Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered all non-essential businesses to remain closed at least until May 8 in an effort to continue to stem the spread of coronavirus in the state.
His announcement Wednesday extends by two weeks the 30-day closure order that was initially set to expire April 23. It affects businesses such as restaurants, bars, gyms and hair salons, among others, and prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people.
The executive order signed today by Gov. Ralph Northam bans all gatherings of more than 10 p…
Northam emphasized that his stay-at-home order for Virginia residents remains effective through June 10. Information released by the University of Virginia earlier this week shows that the stay-at-home and social-distancing efforts are helping to slow the growth in the number of COVID-19 cases.
“Social distancing is working," Northam said during his thrice-weekly news conference in Richmond. "The actions we are taking as a state are having an effect. They are slowing the spread and flattening the curve.”
Northam said in response to a question that he has no intention to extend the June 10 date further and hopes he can end the stay-at-home order sooner. "These things change day to day."
As of Wednesday morning, the Virginia Department of Health reported 6,500 positive cases of coronavirus in the state, with 195 deaths due to the virus. However, the number of new cases appears to have leveled off in the past week at about 400 a day.
However, Northam noted that coronavirus continues to spread in the state and now is not the time to reopen the state's non-essential businesses.
"When people say it’s time to stop what we’re doing and get back to normal, they’re wrong," he added. "If we let off the brakes and try to go back to the way things were we’ll see another spike in cases that will overwhelm our hospitals."
Northam said the state will continue to monitor data and work with the business community to determine when and how businesses can reopen. He also said he is coordinating efforts with the governors of Maryland and North Carolina, as well as the mayor of Washington.
“I know that everyone is looking forward to a path forward," Northam said. "I know this has been a frustrating time for all of us. People are out of work. Businesses are closed. Our entire sense of normal life is out the window."
He said that reopening businesses will not be a question of just flipping a switch. "Things are not going back exactly as they were before. Together we will figure out how to build a new normal."
That will probably include wearing face coverings, spending more time at home, teleworking if possible, continuing to use social distancing and avoiding large gatherings, Northam added. "All of these things will continue as a part of the way our society acts on a day-to-day basis."
In response to a question, Northam said barber shops are at the top of the priority list to be reopened in a safe way.
Northam also announced that the state has received $70 million from the CARES Act passed by Congress earlier this April for use to support child-care for essential workers. The money will be used to provide flexible assistance to centers that have remained open, prepare some schools to act as emergency childcare centers as needed and eliminate co-pays for families that receive subsidies for child care.
"This should help child-care centers stay open to serve our most essential workers," Northam said.