By Zach Armstrong
PETERSBURG, Va -- The commonwealth moved to expand COVID-19 restrictions which will remain in place until Jan. 31 unless rescinded or amended. The measures have been in effect since Dec. 14 with all previous restrictions still in place.
An executive order issued by Gov. Northam on Dec. 9 cited a surge in cases in recent weeks with all five health regions experiencing increases in new cases, positive tests and hospitalizations as basis for the new restrictions.
Virginia is averaging more than 4,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, up from a statewide peak of approximately 1,200 in May. Virginia’s PCR percent test positivity rate increased from 6.5% in November to 11.1% this month.
The new restrictions issued by the governor include a curfew between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Exceptions are made for people traveling for food, medical attention, school, worship, work, volunteering for organizations, to take care of individuals or if the traveling is required by court order.
The mask mandate will also be expanded to all indoor settings and outdoor settings where social distancing isn’t possible for all individuals above the age of five.
Restaurants and food services may continue to operate so long as they adhere to guidelines including a six-feet distance, mask mandate, barriers put in place and a routine cleaning and disinfection of contact surfaces. Alcohol can only be served after 10 p.m. via delivery or takeout.
The restrictions also prohibit all public and private in-person gatherings of over 10 people, whether indoors or outdoors, who do not live together. The executive order defines a “gathering” to include but not limited to parties, celebrations or other social events. Gatherings do not include workplaces, places of worship, schools, family get-togethers or retail businesses.
Gov. Northam stated that Virginians are being “asked” to stay at home and follow guidelines after he was asked repeatedly whether the new restrictions will become enforced.
“These are common-sense things we can all do to take care of each other and stay safe,” said Northam. “This is not about getting people in trouble—this is about everyone doing their part and reducing opportunities for people to get sick.”
The Pfizer vaccine which had made headlines for being 95% effective was approved for emergency use by the FDA days after the governor’s announcement.
Under the vaccine distribution plan issued by the commonwealth, health care workers and those living in long-term care facilities will receive the first round of doses. Critical infrastructure staff, adults with high-risk medical conditions and those above the age of 65 will receive the second round of doses.
The remaining population will then become eligible for the vaccine though it could take months before that stage is reached.