Northam restricts Hampton Roads region, bans gatherings of more than 50
No alcohol sales, consumption in restaurants after 10 p.m.
Gov. Ralph Northam said he would place Hampton Roads localities on further restriction, starting at midnight Thursday. No alcohol can be sold or consumed at restaurants after 10 p.m., and all restaurants must close by midnight. Gatherings of more than 50 people will be prohibited until further notice, according to a public health emergency order announced Tuesday.
Also, restaurants must limit indoor seating to 50% capacity in the region.
Affected communities are: Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Hampton, Williamsburg, Newport News, Poquoson, James City County and York County.
Northam said if percentages rise in other regions that he would make adjustments in response.
In recent weeks, the Hampton Roads region has seen dramatic growth in its number of COVID-19 cases, with positivity percentages above 10% in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and the Western Tidewater health districts this week. Statewide, the positivity percentage is at 7.3% as of Tuesday, and Portsmouth has the highest rate in the state, at 17%.
Hospitalizations and ICU cases also have recently risen in the area, Northam said, and according to coronavirus tracers’ reports, many cases are developing from people hosting private parties — “birthday parties, backyard barbecues and other celebrations,” Northam said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent a team last week to the area to research the situation, and Hampton Roads mayors and other local officials are showing a “unified commitment” in fighting the virus, the governor said.
Northam imposed stricter enforcement measures in the state two weeks ago, with Virginia ABC agents and health inspectors conducting unannounced visits at restaurants and other businesses, some of which were shut down in Norfolk and Virginia Beach.
Earlier Tuesday, Northam met with Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, as part of a roundtable with health officials and community leaders. Birx followed up with reporters in Richmond after the private meeting. She said that she had advised governors in four states, including Virginia, to ban ordering at bars in areas with high positivity rates, and that social distancing needs to be more strictly enforced in restaurants.