Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday announced he is reducing the number of people allowed at gatherings, among other coronavirus restrictions, because of a surge of cases in the state.
Beginning Sunday at midnight, all gatherings indoors and outdoors must be limited to 25 people, a drop from the current cap of 250 people. All residents ages 5 and older are required to wear face coverings indoors. The current mask requirement, which was put in place May 29, mandated all individuals aged 10 and over to wear face masks.
The sale of alcohol will be banned after 10 p.m. for any food establishment, brewery, distillery or winery. All restaurants and alcohol venues must close by midnight.
Under the governor’s order, retailers such as grocery stores and pharmacies must follow statewide guidelines for face coverings, cleaning protocols and physical distancing. Violations can be enforced as a misdemeanor through the state health department.
The state is averaging 1,500 new COVID-19 cases each day, up from the previous peak of about 1,200 in May. All five of the state’s health regions are reporting a positivity rate of over 5% and hospitalizations have increased by more than 35% in the last four weeks.
“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,” Mr. Northam said. “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.”
Earlier this week, Mr. Northam announced new contracts with three labs to increase the state’s health testing capacity. The state has contracts with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, and Sentara Healthcare in Norfolk, with a goal of a capacity of 7,000 tests per day by the end of the year.
As of Friday, Virginia reported 199,262 coronavirus infections, 13,408 hospitalizations and 3,785 deaths in its population of 8.5 million.