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Va. to Enact New Midnight Curfew, Stricter Limits on Gatherings

(Updated at 8:50 p.m.) Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced a new round of coronavirus-related restrictions this afternoon.

The changes, which are to take effect early Monday morning, include tightening the limit on social gatherings from 25 to 10 people, and a “modified stay at home order” between midnight and 5 a.m. daily.

The new restrictions come with some exceptions.

The social gathering rule does not apply to “religious services, employment settings, or educational settings.” The midnight curfew doesn’t apply to those “obtaining food and goods, traveling to and from work, and seeking medical attention.”

Another change: a tightening of the state mask mandate, for those five and over. It will now apply “in indoor settings shared with others and when outdoors within six feet of another person.”

Despite the new restrictions, Northam said restaurants will be able to stay open with existing rules in place, including no on-site alcohol sales after 10 p.m.

During his Thursday afternoon press conference, Northam said coming COVID vaccines are cause for optimism, but with nearly 4,000 new cases and dozens of deaths per day in the Commonwealth, “hard realities” necessitate tighter restrictions.

Intensive Care Unit hospitalizations have been rising, Northam said, and nurses and doctors are becoming exhausted. Here in Arlington, the rate of new cases hit a new high on Monday.

“If you don’t have to go out, stay at home,” the governor said. “This is just plain common sense.”

The new rules will go into effect until Jan. 31, but may be extended beyond that.

Northam also took a dig at President Trump near the end of the press conference, saying that the president had “checked out” on the pandemic and “it’s time for real leadership.”

The full press release from the governor’s office is below.

Governor Ralph Northam today announced new, targeted measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 as new cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in all areas of the Commonwealth. Executive Order Seventy-Two directs Virginians to stay at home between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., implements a universal mask requirement, and lowers the limit on social gatherings from 25 people to 10 people. The order will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, December 14 and remain in place through January 31, 2021, unless rescinded or amended.

“New daily case numbers are higher than they have been at any previous point in the pandemic, and while the trends in Virginia are better than most of the country, we are taking action now to slow the spread of this virus before our hospitals get overwhelmed,” said Governor Northam. “We already have strong public health measures in place, and with these additional steps, we can turn this around. Virginians, if you don’t have to be out, stay at home. Whenever we are around other people, we all need to wear a mask, indoors and out.”

“These are common-sense things we can all do to take care of each other and stay safe. This is not about getting people in trouble–this is about everyone doing their part and reducing opportunities for people to get sick.”

The following mitigation measures will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, December 14: 

  • Modified Stay at Home Order: All individuals in Virginia must remain at their place of residence between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. Exceptions include obtaining food and goods, traveling to and from work, and seeking medical attention.
  • Universal mask requirement: All Virginians aged five and over are required to wear face coverings in indoor settings shared with others and when outdoors within six feet of another person. This order expands the current statewide mask mandate, which has been in place since May 29, and requires all individuals aged five and over to wear face coverings in indoor and outdoor public settings outside of their own household. These changes are consistent with new CDC guidelines, released December 4, which recommend universal wearing of face coverings.
  • Reduction in social gatherings: All social gatherings must be limited to 10 individuals, down from the current cap of 25 people. Social gatherings include, but are not limited to, parties, celebrations, or other social events, regardless of whether they occur indoors or outdoors. This does not apply to religious services, employment settings, or educational settings. Restaurants and retail stores are already governed by strict social distancing requirements, and are not included in this limit.
  • Continued limits on dining establishments: Virginia restaurants are currently governed by strict social distancing and sanitization requirements, which remain in place. The on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol remains prohibited after 10:00 p.m. in any restaurant, dining establishment, food court, brewery, microbrewery, distillery, winery, or tasting room. All restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, and tasting rooms must close by midnight.
  • Teleworking: Employees that can telework are strongly encouraged to do so.

While Virginia’s new cases per capita remain lower than 43 other states, all of the Commonwealth’s five health regions are experiencing increases in COVID-19 cases, positive tests, and hospitalizations. Virginia is currently averaging more than 3,700 new COVID-19 cases per day, up from a statewide peak of approximately 1,200 in May. Statewide test positivity rate is at 11 percent, an increase from 7 percent approximately one month ago. More than 2,000 Virginians are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 statewide, an increase of over 80 percent in the last four weeks.

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