Northam cancels school year, orders non-essential businesses to close as positive coronavirus cases in the state grow to 254

(All News Hampton Roads /Courtesy of Gov. Ralph Northam Facebook)

Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday ordered all non-essential businesses such as recreation and entertainment venues to close.

Northam’s announcement comes as the state announced the number of people testing positive for the virus continues to rise and is now at 254.

James City County remains to have one of the highest positive cases at 34 as of Monday; Williamsburg has 5, York County, 5 and Newport News, 2, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The death toll in Virginia stands at 6 – one in Fairfax County and 5 in the Peninsula Health District.

On Sunday, there were 219 cases in Virginia with 32 cases in James City County, 17 cases in Virginia Beach and 2 in Newport News.

Non-essential businesses included, but not limited to, are bowling alleys, theaters, fitness centers, racetracks, barbershops, spas and massage parlors.

Restaurants, ABC stores, breweries, wineries and other establishment can remain open for carry-out, curbside pick-up and deliveries only.

Non-essential businesses, such as retail, can stay open as long as the businesses continue to sanitize, keep patrons to fewer than 10 and maintain social distancing.

Essential services unaffected by the governor’s executive order are grocery stores, pharmacies and banks, but they must adhere to sanitation and social distancing measures.

This order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, March 24, and will remain in place until 11:59 p.m. April 23.

Northam said it was clear many non-essential businesses must close to minimize the speed at which the coronavirus spreads, close places where people congregate and to protect the capacity of the health care system.

He added the list was not exhaustive and would change and would post guidance on non and essential businesses later Monday via the governor’s website.

Northam also closed all schools, both public and private, for the rest of the school year.

The Virginia Department of Education will issue guidance on how school divisions can ensure students learn the material and is working on waiving testing requirements, Northam said.

James Lane, superintendent of public instruction for VDOE, said they would issue guidance to school divisions and noted each locality will choose which option is best for them.

The options include distance or online learning, extending school year next year or incorporating more material in next year’s curriculum, if the school year is not extended.

“We have a health crisis and we have an economic crisis,” Northam said. “But the sooner that we can get the health crisis under control, the sooner our economy will recover.”

The state is also launching a media campaign to ensure Virginians fully understand their risk and do their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Virginia’s “Health in Your Hands” campaign will include radio and television spots as well as statewide billboards and highway signs.

Recreation and entertainment businesses

The following recreation and entertainment businesses are considered non-essential and must close to the public:

  • Theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers;
  • Fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities;
  • Beauty salons, barber shops, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other location where personal care or personal grooming services are performed that would not allow compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain six feet apart;
  • Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities;
  • Bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, public and private social clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement.

Dining and on-site alcohol establishments

All dining and congregation areas in the following establishments must close to the public. These establishments may continue to offer delivery and/or takeout services.

  • Restaurants;
  • Dining establishments;
  • Food courts;
  • Farmers markets;
  • Breweries;
  • Microbreweries;
  • Distilleries;
  • Wineries; and
  • Tasting rooms.

Retail

The following retail businesses are considered essential and may remain open during normal business hours:

  • Grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers that sell food and beverage products or pharmacy products, including dollar stores, and department stores with grocery or pharmacy operations;
  • Medical, laboratory, and vision supply retailers;
  • Electronic retailers that sell or service cell phones, computers, tablets, and other communications technology;
  • Automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers as well as automotive repair facilities;
  • Home improvement, hardware, building material, and building supply retailers;
  • Lawn and garden equipment retailers;
  • Beer, wine, and liquor stores;
  • Retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores;
  • Retail located within healthcare facilities;
  • Banks and other financial institutions with retail functions;
  • Pet stores and feed stores;
  • Printing and office supply stores; and
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners.

Testing criteria

  • Distributing supplies from national stockpile
  • Working on getting respirators from non-medical industries
    Medical equipment
  • State lab: capacity more than 1,000 test for patients
  • Expecting more supplies this week
  • Creating database of all tests available in state and private labs and hospitals
  • No projection of coronavirus spread, working on a model

Northam also asked all community organizations including private daycare facilities and public schools to help provide childcare services to essential personnel such as health care workers, grocery store workers and childcare providers themselves.

At this time, Northam has not restricted commercial buses such as Greyhound.

Northam said for those who may need food assistance to text “FOOD” or “COMIDA” 877-877 to find nearby feeding sites.

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