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Virginia announces COVID-19 restrictions

As the United States sees record levels of coronavirus cases, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has issued new statewide measures to further mitigate the spread of the virus, including limiting gatherings to 25 people, expanding the state mask mandate to include younger children, enforcement of face covering violations and an alcohol curfew. 

According to a press release issued by the Office of Governor Northam Friday, Nov. 13, while Virginia’s COVID-19 case count per capita and positivity rates remain low compared to other states, all five of the commonwealth’s health regions are experiencing increases in cases of the novel coronavirus and hospitalizations associated with the virus. 

“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 Friday. “We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse. 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.”

According to the release, in an effort to mitigate further spread of the virus, the following measures will take effect at midnight Sunday, Nov. 15:

  • Reduction in public and private gatherings: 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.
  • Expansion of mask mandate: All Virginians ages 5 and above 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 that requires all individuals aged 10 and over to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.
  • Strengthened enforcement within essential retail businesses: 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. 
  • On-site alcohol curfew: The on-site 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 that choose to consume alcohol prior to 10 p.m. must be served as in a restaurant and remain seated at tables six feet apart. 

According to Friday’s release, all five of the commonwealth’s health regions are currently reporting a positivity rate of more than 5%, and though hospital capacity remains stable, hospitalizations have increased statewide by more than 35% the last four weeks.

On Friday Prince Edward County was reported by the Virginia Department of Health to have reached 816 cumulative cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, up 23 cases from last Friday, Nov. 7. 

Buckingham County cases slowed significantly this week after cases surged following an outbreak at the Buckingham Correctional Center (BKCC). Buckingham was listed as having 815 cumulative cases as of Friday, up four in one week. 

BKCC saw a slight reduction of COVID-19 cases in its inmate population Friday. The Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) COVID-19 dashboard listed the prison as having 34 active cases inside the facility and one inmate hospitalized Friday. 

Cumberland County has136 cumulative virus cases Friday, up five from Nov. 7. Charlotte County jumped 14 cases this week for a total of 251. Lunenburg increased two cases this week, bringing the county’s total to 159.  

Longwood University in Farmville was reporting eight active cases of the virus Friday for a cumulative total of 116. Hampden-Sydney College reported five active cases Friday and 27 individuals quarantining. The college has had a cumulative total of 99 student cases and four employee cases of COVID-19.