Virginians should stay at home from midnight to 5 a.m., wear masks in indoor and outdoor settings and limit social gatherings to 10 people under new COVID-19 mitigation measures announced Thursday by Gov. Ralph Northam.
The directives came in Commonwealth Executive Order Seventy-Two, which will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 14, and will remain in place through Jan. 31, 2021, unless rescinded or amended.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,” the governor said. “This is not about getting people in trouble. This is about everyone doing their part and reducing opportunities for people to get sick.”
The mitigation measures include the following:
A modified stay-at-home order: All individuals in Virginia must remain at their place of residence between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m. Exceptions include obtaining food and goods, traveling to and from work and seeking medical attention.
A 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 Dec. 4, which recommend universal wearing of face coverings.
A 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 test, 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 seven 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.