New gathering restrictions, mask mandate and alcohol curfew begin in Virginia on Sunday

Gov. Northam announced the new restrictions on Friday afternoon to prevent coronavirus spread

RICHMOND, Va. – Gov. Ralph Northam is taking action as coronavirus cases continue to rise in Virginia.

Starting Sunday, Nov. 15, the following five mandates will be in place:

  • All public and private in-person gatherings are now limited to just 25 individuals, down from the current cap of 250 people. This includes both outdoor and indoor settings.
    • Neither restaurants nor schools will be subject to this new 25-person limit Northam’s spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, told the Associated Press
    • At high school sporting events, that 25-person limit applies to spectators, not participants, according to VHSL Executive Director Billy Haun
  • All Virginians ages five and over are required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. This expands the current mask mandate, which only required all individuals aged 10 and over to wear face coverings in indoor public settings.
  • 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.
  • 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 10:00 p.m. must be served as in a restaurant and remain seated at tables six feet apart.

[Where are Virginia’s coronavirus cases? The health department’s interactive map]

The announcement of these restrictions came in a Friday afternoon news release which also included the video posted above. This comes about one day before Virginia is expected to exceed 200,000 cases since March.

“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. We are acting now to prevent this health crisis from getting worse,” said Northam. “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.”

On Tuesday, Northam gave a coronavirus update and did not mention adding any additional restrictions on Virginians.

Virginia is averaging 1,500 newly-reported COVID-19 cases per day, according to the governor’s office, which is up from a statewide peak of approximately 1,200 in May.

While Southwest Virginia has experienced a spike in the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases, all five of the Commonwealth’s health regions are currently reporting a positivity rate of over five percent.

Although hospital capacity remains stable, hospitalizations have increased statewide by more than 35 percent in the last four weeks.

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