Governor orders Virginians to stay at home through June 10
Virginians should only leave home for essential reasons, such as getting food or medical care, Northam says.
Gov. Ralph Northam has issued a stay-at-home order for all Virginians through June 10. Virginians will only be able to leave their homes for essential reasons — such as picking up groceries or prescriptions, seeking medical care or going to a job if necessary — as the official number of COVID-19 cases in Virginia exceeded 1,000, three weeks after the state reported its first case.
“Stay home,” he said at his 2 p.m. news conference. “I want everyone to hear me: Stay home.”
Northam said that beaches and other recreational areas were “literally packed” this past weekend, so he has declared that “all Virginians” must stay home unless they are leaving for “food, supplies, work, medical care or to get fresh air or exercise,” adding that people must engage in “strict social distancing” when engaged in outdoor activities. Howeve
However, Northam’s order carves out several exceptions for businesses that are allowed to continue operations during the stay-at-home order.
The governor spoke directly to people who have ignored experts and continued gathering in large groups, including at Hampton Roads’ beaches, calling them “very, very selfish.”
All educational institutions are to be closed, Northam added, and beaches are closed except for individual exercise or fishing, Northam said. “It is clear more people need to hear this basic message: Stay home.”
Among the specific orders:
- All public and private in-person gatherings of more than ten individuals are prohibited.
- Effective midnight Tuesday, April 1, no overnight stays of less than 14 nights at all privately-owned campgrounds.
- Closure of all public beaches for all activity, except exercising and fishing.
- State agencies will continue to work with Virginians to alleviate homelessness and prevent evictions.
- Food banks can now assist anyone in need, regardless of stated income.
- Exceptions to the order to stay at home include: leaving to obtain food, beverages, necessary goods or services; seeking medical assistance or prescription medications; caring for family members or an animal; exchanging custody of children; traveling to and from a place of worship, home, school or work; volunteering for a charity; leaving home because of a reasonable fear of personal safety; engaging in exercise or other outdoor activity, as long as social distancing is observed.
The order notes that the June 10 date can be amended or rescinded by another executive order.
The governor’s decision to issue the order Monday was partly because of his coalition with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser to set similar enforcement policies, Northam said Monday. Hogan, Cooper and Bowser already have made similar stay-at-home orders, with North Carolina’s going into effect Monday at 5 p.m.
Northam also acknowledged his own experience as a physician — including as a U.S. Army medical officer during the first Gulf War — played a role in his decision.
“I know what it’s like to be in mass-casualty exercises,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be in the hospital, in the emergency rooms on the front line, and I have seen heroes literally across Virginia the past couple of weeks. Doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, you could go right down the list. They are sacrificing their time. They are sacrificing, perhaps, their health, the health of their families, and I commend them for what they’re doing.”
But, he added, “I also see people congregating on the beach that are completely ignoring what we’re doing. I will remind those folks: You are being very, very selfish, because you are putting all of us, especially our health care providers, at risk. To date, this has been a suggestion to Virginians. Today it’s an order.”
The governor, in the weeks after the virus showed up in Virginia, has issued public health orders closing restaurants’ dining rooms and shutting down businesses like hair salons and massage parlors, as well as telling businesses that they must have no more than 10 people in enclosed spaces. He also has emphasized Virginians’ duty to “flatten the line,” referring to social-distancing measures to prevent further spread of the virus, in addition to sourcing personal protective equipment, testing kits and other key items for health care facilities.
But Northam said on Friday that he already was doing everything to encourage Virginians to stay home when possible and that an explicit shelter-at-home order was not necessary. “We’re talking semantics here. We’re talking enforcement,” he said in response to a reporter’s question at Friday’s news conference.
Nevertheless, the number of positive cases has continued to rise in the state. On Monday morning, the Virginia Department of Health reported 1,020 cases and 25 deaths — although two “presumed positive” fatal cases were reported last week by Henrico County’s Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center and confirmed by Dr. Danny Avula, director of the Richmond/Henrico County health departments, which would bring the statewide total to 27 fatalities.
Avula said Friday evening that the state should be prepared for a tenfold increase in positive cases over the next week and a half, which would follow the trend seen in Michigan, Illinois and Louisiana, states that saw massive jumps in the number of cases last week, rising quickly from the hundreds to multiple thousands by the weekend.
Nationally, experts are now warning the United States could see 100,000 to 200,000 virus-related deaths, an estimate that prompted President Trump to decide Sunday to keep social-distancing measures in place through April 30, despite his earlier announcement that the country would be “opened up” by Easter.
As of Monday afternoon, the United States has the most COVID-19 cases in the world, at 144,672 people, and 2,405 deaths.