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Gov. Ralph Northam talks to a nurse in southwest Virginia about hospitals being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.

Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday announced a statewide curfew from midnight to 5 a.m. as Virginia continues to battle soaring COVID-19 numbers.

The curfew, which goes into effect Monday at midnight, excludes commuting to and from work and other essential travel.

In addition to the modified "stay-at-home order,” Northam also has ordered stricter mask rules and promised stepped up enforcement.

"If you are indoors and around other people you need to wear a mask," Northam said. "If you're outdoors and can't stay 6 feet apart, wear a mask. If you're at work, wear a mask."

Northam also reduced the maximum size of allowable sociable gatherings to 10 people from 25.   His office said social gatherings include, but are not limited to, parties, celebrations, or other social events, regardless of whether they are indoors or outdoors.

The cap on gatherings does not apply to religious services, employment settings, or educational settings. Nor does it apply to restaurants and stores, which are already governed by social distancing requirements.

Northam's orders don't address local schools and their back-to-classroom plans. "Local leaders know what’s right for their community," he said. It does, however, restrict school sports, with fewer players and spectators allowed at games.

The orders come as Virginia is seeing an average of 4,000 new coronavirus cases per day, and an 80 percent spike in hospitalizations over the last four weeks.

"Case numbers have been rising for weeks," Northam said. "They’re now at record high levels. They’re higher now than they ever have been."

Northam said the new requirements will be in effect until Jan. 31 unless lifted sooner. 

Other pandemic restrictions already in place include the statewide mask mandate, also tightened last month to include children between the ages of 5 and 9. Previously the mandate requiring masks to be worn indoors in public places applied to children ages 10 and up. There is also a limit on the on-site sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol is after 10 p.m. in any restaurant, brewery, distillery, winery, or tasting room. In addition, all such establishments must close by midnight. 

Northam joins North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper in ordering a curfew as an effort to slow the spread of the virus. The CDC said 2,566 Americans died of COVID-19 on Wednesday.

This is a developing story. Check back at InsideNoVa.com for updates.

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