouraged to do so.

The new restrictions will remain in effect until at least Jan. 31.

Northam said the vast majority of people and businesses are doing the right thing, estimating at 90%. But others are not. Northam reports some restaurants have lost their licenses due to a violation of restrictions.

When it comes to schools and universities, Northam said the new restrictions do not change anything.

Regarding sports, Northam said restrictions are applicable. A gathering limit of 25 people per field has been set for indoor sports, and there is a limit of 2 guests per player for outdoor sports.

Northam spoke briefly on a COVID-19 vaccine, saying hospitals will begin administering the vaccine 24 to 48 hours after the FDA’s approval.

You can watch the live stream below or on the governor’s Facebook page.

Northam’s Previous Briefing - Dec. 2

Gov. Ralph Northam held a COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, Dec. 2 to discuss the latest developments concerning the coronavirus pandemic.

Northam began his briefing with an update on positive COVID-19 cases in the state of Virginia and said almost 15,000 Virginians are currently hospitalized as of Wednesday. Northam said in some smaller areas, hospital beds are completely full, which can cause issues for residents who live in those small areas.

Even with these numbers, Northam says the state is doing well compared to neighboring states. The governor says according to the New York Times, Virginia is seeing on average 28 positive coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, which is lower than 45 other states throughout the country.

In North Carolina, the 7 day average per 100,000 people is 34 positive cases, and West Virginia is at 54 positive cases per 100,000 residents, Northam said.

“What happens in these other states affects us here in Virginia,” Northam said.

Northam continued by offering insight as to why cases are continuing to rise. Northam said Virginians are spreading the virus in a variety of settings, including churches or small social gatherings. The governor said schools and workplaces, however, are “largely doing well” when it comes to following requirements and state guidelines.

The state continues to work on strengthening the enforcement of existing regulations at essential businesses. New regulations, including a 25-person gathering limit and no alcohol to be served in restaurants after 10 p.m., were put into place about two weeks ago, and state officials are reviewing data collected from these strengthened guidelines.

Northam also addressed vaccinations in the state. Two major companies working on COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are gearing up to roll out their vaccinations. Northam says the companies report a 95 percent effectiveness rate during testing phases.

Northam said in the upcoming weeks and months, his team has “every reason to believe these vaccinations are safe.” Northam said Virginia expects to get about 70,000 doses in the first wave to allow 70,000 individuals to get the vaccine.

“When [the vaccine] comes, my family and I will have no hesitancy about getting vaccinated,” Northam said before urging Virginians to remain cautious.

The Statewide Situation in Virginia

You can now call WHSV for the latest COVID-19 case numbers in the health districts we cover, as well as the case numbers in Grant, Hardy and Pendleton Counties, W. Va. Our COVID-19 hotline will be updated daily. To listen, you can call 540-433-9191 ext. 101 Monday-Friday.

As of Thursday, December 10, Virginia has had 271,043 total cases of COVID-19, including confirmed lab tests and clinical diagnoses, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

That total reflects a 3,915 case increase since Wednesday. The Virginia Department of Health reports a 10.5% 7-day positivity rate for total testing encounters, and an 11% 7-day positivity rate for PCR tests. Fifty-four additional deaths were reported on Thursday, leaving the death toll at 4,335.

For a comprehensive summary of COVID-19 cases and testing in Virginia, you can visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website and view their COVID-19 dashboard.

Gov. Ralph Northam held a COVID-19 briefing on Dec. 2 to talk about the state’s rising positive cases and a vaccine coming to the commonwealth. Northam said Virginia expects to get about 70,000 doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in the first wave.

On Friday, Nov. 13, Gov. Ralph Northam announced new statewide measures to contain the coronavirus in Virginia. The new restrictions included a reduction in public and private gatherings from 250 people to 25 people. This includes both indoor and outdoor settings.

Northam’s additional restrictions are as follows: An expansion of the mask mandate to require Virginians over the age of five to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces, strengthened enforcement within essential retail businesses and an on-site alcohol curfew of 10 p.m.

On Tuesday, October 13, Gov. Ralph Northam held a COVID-19 briefing to discuss upcoming plans for handling the coronavirus pandemic. Northam also addressed voting in the commonwealth, and the fiber cut that has caused the websites of the Virginia Department of Health and the Department of Elections Citizen Portal, among others, to slow and crash this morning.

Northam also addressed CARES Act funding towards schools and the Rent and Mortgage Relief Program. Northam said Juneteenth, a holiday to celebrate the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the U.S., is now a permanent statewide holiday.

This was the governor’s first briefing since his and First Lady Northam’s COVID-19 diagnosis.

On Tuesday, September 15, Gov. Northam held a COVID-19 briefing and discussed the 2020 election. Northam expects a high number of absentee voters this year; as of Sept. 15, the department of elections has received 790,000 absentee ballots by mail. Absentee ballots will begin to be sent out to voters on Friday, Sept. 18. Unlike past election years, you do not need to provide a reason to receive an absentee ballot. You can call or visit the website of your general registrar for your county or city to request an absentee ballot, or go online to vote.elections.virginia.gov.

On Tuesday, September 1, James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. made the decision to move classes online until at least Oct. 5. Also on Tuesday, Gov. Northam held a COVID-19 briefing to discuss COVID-19 numbers in the state and urged residents to fill out the 2020 Census. Virginia will not make any new COVID-19-related decisions before the Labor Day weekend.

The Virginia DMV announced on September 1 that credentials that would originally expire in August, September and October would now have an additional 60 days to renew. November expiration dates have been extended through the end of November.

On Tuesday, July 28, Gov. Northam held a live COVID-19 briefing on his social media platforms to discuss the coronavirus in Virginia. 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 July 14 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.

On Tuesday, July 14, Gov. Northam held a COVID-19 briefing on his Facebook page urging the commonwealth to keep practicing social distancing and to follow the mask mandate. Gov. Northam said that the Virginia Department of Health and Virginia’s ABC teams will begin to conduct random visits to businesses and restaurants throughout the state to ensure that these organizations are following the latest COVID-19 guidelines. Licenses for these businesses can be revoked if they are not following the guidelines.

On Wednesday, July 1, the commonwealth moved into Phase 3 of Governor Ralph Northam’s ‘Forward Virginia’ plan for reopening, which allowed nonessential retail businesses to fully open, restaurants to fully open without bar seating, gyms to open at 75% capacity, entertainment venues to open at 50% capacity and gatherings of up to 250 people.

State officials are basing any decisions about moving into each phase, as well as any potential fallback to previous restrictions if spikes happen, on 7-day and 14-day trends in the data.

For the past several weeks, those trends have been good news: with increasing test capacity, decreasing percentage positivity (the number of cases confirmed as a ratio of the amount of testing), and decreasing hospitalizations — though other states around the country have seen new spikes.

Most tests are PCR tests that take several days to process, and the majority of people still only get tested when symptomatic. Symptoms can take up to two weeks to develop, so test results reported each day reflect what the situation in Virginia looked like several days before. Antibody tests process results faster, but test whether someone has had the virus in the past: not necessarily if they currently have it, and their reliability is lower.

Virginia has been meeting the governor’s benchmark of steady PPE supplies and open hospital capacity for more than a month now, with 3,469 hospital beds available. Currently, no Virginia hospitals are reporting any supply problems, and one licensed nursing facility is reporting PPE supply problems such as needing N95 masks, surgical masks and isolation gowns.

The commonwealth increased from around 2,000 tests a day in late April to the 5,000 range in the start of May, and was steadily hitting around 10,000 a day by the end of May, which Dr. Karen Remley, head of Virginia’s testing task force, said was the goal for Phase 1. Over the most recent weeks, testing has stayed in the range of around 8,000 to 15,000 a day.

The executive order requiring Virginians to wear face coverings when entering indoor businesses that went into effect across Virginia on May 29 will remain in effect indefinitely into the future.

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.

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