Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday imposed stricter guidelines for restaurants, gatherings in Hampton Roads and the Peninsula, citing a rise in positive cases of the coronavirus.
Worth noting, the guidelines only apply to the following areas: Williamsburg, James City County, York County, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, Newport News and Poquoson.
The rest of the state remains under Phase 3 reopening.
“I want you to know this, we are putting a lot of attention on Hampton Roads,” Northam said.
The centerpiece of the executive order involves restaurants, which will now limit indoor dining capacity at 50 percent — restaurants must now stop serving alcohol at 10 p.m., and close down for service at midnight.
Private and public gatherings in those areas will be limited to 50 people from the current statewide limit of 250.
The order will become effective starting at midnight Thursday, and will be in effect for at least two weeks.
While Virginia law does not distinguish between restaurants and bars, the 10 p.m. curfew for alcohol sales and consumption, in addition to the current restrictions on seating or congregating in bar areas, effectively closes bars in the region. Individuals that choose to consume alcohol prior to 10 p.m. must be served in a restaurant and remain seated at tables six feet apart. Virginia has required face coverings in indoor public settings statewide since May 29.
Northam said the spread is due to people younger than 40 congregating and from gatherings such as birthday celebrations and backyard parties.
“And we all know that alcohol changes your judgment,” Northam said. “You just don’t care as much about social distancing after you’ve had a couple of drinks. That’s when the virus gets spread. And that’s why we are taking this action.”
Representatives from FEMA were in the area this past week to “assess the situation.”
Northam said the state’s test positivity rate is 10.8 (6 percent outside Hampton Roads and the Peninsula) where places like Chesapeake, Suffolk, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Hampton are anywhere from 9.9 percent to 18.6 percent.
The surrounding Peninsula is about 8.7 percent. It was just 3.4 percent last month.
“This is about stopping the spread of COVID19 in Hampton Roads,” he said. “It happens when too many people gather together, when too many people are non-compliant and as I’ve said before when too many people are selfish.”
The governor said he is considering asking those who travel to Virginia from states with high coronavirus cases to quarantine.
“I haven’t taken that step yet but I’m watching closely what is going on in other states,” Northam said.
He encouraged Virginians who have traveled to states with high cases to quarantine when they come back home.
As of Tuesday, Virginia has 86,994 cases, 7,686 hospitalizations and 2,095 deaths statewide.
Here are the local numbers:
“While the health metrics remain largely stable in four out of Virginia’s five health regions, I am concerned about the recent increase in cases in Hampton Roads,” Northam said. “These decisions are necessary to protect public health and prevent additional virus outbreaks—I will not hesitate to do what it takes to keep Virginians safe.”
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