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Governor Northam Announces Stricter Enforcement of Restaurants, Mask Wearing

| July 14, 2020 | 0 Comments | News

Governor Ralph Northam holds a COVID-19 briefing on July 14, 2020.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced he is ordering the Virginia Department of Health to strictly enforce mask wearing orders in public establishments due to a slight rise in COVID-19 cases.

“Step one is stronger enforcement of the existing regulations, because, quite frankly, of the noncompliance,” he said at the July 14 COVID-19 briefing.

Northam is responding to an increase in cases, especially in the Hampton Roads area among young adults. Across the state, he is referring to it as a “plateau.” 

“We are not seeing spikes like Florida and Texas,” he said at the media conference.

Virginia’s COVID-19 cases over time graph, July 14, 2020 (Virginia Department of Health.)

Northam has directed health departments to make unannounced COVID-19- related inspections at restaurants. Establishments not complying with executive orders could have their licenses suspended. 

The Virginia Department of Health is working with other agencies and hiring more employees to be able to carry out the mandate. They are especially focusing on the Tide Water Region, but will conduct surprise inspection throughout the state.

Northam said it is incumbent upon restaurants and retail establishments to enforce the, “no mask, no service,” policy. He said, just as the “no shoes, no shirt, no service,” policy, restaurant managers can ask patrons to leave. If they do not, they are trespassing and workers can involve the police. 

People do not need to wear masks while eating, but employees need to wear masks. Patrons need to wear mask when ordering food in Virginia or when in contact with strangers within six feet. Workers and patrons need to wear masks in retail stores.

Northam said COVID-19 numbers are good in Northern Virginia. There have been no spikes of late in the area that was originally a hotspot.

But it is concerning that COVID-19 diagnoses are increasing among those aged 20-29 of 250% since June, said the Governor.

Although, that age group is low-risk group, some young adults will be seriously affected by the coronavirus and can even die, said Dr. Norman Oliver, Virginia State Health Commissioner. Additionally, they can spread the virus to others who are more vulnerable. 

Northam reminded all Virginians it is simple to wear masks in public, follow the rules, and look out for one another.

“You are being selfish and you are hurting everyone who is doing the right thing to beat this virus,” he said, addressing those who refuse to wear masks. “This is not political; this is about our health and wellbeing and it is also about our economy.” 

Virginia Department of Health shares its July 14 COVID-19 Data across the state.

Northam said he will soon announce an earlier time for restaurants to stop serving alcohol. A next step may be rolling back the number of people who can gather from 250 to 50. He is also discouraging house parties.

The Governor says that he does not plan to move back to Phase 3, but will respond to hot spots with regional regressions. The way things are looking, he is unprepared to progress Virginia into Stage 4. 

On school re-openings in September or August, Northam said there is “no one size fits all” model. Local school boards will have to decide what works best for them. He said  jurisdictions need not only consider the health and wellness of children and their families but also of teachers and staff. He said the decisions are mainly up to the localities but the state will need to certify school plans. 

He said situations are different for colleges and universities as well.

Meanwhile, Virginia is working to respond to all those who need to collect unemployment insurance. Virginia Department of Unemployment has had a 550% increase in staffing. It fields 60,000 calls per week. 

Virginia has also began helping those who need help paying their rent or mortgage, using $50 million in CARES Act funding. Primarily it should stop evictions. 

“We can’t go back,” said Northam, referring to the high COVID-19 numbers the Commonwealth experienced before flattening the curve. “We want to get into our economic recovery. We want to be strong again like we were before COVID-19.”

He said it could be some time before a vaccine is developed and releases. The virus has shown it does not decrease during periods of hot weather. At this point he said it is up to all of us to decide how we will behave to decrease the spread of COVID with the goal of returning to normal.

© 2020, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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