Northam: No gatherings of 10 or more people; 67 positive cases statewide; 14 on the Peninsula

Gov. Ralph Northam on Tuesday declared Virginia would follow the federal guidelines to limit public gatherings of 10 or more people.

“We must flatten that curve but to do that everyone must use common sense,” he said. “That means do not go to St. Patrick Day parties tonight.”

Northam encouraged restaurants to continue take-out options and limit the amount of people in confined spaces.

The governor said he’s not considering ordering restaurants to shutter their dine-in operations at this time.

“I don’t think we will change from where we are today,” he said. “Over 45 percent of Virginians get their meals from restaurants”

“I am much more about carrots than I am sticks,” Northam said. “We want all our restaurants to abide by the no more than 10 rule. We’re just doing everything that we can to keep everyone we can out of confined spaces.”

Northam said if individuals are out of work because of the mandate, they will be allowed to receive unemployment benefits.

“Unemployment funds are available through the Virginia Employment Commission,” Northam said. “We have waived the one week waiting period so workers can start receiving benefits right away.”

As of Tuesday, there are 67 positive coronavirus cases across the state. One of the positive cases was in an assisted living facility.

There are now 12 positive cases in James City County, one in York County and one in Williamsburg (city).

President Donald Trump on Monday recommended Americans should avoid bars and restaurants as well as social gatherings of more than 10 people. He also urged all older Americans and people with underlying health conditions to stay home and everyone to telework.

Northam also urged Virginians 65 and older to self-quarantine at home and everyone to check in on their older neighbor, parents or grandparents.

The governor also ordered all Department of Motor Vehicles offices close to the public — services such as renewing licenses can be done online. Northam added he would grant a 60-day extension for licenses that expire before May 15.

Dr. Norman Oliver, state health commissioner, said there are positive cases not travel-related or known to have come in contact with someone who has traveled, which means the likelihood of a community spread, particularly on the Peninsula.

He said the Peninsula Health Department is investigating clusters of positive cases.

Oliver said although 80 percent of those who get the coronavirus recover with mild symptoms, mild cases are everything other than death. He added those who survive can get other health issues, including bad pneumonia.

“I don’t want you to think you are just getting a cold,” he said, addressing young people in particular. “This is a serious pandemic”

Right now, there are 300-400 test kits in the state but the number could double once the state gets more test kits.

Northam said people who use the drive-thru testing sites will be screened and asked about their recent travel, symptoms and who they have been in contact with.

“If they meet the screening criteria, then they will be tested,” Northam said. “If they don’t then they won’t –––again just because we dont have the number of tests.”

“I don’t see a need for people such as myself who feel fine ––– not everybody needs to be tested,” Northam said.

Dr. Daniel Carey, secretary of health, said they are continuing to work with private partners such as Sentara to see if they can handle a surge of patients and have discussed converting operating rooms into care areas.

He added while they have ordered personal protective equipment from the federal government for hospitals and urgent care clinic, there is a shortage and they have not received everything they have asked for.

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